What Is Your Relationship To The Universe?

I know this sounds like an odd question. But, it’s one that I often ask at the beginning of therapy with a new client. Before I get into why I ask this question, let me share with you my own bias and experience. Simply stated, the world is always bigger, more complicated, and surprising than my story about it. When I was 19, I woke up one day only to realize everything I knew about life was wrong. It was a frightening experience. But, I was resilient and survived. When I was 27 years old, again, I realized that everything…

Read More

I Want To Have Your Baby…

One hundred years ago, marriage was simply a foregone conclusion. An unmarried person was treated with suspicion. After the advent of effective birth control, human reproduction became unlinked from the act of creating life. It is no accident that the Playboy Ethic and Feminism sprang up at roughly the same time. Men could “play without paying” and women “could have it all – motherhood and career”. Since then, American and Western European men and women found themselves needing to re-invent the wheel when it came to defining their roles in marriage. Just a few years ago, a friend of mine,…

Read More

Advice to The Newlywed: You Can Be Right Or You Can Be Happy

When my friends got married, I loved throwing bachelor parties. Many of my friends were in the mental health profession. And many of these therapists did couples and family therapy. Inevitably, someone would ask: “What advice do you have for the bride and groom?” One of the best pieces of advice that I heard was simply this: “You can be right or you can be happy.” When I counsel couples, we inevitably get into a discussion of what is right and wrong. Usually, at least one partner is concerned about being right in an argument. Without fail, one or both…

Read More

I-Statements

I-Statements are probably the best known, most effective and least properly used technique for improving communication, resolving conflict, and setting boundaries. They usually are composed of 3 parts: 1) When you _____, (Report a concrete observation of the other person’s behavior.)2) I feel_________. (Report on how the other person’s behavior makes you feel.)3) In the future, please_________. (Make a request.) Dos Do report the other person’s behavior concretely, without characterization or judgment. Do report how you feel accurately and without judgment. Do make a specific request that is realistic, time-bound, concrete and doable Don’ts Don’t exaggerate, use sarcasm, irony, innuendo,…

Read More

Pre-Wedding Freak-out II: Parents

As I mentioned in a previous post, family and friends will tend to act-out just prior or even during a wedding. It’s important to remember that a wedding doesn’t join two individuals in marriage; it joins two families and two sets of friends too. Let’s examine this in a bit more detail by looking at the issues that parents often have around weddings. Parental Jealousy We like to think of ourselves as rational human beings. However, if I am honest with myself, occasionally I am far from rational. Sometimes this is a good thing. The strong loving bond between a…

Read More

Preventing Pre-Wedding Family Freak-Out

The thought of a wedding usually brings pictures of joyous couples exchanging vows, mothers joyously weeping into lace handkerchiefs and the couple happily exiting in a shower of rice. However, before the first invitation gets printed, I have seen many brides in my office sobbing hysterically, feeling torn apart by the demands of opposing mothers, fiancés, siblings and friends. Both large questions like: Is a priest or minister going to marry us? Who should we invite? Who gets left out? And seemingly small details like the texture of your table place card paper stock can trigger emotional reactions from family…

Read More

What is Romance?

In the old days, miners carried canaries down into their mine shafts. If the canary lived, the mine was safe. If the canary died, the miners knew they were in trouble because of toxic gases. When it comes to relationships, romance tends to be the canary in the mine. When there are serious relationship problems, romance and mutual fun tends to die. When couples patch their relationships together in therapy, one of the first dilemmas that couples face is how to get the romance back into their lives. They look back nostalgically at the beginning of their relationship, a bit…

Read More

The Problem With The Past- Part II: Couples

As I mentioned in my previous post, our perception of the past can seduce us into believing that our choices are so limited in the present that we are unable to move. Part of what happens in the process of psychotherapy is that we begin seeing the present as just the present. We become freed of our feelings of being trapped by our past. We learn to see our present, not influenced by the lens of past history, but directly and immediately. The same problematic thinking poisons relationships. “Yesterday my partner was a problem. Today my partner did the same…

Read More

The Problem with the Past

One of the most misunderstood legacies of Freud was the notion that our personalities were “set” by the age of five and that after that our personalities simply did not change. Even Freud admitted to the ability of the human personality to change. That’s why psychoanalysis was invented. However, most of us in the 21rst century have bought into this odd notion that we are the same person that we have always been. Our personalities are set and the forces that were set into motion by our past decisions will determine our future fate. We are so obsessed with the…

Read More

OK Cupid. Drop That Arrow and Move Away From Your Bow.

Valentines Day is here and I was particularly struck by how virulent our distrust of romance, relationships and marriage has become. I recently came across an article by Eric Bartels of the Portland Tribune that really captured the ambivalence that our society has regarding marriage. And, he tentatively quotes local sociologist Johanna Brenner regarding some of the relatively good news about marriage. One of the things that caught my eye was that people are waiting longer to get into marriage, they cohabit more outside of marriage and that the divorce rate has leveled out over the last 20 years. Unfortunately,…

Read More