Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tip of the Week

Holiday Presents

Holiday shopping is in full force. Many face the dilemma of what to buy. Often people think about what they want the other person to have, and not what they think that the other person would want. I have heard of many gift disasters … from pets to camping equipment to living room furniture. The giver bought what they wanted to have themselves rather than really thinking about the needs or desires of the recipient.

The recipient of the gift often feels hurt and disappointed because they believe that their wishes were not heard or were discounted and that the giver thought more about themselves than the recipient. The best gifts come from really listening to your loved one, thinking about them and their interests.

It is perfectly okay to ask someone for suggestions. Gifts do not need to be surprises. It is also okay to ask for suggestions from another who might know what they would like to have. The thoughtfulness is the most important aspect of the gift … and sending the message that the recipient is very important … and that you have heard them, thought long and hard about them … and picked the present because of what you think would really please them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

5 Things To Consider Before Asking for a Divorce

Are you feeling unhappy in your marriage?

Are you considering a divorce?

Don’t move too quickly in asking for a divorce. Slow down and make sure that you have thought things through. There are several things that you should consider.

We are going to share with you five questions to ask yourself before you take the step of asking your partner for a divorce.

1. Have I done everything that I could do?
Have I talked openly and lovingly with my partner? Have I asked for counseling and, if refused, gone on my own? Have I changed my own behavior rather than repeat the same old responses and reactions?

Most problems in a marriage are usually not the result of one person‘s behavior. Examining and recognizing your own part in the problem might lead to the changes that you desire for your marriage.

Check back with our blog and we will share 4 more questions to ask yourself. Please feel free to share your comments. We can make it a discussion.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tip of the Week

For one of your holiday gifts, talk with your partner about your proudest moments. Share with each other what things about yourself and your relationship that make you the most proud.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tip of the Week

During the holidays we often experience a high level of stress. Sometimes it brings excitement and fun and sometimes sadness and disappointment.

Find time to slow down and pay attention to the good things in your life right now. Try to think about which things are important to be doing, spending time, money and energy on … and which ones are you doing to impress or please another.

This time in your life, and in the lives of your relationships, will never come again.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tip of the Week

Sexiness wears thin after a while, and beauty fades. But to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat. ~~~Joanne Woodward

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tip of the Week

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"  

The old Cherokee replied, "The one you feed."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Part 2: The Stages of Dating

Stage 3: Becoming a Couple, “Enlightenment”

During this stage of a relationship, hormones are calming down and reality sets in. Couples often go “deeper” in their connection. Trust is stronger and more intimacies may be shared at this stage as couples take away some of their “best face” and allow themselves to act more naturally and relaxed.

Both halves of a couple will notice weaknesses and differences or flaws. “Cute” habits might become irritating at this stage. Some of those perpetual issues or differences such as free-spending or frugal, neat and orderly or sloppy and disorganized, interested in lots of time together or more involved in outside activities begin to emerge.

At this stage of the relationship, couples will take note of the differences and may even begin to complain or attempt to problem-solve.

As intimacy develops between the two people, more self-disclosure emerges, both verbally and non-verbally as couples act in ways that are more like how they are in their daily life.

This is when the big question emerges even more strongly: “Where are we headed?“ Women have a tendency to ask this question before men, even though both may be wondering about the answer to this question. Pushing for an answer; however, may cause real problems in the relationship. Each person needs to listen to their own inner voice and wisdom. It is important to talk over their thoughts and feelings with their partner while finding ways to keep from “pushing” for commitment.

There is no need to rush through this important stage and every reason to go slowly.

Stage 4: Commitment or Engagement

At this stage in a relationship, couples should have a good understanding of their partner’s values, life style, and goals for the future. There should be a relationship with your partner's family and friends.

Open and honest conversations should be happening as couples plan their present and future together. Questions about children, finances, careers, future goals and lifestyle should be discussed more fully. Differences are normal and couples will learn about themselves and their relationship as they note how they handle these differences with each other.

This is also an important stage for couples to use to evaluate the relationship and their ability to be part of an emotionally intelligent relationship. Engagements can be broken much more easily and can clearly be a better decision than a later divorce.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tip of the Week, September 25, 2011

Change the time of day or the location when having a disagreement or fight. If you usually fight at night, get your partner to agree to only disagree during the daytime … and actually schedule a time for the conflict. If you generally fight in the bedroom (one of the worst places to fight) then agree to move all of your fights to the kitchen … or out to the back deck. If you have fought in every room in the house, then agree that all disagreements must be taken outside.

Changing the location and time can change the flavor and feel of the disagreement and help keep partners from falling into the bad patterns that caused problems in the past.

Counseling Relationships

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stages of Dating

Dating relationships go show common patterns. At each stage during the dating process, each half of a couple often makes a decision (sometimes more thoughtfully arrived at than others) to move forward or to end the dating relationship.

Some dating stages take longer than others to go through and some people take much longer at each stage. Unfortunately, some people don’t fully experience and process each dating stage as an opportunity for personal growth or to make a healthy evaluation about the relationship or about themselves. Others are more open and aware to learn about themselves and their choices during each stage of the dating relationship.

Dating Stage 1: Initial Meeting/Attraction

Dating relationships have to start somewhere. The initial meeting may take place over the internet, through friends, in a church or social group, at a party or bar or any one of a myriad of many different places.

Different arenas for meeting potential dating partners allow for different opportunities to get to know each other and see if there is enough curiosity or interest to take it to the next level which would involve arranging a second or third meeting.

Dating Stage 2: Curiosity, Interest, and Infatuation

During the second stage of dating, attraction and infatuation are most pronounced.

Early attraction often involves the physical attributes of the partner and include things like outward appearance, body type, interests and personality traits. At this stage, the attraction may not be too “deep” and each half of a couple is generally putting his or her best foot forward. Differences are not noticed or are dismissed with thoughts like “not a big deal” or “she will change”.

Couples generally do not have much conflict at this stage of the cycle as each is really trying hard to impress the other person. Often (not always) during this stage of dating, there is not enough “is this the right person for me” but rather more “what can I do to make this person like me?”

This dating stage may last for 3 or 4 months depending on the individuals and their maturity, experience and self-understanding. Towards the end of this stage, and hopefully at other times throughout it, it is not unusual for questions of “is this the right person for me” to emerge. For women especially there may also be a desire to figure out where the relationship is headed.

Going slowly in making any decisions about a relationship are more likely to be better ones than moving quickly (unless it is clear that the relationship is not a good fit).

We will share Dating Stages 3 and 4 next week.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tip of the Week, September 11, 2011


This is my song, oh God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
This is my song, thou God of all the nations;
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth's kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
Oh hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
Myself I give thee; let thy will be done.

From the United Methodists (Stanzas 1 & 2 by Lloyd Stone, Stanza 3 by Georgia Harkness)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Becoming a Couple: Common Issues that Couples Experience, Part 2

New couples also face a lot of other issues as they form a bond and a committed relationship. Here are two others.

Other friendships
, even those that have not been romantic ones, can pose areas of conflict in dating relationships. Making time for the relationship while holding on to friendships and rituals with other singles, co-workers and old friends might get in the way of a developing intimacy and connection in the new relationship.

There can be many reasons why this can be an issue. It might have to do with information about the relationship that is shared with other friends. Sometimes friends are not supportive of the new partner and will overtly or covertly cause problems.

Other times, it is about how much time a partner devotes to the other relationships. Some people really like to spend a lot of time together while others value their independence. Meeting each other’s needs for connection as well as time alone and apart, especially when it includes other friendships and excludes a new significant other, may require a lot of conversation and negotiation.

Future plans for the relationship.
Many often want to know where the relationship is headed. This may not be a priority for others who tend to make commitments more slowly.

Some want “clarity” or have a goal in mind for themselves and may feel an urge to move things along at a faster pace than others. Those who want to figure out where the relationship is headed also often want to talk about it a lot … and that is the last thing that their partner wants to do. The planning half of the couple may want deadlines or decisions before the other half of the couple really knows what he or she wants.

Whatever issues faced in a relationship, how each person handles the differences provides more information about the viability of the relationship than whatever their position may be. Each person should do their part in being half of a healthy dialogue and decision-making process as well as observing what happens with their partner.

Click here to read more of our articles about dating and becoming a couple.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tip of the Week , August 28, 2011

Get over it. Work through it. Get to the other side of it. Turn it into something. Don't let it eat you up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tip of the Week, July 17, 2011

Why is it that people get married?

… Because we need a witness to our lives.
There are a billion people on the planet.
What does one life really mean?

But in a marriage, you are promising
To care about everything …
The good things, the bad things,
The terrible things … the mundane things.

All of it …
All of the time … every day.

You are saying …
“your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it.”
“Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will witness it.”
From the movie “Shall We Dance”

Friday, July 15, 2011

Becoming a Couple: The Top 3 Perpetual Issues for Transitioning from Being Single to Being Half of a Couple

It can be a hard transition, moving from being single and independent, to being half of a couple. In my practice this week, I have seen 3 different couples who are struggling with just this issue, becoming a couple.

For the couples this week, the major challenge has been to decide what happens with relationships with former lovers. Many people today form close connections with those that they date. They often have a history together which usually precedes the current relationship. Sexual interest may no longer be present; however, the emotional connection with the former lover can feel threatening to the new partner.

When becoming a couple, making decisions together about how to shift loyalties (or in some cases, whether or not to even make that change) is often grounds for conflict. Those who are in the ongoing friendship may believe that it is harmless and innocent and often a very significant friendship. The other half of the new couple may be concerned that it will “blossom again” or he or she feels excluded and an outsider even if included in their activities.

In becoming a couple, it can be a struggle to determine how to build trust and reassure each other of commitment while, at the same time, not experiencing the losses of strong friendships.

This issue does become clearer with the stages of the couple relationship. When couples deepen their commitment from “seriously dating” to engaged to married, this decision becomes easier to make. One of the keys to success with this issue is to keep it from turning into a power struggle but to rather let it be the start of ongoing conversation.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tip of the Week, July 3, 2011

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
~John F. Kennedy

Ask not what your relationship can do for you. Ask what you can do for your relationship.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Three Additional Ways to Repair Damage During Conflict with your Partner

Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. When having a disagreement, think that maybe, just maybe, your partner may have an idea that he or she wants you to consider and is not out just to “get you” or be disagreeable.

Humor helps a lot.
The more that you can laugh together or at yourself (not at your partner) the more likely it is that overall good feelings about each other and the relationship will keep you focused on a positive solution.

Stay positive in your conversation.
Talk about what you like and want more of rather than what you do not like and want your partner to STOP doing or change.

Above all, keep in mind that the person you are disagreeing with is your life partner. He or she was, and hopefully still is, your best friend. Talk together in ways that show your respect and love.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tip of the Week, June 26, 2011

Don’t expect that repeating the same attempted solution will get different results. For different results, do something different.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

3 Ways to Repair Damage During Conflict

Here are three suggestions for ways to repair damage to a relationship during conflict.

Realize that there are many different ways to reach a solution and both of you can be right. There is rarely only one way to solve a problem. Entertain the idea that many different ideas need to be considered before settling on something that fits. Thinking of the conflict in this way invites you both to consider a bigger picture.

Recognize that different styles beget different ideas. Most often, neither is inherently wrong. Many partners have different approaches to issues like parenting, finances, sex and others. Respect each other’s ideas as valid even if different from your own.

Use lots of phrases to calm down the tension. Some phrases to consider are ones like:
“I love you and I want us to find a way to work together on this.”
“We have figured out ways to work through this before, I feel certain we can do it again.”
“I am starting to get upset and I know that this is not the best time to discuss a
difficult subject. How about if we take a break and talk again after dinner?”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Healthy Relationship Is More Important Than Winning An Argument: Discover 6 Ways To Repair Damage During Conflict

Is it more important for you to protect your relationship than it is to win a fight?

Can you disagree without being disagreeable?

Are you able to keep the love showing while conflict is flowing?

If your answer is “yes” to all of these questions, then you may not need to read any further. If any of these presents a strain for you; however, there may be some useful tips here for you.

All couples disagree. According to researcher, Dr. John Gottman, it is usually about the same things over and over again. In fact, his research points out that about 2/3rds of all disagreements are usually about the same issues.

Some couples are masters at working through conflict and keeping a good relationship as their primary focus. They truly disagree without being disagreeable.

Couples who can find ways to repair any damage to the relationship while they are having a disagreement, or, as some might call it, a fight, have more than half of the battle won. It makes so much more sense to compromise with or acquiesce to someone that you like and with whom you have a good relationship.

For others, repairing damage during conlict requires learning new habits and skills.

In future posts, we will discuss 6 different ways for you to repair damage to your relationship while you are having an argument.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tip of the Week, June 21, 2011

One advantage of marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with each other, it keeps you together until maybe you fall in love again.

Judith Viorst

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Discover Ways to Stay Calm Even in Conflict

Every couple has differences. Some of those issues need to be discussed while others will work themselves out over time and may not involve any conflict.

While there may not need to be a reason to fight about the differences, there are certainly reasons to have discussions and figure out ways to handle problems when you disagree. Conflict is not inevitable.

With volatile couples, those who are quickly triggered and have trouble avoiding a fight or conflict, it is important to signal ways to recognize when either partner is getting flooded and take a time out so that he or she can calm down before having any kind of conversation about their disagreement. Areas of conflict are handled much more successfully this way.

With couples, or maybe just half of a couple, who are more likely to run away from conflict, it is also important to recognize that the urge to run also comes from feeling flooded. If you give yourself or your partner the time to calm down, then it is likely that you can find a way to talk about the problem with out erupting into conflict.

Learning how to identify when you are flooded and calm yourself down is a skill that can be learned. Learning this skill can make you a master at handling conflict.

Click here to read the rest of the article which includes steps for staying calm during conflict.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tip of the Week, June 5, 2011


One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee replied, "The one you feed."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Proving Your Point Can Be Hazardous for a Relationship

Some people are able to remain calm during a disagreement while others avoid conflict completely. Still others blow up quickly and seem to enjoy the fight. Letting go of the conflict and the need to “win” or prove your point is hard for many but crucial for the relationship.

Jill and Jim fought a lot. Their friends referred to them as “The Bickersons” and kept their contact with them as a couple to a minimum, especially when it included drinking.

While their fights did not include throwing things or hitting each other … yet, there was still a lot of passion and volatility.

Jim and Jill liked their passion. It went quite well in their bedroom; however, it was pretty destructive to their feelings about themselves and each other and, now that they had 2 children, they were especially concerned about their style.

Both halves of the couple agreed that they could share equally in the escalation of the fighting. They could agree on that when they were calm, that is. Otherwise, things quickly deteriorated to blaming and accusing the other of being the aggressor.

Both also agreed that they knew each other’s “hot spots” and even confessed to using them to gain power in fights. They also acknowledged that they really had difficulty resisting the fight when it started. Both felt a need to prove their point or win the argument.

Many people, those who avoid conflict, will flee when fighting begins. Others find that they cannot let go of any argument and will fight until the end. (The fight or flight response to conflict is a common pattern for many couples.) The seduction of an argument is powerful.

A high level of disrespect and contempt can erode love and kindness in any relationship.

Problems arise, however, with high conflict in any relationship. Things that are said and done, even if there is no physical violence, can erode love and respect in any relationship. Contempt is one of the biggest killers of a marriage.

One of the skills that I first teach couples is the importance of taking a time out when flooded. (When their heart rate starts to rise.) Finding ways to soothe themselves or to help their partner calm down is the only way to protect the relationship and work toward finding solutions to any problem. While in the heat of a fight, it may be hard to let go, it is crucial for the long-term health of the marriage.

Jim and Jill had a really hard time pulling themselves away from conflict. When one of them “drew a sword” or pushed a button, it was hard not to defend themselves or accuse the other of causing problems. While they both agreed that, when they did take a break, they were able to think more clearly and rationally, they had to work extremely hard to take a break when the conflict started.

Over time, with lots of practice, they were able to change their behavior which led to a change in their thinking and in their feelings about themselves, each other and their relationship. It never became “easy” to resist the seduction of an argument but most of the time, they were able to put their relationship first and find ways to let go of their destructive pattern.

The main question that couples have to ask themselves at times like this is “Which is more important, winning … or the relationship?”

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tip of the Week, May 29, 2011

Begin a gratitude journal about your spouse and your marriage. Each day, write down 3 things that you like or appreciate. Focus on the positives. Pay attention to what you like and what is working.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tip of the Week, May 15, 2011

There Is a Hole in My Sidewalk
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep whole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately,

Chapter Four

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Three More Keys to Being a Successful Stepfather

5. Reach agreement together with your spouse about the house rules. Some of these decisions might come through private conversations with your wife; however, family meetings are a great idea. The more that you can involve the children and allow them to have a voice, the more likely it is that they will be in agreement with whatever is decided.

6. Always be loving and respectful to your stepchildren’s mother.
Children really do want to see their parents in happy and healthy relationships. Whatever the reason that the natural parents are not together, it may have been a hard ending and children need to see a loving and healthy marriage.

7. Nurture your marriage. Don’t let the stresses of step family life get in the way of your relationship with each other.

Find ways to have dates, spend time alone and build on the positives in the relationship. Talk a lot with your wife about the small successes and steps in the right direction, even more than you talk about the problems.
Living in a step family … and succeeding in meeting and figuring out solutions to the complexities, can be very rewarding. You and your wife can look back on these times with mixed feelings and memories but be grateful that you survived with the strength of your love and ability to figure out the best ways to work together.

We welcome your comments, questions and ideas. Please share them with us.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Four Keys to Becoming a Successful Step Father

1. Envision the big picture. With the help of your wife, friends in a similar situation, reading or a support group, gain some understanding of the complexity of step family life. Learn about your own challenges as well as those of your wife and the children. There is no quick or easy “fix” or “blending” and there are absolutely no easy answers.

2. Build a relationship with the children before attempting any kind of disciplin
e. This will pay off in the long run as children can find ways to accept discipline (teaching) from some one that they have a relationship with and someone that they know truly cares about them and their lives.

Look for things to like and appreciate about each of them. Find time to spend with each one individually on a regular basis even if it is just for 5 minutes. Ask about their day and their lives.

I often encourage new step families to act as single parent families for the first year. Let the natural parent handle all of the discipline while the new step parent builds a positive relationship.

3. Understand your role as a step dad.
Recognize that you are not, nor will you ever be, their natural father. Even if you have the best relationship in the world, it cannot and will not ever be the same. In addition, you cannot expect to have the same feelings for them as you do your own children.

Talk with your wife about your role with the children and with her. Define a role that fits for both of you but allows you the flexibility to see as your main purpose, for at least the first year, to concentrate on building a relationship with the children.

4. Share, privately, any important concerns that you have with your wife about the children or parenting.
There will be many things that you will need to be talking about as you all learn how to live together. Find ways to do this from a positive rather than a complaining or critical place.

It is best for the children NOT to know about your disagreements most of the time. If their mom changes much or the two of you come up with a rule that they don’t like, they will blame you for sure.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tip of the Week, April 25, 2011

People don’t just fall out of love in a marriage. If love dies, it is because they did not make their marriage a priority.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Successful Step Dads Understand Their Role

Step fathers often enter a new stepfamily with the expectation that they will bring order and discipline to a loving mother who is too soft with her children. This is especially true if she has sons or teenagers. Mothers also might also set this up as well by feeling somewhat overwhelmed with problems with their sons and having a belief that boys need a strong male to help guide them.

Some step dads mean well but have trouble figuring out the puzzle of stepfamily life.

When Greg and Marsha married, she was really struggling with her son, Chad. Marsha had been a single mom for 5 years and Chad, who was now 12, was used to having a say in many of the things happening in the family. He acted, and expected to be treated, older than he was. Some of this was good, in many ways he was very responsible. In other ways, it was a problem as he had no difficulty challenging his mother and finding his way to getting what he wanted.

Greg saw the problem with this and decided that what Chad most needed was a strong male hand and role model. Marsha seemed to want this until she found out how much Chad resented her new husband. She often felt as though she had to pick sides and, no matter which side she chose, someone was always unhappy. It felt like a “no win” situation for everyone.

Some step dads seem to have it figured out from the beginning.

Todd married Sandy and instantly became a stepfather to 11 year old Tracy and 13 year old Sam. Todd had 2 sons of his own who were 15 and 17 and often out and about with friends and events.

Tracy and Sam spent half of the time with their dad although their visits were inconsistent because of his travel and activity schedule. Sam seemed to be having the toughest time with these transitions. This was only aggravated by his A.D.H.D. diagnosis which caused struggles both at school and at home.

Todd was able to see the big picture with the children and recognize why they had some of the problems that they did. He knew that transitions were difficult and their father was having a hard time with some aspects of his personal life. Sam’s
attention deficit really called for consistency so Todd worked with Sandy and they both talked with Sam’s dad to come up with a plan that was best for the children.

Todd took things slowly. He encouraged Sandy, as she handled most of the discipline with her children, while just finding ways to build a relationship with Tracy and Sam. He offered to take them to school, fix lunches and showed up and cheered them on for school activities.

Times were rough at the start but Todd was able to keep the whole picture in perspective. His sense of humor, patience and dedication to Sandy, along with a positive vision for the success of their family eventually succeeded.

Monday, April 4, 2011

3 More Strategies for Successful Stepmothers

8. Stay positive with your spouse. When you need to tell him about problems with the children, find a way to do it softly and gently. These are his children and criticisms about them will feel like a criticism of him and his parenting. Recognize his difficult role and strategize with him about how to handle problems. You want your marriage to make it long after these children have grown up and have left home.

9. Accept the fact that you may never love these children; in fact, it may be hard to even like them much of the time.
That happens in many step families. Find some aspects of them and their personalities to like and show them respect. Watch for any changes along the way as you, and they, age together.

10. Be your own best friend.
Find time to be alone, exercise, visit with friends and talk with other women in the same situation. This is a long process and there is no quick and easy answer. Take care of yourself and build your stamina for the long haul.

While many step families do not survive, there are also many that do. With patience, humor and a lot of working together, you can be one of those who make it work.

Do you have any experiences or questions to share with us? We welcome your comments, questions and feedback.

Counseling Relationships Online

Couples Counseling of Louisville
Advice for Relationships

Monday, March 28, 2011

Four More Strategies for Being a Successful Stepmother

4. Try not to take negative experiences too personally. Many of the challenges that you have are because of your role with their dad, the divorce, their age or a whole host of other things and not about you.

5. Encourage children to spend time alone with their dad as well as with their mother and other relatives.
Let them see that you respect these other relationships that preceded your introduction into the family.

6. Find time alone with each of your stepchildren on a daily basis,
even if it is only for a few minutes. Use the time to catch up with them and with what is going on in their lives. Children tend to be drawn to adults who really seem to value them and their ideas. In addition, go to bat for them when it is appropriate. Let them see that you want to be their ally and respect their needs.

7. Do not expect appreciation from your stepchildren
… until they are well into adulthood. This may be difficult as you are changing your life and schedule to accommodate them and their needs; however, they are children. They also may have divided loyalties and believe that showing appreciation to you is being disloyal to their mom. Keep doing nice things and, eventually, it will pay off.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

tip of the Week, March 27, 2011

Emotions are not monsters that need to be contained. We all need how to shake hands with them and handle them with emotional intelligence.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 10 Strategies for Stepmothers … the First 3

There are some things that stepmothers can do to have the best chance of thriving in her stepfamily. Here are some suggestions.

1. Stepmothers need to find ways to be patient and go slowly.
There are lots of complications and twists in people and relationships in step families. Nothing can be ”fixed” immediately. Many of the problems are not about you. As they say in al-anon, “You did not cause it. You cannot control it and you cannot cure it.” Be patient, go slowly and find ways not to take things personally.

2. Find your role as the stepmother in your new family constellation. Don’t expect to mother another woman’s children. Look for a different role with them that can evolve over time.

Work with your partner to define your role and responsibilities. Make sure that everyone in the family is aware of what these roles and responsibilities are …. and what they are NOT. Ask him to be your ally in this and work with you as you all figure this out together.

3. Spend time alone with your stepchildren.
Relationships take time to build and it is hard to achieve respect without a peaceful relationship. Spend time each day that you are together just learning more about them and their lives. Ask a few questions, without judgment, and listen carefully.

Counseling Relationships Online

Couples Counseling of Louisville
Advice for Relationships
Healing from Affairs

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stepmothers Face Many Challenges

Stepmothers have many challenges. Probably the biggest one is defining her role with the children and in the family. In some instances she is an “insider’ and at other times, she is clearly on the outside. She may have responsibility for transportation, cooking, laundry, discipline but may not have a say in other areas and may find that her husband sides with his children over her some of the time.

Most women believe that, if they are kind, loving and gentle enough, everything will work out and the children will fall in love with her. As most step families have told me, this NEVER happens.

Children often resent stepmothers as trying to take the place of their natural mother, even when step moms try to take it slowly and patiently, they are still the woman who is with their dad and in the bed and kitchen, where their mother should be.

The divorce rate is higher for step families than for those who are in it the first time around. The odds of protecting a marriage are not good ones since roughly 2/3rds of marriages with stepchildren end in divorce.

Women often take much of the responsibility for maintaining relationships and that can be extremely difficult to do with unhappy and challenging children, divided loyalties and sometimes interfering exes.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

For some moments in life there are no words.
~David Seltzer, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stepmothers Start Off With Hills To Climb

In this next series of blog entries, we are going to talk about the role of stepmothers, one of the most difficult roles in families. We invite your input, comments, questions and suggestions. Success stories will be especially appreciated.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word, “stepmother”? Evil? Wicked? Mean?

More people think of Cinderella’s and Snow White’s stepmothers then Carol Brady of the Brady Bunch. Hard to get a break when you start off in a tough space.

Sometimes women who are stepmothers start off on the wrong foot as well. They may have unrealistic expectations for their new family and try too hard to create a close family long before the children are ready. Disappointment and frustration with these new children, along with what is often a very unclear role definition, may make it hard to find a stepmother to really find her place in this family.

Stepmothers often assume and, it is assumed, that they will handle much of the day-to-day parenting. What a job to handle right out of the starting gate!

Attempts to discipline and handle problems are met with resentment and challenge, sometimes not supported by the natural parent, and can lead to many hard times and hurt feelings.

Being a stepmother to her husband’s daughter has its own special challenges. It can be extremely emotionally complicated when there is more than one female who wants a man’s attention, not to mention tension between and within mothers, stepmothers and daughters.

Counseling Relationships Online

Couples Counseling of Louisville
Advice for Relationships

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tip of the Week, February 27, 2011

For most people, a life lived alone, with passing strangers or passing lovers, is incoherent and ultimately unbearable. Someone must be there to know what we have done for those we love.
~ Frank Pittman

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

10 Strategies to Protect Your Marriage in a Step Family Or My Stepchildren Are Stressing My Marriage!

Living in a step family can be dangerous to a marriage.

It is not easy to rear children. Each child is different and requires thoughtful work and planning for the best way to teach and discipline. It may be hard when you are married to your child’s parent. It can be many times harder when you are not married to your child’s parent … and you are married to someone else!

In all marriages, there are disagreements. (While some couples may say that they never disagree, that does not mean that they like and agree with everything that their spouse does, they may just not talk about it.) Money, sex, children and in-laws are the top 4 but we could name the top 25 pretty easily.

All perpetual issues are heightened in a step family.

Differences in parenting may also be one of those perpetual issues that couples argue over. When the children are the birth children of your spouse, it is often easier to believe that you both have the same goal in mind. When the other parent is a step parent, however, that is often not so easy. Stepchildren make it much more complicated.

It is too easy to let the parenting disagreements bleed over into the fabric of the marital relationship, especially in a step family. When someone that you care about criticizes your child or your success as a parent, good feelings erode and, over time, can erode good feelings about each other and about the marriage.
Nurturing a marriage is hard as well when there are children around. Life is just busier and time together is often hard to get. When some of those children are stepchildren and may actually resent you being a part of their family, it is hard to find quality time as a couple. High quality time (it’s not always possible to have high quantity) is crucial to maintain a healthy and viable marriage. It is paramount to keeping the love alive, especially in a step family.

Finances are more complicated. Couples have maintenance and child support as well as feelings about what other parents are doing … or not doing. So many decisions have to be made in a marriage with stepchildren and it is often hard to do it without emotion.

There are “insiders” and “outsiders” in a step family. Because of this, a lot of maturity, patience, self-confidence and grit are required in order to get through the feeling of exclusion, let go of hurt and resentment and keep the positive thinking and behaving alive.

10 strategies to protect your marriage in a step family.

Click here to read the 10 strategies.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Top 10 Secrets Men Should Know About Women

Have you seen that coffee table book … the thick book, the one with the title “Everything Men Know About Women”? When you open it up, every page is blank.

Women can be complicated and men are often perplexed about the best ways to treat them. For help in understanding women, a man may talk with his guy friends … sometimes a good idea, sometimes not so good. He may also talk with his female friends or relatives for help in understanding women … generally a better idea.

In reality, all women are not the same, so the best person to ask advice in understanding women is the woman herself. Women love to talk about what they like and what makes them happy. Some well-phrased questions are appreciated and flattering.

Just to get you started, however, here are some helpful hints to help you in your quest of understanding women and it might make a difference for you in your relationship.

Understanding Women: Top Ten Secrets

1. Women need to feel special.
They really want their man to show that they have thought about them, what they want, and look for a way to make it happen.

Click here to read the rest of the article: Top Ten Secrets Men Need to Know About Women.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tip of the Week, January 16, 2011

Remember when … Look at a picture, watch a video, remember a happier time together.

Revisit all of the good memories and talk about what happened then … what each of you did to help make that a special time.

Dissect what you did and what you most appreciated about your partner and what he or she did that made that a special time.

As you notice softer, kinder and better feelings slowly come. Talk about how to keep them alive in the present.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Recharging Yourself Through Relationships and Giving to Others

Are you running out of steam?

Do you need to be recharged?

Are you feeling exhausted after the holidays and spreading yourself way too thin?
Relationships, close relationships with friends and family who really care about you, can provide the care and respite that is needed. Sharing stories, laughing together, helping each other or volunteering to help those in need, all feed, nurture and nourish us.

We recently experienced this. We were feeling pretty overwhelmed over the holidays. We thought that we were not using good judgment when we agreed to accompany some of our friends to Mississippi for a volunteer vacation but we did it anyway.

Click here
to read the rest of the article.

Sunday, January 2, 2011