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Surviving the Bomb: First Steps After the Affair

Finding out that your partner has been unfaithful has the potential to be one of the most devastating experiences a person can encounter in his/her life.   A common and appropriate reaction, given the circumstances, is panic.  There is generally nothing short of a roller coaster of emotions, and as a result, many couples do unintentional damage before they can seek help.  This is to be expected as no one tells you what you should do in the immediate aftermath of an affair.

The main goal is to limit the destruction in the time between finding out and getting help.  Here are some crisis control tips to follow until you can get some additional help:


Overcoming Addiction Together -“I Won’t Give Up” Part 2

Julie Hanks, Owner and Executive Director of Wasatch Family Therapy shared with me this artistic expression and interpretation of overcoming addiction to the song “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz.  When I saw it I was so powerfully moved by the message it portrayed on such an important topic.  A few points stood out to me from watching this dance that relate well to the emotional aspect of dealing with addiction in relationships.


“I Won’t Give Up On You” – The Importance of Commitment

(c) Can Stock Photo

The popular song by Jason Mraz, “I Won’t Give Up” shares an important message of commitment in relationships and the powerful effect it can have.  How important is commitment in a relationship?  Researcher Steinberg created a model for what makes up love and relationships.  He states that relationships thrive when they have a good balance of passion (physical), intimacy (emotional), and commitment.  Why is commitment so important?  It is hard to fully jump into the passionate and intimate part of a relationship when you do not know if this person is going to be with you or will stand by your side.  When there is a sense of commitment there is a freedom to explore the relationship and continue to give more of yourself because you are not consumed by fear of being hurt or abandoned.


6 Tips For Making Time For Your Relationship When There Is No Time

This is the time of the year to say goodbye to summer and hello to increasing responsibilities and the longer ‘to-do’ lists.  Here are some tips on keeping the love alive while the pile up continues to grow.                                                                                                                         

  1. Use Technology to Your Advantage – we have technology buzzing all around us.  Why not use it to your advantage?  Sending a quick text, an email, a chat or a phone call can take just a few seconds but can send an important message – I am thinking about you and I love you.  If you can’t seem to remember to do this try putting an alarm on your phone for random times during the day to remind you until it becomes a habit.
  2. Prioritize and Plan Ahead – When the ‘to-do’ list gets longer we often get lost in the have to, want to, and should do’s, but the clarity of which tasks are the highest priorities seem to get a little cloudy.  It is important to prioritize what is important… your relationship.  Plan ahead for a date night during the month or week and stick to it.  Get the babysitter well in advance and don’t change it.  Even if something comes up it sends a powerful message to yourself, your partner and others when you say no because your relationship with your significant other is more important.  When things are planned ahead of time they usually come to fruition rather than just saying, “when we have time” because you likely will not have extra time.
  3. Keep Rituals – we should all have a few rituals in our relationship, a kiss before leaving, a couple of minutes after work talking, a glass of warm milk at night together, pillow talk before bed… whatever your rituals are, keep them going.  Most of the rituals couples develop are not time consuming, but if you do not remember to do them they quickly get lost in the noise of busyness.  Rituals tell your partner you are there, and there is stability in the relationship, something to count on.
  4. Do not let emotions slide – One of the first things I see slide when we are busy, is emotional connection.  You don’t have time to sit down, let alone talk about your feelings, right?  Wrong… this is the time you need emotional connection the most.  When life is busy and chaotic it is essential to feel close to your partner.  It gives you a sense of support and confidence that is unique and allows you to focus on whatever you have to do.  When we feel emotionally connected we do not need to spend time and energy worrying about the woes of the relationship.
  5. Accomplish tasks together when possible (be creative) Whenever you can check off a task from the list together and make it time for the two of you it can increase closeness.  So, if you have to run errands do it together, make dinner and talk about your day at the same time, even working side by side on your computers can be fun and relationship enhancing if you make it that way.
  6. Be Flexible – We are often told to divide and conquer but sometimes just being flexible is better for the relationship.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jamiesrabbits

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Ask A Therapist: My Husband Takes No Responsibility and Moves From Job To Job

Q: I need help! My husband takes no responsibility and jumps from the one job to the next. I have a lot of financial stress on me as I have supported him and his two children for more than a year when he was without a job. Now he is in the same predicamment. When he does have a job it is as if he doesnt care and blames the job if they find fault with him. I cannot handle this anymore. What must I do?

A: I am glad you reached out.  I think you would be surprised to know how many feel they are in a similar situation, especially in the last several years with the economic downturn.  It can often be draining and difficult to feel like you must support everyone, or all the weight is on your shoulders, especially when you would like to share, or expect to share the load.

From your question it sounds like something is going on for your husband, however the reason for this bouncing from one job to the next could be a result of several different sources.  It may be that your husband is trying to defer some insecurity in himself outwardly onto his employers.  When people do not feel confident in their own abilities, and perform accordingly, it is easier to put the blame on someone else.  Or, it is possible that these behaviors could result from depression or anxiety.  There are many possibilities, but the result often indicates that something is going on below the surface.

My recommendation for you, if you feel comfortable with this and think it would go well with your husband, would be to have some conversations discussing your desire to have a partnership in the marriage.  Discuss how you would like to share the financial drains and how you are feeling about the situation (try to stay with yourself and your own feelings).  I would stress your desire to feel a companionship with him.

I would also recommend seeking some professional help.  It seems from your comments that this stress may be affecting your ability to connect with your spouse.  When you cannot connect, the stressors often feel more overwhelming.  Obtaining professional help should not only help your relationship with your husband and your ability to communicate these stressors with him, but also discuss whatever insecurities/depression/anxiety, etc may be present for him that may be getting in the way of being successful in his employment.

Good luck and take good care of yourself,

Chelsea Madsen

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Could You Benefit From A Marital Checkup?

A recent article associated with Good Morning America focused on the benefits of couples coming in for marital checkups.  Psychologist James Cordova, an associate professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts found that those couples who went through marital checkups had higher marital satisfaction than those who did not.  But the real question is who really needs a marital checkup?  Is there a list of qualifications or symptoms like those found on WebMD?

Creative Commons License photo credit: tjmwatson

While some would like to say yes and give you a list of items like bad communication, sexual issues, disagreements with parenting, etc. (which are all good reasons to come in to therapy), the true indicator that you could benefit from a marital check up is yourself.  Yes, yourself.  How do you feel in and about the relationship and how do you feel about the direction your relationship is heading?  Marital checkups can enhance areas of the relationship that need to be improved.

I see a marital checkup similar to going to the dentist.  Anyone would go to the dentist if they were in pain, yet on the other hand, people also go to the dentist to have checkups. They do this so if there is a possible problem coming they can prevent it from occurring. This may take the form of better dental hygiene like learning to floss a little better, or brush in a different way.   This is analogous to marriage therapy.  Those who are in pain can find relief, but a marital checkup can also help guard against what could create pain in the future if not addressed now.

Sometimes in our own marriages it is easy to see where we can improve, but oftentimes it is difficult.  A marital checkup can provide further direction to improve areas of the relationship that could be struggling, and in turn make a huge difference in the relationship as a whole.

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Valentine Gift Ideas For Your Spouse

I am often asked, as a specialized marriage/couple therapist, what would be a good “relationship enhancing gift” for a significant other on Valentine’s day.  My recommendations are not necessarily all tangible items, but gifts that can increase happiness and satisfaction within your relationship.  Here are a few ideas that keep giving throughout the year.

hearts and flowers
Creative Commons License photo credit: Muffet



“Frugal Fatigue” and Tips to Keep This From Hurting Your Marriage

Good Morning America reported the results of the infamous Black Friday today with a 16% increase in spending from last year.  They stated the reason for this increase in spending not as a result of increased resources, but as a result of frugal fatigue.  Meaning, people are sick and tired of being so frugal, and as a result, they go into spending mode.

While this is a great boost for the economy it may not be such a boost in the marriage.  It comes as no surprise that money can be an ‘issue’ in marriage.  The holidays, and increased spending this time of year, seem to heighten this issue between partners.  As a result, here are a few tips to limit the negative effects of finances on your relationship this holiday season.


How Can I Feel More Gratitude For My Spouse?

Positive psychology is powerful!  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and the good reminder we have to be grateful this time of year, I want to share a tip I have seen improve many couple relationships I have worked with, and my own marriage. 

We have all heard that an attitude of gratitude benefits us, but what if we specify that focus to our spouse?   Anyone who has kept a gratitude journal knows the influential effect it can have on how you see life, challenges or others.  I have morphed this idea to specifically focus on the couple relationship.


The Key to Expectations in Relationships

We constantly hear how important expectations are in relationships.  However, many expectations in relationships are not discovered until they are NOT met by your partner.  When this happens suddenly expectations become a big deal and have the potential to become a wedge in any relationship.

It can be difficult to acknowledge, monitor and understand some expectations you may have, because they are developed and picked up throughout life.  We can unintentionally create expectations as a result of watching our parents’ behavior with each other.  Or, expectations can be created from experiences in past relationships.  Finally, media has a strong influence on expectations, as well as, what we are told by others (friends and family).

For example, you may have the expectation that your spouse will immediately come to you and try to work out a disagreement because you saw this behavior in your own parents.  If you become involved with a person who does not do this, but withdraws for a few minutes to calm down after a disagreement, your expectation could be unfulfilled and it could leave you feeling like your relationship has some major flaw.