Thursday, December 20, 2012

Managing Family Holiday Stress

Being with family over the holidays can be very stressful. Here are some strategies for taking charge and directly managing the stress that this time of the year can bring.

Be positive and complimentary whenever you can.
Don’t make things up, be realistic; however, remember that positivity breeds positivity and it may lead to a friendlier atmosphere for the family.

Avoid divisive subjects.
Find ways to change the discussion or even leave the room. This is not a time to solve the world problems or dissect the latest election.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tip of the Week

You're not going to be in love all the time, but if you want to recapture that magic from when you were in love, be loving.

Being loving to your partner makes you feel so good about yourself, it doesn't matter if you're in love or not.

The marriage is making you feel good if you are loving in

~Frank Pittman

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Test: Are You a Candidate for Holiday Stress?

Take this quiz to find out if you are a candidate for experiencing holiday stress.

The holidays are upon us. For some, this is an exciting and wonderful time. For others it is dreaded and avoided where ever possible. For everyone, it can be a time of poor habits and self-care which quickly lead to holiday stress.

Too much to do and too many people to care for; or too little to do and too few people in your life can both add up to holiday stress and lead to physical, emotional or mental health problems.

Instructions for the holiday stress test:

To determine your score and see if you are a candidate for stress this holiday season, answer Yes or No to each of these questions.

Give yourself 5 points for each "No" statement on the holiday stress test.

1. I am able to be very realistic about what to expect from myself over the holidays.
2. I anticipate the holidays with genuine pleasure most of the time.
3. I know how to set a budget for holiday gifts and stick with it.
4. Christmas shopping and spending a lot of money on gifts are not the most important part of this season.
5. I am very realistic of what I can expect from others over the holidays.
6. I have a partner to celebrate the holidays with me.

Click here to take the rest of the test.

Counseling Relationships Online

Couples Counseling of Louisville

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jobs, Children and Marriage: 10 Ways to Keep Love Alive

During the early years of marriage, couples focus on building a nest, settling into careers and having children.

It is too easy, after the knot is tied, to focus less on the relationship and more on the job or the children which is why the divorce rate is so high for this time in a couple‘s life. It is not that spouses love each other less, it is more because they find themselves drawn in other directions and away from each other.

Things can erode before anyone recognizes what happens. Neither spouse is usually the “bad one”. The distancing usually just happens as life evolves.

As couples grow apart by failing to nurture the marriage, they open themselves up for one or both to become unhappy and lonely. Problems don’t get resolved, fun dissipates and opportunities for affairs or enjoying the single life with friends and colleagues can become more interesting than what is happening at home.

We have 10 ways to keep the love alive and make your marriage a priority.

1. Have a technology free-zone
Cell phones, face book, video games … all are distractions for intimacy and have their own inherent problems. Designate a period of time each day to put the technology away and enjoy each other and the relationship.

Click here to read the rest of the article.
Counseling Relationships Online
Couples Counseling of Louisville

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

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 be your witness.”

From the movie, “Shall We Dance”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

6 Myths About Love, Relationships and Marriage

* “You shouldn’t have to work at marriage.”
* “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.
* “Personal happiness is more important than staying in a ‘love-less’ marriage.”
* “Arguing always destroys a relationship. You should never argue in a marriage.”
* “All problems can be solved in a marriage.”
* “Your partner should always ‘get you’. You should be able to finish each other’s sentences. Your partner is your soul-mate.”

Have you heard these myths about love and marriage?

Do you believe any of these myths and worry that something may be missing in your marriage?

If so, you are not alone. Holding on to these myths about love and marriage; however, will make living in a healthy marriage harder than it needs to be and may cause you to turn away from a marriage that could be saved and improved.

Often people have ideas about love and marriage that are unrealistic and then, when their own relationship does not match up to their ideas of what should be, they turn their attention outward, away from the marriage.

In this article, we want to share with you some of the truths and realistic thinking about love and marriage.

Click here to read the rest of the article
: Myths About Love and Marriage.

Counseling Relationships Online
Couples Counseling of Louisville

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Friends That Can Damage a Marriage

Flirtatious Friends

Watch out for friends who enjoy a “good chase”. Whether they are some one who, if you were single, might be of interest, or buddies who believe that a little “playing around” really never hurt anyone.

Hanging out with friends who have a different belief system can encourage wandering or other problems. When there is a “culture” of flirtation, it is hard to go in another direction.

Personal Happiness Coaches
Some will support you and keep you on track while others, who don’t value marriage, might very well encourage you to walk away from your marriage for your own personal happiness. With friends like this, there is often a disregard for commitment and finding ways (and help) to work through tough situations.

Personal happiness gurus might think you are better off on your own or looking for a “better” relationship because, they might say, “your happiness is most important“.

Party Girls and Guys
A good time with friends is usually a good thing for a couple. For some, there is a culture of partying a lot, often accompanied by a lot of alcohol. Good judgment and healthy marriage behavior can be lost when hanging around others who value a good time more than they value marriage and family.

A word about individual friends.

By all means, hang on to your good friends from childhood, school, neighborhood or work, especially if they are supporters or encouragers in your marriage. If your spouse has any objections at all to these relationships, however, then it is time to take a good hard and objective look at them and decide if those relationships have become more of a priority than your spouse.

Too much time spend in individual relationships and activities can lead to growing apart rather than growing together. Seek out couple friendships and make sure that you are socializing and sharing more with your spouse than all of your other friends put together.

Tip of the Week

The person who benefits most from forgiveness is the person who forgives.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Marriage and Friends: Help or Damage Your Relationship?

Good friends, especially good couple friends, can enhance a marriage. They can be playmates, sounding boards, and support through tough times. Some friendships enhance a couple’s relationship while others seem to steer things off in the wrong direction.

It is important to pay attention to your friendships and decide if they are ones that will support you through your lives together and help in building and maintaining a healthy marriage or promote heading in a different direction and away from your marriage.

You can learn a lot from others who are going through or have gone through some of the same struggles that you experience. What a relief it is to know that you are not alone in the struggles of parenting or dealing with career and family or aging parents … whatever stage of life you are in at the time.

Think about the relationships that you and your partner have right now and see if you can determine what category they might fall in to.

Friends That Enhance a Marriage


Couples who believe in commitment are helpful when the times are tough or the “itch” to give up bubbles up.

As a marriage and family therapist, I am always happy when I hear couples use phrases like “I know we will get through this” or “We are committed to our marriage and divorce is not an option”. When that value is present, then problems are dealt with very differently. Choosing friends who also have that same belief will support a marriage.


Cultivate friendships with couples who are glad to be a listening ear and yet will always direct you back to your partner to work through problems. Sometimes, talking out loud about situations in your relationship can help you to calm down and develop a better perspective on a situation. At other times, sharing with someone who has gone through a similar problem, can offer suggestions for solutions.

Friends who will also encourage you to work through problems with your spouse are good supporters for the marriage.

Learners and Enrichers
Couples who bring new interests and activities can enrich a marriage. Life can become boring if you do the same old things all of the time. Having friends who bring new stories, activities and interests can keep relationships vital.

Couples who have new and different experiences also get some of the same changes in their brain chemistry that comes from an affair, although not to the same intensity. It is a good thing to have new, first time experiences.

Seek out couple friends who know how to expand their lives and join them in pursuits. Ballroom dancing classes? Golf or another sports activity? Travel with and without children? Movies? Classes or restaurants?

Check back here to read Part II: Friends That Might Endanger Your Relationship.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Seven Ways to Connect With Your Partner

Here are 4 more ways to reconnect with your partner when you are feeling that you are fading away from each other.

4. Find ways to connect with each other, just to say “I am thinking about you” during the day. Send a text, call or email. Leave notes in pockets or lunch boxes. Find ways to remind your partner … and yourself, that he or she is important to you. If you find that you are the kind of person who gets caught up in the day, set your phone alarm, or find some way to remind yourself to do what might come naturally to others.

5. Physically touch, hold, soothe, snuggle with your partner.
Reaching out and touching each other is a physical reminder of your connection. Touch invites caring. It is good to be playful in touch if your partner appreciates it. Romantic touch is not necessary all of the time. Warm and affectionate ways of saying “I love you” and “You matter” are great ways to nurture a relationship.

6. Share positive comments and affirmations.
Gottman found that couples in healthy marriages have 5 minutes, accumulated throughout the day, of positive affirmations.

7. Don‘t sweep conflict under the rug. A lack of resolving conflict can easily lead to distance and loneliness in a marriage. Avoiding conflict may seem to help in the short run; however, if left unresolved, can lead to the distancing cycle that is a breeding ground for affairs. Learn ways to communicate calmly and respectfully about differences.

Many live with the myth that marriage and connection should come easily and, if it does not, then there is something wrong with the marriage or the partner. In actuality, for most, it involves a conscious decision to make the relationship a priority and find a way to make connection happen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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, August 7, 2012

Seven Ways to Connect with Your Partner

I often meet with couples who complain about growing apart as the challenges of daily living lure them into routines that leave little time for focusing on the relationship. This, coupled with the new and added stress of technology, invites people to be more involved with things other than their marriage.

Connecting with your partner is crucial to the stability of any marriage. It doesn’t take a lot of time to fan the flames of the relationship. In fact, research studies by John Gottman, PhD found that a simple 5 hours a week can make a difference in the quality of a couple’s relationship.

Here are 7 suggestions for ways to reconnect with your partner.

1. Find some way to connect with each other, even if it is only briefly, before you begin your day. Share a kiss and a bit about the plan for your day. If possible, have breakfast together, even if the children are rushing around with you. Spoon a few minutes before getting out of bed in the morning and make sure that you are not always the small spoon.

2. Develop a ritual that involves sharing your day with your partner. Find some way to spend time every night processing your day. Use the time to talk about positive or stressful events. Share highs and lows with each other. Share confidences and secrets.

3. Plan a regular date every week, even if you never leave home.
Dates don’t have to be fancy, but they do need to be time that is devoted to relaxation or fun and just the two of you. If finding a sitter is too expensive or too hard, make sure something happens after the children are in bed, over lunch or any other time that fits with your schedule. This should be a time that you devote to each other and last for at least a couple of hours, not hurried to fit in between events.

Check back for the next 4 ways to connect with your partner.

Read more of our articles at Counseling Relationships Online

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a New Relationship

Questions about my part in the relationship, both the positive and the parts needing change

No relationship ends completely because of one person. Even if the choice was a bad one, part of the reason it got bad has to do with the dance between you and your partner. Carefully look at how you handled situations and ways that you treated your partner.

• What have I learned that I have done well in relationships?
• What have I learned that I need to do differently?
• Do I sabotage myself in relationships?
• Have I received any advice from a trusted source that might give me information about how to be a better partner in a relationship?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

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.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Questions to ask Yourself About Making Healthy Choices in a Partner

Ask yourself these questions about how you make choices in a partner.

Some people seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. Choices are often made that are familiar and feel comfortable. When the choices are healthy ones, then the possibility of a good relationship is high. When choices in partners are negative ones, it is only a matter of time before the relationship develops problems.

• What have I learned about the choices that I make in partners?
• Do I seem to be picking the same kind of person or making the same mistakes over and over again when making a choice? (Do I often pick partners that are disrespectful? Distant? Have difficulty with affection? Abusive? Have addictive personalities?, etc.)
• Have I clearly identified what characteristics, qualities and values are important to me in a partner?
• Am I looking to find something in someone else that I don’t have in myself?
• Am I more concerned about whether or not the other person is right for me than if I am right for them?
• Do I know that I cannot change another person?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tip of the Week

”Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been”. Wayne Gretsky

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Are You Ready for a New Relationship? Questions to Help You Assess Your Readiness for a New Relationship

Take time, significant time and go slowly into any new relationship.

Often people think that the best way to heal from a broken heart is to get right back into a new relationship. That can be such a mistake. Entering a new relationship without first gaining distance, perspective and understanding is like trying to cover up a wound without cleaning it out first.

Lost relationships deserve to be grieved. Even if the choice was yours to end it, there is still the loss of the hopes and the dreams that must be faced.

While there is no clear formula for how much time to wait before beginning a new relationship, think in terms of months rather than weeks. Some experts suggest that you should wait a month for every year that you were in the relationship before jumping back into another one.

Thinking, journaling, talking out loud with a trusted friend or therapist will help you walk this walk in a way that will allow you to come out stronger, smarter and with more emotional intelligence.

Here are some suggestions for questions to journal, think and talk out loud about. Be sure to go through them several times. With distance, there can be new understanding.

Questions about the relationship that just ended.
Look to the relationship that has just ended for learning about yourself in a relationship. Understand, as well as you can, what you did well and what might help you choose and/or be a better partner in a new relationship.

These questions are good ones to ask yourself as a relationship is ending, several weeks after it is over and again several months later. Distance often brings new perspective.

* Why do I think that my last relationship ended?
* What would my partner say was the reason that the relationship did not work?
* Is there any pattern between the ending of this relationship and the ending of other relationships?
* Is this relationship truly over or is there unfinished business with that partner?
* How intense are my feelings for my former partner, both positive and negative?
* Have I accepted completely the end of the relationship and the hope that it will pick up again some day?
* Have I fully grieved the loss of that relationship?

Check back and check in to read more of our suggestions for questions to answer between relationships and before becoming involved again.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tip of the Week

Disagreements don’t have to turn into arguments. Find ways to repair damage to your relationship during discussions, even when you see things differently or want a different outcome.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bad Marriages and Affairs

“Work is more important to him than I am. He works 60 hours a week, then heads to the gym and, finally, when he is home, he has a drink and then heads to bed. I needed love and knew he would never be available to me.”

"According to my wife, it would seem that I cannot do anything right. She is constantly nagging and complaining. I needed someone who would not treat me like that."

Do affairs cause bad marriages … or do bad marriages cause affairs?

All affairs can cause bad marriages but not all bad marriages cause affairs. In fact, some affairs happen in very good marriages. Having an affair, cheating on your spouse, is no way to solve problems in a marriage.

While it certainly can be true that problems in a marriage can lead to loneliness, unhappiness and sadness, making a decision to have an affair is the responsibility of the person who makes the choice to cheat.

There are many reasons why people have affairs.

Some reasons do have to do with the relationship while others are more about the person who is having the affair.

When couples have difficulty resolving conflict or problems between them, have a fear of intimacy or do not nurture and tend to the relationship, then feelings of loneliness and isolation grow and the ground becomes fertile for friendships to bleed over into more than a friendship with someone that you see frequently like a colleague, neighbor or friend.

Other times when an affair might develop are when one person is depressed or unhappy in the marriage. This can lead to a lot of complaining and negative conversation or withdrawal from a partner and life together which is very unappealing to any spouse. This might be a “chicken or egg”; however, because there are times when problems in the marriage lead to depression and unhappiness as well as times when depression or unhappiness with life events can lead to an unsatisfying marriage.

Affairs may happen at transition times in marriages, sometimes called “mid-life crises,” which are often opportunities for individuals to take stock of their life and evaluate what is “missing” and then look to others to fill that space.

Being around friends who have or are having affairs can de-sensitize some to believe that it is accepted and okay to do as long as no one finds out about it.

Even in healthy marriages an affair can happen. It can take someone by surprise when feelings for another person develop, generally with a co-worker, neighbor or a friend that someone sees regularly. A friendship can develop into more as stories, experiences, feelings, secrets and life events are shared. 

Good people in decent marriages get caught in affairs if they are not aware of establishing healthy boundaries and rules with colleagues and friends. Social media has really opened up many possibilities for affairs to develop. Connecting with high school sweethearts and old lovers can bring on old, youthful feelings of lust and love that can catch fire and grow quickly.

Those who have multiple affairs are different.

Multiple affairs are different. They generally indicate personal problems with the person having affairs. Some people are addicted to love, sex or self-affirmation. Often there is a family history of affairs, often by the same sex parent, and it is a “tradition“ accepted within the family. With some, there is a feeling of entitlement with little regard for the spouse’s feelings. The causes of multiple affairs are much more complicated.

In any of these cases, however, the marriage did not cause the affair. It may have laid the groundwork but the choice to cheat was one taken by the individual and complicates the problems in the marriage dramatically.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tip of the Week

Everyone has complaints about their partner. If the complaint is bothersome enough to talk about, find a way to begin softly, maybe with a compliment or as a request of what you want rather than a compliant about what you don’t like.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Do You Have a Generous Marriage?

Recent research shows that generosity toward spouses is a significant factor in happy marriages.

Getting your spouse a cup of coffee in the morning, remembering her when you see

something she might like while surfing the net or making his favorite meal even though it is not on your “favorites list” are all ways that couples do things for each other. Generosity is going above and beyond the every day tasks. It involves a special way to think about a partner and go a little out of the way to show care and love.

This fits with John Gottman;s research. He found that there was a clear ratio of 5 positives for every one negative in healthy relationships.

The generosity also trickles down to children. Preliminary research showed that children whose parents were generous and caring were also more likely to be generous toward others.

Click here if you want to read more and take the test.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tip of the Week, March 18, 2012

New patterns of thought can actually change the wiring in your brain. You cannot ignore the negative but can train your brain to focus on the good and the positive. When you notice something good happening, try to just focus on it for a few seconds. Notice what happens.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tip of the Week

Doing for others is a great way to give to yourself … and to your community. It sends a wonderful message to children … no lecture required. Find a way to do something for someone else this week.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

8 Strategies for Developing a Happy Attitude

Want to be a happier person? More satisfied with your life? Able to focus on and enjoy the simpler pleasures?

You can teach yourself how to have a happy state of mind. Here are 9 habits to develop that can lead to a happier way of thinking.

1. Practice random acts of kindness. Doing something for another person can change your thinking from a focus on your own problems to making a difference in someone else’s life. It can also help put your life in a larger perspective as you recognize another‘s struggle.

2. Begin a gratitude journal. Begin a gratitude journal at the end of each day. As you think back over the day, focusing on the things that you are most grateful for in your life can change patterns of thinking from negative to positive.

3. Express gratitude. Talk out loud to others about your gratitude. Notice the results.

4. Nurture friendships and social connections. We “get by with a little help from our friends”. A great deal of research has shown the connection between connecting with others and lifting depression as well as overall good health. Find ways to be connected to others.

5. Identify negative thought patterns and change them as soon as you notice that they are there. Don’t let negative patterns of thinking take root and grow weeds. Stop them as soon as you notice that they are present. Find a replacement thought and then get busy and do something differently.

6. Learn to live in the present.
You cannot change yesterday. You cannot truly predict tomorrow. Don’t lose the joys of today. Most problems have a way of working themselves out one way or another.

7. Treat yourself to simple pleasures. You deserve it. Pick some flowers and put them in a vase. Take a nap. Read a “fluff” book.

8. Take care of your physical health. Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, pay attention to alcohol, caffeine and sugar consumption.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Before Asking for a Divorce

Before asking for a divorce, ask yourself this question.

Question # 5. Have I thought about what I would say to the children about the end of the marriage, now if they are young, and later when they are adults? What would I like them to know about this decision? Will they see me as having “given up”? What do I want them to think about me, or about us, and the end of the marriage?

Consider writing down your answers to these 5 questions. Put them away for a week and then bring them out again. As you re-read them, consider to thoughtfully examine your thoughts about divorce before making such a

Sunday, February 12, 2012

25 Tips for Romance

Here are some tips to help bring romance back into your relationship.

1. Romance can be rekindled by recreating your first date. Try to remember where you went, what you did, what you wore, what you ate, what you talked about. Re-create the date as closely as you can.
2. Put candy kisses in your sweetheart’s pockets, car, at the kitchen table, and leave a picture with a heart next to them.
3. Surprise is a wonderful way to bring back romance. Think of something that your partner really wants or would like to do … and get it or plan it.
4. Find something playful to do … swing on a swing set, play miniature golf, have a pillow fight, bring home the ingredients for “some mores” …
5. A simple tip for romance is to leave love notes in unexpected places.

Click here to read the rest of the tips for romance.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tip of the Week

What counts in making a happy marriage is not how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.
Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Before Asking for a Divorce, Ask Yourself This Question 4. Have I rewritten the story of our marriage?

Am I consciously refusing to acknowledge the good in the relationship because of anger or unresolved concerns? Have I found someone “better” who makes me look at the duration of my marriage in negative ways that are unrealistic?

When you give up wanting to stay in the marriage, you often give up on the positives in the marriage. Thoughts and memories tend to just drift toward the negative and you forget all of the good reasons for getting into the relationship and staying there for as long as you have.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tip of the Week

Marriage, like a submarine, is only safe if you get all the way inside.
Frank Pittman

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Question # 3

3. Is my brain thinking normally? Or is my brain clouded by interest in another person, a mid-life crisis or the single life?

We know that there is actually a change in brain chemistry for folks who have an affair. This change in brain chemistry brings about amazing feelings of euphoria or the belief in finally having found a soul-mate. As with all new relationships, this change does not last. Eventually calmness and normalcy return. It is only during a time of calm and normal brain processing that someone should even consider a divorce.

The same can hold true for a mid-life crisis. At certain stages in one’s adult life, there is often a period of wondering “what if? … “ and mentally or actually playing around with the idea of exploring a single life and new relationships. If this might be the case with you, a change in your marital status may not be the solution to the underlying angst. There are many different ways to explore change. Ending your marriage is a pretty drastic move.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tip of the Week, January 8, 2012

Take a vacation from worry. Determine a certain length of time …. A few hours, a day, a week and decide not to let worry hang around and interfere with your enjoyment of life.

If worry creeps in to your mind, try to put it away. If it won’t go willingly, write the worry on a piece of paper and tuck it somewhere that you can later find. Then get busy and do something else.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Before Asking for a Divorce

Ask yourself these questions.

Question #2.

Have I examined the normal stages of marriage in reference to where I am or we are right now?

Do I know about the typical course of a marriage and where my spouse and I fit into that?

Are we having problems that are “typical” for couples at our stage of life and marriage?

Do I know what others have done to find their way through?

There is some truth to that old adage about a “7 year itch” and the “empty nest syndrome“ to name just two. Understanding and recognizing that phenomena can make a real difference in how you view your marriage.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tip of the Week, January 1, 2012

This is the time for resolutions.

As you think about ways to improve your relationships, consider some of these possibilities.


Resolve to spend 20 minutes a day … every day … with each other just talking about your life and your day.

Resolve to visit your children’s rooms, go into their space, for 10 minutes every day and ask about their music, their friends, subjects of interest to them as people, not to you as a parent.

Those going through divorce or death of a spouse:

Resolve to build your friendship network with people of the same sex rather than rushing to find a new partner.

Practice random acts of kindness.