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…

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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,…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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The Sleeping Beauty Next to You

Premarital Counseling: Marital Counseling: Relationships: Men: Communication: Assertiveness A Fable for Men: The Sleeping Beauty Next To YouA couple of years ago, I was watching Disney’s version of “Sleeping Beauty” with my daughters. I was struck by the scene where Prince Phillip is held captive in a dungeon by the wicked Sorceress. Phillip sits in the dungeon cell fuming as Maleficent explains that she intends to hold the prince captive until he is 90 years old. Then, he and his horse, old, wasted and broken, will ride off to rescue the Sleeping Beauty. As I watched, I realized that this…

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The Problem with Communication

Psychotherapy: Marital Counseling: Pre-marital Counseling: CommunicationI have come to believe that we give more credence to good communication than is generally warranted. A prevalent expectation is: “if we could only communicate better, we could solve most of our problems”. Now, please understand, people who don’t communicate well do have more problems. This is because people who have difficulty communicating can’t negotiate for their needs effectively. However, if most of my clients (workplace consultations, marital couples and individuals) could resolve their problems through better communication, they would rationally deal with their issues and get on with their lives. Unfortunately, this is…

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Two Singles Or A Couple?

Psychotherapy: Counseling: Marital Counseling: Premarital Counseling At a year old, my daughter’s ability to relate to another one-year-old consisted of playing alongside another baby instead of playing with the child. This is typical of children that age. They are self-centered and are still contained in their own world. The child must relinquish their control over their toys, allowing the other baby into their play space. Each baby must make themselves vulnerable to the needs and desires of the other child. A baby must give up complete control over their environment to sufficiently allow their partner the ability to express themselves…

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