Tag Archives: couples

Ten Big Truths for Every Committed Couple

As a licensed marriage and family therapist and marital researcher for almost 15 years, I’ve come to some big picture conclusions about relationships.  I call them “Big Truths” and penned them on Facebook for my friends and family.  I’ve decided to post them here as well, in case they might be of some support to you and your partner, or your future relationship.  All my best, Kelly Roberts, Editor ~ Red Dirt Chronicles

Big Truth #1:  No one ever really wins the “I did more than you” game. At best, it’s zero-sum…but not really. Because even in a stalemate, ill will can be generated. Continue reading Ten Big Truths for Every Committed Couple

Not-So-Newlyweds: Resolutions Together

I don’t think there’s anything magical about turning the calendar to January 1 that makes us all run to our bathroom mirrors to post lists of resolutions. Instead, I think those ideas for positive change are born of actually having time away from our regular schedules to remember who we are and who we want to be. In our individual lives and in our relationships, these vacation days at Christmas have almost a healing power, allowing us space to restore the parts of ourselves we give up during the rest of the year. This is will be the fifth New Year’s Resolution season Luke and I have experienced together, and there are some things I’ve learned about setting goals as a married person. It has been interesting to see the way that New Year’s resolutions are different as married people than they were when we were single. It seems that any change either of us make affects the both of us, and the relationship can provide the support we need to make positive changes.

 

Marriage has been a great place for positive peer pressure. In 2010, we decided that we would run in the OKC Memorial Half Marathon. That spring, we treadmilled our way through snow days, pounded the pavement on injured knees, and spent hours going in circles at whatever running trails we could find to keep things interesting. I guarantee I would have given up if I hadn’t had Luke beside me in the process. For one thing, I didn’t want to be beaten…to spend the whole next year watching him get into his car with the “13.1” bumper sticker and knowing I didn’t have one? No way! Besides, how would I have felt if he’d given up and left me to train alone?

 

The big goal for 2011 was to stop drinking pop (or “soda” or “Coke” or whatever you call it). I’ve sure been tempted by that Dr. Pepper that looked sooooooo good in someone else’s glass, but when one of us is weak, the other is strong, and amazingly enough, we have managed to succeed at avoiding the lovely mix of carbonation and syrup all year. However, there have been some goals we’ve set together that we haven’t met. For example, every January, we decide we should eat better, so we start counting calories and measuring portions, but somehow it never fails that we have an off week early in the year and relapse on all the stuff we were trying to avoid. We’ve had to realize that we can’t blame each other (“Well, if you hadn’t suggested pizza for dinner, we would still be on track.), but instead, we have to take responsibility together and avoid giving up on goals for a healthy lifestyle.

 

At the same time, I have to remember that my individual resolutions affect Luke. If I decided that I wanted to run a marathon in 2012, I would have to consider how much time that would take and what the effect would be on our time together in the evenings and on weekends. Right now, I don’t want to make that tradeoff because we seem to have little time together. Plus, my poor knee hasn’t totally overcome that last half marathon, and have you seen the weather, and it’s so dark in the evenings, and, and, and…ok, maybe I just don’t want to do it this year.

 

I think it’s important to think about what I’m like to live with and how my habits affect Luke. For example, when I had roommates in college, I didn’t even think about leaving my junk all over the living room for them to wade through. Somehow, though, I seem to find that acceptable with my lifelong roommate. He keeps his “area” in the living room spotless, but look to my side, and you’ll see my sewing box with a half-finished project, notebooks in which I jot everything from grocery lists to blog ideas, and depending on the day, probably my camera and computer and a few pieces of mail I haven’t look at yet. He never comments, but I know he can’t enjoy looking at my pileup when he is clearly interested in cleanliness.

 

On that note, I appreciate that he doesn’t make goals for me. If he recommended that I organize my project space, he might not get the positive results he expected from that conversation. I think we’ve both realized that while our stubbornness together is a very positive thing, we are not going to change each other. We have to wait until the other realizes a change is needed. Sometimes, that takes a lot of prayer, patience, and forbearance, but in the end, we have to trust each other to be constantly trying to become the best version of ourselves—both for ourselves and for each other.

 

One interesting aspect of marriage is the possibility of making goals for the marriage itself. I heard one time about a couple who had an annual business meeting to discuss their marriage. They talked about the status of the “merger” and what “assets” and “deficits” were present so that they could make improvements. I told Luke about this, and he just shook his head, but what a great concept—to be focused enough on the marriage as an important part of our lives that we would actually take a Saturday to talk about what is going well and what needs to be improved! Hopefully, we don’t need an annual business meeting for this to take place, and we can be in tune with each other enough to know when it’s time to talk about an issue. I have to remind myself not to just keep making plans of action for marriage improvement but to also highlight the strengths and to make sure Luke knows I think he’s had something to do with the good things being good things.

 

Making goals and then watching them succeed together is one of the ways our relationship has grown in these past few years, and it is always fun to discuss the plans we have for the upcoming year. Making a conscious decision to live every moment and to always improve what we have is what makes life an adventure. I think the main idea is to remember that no matter what our goals are this year, our marriage is our goal all the time. If my personal goals can positively affect that long-term goal, then they are worth working toward. If not, they may not be as helpful as I think they are.

Seven Things You Should Expect From a Couples or Family Therapist

From Moonstruck

I.
Rose: Do you love him, Loretta?
Loretta Castorini: No.
Rose: Good. When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can.

II.
Rose: Do you love him, Loretta?
Loretta Castorini: Aw, ma, I love him awful.
Rose: Oh, God, that’s too bad.

***

Early February serves as a reminder to consider those you love platonically, as well as those with whom you are in a romantic relationship.  National Marriage Week is celebrated during Valentine’s Day season, and we see lots of information on television and the internet about how people enjoy their special time together, all in the name of Love.  What also happens, however, is that Valentine’s Day sometimes brings to the front of our minds things that aren’t going so well.  This is because, for some, the thought or events surrounding the season inevitably point them back home…where the heart is….or, where the heart MIGHT be if it weren’t for the fact that they were arguing all the time.

For those of you who plan to go out and have a wonderful time during the upcoming “week of love,” we wish you the best.  But for those of you who might be considering the possibility of getting some positive change in an unhealthy relationship, I want to make sure you have this list.  I’ve practiced therapy for ten years now and have summarized a list of standards you should expect if you decide to get counseling for your relationship. The list is based upon discussions with my own clients, and also from cases I’ve supervised:

Continue reading Seven Things You Should Expect From a Couples or Family Therapist

Who Inspires You?

In today’s society where phrases like “fear of commitment” and “starter marriage” are all too normative, I am inspired by married couples who have persevered through difficult circumstances or otherwise made the deliberate decision to be committed to their spouse and their family.

As you may know, my days are spent overseeing relationship education services and supports to couples and individuals through The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative.  As a part of that project, we partner with Oklahoma Publishing Company to make a commitment of our own….to recognize couples across Oklahoma who have beat the odds by sticking together for better and worse.

Last year, we searched for Oklahoma’s most inspiring couples through a statewide nomination process and produced an amazing calendar honoring these couples.  Now, we are actively seeking nominations for 2011’s most inspiring couples.

Do you know a couple who exhibits extraordinary traits such as team work, commitment, or has lived a life of infectious fun?  Perhaps they have impacted their family, neighborhood or community in an exceptional way or have braved sickness or other hardships as a team?

Please nominate these couples so their stories can be shared!  In addition to the calendar, The Oklahoman will publish feature stories on the couples throughout the year.

To nominate, simply submit 250 words about the couple, sharing why you feel they deserve to be recognized, along with a picture.  You can do this quickly and easily at www.newsok.com/inspiringcouples or by mail:

Oklahoma’s Most Inspiring Couples
The Oklahoman
P.O. Box 25125
Oklahoma City, OK  73125

You may also view pictures, stories and video of last year’s Inspiring Couples on the nomination site.

Reading through the nominations was truly the highlight of my last year and I look forward to again hearing about the wonderful couples across our great state!  Nominations are due soon, November 22nd, so please submit your nominations now!  We will notify selected couples the first part of December and move forward with capturing their stories and producing the calendar.

Alphabet Relationships: What A, H and M Shapes Mean

Some people are visual learners.  Some people are “repeat the information over and over and I’ll finally get it” learners.  And some people touch things or are walk-around-and-think learners.   Visual, auditory, tactile or a blend of all three…which are you?

What I’ve noticed in working with couples over the years is that many times the same message or intervention needs to be implemented using two different methods in order for both of them to really get it.  That’s because they each learn or process information in slightly (or vastly) different ways.  The context, process and perspective of each person has to be understood in the therapy room, as well as how it looks when they are together.

This is why although therapists utilize their theory of therapy to guide, assess and manage what goes on in a room with couples, they also make occasional trips to their “Toolbox.”  A therapist’s toolbox can include actual “tools” such as games, figures, assessments or other manipulatives to use in session, or ideas and resources.  Today I’m going to share a resource that I seem to use at least once or twice per year because some couples (or individuals) are visual learners.  The lesson for them with this tool is understanding the difference between “unhealthy dependence” versus “healthy interdependence.”  Here is a copy of what I summarize on a white board or provide them to take home. I apologize for the tilted view. CLICK CHART TO SEE LARGE VIEW:

An “A” shaped relationship is frequently seen in those with co- “needy” behaviors.  A couple might get together because one is the life of the party (filling a need for the other’s wish to be expressive) and one is structured and responsible (filling a need for the other’s wish to be respected or mature).

We often see this in co-addictive relationships involving substance abuse, but we also see it in couples who sometimes describe themselves as acting like a “parent and child” or “victim and rescuer.”  These couples will ultimately get their real needs met when they find their own self-actualization; their own individual happiness.  If they continue to lean on each other because of their unmet illegitimate needs, the tension becomes too great (the bar in the A breaks) and they fall (which would happen to both sides when the bar was no longer there).

A, H or M...which one represents your couple relationship?

An “H” shaped relationship is very common in the U.S.  We especially see this pattern in “DINK” couples (double income, no kids).  The independence they feel from meeting their own needs to such an extent, and avoiding engaging their partner in asking for legitimate needs to be met, distances the couple over time.  If you look at the H shape you’ll see that the middle bar could eventually be broken due to extreme independence and distance (pulling away), but both sides would remain “standing” as “I”s…still themselves, but certainly not a couple.

And finally, the “M” shaped relationship is a type that most couples find they can grow and thrive within best.  They each have a healthy identity for themselves, but they also engage each other in requesting and meeting needs.  Their relationship with one another can develop and strengthen over time because they support each other in ways that don’t rob the “self” of either individual.  This dynamic is very powerful and is a worthy goal of couples who might find themselves in a different part of the alphabet.

Dependence, Independence or Interdependence.  A, H or M.  Which are you?

Signing off on R-day (relationships), K-E-L-L-Y.

Note:  Most of the basis for this information and the chart come from “Illusion and Disillusion: The Self in Love and Marriage,” by John Fulling Crosby, 1991, Chapter 2.