In my profession as a psychotherapist specializing in couples work I have often encountered client complaints about positive gains they had achieved, but no traction around them in the past.
It reminds me of the old cynical joke the “regulars” at the gym would make about the Newbies who joined every January: that come March, these crowds would be gone, and we’d have the place to ourselves again. Sadly, it was always true – all the positive intentions and energy the January crowd brought didn’t last more than a month or two. They weren’t able to build traction in their exercise endeavors. And, whether you’re talking about sustained change in your exercise habits or sustained change in your marriage, the requirements are very similar.
If, as an example, you and your spouse would like to communicate more effectively, (the most common goal I encounter in my work with couples), you’ll need to use these five tools:
1. To make sure you’re moving steadily in the right direction it will require that you use a “map” of sorts. Where would you like to go? What is your destination? Be clear about what “getting there” looks like. Will there be more attentive listening? Will there be more clarity about wants and needs or more focus in your conversations? Establish clearly understood and definable goals.
2. Be clear about what you’ll each need to stay with the journey. Reassurance from each other? Some type of break or pleasurable time out from the work? Positive feedback about the emergence of better conversations? In other words, what will you each need in the way of “supplies” to maintain your efforts?
3. Establish markers of progress. What “sign posts” will you see on your “map” that will tell you you’re either moving in the right direction or going off course? Will you be spending more time together? Will you be sharing more confidences? Will more problems be solved? Will you feel calmer / happier together?
4. Reward yourselves with acknowledgment about the meaning of the gains you’ve made. What has made your efforts worth it? Do you feel closer? Do you feel more committed to your marriage? If you have kids, are they calmer or happier around the two of you? Establish clear motivations to maintain the gains made.
5. Celebrate your success as you reach your “destination.” If, as an example, your conversations are flowing more freely with less defensiveness, celebrate your positive gains with something meaningful to both of you – go away for a special weekend, get a new “toy”, like new skis, or an upgraded TV, or even a special book you’ve wanted to read together. Celebrate your success with some material or quality time indulgence that punctuates your efforts and achievements.
Use these five tools to achieve traction around any gains you’ve made individually and together, so you don’t become like another “March dropout” at the gym!
Don’t miss my next podcast on Wednesday, 2/28/18 at 8:30 PM EST: “Facing Divorce? How a Divorce Coach Could Make All the Difference!”
In this 45 minute podcast I’ll meet with Lisa McNally, a mother of three who has 20+ years of experience working with divorcing individuals, couples and families in all aspects of family law matters including divorce, separation, child custody, co-parenting and parental rights.
Lisa is also a co-author of the Amazon best selling book Divorce: Taking the High Road: Simple Strategies for Creating a Healthy Divorce
As a Divorce Coach, Lisa supports and guides individuals experiencing divorce one-on-one, helping them navigate the often lengthy, stressful and convoluted process in a dignified way. Her clients benefit by having her by their side to help them make the best possible decisions for themselves and their children based on their unique interests, needs, concerns, and goals.
Tune into the podcast and learn:
– What Divorce Coaching is
– How it works
– The benefits to clients (support, guidance, cost savings, better outcomes, etc.)
– The benefits to attorneys
– How To Pursue it
Don’t miss this vital podcast! You can call in live with questions or comments at 877-497-9046 at 8:30 PM EST or listen to the recording at your convenience at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
One way or another, I hope you can tune in!
PS. If you’re on the fence about staying married and need help to make a confident decision about a direction for your marriage, you may be a candidate for Discernment Counseling. It’s a form of brief treatment designed for couples on the brink. I am the only clinician in New Hampshire certified to do this delicate work, and would be glad to discuss the possibility of setting up an initial appointment with you. Call my office voicemail at 603-431-7131 or email me at: [email protected]
Look at this face!
This is Tucker, my morning cup of joy. Every day at 9 AM he arrives at my breezeway door, sent by my next door neighbor, ball in mouth, ready for action. (Some days I wonder why I’m voluntarily getting out of a warm bed an hour early and heading into the “arctic” outdoors with this rambunctious canine)!
We traipse around our land playing Fetch or Tug of War for awhile, then we head onto the adjoining trails leading to either the bog or the nature path which goes through miles of farmland and woods. Tucker runs ahead, then waits at every turn for me to show up and cheer him on. When he’s naughty he drops the ball and eats deer droppings or grabs onto giant five foot logs which he swings around, intending to haul back home. Once in awhile he obeys when I tell him to drop either the poop or the log. I’m persistent, so he’s minding me more often lately. It’s a work in progress…
For about four months here in Maine, any doubt I may have felt earlier in the morning about the effort to get up and out disappears completely once we’re immersed in this winter wonderland. After the walk I take Tucker downstairs into my gym where he works at the peanut butter inside his Kong while I’m working out. When he’s done he thanks me profusely with sloppy kisses, and I remind him how much I adore him. I then take him home next door, and return to the rest of my day feeling loved, useful, grateful, and filled with joy.
This is my happy place, communing with nature and a big, sweet, loving creature who enjoys the experience as much as I do. It’s a morning ritual which sets the tone for good energy and connection with clients, family and friends. I start each day “in the moment” with intention and gratitude.
So, if you have a dog and can’t roam the woods like I do in the morning, you can still make their walk a ritual of immersion in nature and love by just being present. If you don’t have a dog, borrow one as I do, so you can also borrow their capacity for spontaneity and pleasure. Chances are, your friend or neighbor who loans him to you will appreciate the help, and you and the dog will benefit immensely from your special time together. Any affectionate touch will ramp up the happy bonding hormone Oxytocin in both of you. You’ll begin the day with great self care and a full heart, and you’ll be readier for whatever comes your way!
*PS. If you need help with the whole issue of self care and practices which promote positivity and joy, feel free to call me at 603-431-7131 to set up an appointment. I’d be glad to help!
I live in New England where right now in the middle of the winter of 2018 there seems to be a massive Flu epidemic. It’s cited as being the worst in history, with people unwittingly passing it on to others who then do the same. It’s a classic case of physiologic contagion. We’re all advised about washing out hands, not sharing towels or utensils, and staying home if we have symptoms to avoid unnecessary spread of the illness which can be fatal.
But what about other forms of contagion? Who notices them and gives us tools to avoid spreading the unsavory?
Contagion in relationships is much like the Flu – if you get too close and aren’t mindful, you’ll catch, in this case, the emotional state of someone you may feel sympathy towards.
If your spouse is depressed and lolling around, if you aren’t proactive you may end up “mirroring” them with similar body language and affect. We all seek people who will mirror us accurately as a form of bonding and connection, but when a loved one is very down or anxious, you want to be careful to not take on their attitude, but instead to feel compassion, and try to provide support. It’s a fine line of difference.
If a friend is feeling hopeless about a relationship or job, you can listen and acknowledge their pain, maybe even ask if they’d like some suggestions or a reality check around their experience. But that’s different from hanging around with them and getting into long, shared experiences about how partners or jobs are unreliable, and tapping into your own negative beliefs about these things. Then the feeling and attitude has been contagious. You’ve “caught” it.
If when you empathize with a loved one by connecting with similar experiences you’ll need to also connect with any lessons you learned or things you gained from the experience, so you don’t “catch” the “hopeless bug”. You’ll need to remind yourself of anything you may have done to get past the experience to something brighter.
It may be useful to remind your loved one of their resources and resilience they’ve demonstrated in the past around these kinds of issues. You can become a subtle cheerleader for their strengths, without sounding too chirpy.
It will also be helpful to limit time spent with someone in a very dark state. You cannot help them if their narrative becomes your own, so make sure you engage in activities before or afterward which remind you of good possibilities in life. You will be a sunnier presence for them as well if you practice this.
You can then make hope the contagious feeling instead!
In this half hour episode I explore the issues involved with being either a clueless spouse / partner, or one who has healthy, loving partnership skills. This episode taps into emotional intelligence, how highly you would rate yourself when examining your attitudes, knowledge and practices in your primary relationship, and identifying areas where you may need to improve to avoid misery, and to create more satisfaction for you and your partner / spouse. Tune in and take the 20 question test to get a better read on how the experts might score you, also to get a better sense of where you might be headed for avoidable trouble!
To join the conversation live with questions or comments call toll-free 877-497-9046. If you can’t make the live show you can hear the recording anytime afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
However you tune in, you won’t want to miss this episode! You’ll learn about relationship skills and practices essential to happiness and trust!
In this 15 minute episode I’ll share my insights and experiences with the issue of cheap forgiveness – what it is, and how and when it may be adaptive as the best possible “solution” to emotional injury, vs. what the costs may be to the person bestowing it and to the relationship. I’ll give a mini “life lesson” on the larger issue of forgiveness and what the options may be when an offender isn’t repentant or available to a process of true repair around an emotional injury.
To join the episode live call 877-497-9046 to come on the air with your questions, comments or story. If you can’t make the live podcast you can listen to the recording afterward anytime at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
However you tune in, don’t miss this important episode!
It’s been a long haul getting here – months and months of training, lots of cases, loads of reading, and plenty of constructive feedback from the experts at The Doherty Relationship Institute, but now I am officially certified as a Discernment Counselor! (And, as far as I know, I’m also the only clinician in New Hampshire trained to do this delicate, important work).
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this type of treatment Discernment Counseling is a form of brief treatment specially designed for couples on the brink of divorce. These couples come into the work with “mixed agendas” – one spouse more hopeful about staying married, ready to do the work of repair, and the other spouse “leaning out,” not very hopeful, often feeling a high degree of ambivalence about moving forward together, and frequently feeling out of energy for “trying” anymore.
Discernment Counseling is a brief intervention for these couples, (one to five sessions only), with the goal of helping these spouses make a clear, confident decision about a direction for the relationship – either stay in the marriage as it is, move toward a divorce, or do the work of reconciliation and repair for a period of up to six months to get a sense of possibilities for the marriage. Couples who participate in this process avoid the financial and time waste of engaging in a half-hearted couples therapy, which often happens when one spouse hasn’t yet decided if they “want to try.”
So, if you feel that this form of treatment may be suitable for you, go to the Discernment Counseling page of my website,, check it out, and call me at 603-431-7131 if you’d like to schedule a session.
Don’t miss my next BlogTalk Radio show Wed. 8/24 8:00 PM: “3 Key Signs of Unfairness in Relationships and How to Fix Them”
Don’t miss my next BlogTalk Radio episode on Thursday, August 24th at 8:00 PM EST. It will be 20 minutes of discussion about the signs of unfairness in relationships, and how to remedy the situation.
Tune in live at 877-497-9046 to join me on the air with your questions or comments.
Don’t miss this 20 minute information-packed episode, especially if you’ve been accused of behaving unfairly, or if you’re on the receiving end of unfair treatment and don’t know how to handle it.
If you can’t make the live episode you can hear the recording at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
In this 20 to 30 minute episode I’ll share my experiences as a psychotherapist witnessing common communication blunders clients often make. Whether you’re trying to communicate with a spouse, partner, friend or family member there are predictable and avoidable pitfalls you need to know about! You’ll learn about simple techniques to avoid these communication problems, be clearer about your message, and be heard and understood in a way which greatly improves relationships. Using my popular book “I’m Talking! Are You Listening?” as a guide, I will empower listeners to communicate with almost anyone more effectively about anything.
Call 877-497-9046 to join the live conversation with questions or comments. If you can’t make the live episode tune into www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager to listen to the recording anytime afterward.