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Five Simple Steps to Keeping Romance Alive

If you are like me, you find “free time” to be almost a mythical experience. Then trying to create time for romance in your relationship, and it seems like we are living a straight fantasy. However, with today’s fast-paced world and technology every direction, it seems nearly impossible to have a truly romantic relationship. Often when I meet with couples, I hear, “We are more like roommates than a couple.” During my initial assessment and learning about the couple’s daily routine, I find that these couples are unintentionally avoiding what they want the most – intimacy.

    The best remedy for this lack of intimacy and romance is to make “intentional” time with each other and make changes that will create and maintain a loving and intimate relationship throughout the lifespan. Here are some of my prescribed remedies for keeping the romance in your relationship.

1-    Turn it off. Take the television out of the bedroom-this includes turning off the cell-phones. If you are not on bedrest, there is no need to have a T.V. in the bedroom. It takes away time that could be spent engaging in pillow talk, cuddling, kissing, and making love.

2-    Go on a date. It is fine to go to the movies now and then but when I say go on a date I mean GO on an intentional date where conversation can be had throughout. Take a long drive through the canyon, go on a picnic in the park or at a garden. Spending time together without a distraction of a movie or comedian allows time to rebuild intimacy and learn or re-learn about your partner.

3-    Hold hands. Staying close doesn’t have to be complicated. Touch is such a powerful tool for connection. Human touch is a basic primal need. We do not outgrow this.  Holding hands while watching your favorite show, walking around the neighborhood, or waiting for your table at a restaurant can create that closeness without a lot of effort.

4-    Don’t forget to play. Research shows that couples who play together have increased bonding, communication, conflict resolution, and report overall satisfaction in the relationship.  Play can be something spontaneous like a water fight while in the garden or tickle fight while doing housework, something planned like going bowling, or just sitting down for an old-fashioned game of cards. So, give yourself permission to get silly and be a kid again.

5- 5-second kiss. How often do you give your partner a quick peck goodbye in the morning or hello after work? Sure, that is nice, but it becomes routine and unpassionate. Holding a kiss for at least 5 seconds gives you that intentional purpose of showing your partner that you love them. This doesn’t have to be limited to saying goodbye or hello, you could engage in the 5-second kiss to say thank you for dinner or helping with the kids or just because you want to kiss.

These “remedies” are not a cure-all for all relationships. Sometimes there is an issue that goes a little deeper, and that issue is impairing your relationship. In that case, these simple steps aren’t where you need to start, and you may need to look into talking about it with a trained professional. If you need couples counseling, please call our office at 801-944-4555 to make an appointment. We are here to help.

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Understanding Human Sexuality

In honor of Pride month, I wanted to share some knowledge about human sexuality that can be quite confusing. Although some of these Frequently Asked Questions may seem obvious to some, I think most people would be surprised at how little they really understand about the differences between these words and phrases.

Q: What is the difference between sex and gender?

A: Sex is defined by our biological position on the spectrum of femaleness and maleness. Gender is defined by our psychological and sociocultural attributes that are associated with being female or male.

Q: What does gender identity mean?

A: Gender identity is defined by one’s personal, subjective sense of their gender, which is different from our biological sex.

Q: What is sexual orientation?

A: Sexual orientation is the unique pattern of sexual and romantic desire, behavior, and identity that each person experiences.

Q: Doesn’t sexual orientation consist of just three categories, heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual?

A: No it does not. After several studies, Alfred Kinsey discovered that sexual orientation is more of a continuum so he developed the Kinsey Scale. On the Kinsey Scale, 0 represents exclusive patterns of heterosexual behavior and attraction, and 6 represent an exclusive pattern of homosexual behavior and attraction. The numbers in between the two represent varying levels of bisexuality.

            Many people use sex and gender interchangeably without realizing the difference. While sex refers to our biology, gender defines our expectations about what makes us feminine or masculine and is determined by psychological, social, and cultural characteristics. Knowing the difference is not only important in order to fully understand what someone is talking about but also important in order to inform someone who may be confused about this. Additionally, many people believe that our sex should determine our gender. This is where understanding sexual identity comes into play. Sexual identity refers to a person’s individual perception of being female or male. A person could have an outward appearance of a male but have female sex organs and instead of identifying as female, identify as male, which is a form of transgenderism. Sexual orientation is often lumped into three categories such as heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual. However, thanks to Alfred Kinsey, we now know that sexual orientation is much more complex than this and should be described as being a continuum as shown below.

            New research has shown that sexual minorities such as bisexual, gay, transgender, and lesbian individuals are at a higher risk for depression than heterosexual individuals. The reason being that they are (for varied reasons) less open about their sexual orientation. Knowing this can help aid people in their journey to discover their sexual orientation and become more comfortable and supported in being open about it. It can also help you to be more aware of things to be looking for like signs of depression, anxiety, suicide, and stress in a friend, family member, co-worker, etc. who may be exploring their sexual orientation.

With more support and acceptance of the LGBTQ community in this day and age, brings about those who have been hiding their true gender identity or sexual orientation. Now more than ever, it is important to understand important terms and meanings of these terms in order to better serve this community and also family members and friends of the LGBTQ community who may not understand the research behind these terms and the importance of supporting them despite their beliefs. By sharing our knowledge of sexual orientation, we can work together to end hate and discrimination.

References

Crooks, R., & Baur, K. (2017). Our sexuality, thirteenth edition. Cengage Learning. Boston, MA.

Lehmiller, J. J. (2013). The psychology of human sexuality. Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

van der Star, A., Pachankis, J. E., & Bränström, R. (2019). Sexual orientation openness and depression symptoms: A population-based study. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. https://doi-org.proxy1.ncu.edu/10.1037/sgd0000335

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Vulnerability: A Vital Key To A Successful Marriage

It is no secret to the people I work with that I love the work of Brene Brown. Her books, podcasts, articles, Netflix special, and basically everything else she has done is phenomenal. One of the key topics she speaks regularly on is the idea of vulnerability. This is an important key to any successful relationship. I first noticed this when I started doing marriage therapy, almost fifteen years ago. Brene Brown helped me put a name and research behind what I had been seeing for so long. Couples and individuals that are struggling in relationships have a difficult time being vulnerable.


What does someone who struggles with vulnerability look like? It is the person who has a difficult time identifying and expressing primary emotions-or in other words those really hard sticky emotions like hurt, sadness, loneliness, grief etc. For countless years I have seen couples come into my office and as they express their feelings of anger they create a solid wall or barrier between themselves and their partner. As we work on knocking that wall down and identifying those hard emotions it is very difficult for these couples because they have stopped the vulnerability in their marriage for so long. Sometimes years. Sometimes decades. What happens when vulnerability is turned off? That wall between the couple gets higher and thicker. Emotions are not expressed, except through anger or passive aggression. Resentment grows. Communication decreases. Emotional and sexual intimacy decreases. The couple starts to lead completely different lives. 


In therapy, we work tirelessly on creating a safe space where each person in the relationship can express their feelings and be truly vulnerable. It is amazing to see the progress when they can look at each other and state they feel lonely and unimportant rather than yelling. The couples I work with laugh because I am always saying to them “turn to each other. Talk to each other not to me.” Through this sometimes uncomfortable process comes true vulnerability. Through vulnerability couples are able to better share their emotions, thoughts, and feelings without the fear of judgement. These couples communicate better, fight more productively, and have better emotional and sometimes sexual intimacy. The ability to be vulnerable with your partner is a game changer!


I challenge you to work hard to implement more vulnerability into your marriage. If your marriage is in trouble and you feel this is lacking please come in for counseling! Working on this and other essential keys can help rejuvenate your marriage. 

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A House on Fire

 

If you think back to the last time you experienced a crisis in your relationship, you may remember the feelings of panic and fear.  You may even remember feeling uncertain about whether your partner was going to be there for you.

 

In those moments, it is easy to let our fear build, until it transforms from a few sparks into a full-on house fire.  When our relationship-house is on fire, we turn to the person we need the most for help.  In our panicked state, we don’t always have the mindset to calmly explain that we are in crisis and need help.  More often, we attempt to let our loved one know that we are in crisis, that our house is on fire, by throwing little bits of the fire in their direction.  What we intend as a “hey, I’m really hurting right now, and I’m scared and need to know that you’re here for me”, comes out as anger directed toward the person we are turning to for help.

 

If I throw fire at my partner’s house, they’re going to take protective measures to keep their house from also catching on fire.

 

This intensifies whatever cycle has already been occurring in the relationship.  One partner feels uncertain, and lashes out (when really, they’re looking for reassurance), the other partner backs away further, uncomfortable with the intensity of the first partner.  This backing away leads the partner to feel further abandoned, and deeper into their crisis, fanning the flames, and turning the small bits of fire they throw at their partner into a raging fireball.

 

If we can understand this cycle, and recognize it when it happens, we can begin to stop it.  Initially that might look like a “hey, I see what we’re doing here- we’re in our fire cycle”.  Next one partner might say, “yes, I know I’m lashing out, because I’m anger, and under the anger is fear that you aren’t going to be here when I need you”.  Or the other partner might say, “I see you lashing out, I know you feel anger, but I want you to know I’m here for you”.

 

If we can acknowledge the anger and the more vulnerable emotion behind it, we can slow the cycle and find connection in our relationships.

 

If you find yourself stuck in this cycle, and need help getting out of it, set up an appointment with Alice today by calling 801.944.4555.
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Creating Emotional Equality for Your Kids: From Your Threenager to your Teenager

 

Life seems to be getting busier and busier from soccer practice to choir rehearsals, school projects, and bedtime stories. I think we sometimes forget how intense life can be for a teenager or even for your three-year old learner. As an adult, we often get stuck in a mindset where we believe our adult problems are real and our teens problems are miniscule in comparison. Sometimes we forget how difficult life can be in high school. Maintaining friendships seem more difficult these days, with all the technology and social media barriers. Your little ones experience these difficulties as well. This could be with making friends at daycare and when family members are too busy to play or acknowledge their presence. When your child is experiencing all these stressors, they may come across as having a bad attitude, disrespectful, over-sensitive, or selfish. In reality, our kids are really just trying to figure out how to navigate life and may lack skills or verbiage to describe their stress and pain.

At the same time my daughter was experiencing her newfound emotions as a teen, I had the joy of also raising a three-year old who I deemed was like a threenager.

Threenager: A three-year-old child who has just as big of an attitude and overwhelming emotions as a teenager but with even less words or skills to regulate themselves.

I felt a little overwhelmed at times with all of their emotions as well as my own. Here are some tips and tricks I used to not only survive this time but also help my children thrive during these hard times.

  • Do not minimize your children’s emotional experience. Even if their problem seems small or easily solvable to you. They are having a hard time.

Instead, listen to their story, validate their feelings and offer your unconditional love and support.

  • Avoid Blame. There are times when your child is experiencing a natural consequence such as losing a friend because they wouldn’t share or added to a rumor about them.

What they really need is empathy and support. “It’s hard when you lose a friend.” Or “you seem to have had a bad day.”

  • They don’t need you to fix it. It may seem easier as a parent with life skills to solve problems for our kids but there is a bigger reward when they learn to solve the problem on their own.

You can sit with them and help them come up with their own solutions, “how do you think you can fix this?” or “what would you like to be different?” Also never underestimate the power of sitting and problem solving with your child over a glass of chocolate milk. It does wonders in my home.

  • Respect their boundaries. If your child is having a hard day and they do not want to talk about it or refuse a hug, do not personalize it, allow them time to work on the problem on their own.

Be there for them when they are ready for a hug or to talk. You can offer reassurance by telling them “I can see you want some space right now, I am here if you need me.”

These simple reframes as a parent have gone a long way to create a safe and equal relationship with my kids. It has eased some stress on my end and helped my children to gain emotional intelligence and gain life skills that are invaluable into adulthood.

If you would like to schedule a family session or session for your child, please call us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555

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The Disconnected Relationship

What is love? According to Sue Johnson, “It’s intuitive and yet not necessarily obvious: It’s the continual search for a basic, secure connection with someone else. Through this bond, partners in love become emotionally dependent on each other for nurturing, soothing, and protection” (Johnson, 2009). Humans have a hard-wired need for emotional responsiveness and closeness. At the beginning of our lives, we are born with the survival response and need for attachment from our mothers. This need for a secure attachment never fades; it follows us into adulthood evolving into the need for a secure attachment with a partner.

Underneath most fights and marital issues is the longing to feel connected to your partner, to feel that secure attachment and to know, do I matter? Are you there for me? Unfortunately, our culture has painted the picture that this type of dependency is weak and undesirable. Because of this, many relationships begin to exhibit over time, physical and emotional isolation that is actually traumatizing to humans; it communicates to the brain “danger.”

Most relationships begin with a super close connection; partners tend to be more responsive to each other’s needs. However, over time this tends to dwindle and fade as each partner begins to make assumptions about the other. For example, one partner wants more attention or love but expresses this by acting angry and nagging, the other begins to withdraw and pull back not knowing how to react and possibly feeling as though they can’t do anything right and so begins, the “dance” of the couple. The more one nags and pursues, the more the other pulls back and begins to withdraw. At this point, the relationship begins to unravel leaving each partner wondering if the other is there for them or not. During this dance, neither really discusses the deep emotional pain they are really feeling, which keeps them spiraling around in this cycle.

Once you have been able to identify your relationship’s negative cycle, you can both agree to break the cycle. Although disappointments will always be a part of every relationship, we can choose how we handle them. We can handle them in the same old ways, reflecting fear and defensiveness or we can handle them with a little more understanding. If you and your spouse feel as though you are constantly caught in an endless negative cycle, schedule an appointment to begin changing that cycle by learning to understand the underlying emotions and recreating a deeper emotional connection with your partner.

 

Johnson, S. (2009). Hold me tight. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200812/hold-me-tight

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been defined as “the quality of being conscious or aware of something.” Mindful.org refers to mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are, and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Practicing mindfulness and incorporating this way of being into your life  can improve one’s physical, social and psychological wellbeing. The benefits are well worth the amount of time it takes and are as follows:

  1. Increase one’s ability to decrease anxiety and depression.
  2. Helps one to pay attention and observe thoughts and feelings without judgement.
  3. Promotes relaxation and calmness.
  4. Reduces negative emotions and stress. Improves memory.
  5. Boosts the immune systems ability to fight off illness.
  6. Encourages one to eat healthy and cope with cravings allowing them to pass.
  7. Alleviates physical pain. Develops a sharp focused mind.
  8. Improves relationships. Increases work satisfaction.
  9. Regulates emotions. Enhances digestion. Improves sleep.
  10. Improves academic achievement/reduces problem behaviors.

Apps and websites that can be used to incorporate Mindfulness into the lives of children, adolescents, adults and seniors include:

happify.com, omvana.com, brain.fm, mindfulness- app.com, joyable.com, calm.com, mindful.org, headspace.com, smilingmind.com, Stop, Breathe & Think, DreamyKid, Breathing Bubbles, Positive Penguins, Calm Counter, Emotionary, Take a chill, Chill Outz, Relax Melodies, Guided Mind, MINDBODY, Buddhify, Insight Timer, 10% Happier, Meditation Studio, Pacifica, Meditation Timer Pro. Sattva Meditations and Mantras, Breethe, Simply Being, Wuf Shanti Yoga Fun Machine, Breathe, think, Do with Sesame, Super Stretch Yoga HD, Mandala Memory, Mindful Powers, Wellbeyond Meditation for kids, Zen Bound 2 Universal, 5 minute escapes, Jinglow, and Virtual Hope Box.

The practice of mindfulness can assist you to be in the moment bringing a sense of peace, joy and happiness into one’s life. Eckhart Tolle stated “Wherever you are be there totally.”

For additional assistance to learn more about living in the present (the here and now) Contact Sue Hodges LCSW at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555

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HELP! FAITH CRISIS

Have you noticed a trend of people questioning their long-time religious beliefs? Perhaps looking for answers in areas that you may even question the veracity of their approach in doing so?

When someone we know, perhaps even our wife (or husband), begins to question their religious faith it can be distressing. When this same person tells us that they’re going to leave their faith (or spiritual belief) it can seem outright gut-wrenching.

What can we do to help our spouse or significant other in their faith journey? It can be much more about hearing the person than it is about changing their mind.

5 Items to truly consider

Lend a Listening ear

Your tendency will be to want to ask questions. Seek answers. Perhaps even to try to change your wife’s mind regarding her decision. It has been my experience that this will not be helpful. In fact, it will likely only push your spouse away. Listening in an understanding way that shows you truly care will likely be a much better approach to take.

Understand that it’s really not about you

While every part of you may feel that it’s absolutely about you, recognize your focus needs to be on supporting your family member in their decision and journey.

You don’t have to agree

Learning to support your husband in his decision doesn’t mean you have to agree with his decision. This can be comforting as the initial shock begins to recede. Many people want to continue to attend their life long church even with the changes her husband is experiencing.

You didn’t cause the crisis

While it is important that you continue to attend your church of choice if you desire, recognize that you didn’t cause your spouse’s faith crisis. In fact, the faith crisis may have been brewing for some time and is just now being acknowledged.

Recognize that your Marriage core is still there

While change is difficult, please recognize that the love and closeness that you have cherished for so long is still there. That your marriage core is still very viable. That the journey may seem long and difficult but that what you’ve known as “us” doesn’t need to vanish. This is difficult to manage early on in the faith journey but will become clearer as your husband’s faith crisis clarifies.

Where do we go from here?  

As your wife’s faith crisis clarifies, so will the equilibrium in your marriage and other key relationships. While it may take some time to have things feel comfortable, continue to do what you’ve always done. That is, go on consistent dates. Go the movies. Go out to dinner. Spend time at the gym. Try skiing at your favorite resort in the Cottonwoods or tubing with the family. In other words, do what you’ve always done.

Please don’t be surprised when some of these events feel wonderfully connective and others a bit forced or uncomfortable. The key is being fiercely loyal to your spouse and family…not hindered by which church you’re attending on Sunday.

A parting thought

Sometimes seeking advice from your church pastor or bishop can feel wonderful for the spouse not leaving their faith. And, not so wonderful for the spouse leaving that particular faith, be it Catholic, Protestant, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Learn to balance and support your husband as he moves forward on his journey. You may also want to consider seeking professional advice from a therapist that has experience helping couples wind their way through this challenging journey of (re)discovering one’s faith.

Relationship, couple and family therapist Michael Boman, LCSW has nearly 20 years experience assisting couples and families work their way through challenges in their relationships.  

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Boundaries, Who Needs Them Anyways?

Boundaries help to keep us stay connected with someone while keeping the relationship in a healthy place. Often time’s boundaries are perceived in negative ways and only to push others away, but this is not true. “Some people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not punishments, judgments or betrayals. They’re a purely peaceable thing. The basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you and they teach you how to respect yourself.” – Cheryl Strayed (Author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) 

With this in mind I would like to invite to listen to one of my favorite podcasts that does a great job of discussing boundaries and a technique I find extremely beneficial called “Jello Wall”. A Link is provided below, but you may find them wherever you find your other podcast by searching Therapist Uncensored and listening to episode 81 “How Good Boundaries bring us Closer Together”.

https://www.therapistuncensored.com/81-2/

 

Nate Watkins, AMFT

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The Night I Forgot My Phone

We have all heard the saying “Disconnect to reconnect.” It is a bid to turn off electronics in an effort to become closer to the people in our lives. Recently, I had an opportunity to experience this. Over the holidays, we had a party at a family member’s home. As my husband and I were packing up our things, we looked around to make sure we had gathered all of our children’s belongings. We didn’t see anything and went home. After putting my children to bed, I looked around and realized I had left my phone at the party somewhere. For the rest of the evening and most of the next day, I was without my phone. I never realized how much I depended on, and looked at, my phone until I didn’’t have it.
 
That evening, before bed, there was no internet surfing, or YouTube watching. I simply read my book and went to bed. Since it was the holidays, I did not need to set an alarm and awoke on my own. As a reached for my phone to check my email and look at the weather, I realized I didn’’t have my phone. Throughout the day, I went to reach for my phone only to realize I didn’’t have it. Around noon was when the realization came that I looked at my phone for very stupid reasons and did it far too often.
 
I retrieved my phone at about three in the afternoon. The rest of the day I made a concerted effort to not look at my phone. By the end of the day, I felt more connected to my children, my spouse, and felt better overall. This could have been for numerous reasons, but I account a great deal of it to the decrease in my phone usage.
 
I recently watched a Ted talk by Collin Kartchner about phone usage/social media and children. It was a wake up reminder that our children need to feel important and loved. At times, our use of technology can leave them feeling unloved. At the very least, it sets a precedent that they will follow when/if they get a phone. When you have a few minutes, I urge you to watch it.
 
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uMb0wqTqE_4
 
How often do you look at your phone? Is it for mindless things or for work? Obviously our jobs require us to use technology to complete tasks for work. However, do we stay focused on our work and then turn it off? Or does that create an avenue for perusing the internet? I challenge you to leave your phone at home when you go on your next date night. Forget it at a friends house. Turn if off after dinner. Finish your work and then turn off your computer for he night. See if it makes a difference in the way you feel.
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