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!
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!
If you look carefully at this badge you’ll see that Feedspot has named my blog as one of the top 100 Marriage Counseling blogs on the internet! This is a big deal, as I seem to be in the company of some real big shots like John Gottman and Sue Johnson, world famous therapists and authors of several best selling books. Little ole me! (Here’s the list link, in case you think I’m pulling your leg): http://blog.feedspot.com/marriage_counseling_blogs/
This is an example of how when passion and determination intersect, you can accomplish things you never would have believed you could. In my case I started out not even knowing how to turn on a computer about ten years ago – really! But I was determined to share some things that I did know in an effort to market my business, and empower others through psychological information I’ve acquired about relationships.
In the process I discovered that I absolutely love to write, even though the writing may not always come out so smoothly. I also discovered that the technological functions needed to maneuver around a blog and website aren’t all rocket science! I taught myself how to upload and download, insert links and widgets, adjust different design elements, and even in some cases how to manage HTML code!
I must admit that some of my biggest meltdowns have been internet related, especially when I didn’t have a clue about what the problem was or how to fix it. A few years ago in the midst of writing a compelling blogpost I accidentally spilled a fresh white wine spritzer onto my laptop, and bang! Blogpost vaporized and no more laptop! So, it’s been a bit of a rocky road getting to this point, but there’s no stopping me now – I have so much I’ve learned over many years of working with individuals and couples, such great information I’ve accumulated through trainings and mentors, fantastic things I’ve learned from books and podcasts, and some real bits of wisdom I’ve picked up from other blogs. (Not to mention some vital life experiences of my own)…
So, whether your passion is writing, styling hair, building bridges, or breeding dogs, honor it with time, teachers and patience, and you’ll be giving yourself and others a precious gift.
PS. Another admission: I still haven’t figured out how to find the time to respond to the thousands of comments I get on my posts. Readers are so courteous, smart, helpful and supportive, and I hate the idea of using automated responses. It seems cold and rude. Time continues to be the enemy, as I also love my full time job as a psychotherapist, and am not about to give that up until they drag me away in a cart. So, if you’ve left an unanswered comment, please forgive me, but know how much your feedback means to me!
I've often been described as a "pit bull," especially by my husband. He's not referring to the kind of bite, but the trait of tenacity, thankfully. Friends and family will regularly remark that they don't know what drives my passion and perseverance at my age, especially when so many of them are slowing down. I think they think I'm a little crazy. I think they're onto something, but I like to think of myself as a little obsessive, with happy, episodic "manias." (Case in point: We've been updating our house and land, so I've often found myself edging and mulching garden beds, lifting out huge rocks and hauling cuttings until well into darkness. When I get a "bug in my bonnet" about the preferred new color of a room I'll repaint it three times until it's right. I've been practically living at Home Depot and Homegoods, picking out materials, pillows, and general stuff, all in a driving unstoppable desire to improve the form and function of our house). My husband should be nominated as a CNN Hero, for his enormous patience and support, putting up with what I think is my big supply of Grit.
The dictionary defines grit as "People refer to the quality of "grit" as the presence of persistence and passion. It's the "drive" you see in some folks and not others, and often seems to be related to the daily grind around some project or situation. People who demonstrate laziness or "wimpyness" aren't thought of as having much grit.
Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, identified a Grit Scale to assess how much of it you may have, and also to identify traits that might predict success. The complete test appears in her bestselling book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance." If you're curious about your own score go to the "Resources" page of my website www.SusanLager.com to take the quick ten question test. With all my own crazy tenacity I wasn't surprised when I scored high on the scale. See what the test may reveal about you!
In this thirty minute episode I’ll co-host with Dr. Laura Louis, author of the popular book, “Marital Peace,” which is a valuable resource for supporting couples throughout the challenges of marriage.
Dr. Louis has specialized in helping distant couples heal after infidelity, and in the program discusses some of the ways she recommends rebuilding trust, rekindling intimacy and enhancing communication. Her therapeutic approach has been influenced through trainings in Brazil, Mexico, London and Haiti, as well as hundreds of transformative seminars all over the world.
Don’t miss this vital program if you and your spouse have endured or feel at risk for an affair! Learn some key tools to not only help avoid infidelity, but to restore trust, build forgiveness, and promote growth after an affair. You too can achieve marital peace after this traumatic development.
Call in live with questions or comments at 877-497-9046.
If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the podcast afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
One way or another, I hope you can join us!
If you or your spouse has been exposed as using the Ashley Madison site to seek an affair, stop and take a deep breath! (Apparently thousands of people have already flocked to lawyers to pull the trigger on impulsively decided divorces). Driven by the hurt and humiliation of public exposure and profound betrayal, as a discovering spouse you are understandably experiencing the first waves of trauma that this news usually brings. Vengeance and assuaging the broken trust through divorce may seem like the only solution to you at this point.
As the unfaithful spouse you are probably traumatized in different ways: what may have seemed like a discreet, compartmentalized adventure without victims now feels real in its damaging consequences. You are now either bathed in shame and fear, or furious that you can no longer “have your cake and eat it too.” However justified you may feel for your infidelity you know that your world is about to become unravelled. You are about to take the hit for everything wrong with the marriage, and cannot imagine ever being forgiven. If you stay married you imagine a lifetime in the “doghouse.” Whichever end you’re on, the impulse on both sides is often to give up and get a divorce, convinced that healing and reconciliation would be impossible.
As a couples therapist who, for many years has worked with thousands of couples reeling from infidelity, I have a few strong pieces of advice:
- Slow down!
- Take some deep breaths!
- Don’t make any rash decisions now!
- Don’t impulsively file for divorce!
Here are some things you may NOT be aware of:
- Many marriages can not only be saved, but strengthened after the trauma of infidelity. It requires a lot of determination, hard work, vision, and a good couples therapist the spouses both trust.
- Many couples who impulsively divorce deeply regret that decision later on.
- Children are often the biggest victims, especially in a contentious divorce.
- If you don’t know what direction to take regarding your damaged marriage there is an alternative to couples therapy called Discernment Counseling. This is a brief treatment designed for couples where one spouse is leaning toward a divorce and the other wants to stay married. It is not geared toward tools and skills for repair, but instead focuses on helping partners make a decision about a direction for the marriage. Only trained Discernment Counselors can provide this service.
- There are terrific books and support groups for couples wrestling with infidelity.
- If you do decide to get a divorce you can have a healing, constructive process through Collaborative Law. Divorce doesn’t have to be an impoverishing dog fight.
- There may be hope. There is help.
Anyone in the greater Boston area wanting more information, feel free to contact me at The Couples Center PLLC, in Portsmouth, NH: 603-431-7131.
If there’s one central problem I deal with most frequently in my work as a couples therapist, I’d say it’s disconnection in marriage. It can happen through over- involvement with children, work, hobbies, family or hyper focus on self. It’s a defensive posture, masking some internal fears. Left unexplored, it can ruin a marriage.
Often, the stage is set early in life as spouses adopt certain attachment stances in relation to early nurturing or lack of it. *(See my “resources” page at www.SusanLager.com and take the Adult Attachment Style Survey to find out about your own leanings toward healthy connection or disconnection – you may be surprised!)
Significant research findings indicate that spouses who spend more time together are generally much happier in their marriages than those who don’t.
If you’ve lost touch with your spouse, it’s time to register for a couples’ retreat, to revisit or re-learn the behaviors which helped you to bond when you were courting, and to become more conscious of the defensive behaviors the two of you have adopted over the years.
Meredith Richardson, a talented mediator, collaborative lawyer, and conflict coach and I will be presenting a couples’ retreat May 16-18 at the Victoria Inn in Hampton, NH. It’s a charming bed and breakfast on the seacoast which we plan to have all for ourselves for the weekend, so there will be ample privacy as well as space to do this important work.
You could also join us for a Couples Retreat on beautiful Star Island, off the coast of Maine and NH, from June 21-25. It’s another ideal setting for reflection and learning.
For more information, or to register, contact me at: 603-431-7131
or call Meredith at: 207-439-4267.
Space is limited, so don’t wait too long – your marriage calls!
As we all get ready to pay our taxes, this is a particularly relevant show now!
In this 40 minute episode, I will co-host with Meredith Richardson, a talented and feisty lawyer, mediator, and conflict coach. Together we’ll focus on the central issues and some common pattterns couples play out related to finances during their marriages, or in their divorces.
* Learn about some key behaviors which are often indicators of marital strength and collaboration, or not.
* Find out about 4 new behaviors which can help you and your spouse to do better in this area.
* Learn about some critical legal issues you need to know about filing taxes jointly.To listen in, or to join us live on the air with questions or comments, call toll-free 877-497-9046.
If you can’t make the live show, catch the recording at: The Couplespeak Relationship Forum
Whatever you do, don’t miss this episode!
How’s this for a unique couples retreat?
Hopefully, those of you in committed relationships had a lovely Valentine’s Day, filled with sweets and loving exchanges with your special someone.
But now that the one day marking affection and love has gone by, it’s time to really dig in and explore all the daily ways you and your partner show and tell love for each other. This inevitably involves developing effective ways to manage conflict, when the rose-colored glasses come off, as you become a more seasoned couple.
Join the dynamic mediator and conflict coach Meredith Richardson, and me for a special Couples Retreat at the lovely Victoria Inn for an experiential weekend designed to build better connection, communication and reduced conflict.
We’ll have this cozy inn all to ourselves for this special event, Friday, May 16th through Sunday morning, May 18th, 2014.
For more information about registering: Call Meredith Richardson 207-439-4267 or email: [email protected]
As a couples therapist I routinely talk to my clients about the ambiguous road ahead of them in working on repairing and enriching their relationships. The work is generally fraught with uncertainty and likely setbacks, as is the case with most hard earned changes. This discussion always involves the issue of what each partner needs to “stay in the game,” or what would they minimally require of themselves and each other to maintain hope, energy and good faith in the process.
What each of us needs to “stay in the game” applies to any endeavor which doesn’t produce immediate lovely results. Last week, after three years of often grueling work, I received my official documentation awarding me the trademark for the name “Couplespeak.” I had invented the name for a division of my company which would provide coaching products and services live and online. Getting the trademark with proprietorial rights to the name required me to write books, articles, eBooks, develop workshops, training programs, blogs, videos, a BlogTalk Radio program, and to manage multiple internet platforms.
Mind you, all the while I’ve had a full time private psychotherapy practice, and started with very little interest in the internet and tech devices three years ago. But I loved the name “Couplespeak,” and believed that if I could live long enough I could grow it into something really significant. The whole process required that to finish, I stay in the game, the Couplespeak game. I had to devise ways of making myself accountable, and maintaining my passion for the project. I had to enlist the support of my friends and family. I had to learn when to take breaks and when to force myself back into the effort. Just as anyone requires in any big, meaningful project, I needed to keep up my faith in myself, and my faith in the work itself. And now, just as anyone would, I’ll need to allow this “finish” to become the remarkable start of something else, a new game…..
PS. For copies of my new books about staying sane in the relationship game, go to Amazon: http://amzn.to/12ALenB