Humor and Hot Air Balloons

Life is better when you’re laughing.

When’s the last time you had a good belly laugh with your spouse or partner?

Can’t remember? You’re overdue for a good laugh, then.

Laughing is essential for relationships, friendships, and overall life. Anyone who’s ever worked with me knows I love to bring my personality and humor into the room; it lightens the mood and connects us.

In honor of National Humor Month, I have a question to ask you: where is the humor in your relationship?

Many of the couples I work with my practice comment on the lack of spontaneity, fun, and excitement they once experienced as a new couple. The “business of the day” or life has gotten in the way of couples connecting on a deeper level, including sharing fun and humorous moments together.

This past month, to inject a little humor into my own relationship, I began watching a TV Show on Netflix called “No Tomorrow” (for those of you already familiar with this show, high five!) I know, this was a little counterproductive to some New Year’s Goals, especially for those who wanted to lighten up on the #Netflixandchill.

“No Tomorrow” is about a 30-something year old woman who begins a relationship with a man who believes the world is about to end, and lives his life accordingly. “No Tomorrow” really caught my attention, not only for it’s sense of humor, but the deeper message it sometimes not so subtly slips into each episode.

For those of you who’ve been following my blog for some time, you know I love to dream big and set goals for myself, both personal and professional. One of my goals was to take a hot air balloon ride, and in January, I finally did! What an experience!

How are hot air balloons related to humor? I’m glad you asked. I probably laughed more on my hot air balloon ride than I ever have in my life. Truthfully, it might have been nervous laughter, although sometimes we have to take risks with ourselves in order to have a little fun. I think I also laughed at the fact that there were 12 people in a basket, floating by a balloon filled with hot air. Now that facts and logic of it all was pretty funny.

Seeing the humor in everyday life is a little bit hard at first, especially if you or your partner aren’t accustomed to laughing together, or if you’ve forgotten how to laugh. Sometimes, we have to laugh at ourselves in order to make the best of otherwise difficult situations.

My call to action for you this month is to find one thing to laugh about each day with your partner or spouse, whether it’s something the other said or sharing a funny meme you found on Facebook or watching silly cat videos, whatever tickles your fancy just do it! If you or your partner need a little guidance to find the humor in your life, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Kate@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com. Looking forward to laughing with you!

Your Relationship Needs a “Spring Break”

It’s no secret most of us are working more and playing less.  Ugghh… (hand raised) I have been guilty of that for years.  I have finally resigned to no longer working weekends, only took like 20+ years, and have been incorporating more play into my life.  I can’t tell you how essential it has been for me.  It’s almost like my oxygen mask.

Psychology Today published an article, “The Decline of Play and the Rise in Children’s Mental Health Disorders” in which it outlined how the lack of play in children’s lives lead to a decrease in feelings of control for children, with dire consequences.  Wowzers, right!

Adults are no different. Sort of.

Everyone remembers the scene from The Shining, where the words “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” were typed over, and over, and over. Well, Jack Nicholson’s character wasn’t entirely wrong.

The Case for Vacation: Why Science Says Breaks Are Good for Productivity” highlights a similar sentiment as Psychology Today’s article: everyone needs a break to feel and perform their best.

And you all know I’m a big proponent of the Pareto Principle, which is that 20% of our input causes 80% of our results. And you all know that getting balanced was a first order of business this year for me, still is and an on going process.   

Why all the fuss over Spring Break?

In it’s truest sense, Spring Break is a time for students to take a break from returning to school for the Spring Semester. Florida is one of the more notorious Spring Break destinations here in the U.S., historically Daytona Beach on the East Coast and Panama City Beach on the Gulf Coast.

Before you start planning your own Spring Break, stop for a moment and consider all of the leisure activities you enjoy doing, especially those with your spouse and family. How many of these leisure activities are you participating in regularly? How often do you find yourself making excuses for why you can’t take vacation, you can’t take a break, or you can’t stop working?

This month, I’m giving you a homework assignment. Counterintuitive, right? Work so you can stop working. It’s helpful though, I promise.

Take a minute to think about the things you and your partner really enjoy doing and things you enjoy doing solo. Try to come up with at least 10 activities, whether it’s 5 with your spouse, 5 alone, 10 with your spouse, 10 alone, etc.

These are the things you should prioritize when developing your weekly or monthly schedule. The beginning of every month should find you scheduling these leisure moments for yourself, your spouse, and your family.

Easier said than done, right? One of the biggest challenges the individuals and couples I work with face is getting started on implementing a new activity, task, routine, etc. It can feel like there’s a lot of effort put into making change, very little pay off. Who knows if you’ll even commit to doing those leisure activities you’ve scheduled. Need a little help deciding what to do? Or a little extra push to commit to leisure? Check out my blog on 25 Ways to Have Fun and Be Playful in Your Relationship or my others on 15 Ways to Make Your Relationship Sizzle this Summer. (Tried those? Here’s 15 more!)

My colleague Susan Block, LMFT and I created a video on “3 Things to Do Now In Your Relationship” for those individuals who were motivated and willing to begin making changes. This month, begin making the changes you want to see in your relationship, your work, your life and identify the need for a Spring Break. If you’re having a hard time hitting “Pause” on your habits, I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com, talk with you soon!

The Business of Relationships

March 3rd was Employee Appreciation Day and many of you reading this may have a received a small token (or large, for that matter) of appreciation from your employer. No matter the size of the gesture, I hope it brightened up your day.

Lately, it seems like appreciation is in short supply and it’s a sentiment I hear echoed in both my private practice coaching as well as my marital counseling sessions. Many individuals are willing to only work so hard at something, with little to no appreciation, especially in a relationship.

My colleague Susan Block, LMFT, and I created a video on How to Increase Appreciation for Your Partner or Your Spouse in which we discuss the importance of building a culture of appreciation within any relationship or marriage. And although this can feel like a big task to take on, it’s actually rather simple with anything if we create a clear goal, plan and system.

The number one way to incorporate appreciation into the culture of your relationship is to express gratitude in the relationship by saying, “Thank you”.  Even if it is things that you don’t “feel like” you need to acknowledge.  I hear many couples say, “well s/he should just know that… “

“Thank you for doing the dishes.”

“Thank you for giving the kids a bath tonight.”

“Thank you for being you.”

Easy right? Well, in theory, yes. Many couples, especially couples in long term relationships, struggle to incorporate gratitude and appreciation back into the relationship because they’ve lost touch with many of the things which once initially attracted them to their partner. What might have once made you laugh, you now only find irritating.

If you’re struggling to find appreciation in your relationship, it might be time to examine your role and your partner’s role in the relationship. A professor of mine once said, “You wouldn’t accept a job without having a job description, with clear roles and responsibilities, why would you enter to a relationship without something similar?”  Good one, right!   I love this one.

It might seem a little cold and calculated, to draft up some sort of contract regarding roles and responsibilities in a marriage, yet just as “good fences make good neighbors”, boundaries within a relationship can improve the health and well being of the couple.

It’s important for couples to determine who will be the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the family and come to an agreement about how money will be spent in the family. Regular budget meetings, while boring and reminiscent of work, are crucial to the financial success of any family. Similarly, one partner will need to assume the role of of Chief Operating Officer (COO) and be responsible for coordinating the operations of the household.

Applying these types of business practices to your household allows you to honor one another’s strengths. Perhaps you can’t stand handling a budget yet your spouse or partner enjoys making sense of numbers; you’d prefer to plan a vacation. In this way, you and your partner can work together to create a budget and a plan for that dream vacation you’ve only talked about taking.

Overall it is important to acknowledge and appreciate one another for your various roles in your relationship as well as the awesome stuff about you each individually and together.  Look I never heard anyone get annoyed by too much appreciation or celebration whether it be at work or in their relationship just assure your appreciations are genuine and heartfelt.

If you’re relationship is lacking defined roles and responsibilities and you want to build a culture of appreciation, I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com, talk with you soon!

Get Creative in Your Relationship

Hi, my name’s Katie, and I’m a workaholic.

Funny to hear that coming from a therapist, right? It’s true. And it’s not often we get to hear about the issues or problems plaguing the therapist. Every so often a bit of self-disclosure from your therapist is necessary, helpful even, to put into perspective that we are all human and we all struggle in our lives. A therapist’s self-disclosure can be a useful teaching moment in the therapy session, a guiding and hopeful anecdote of the possibility and power of change.

My self-disclosure is that I’m a workaholic by nature and while I didn’t enter a Twelve-Step program (which I probably would have tried to run, along with 15 other programs if I allowed myself) in 2008, a rough year for me, I did have to learn how to undo many of my previously learned work behaviors.

The truth is, I enjoy working. I love it even. I love business, leadership and entrepreneurship. In spite of my love for work, I NOW know the value or relaxation, laughter, and fun. It is in these moments when we allow ourselves to be free of constraints (either internally or externally imposed) that we find creativity, excitement, and passion, all things we need to live a balanced life. Since January was Get a Balanced Life Month, I’m reminded to put into practice the many things I learned about easing back on the workload and into relaxation.

Creativity isn’t discussed often in our social circles, relationships or home life, maybe not even our work life (unless we’re in a creative field) yet creativity is paramount to our well-being and functioning as individuals and couples. Dr. Brene Brown one of my favorite speakers and authors talks about creativity as 1 Guidepost #6– Cultivating Creativity in her book The Gifts of Imperfection.  Just look at your Mac laptop (if you happen to have one, or any other Apple product) and reflect on the ingenuity and creativity that placed that product into your hands.

You probably can’t imagine life without it!

When you’re running low on creativity life can feel a little empty. We get caught up in the doldrum of everyday living, errands, chores, appointments, meetings, etc. What little free time we have left isn’t always used to our best abilities (like 5 hours of watching TV on a Netflix binge, anyone?).  We are most often doing those things because we are so exhausted, so overwhelmed that we just need a way to numb out and decompress.  I am totally guilty of that at times as well.  

Want more proof of why you should get creating? Check out this article on Huffington Post on how “[sic] Making Art is Good for Your Brain”. There’s a reason adult coloring books have become so popular lately.

Being creative allows us to tap into a whole other side of ourselves, one we don’t get to use all that much. Fear not, those of you who think you are artistically challenged:  I once heard a Bonsai class instructor say, “it’s not about the finished product, it’s about the journey.” You don’t have to create the next masterpiece which will hang in the Louvre for decades, or write the great American novel, or even get a hit single on the radio.

What’s most important is that you allow yourself to simply create. A drawing, painting, coloring sheet, poem, short story, diary entry, the lyrics to a song, music with pots and pans, a movie plot, whatever you imagine. Dust off your the creative gears in your mind and get to work.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it’s almost impossible for me to let an idea go without relating it back to my work with couples or more other passions. I cannot stress enough the importance of creativity within a relationship. Many couples I work with, especially those who’ve been together for long periods of time, lament the slow fade of passion and excitement from the relationship, with dire consequences.

Getting creative in your relationship takes practice, especially if you’ve shied away from trying anything new lately, or simply haven’t had the time, or whatever your excuse. Yes, they’re all excuses. I’m a firm believer in the power everyone holds within themselves to make whatever changes they want in life, regardless of circumstances. The only things standing in the way of you, is you!

One of the most helpful technique couples have shared with me about how they brought creativity back into their relationship is taking time to connect, be silly, having no agenda, reminiscing about all the first dates they went on together…  In revisiting the past, when the relationship was new and fresh and each one was trying just a little bit to impress and excite the other, coming up with creative ideas for dates and things to do together seemed easy. Couples who return to this mentality of trying to explore a world of opportunities together and getting to know the new person their partner is becoming report increased satisfaction in their relationship. Together, they’ve gotten creative.

Whether you’re in a relationship with a significant other or yourself, I encourage you this month to spend some time exploring ways you can let your inner creativity shine, either at work, home or play. If you find yourself struggling to get creative and need a little support to get you started on your journey, don’t hesitate to reach out, I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com.

Does Your Relationship Need a Check Up

Does Your Relationship Need a “Checkup”?

How’s your relationship been feeling lately? Any fever, aches, pains? What about congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes? No? Okay.

What about communication, how often are you and your partner communicating? Hourly throughout the day, every few hours, or just once when you get home before you go bed reporting back what I call “the business of the day”.  It kind of sounds like… “What’s for dinner?  How were the kids?  Did Rebecca do well at swimming?  How was work?”  You know this I am sure! This communication is necessary but not deeply intimate or connecting.   

How about satisfaction? How satisfied are you currently in your relationship, on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being completely unsatisfied and 10 being completely satisfied.

If any of these questions got you thinking about the quality of your relationship, you might need a relationship check up. It might seem odd at first to think about giving your relationship a check up although nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the most disheartening statistics I’ve come across as a couples counselor is that the average couple waits six years before reaching out for help. Six years! While couples may wait to enter couples counseling for a variety of reasons, this means there’s a long time where one or both individuals in the relationship is feeling hurt and these feelings are going unresolved.

Another common complaint I hear when couples enter counseling is while the relationship is “alright” at the time, the couple isn’t experiencing the same level of happiness or satisfaction as they previously were in the relationship.

This is where I like to introduce the concept of a “Relationship Thermometer” to the couples I work with in therapy. Just like the first step in checking your physical health is to take your temperature, the first step in checking your relationship health is to see where you’re at as a couple.Does Your Relationship Need a Check Up

Checking in frequently and regularly with your partner about his/her level of happiness and satisfaction in the relationship, as well as your own feelings, is crucial to the long term success of your relationship.

It’s a shame this key piece is often overlooked in relationships yet it’s crucial for you and your partner. Most couples get hung up on the necessary, yet unrewarding, communication habit of conducting the “business of the day”.  These topics are important for the continued functioning of the household while at the same time keeping couples stuck on a “merry-go-round” of topics.

This merry-go-round isn’t hurting anyone, but it certainly isn’t helping you and your partner get the relationship you want.

So, how do you start using your relationship thermometer and get you and your partner off the merry-go-round? My colleague Susan Block, LMFT and I have a great video on “How Code Words Can Help Improve Your Relationship” that looks at ways couples can incorporate code words to quickly and easily communicate with one another about their feelings.

Phrases like, “I’m so well done” might indicate a particularly tough day at work and can help partner’s respond in a meaningful way. Code words work best in relationships when both individuals know and can agree upon the code words and their respective meaning. (You might not get the results you want if you start speaking in code without letting your partner know!)

Think you might want to delve a little bit deeper into your relationship check up? Another great tool I use with the couples I work with is the “Gottman Relationship Checkup”.  

The “Gottman Relationship Checkup” looks at 60 areas within the relationship and helps couples identify and highlight what’s going well, what needs improvement, guides the overall focus of the couples counseling as well as gives you tools and activities to do outside of session.  I would love to get you started on the Relationship Assessment it is backed by 40 years of research on couples, good stuff!

If you’re taking your relationship temperature right now and realizing your relationship isn’t so well, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Remember, the average couple waits 6 years before getting any kind of professional help. Maybe you’ve waited long enough. I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com, talk with you soon!

Want More Time? Organize It!

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24 hours in a day.” – Zig Ziglar

The New Year is here! The bottles have been popped, resolutions made, and the gyms crowded with “resolutioners” who many habitual gym goers believe (or hope) will be gone by the first week of February.

It’s the start of a new year and the possibilities to your success are endless! Or are they?

In my coaching practice, where I work with clinicians who are looking to build successful private practices, one of the statements I hear for why things won’t work out are “I don’t have the time.” In fact, it’s something I myself used to say all the time, until my own business coach pushed me out of my comfort zone (You can listen to this amazing podcast on Tips for Time Mastery in Private Practice with Michael Dill).

Where does this notion of “not enough time” come from and how can we become masters of own time?

I’m sure you’ve read some alarming statistics throughout your lifetime, about how much of our time is actually devoted to (or wasted on) certain things. “The average American watches 5 hours of live TV a day” is just one of the many you can find, breaking down exactly how we spend our time.

Seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it? Five hours on TV a day. When you add that to an 8 (9 for those with unpaid lunch) hour work day, an hour long commute (on average), plus 6 to 8 hours sleeping, you’re left with only about 1 to 3 hours of other time which you can devote to other things.

Now, don’t get me wrong I get sucked into relaxing, decompressing by watching TV. I love  a good movie, Shark Tank, The Profit and a few others just as much as the next person.  Yet there’s something about spending a large majority of our free time on such an inactive activity that leaves me wondering. I wonder how much more could be accomplished with more segmented uses of time.

It’s a tip I learned from my own business coach and have begun implementing in my everyday life. You’ve heard the phrase “Eat the frog first”. This month I want to encourage you to “Eat only the frog first”. This means doing the most important things you need to get done FIRST.  Yes that means before you check your email, hang out on Facebook or any other distraction tactics you have, and I know you do because I have plenty of those too.  This is one small skills to master your time.  

One thing to keep in mind as you begin the journey to getting organized this month, whether it’s organizing your home office and your finances in order to prepare for tax season, or even beginning to draft a plan for a next big move in your life, like home buying, career change, etc. is that part of getting organized requires you to stay focused and simultaneous let go.

Staying focused and letting go are two of the hardest things to master when working on a project. It’s tempting to give up and move on to another task if the first one we’re working on just isn’t working. And it’s hard to let go of the vision in our head of what we thought things would look like when we were finished.

Take home improvement projects for instances; it can be a daunting task to remodel any part of a home, whether it’s the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, wherever. Do-it-yourself and even professional projects might not live up to the expectation we had of the finished product.

In order to move forward and get organized we need to let go of the past, things that no longer serve us whether they be tangible things, relationships, activities and items we no longer use or need. In the spirit of the new year, and new you, I encourage you to take a mental inventory of things in your life requiring a little more focus and attention, while also looking at areas where you can find a little more balance in your life by letting go.

Getting organized can be hard and might require a little more coaching to get you in a space where you need to be so you can focus, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com.

Get Balanced This Year

Happy New Year! It’s the second week of January and I hope you’re still riding the excitement of New Year’s, perhaps even enjoying the last (or first) of your vacation time. It’s the start of a new year and it feels like endless possibilities lay before you. Before you get started on achieving those resolutions, stop for a moment and think about what in your life can be more balanced; January is, after all, “Get a Balanced Life Month”.

We often hear the word “balanced” throughout our day. “Eat a balanced diet”, “Have a sense of balance”, and “Work-life balance”. Yet I wonder if you ever stop to think about what “balance” means to you. After all, a balanced diet could mean eating the cookie after the salad. Balance, right?

When I think of a “balanced” life, I think of decluttering, streamlining, trimming the fat, out with the old, and in with the new.  In fact decluttering and getting rid of things is one of my FAVORITE things to do.  Clean house, clean mind. In fact just talking about decluttering gets me excited.  When I need to find peace in my life or clean, organize and toss.

Is there any area of your life where you might feel like you need to declutter, streamline, or trim the fat? Some people think about decluttering their garage or storage room, for those in the south maybe it’s the attic and for those of you up north, the basement. Stretch your imagination and include areas outside the physical that might need decluttering. Are you holding on to too many social events out of obligation? Do you feel like you lack enough time to yourself, in order to achieve your goals and your dreams, because you’re too busy with other things?

You might’ve read my blog on “How to Apply the 80/20 Rule to Reduce Holiday Stress” where I discuss the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle states that 20 percent of input (or investments when it comes to finances) is responsible for 80 percent of the results. In other words, 80 percent of all your stress, worries, and fears come from only 20 percent in your life. It might seem a little strange that only 20 percent of your life is causing you stress yet I promise you, this is is the case.

Take finances for instance. This is a big area of stress for many individuals and couples and usually bleeds over into other things like paying bills, affording child care, buying splurge items, paying off debt, etc. This seemingly small or “one” thing ends up impacting a large part of your life and your daily functioning. It might not be immediately possible to solve all your financial problems by the end of January but it is possible to begin taking control of that one, “small” area of your life which is causing you the most stress.

While we’re on the subject of the 20 percent of your life causing 80 percent of your stress, maybe finances are only 5 percent of that 20 percent. Let’s look at what you’re doing with your time. What makes up the other 15?

Is there an area of your life where you’re overcommitted? Are you trying to be a “super mom” who’s on the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Girl or Boy Scouts Troop leader, hosting a weekly book club, working out daily to maintain a certain look, all while trying to have a career and taking good care of your family?  Man that’s a lot!  Or are you trying to be Superman, taking on extra work assignments, staying late at the office every night, workout, and coach your son or daughter’s soccer league on the weekends?

No matter where you find yourself today, take a look at places where you feel a sense of obligation yet are really, deep down, things on which you don’t want to be spending your time. Are you doing these things because they’ll look good, or make you look good? Are these things you feel like you must do, based on a condition, or is it a case of the “feel bads” (you “feel bad”, so you do it)?

A commonality among over-committers, as I call them, is the feelings and thoughts associated with the overcommitment. Thoughts of “I need to do this”, “I should do this”, or “It will look better if I do this” are common thoughts found floating around the mind of over-committers. The feelings most often associated with over-commitment include guilt, obligation, and low self-worth. Getting in touch with the reason why you feel compelled to say “yes” will help empower you to honor yourself and say “no”. Maybe none of the feelings listed above resonate with you, so I encourage you to spend some time exploring why you feel the need to do some of the things you do.

If you’re having difficulty saying “No” remember that the inability to say no is considered a form of self betrayal. You deny yourself the things you’d like, or prevent yourself from being able to do the things you’d like to do, and the result is the feeling of discontent as you put others needs before your own.

As the new year gets started, spend some time identifying the areas of your life in which you’d like to have a little more balance and if you find yourself struggling on where to start or facing obstacles that are a little too hard to overcome on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com.

Down with Resolutions, Up with Goals!

Have you ever wondered what the entire lyrics are to the traditional New Year’s Song, “Auld Lang Syne”? Better yet, have you ever wondered why it would ask, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” and do you know your answer to the question? How often do you reflect back on “times gone by”? (the English translation of the Scottish phrase Auld Lang Syne) Or do you let each year go by, without pausing and bringing to mind your successes?

New Year’s is a wonderful time of year because it allows us to look ahead into the next year, clean and fresh like newly fallen snow. It’s unmarred by our mistakes and mess ups and feels full of hope for accomplishing our goals. New Year’s is also a time of reflection; a time to look back on the past year and reflect on how we’ve grown, how we’ve stayed the same, and how we were able to accomplish (or why we didn’t) accomplish our goals.

In regards to relationships, both close and acquaintance, this is the time of year where we can take a look at how our personal growth allowed us to create stronger and healthier connections, while also identifying those relationships which we need to let go of, as it no longer serves our best interests.

I’ve got a few questions for you, to help you reflect on how this past year went and plan where you want to go next year, so grab your paper and pencil (or laptop) and get to writing!

What goals did you achieve this year?

Be honest. Countless New Year’s Resolutions fly out the window by January 3rd. The hardest part with New Year’s Resolutions is sticking to them and keeping up a maintenance plan, especially for couples who wanted to feel closer or more connected, by doing monthly date nights or one romantic trip last year. Today, write down the goals you wanted to achieve over these past twelve months and highlight which ones you didn’t achieve. Then, write down why you didn’t achieve them. Was it money, time, lack of commitment, work that got in the way? Was the goal a little too unattainable at this point in your life (run a marathon when you haven’t been able to run a 5K?) Identify your roadblocks so you can strategize on how to avoid them next year. As for the goals you did achieve…

What difference has this made in your life and your relationship?

Was one of your goals to take your therapy private practice to six figure levels (which you can learn how to do if you head over to ThePrivatePracticeStartup.com). Congratulations! Be proud; that’s an accomplishment. Now take a moment to answer the the question above. Did having more financial freedom and flexibility allow you and your partner to take that romantic vacation you always wanted? Did an achieved weight loss goal increase your confidence in your appearance and improve your sex life with your partner? Whatever the case may be, look at how achieving your goals has set you up for more success in all areas of your life. It’ll motivate you to keep up your next set of goals, which are…

Which goals do you want to continue?

Learning about finances and ways to protect yourself and family? Eating healthier? Keep it up! Exercising more? Spending more time connecting with family and friends? Now’s the time to reevaluate your goals and see which ones have turned into healthy habits for you and your family.

Which goals do you want to drop like a bad habit?

This is a tough one because you might think “All my goals are positive” and you’re mostly right, yet it’s possible to go from goal oriented to obsessed if you’re not careful. Striving to reach one million Instagram followers, spending a majority of your time crafting the perfect picture and still not getting the results you want? It might be time to direct your energy elsewhere.

As the year comes to a close, sit down with your partner and have a discussion about where you’d like to focus your attention and energy this year. Is it your health and wellness, your relationship, your family, spending more time fun and leisurely activities, taking up a new hobby, getting control of your finances, your career, or your growth and development.

I know that after the initial phase of excitement motivation and momentum to achieve your goals my start to dwindle, which is why it’s important to have a Maintenance Plan. A maintenance plan allows you to plan for the roadblocks and obstacles that’ll inevitability pop up along the way to achieving your goals, especially when you’re goals relate to you and your partner moving forward and growing together.

As always, if you’re having trouble getting started on your New Year’s Goals, I’m a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com.

What Are Your Relationship Rights?

December is Human Rights Month, and Saturday, December 10th was Human Rights Day. You might be scratching your head (as I did when I first looked into human rights) wondering, “What exactly are human rights?” In 1948 the United Nations drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which you can read and download here) as a standard of “fundamental human rights to be universally protected”. Much like we have rights under the U.S. Constitution, we have universal rights that transcend our nationality, such as “The right to life, liberty, and security of person” and “The right to rest and leisure”.

We all have rights as individuals, just like we all have rights when we’re part of a couple and in a relationship. It might seem somewhat difficult to identify our rights within a relationship and while the UN hasn’t written a declaration for Relationship Rights, it’s worth taking a look at what exactly individuals deserve in a relationship.

Ask yourself, “What would I say my rights are within my current relationship? Scratching your head? It’s alright. It might seem like an easy task yet sometimes we forget about our own needs when we’re in a relationship, as we strive to help our partner achieve their dreams and goals. Below are just a few rights I’ve come across in my practice as a couples counselor:

Right to feel loved
It’s what we all want, no matter how young or old; to feel loved. When one partner isn’t feeling loved by the other, it can lead to big problems. It’s important that you’re feeling loved in a way that you recognize, like your love language (if you’re unfamiliar about the 5 Love Languages, you can check out my video on “How the 5 Love Languages Can Help Your Relationship”).

Right to be heard
One of Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is stonewalling and it can be detrimental to a relationship. Stonewalling shuts down the conversation before the other person can be heard. While it may feel like you, or your partner, need that time to cool down during an argument before you say something you regret, if you never come back to the topic, you lose all hope of finding an agreed upon resolution. If you feel like you and your partner need some ground rules for conflict, set them up beforehand, when you’re both calm and open. The ground rules should outline how you want to be treated during a fight, and how your partner wants to be treated during an argument and can include things like: “No name calling”, “No bringing up events that happened over 6 months ago”, “No comparison of how you/I chose to do something”.

Right to respect
Easy, right? Wrong. Respect is so much more than just saying you have it for your partner; it needs to be shown. It’s tempting when we get together with a group of friends or other couples, to begin the mutual complain-fest. “He sleeps in too late on the weekends” or “She never does the dishes after dinner”. We think it’s bonding with our peers when can share a mutual dislike for something and while propinquity (or similarity between things, like shared political beliefs) might help you develop a friendship, it will do nothing for your relationship. When you open the door of complaining about your spouse/partner to others, and in front of others, you allow other individuals in your life (friends, family, co-workers) to walk through that door as well. You might think, “Only I can complain about my spouse and I get upset if someone else does!” although that’s not always your saving grace and you set the precedent for how others treat your spouse.

Right to safety and security
Domestic violence, whether it’s physical, verbal, emotional, or financial, is illegal and no matter the circumstances everyone has the right to safety within a relationship. If you feel unsafe in your current relationship, it’s time to get help. It can be a long process, as the average individual tries over seven times to leave an abusive relationship, and it may involve much planning and therapeutic work on your part, but consider the price you pay for staying in a relationship where there is an abuse of power, control, and violence. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a great resource for anyone looking for more information or help and has a quick button if the page needs to be closed without detection.

In honor of Human Rights Month, I want you to take a moment and right down your relationship rights. You don’t need to include many, just as many as you feel you deserve in a relationship. This can be something you do on your own or with your partner. A review of your marriage vows, or rewriting, can be an excellent starting place to begin and remember what you agreed to when you chose to join this person. Put a positive spin on this exercise and focus on the rights you already have in your relationship, the rights that are strong, and then begin to build from those rights. As always, if you and your partner find yourselves struggling, I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com. I would love to hear what rights you came up with for your relationship. Drop me a line!

4 Ingredients for Your Relationship

The holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving, is often accompanied by family recipes for certain dishes or meals. Perhaps there’s one dish that only a certain family member can perfect (or that you love when they make it, even if you’ve got the recipe). Recipes provide us the blueprints and guidelines for how to achieve that delicious pumpkin pie, roast beef, or grandma’s special… you fill in the blank.

If only other things in life came with a recipe book. Parenting, relationships, etc.  I mean how many times have you heard, “There’s no manual for raising kids!” and they’re right. We struggle to find ways to be successful and happy in our relationships, our careers, child rearing, and much more.  And while it’s true there is not “one size fits all” approach to a healthy relationship, we do know that healthy relationships and marriages are backed by science (no really, I tell couples this ALL the time), just like the perfect recipe.  4 Ingredients Blog

When you think about your favorite dish, and its recipe, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the person who gave you the recipe. Perhaps it’s the first time you made the recipe and how it turned out (good or bad). Perhaps it’s the entire experience of making the recipe, standing in the kitchen with your loved one and following the process, adding a cup of something when instructed.

Often, families have one particular recipe that becomes tradition for the family. It may have started with a grandparent, great-grandparent, or even earlier. Over time, the recipe begins to change ever so slightly, through different types of ingredients available (maybe that brand of tomato sauce or chicken stock was replaced a while ago and now you’re using store brand), or even just to suit the taste of younger generations (maybe you only put half the amount of sugar or salt, because that’s the way you like your tomato sauce). Although the recipe has undergone a transformation, its core is still the same.

Much like the family recipe, your relationship has a recipe as well, and it’s one that will change overtime. You and your partner were once dating and there was a certain recipe to those early days. Maybe one of you would drive to pick the other one up from their home and you’d go to see a movie together. That was your recipe for a Friday night. After you married, or moved in together, maybe the Friday night recipe changed to making dinner together and renting a movie to watch on the couch. For older couples who’ve become Soaring Eagles, the recipe for Friday nights might look even different still.

No matter where you are in your relationship, I’ve got a quick and easy recipe for you to follow to keep your relationship strong, healthy, and full of love and connection.

Recipe for a Healthy Relationship

5 Daily Kisses

Physical contact can be one of the first things lost in a long-term relationship or in a relationship that’s struggling. The initial passion fades and even the sexual aspects of the relationship can become routine. I’m a big proponent of including connection throughout the day, whether it’s physical, emotional, or verbal.

5 Relationship Rituals a Week

The Gottman method highlights the importance of having a ritual in your relationship, whether it’s saving “Good-bye” before heading off to work and “Hello” again when coming together at night. This ritual creates stability and familiarity within the relationship, a sense of comfort and peace.

4 Talking Tips

Communication is key in any relationship. When you talk with your partner, especially about something difficult, remember to be: express your feelings with kindness and a win/win attitude, acknowledge or express what you appreciate about your partner, and of course reflect and validate.  Allow these tips to be at the forefront of any discussion you have with your partner.

2 – 3 Friendship Building Activities

Many couples share with me how disconnected they have become overtime.  Much of that is lost in the habitual day by day robotic way we begin to do life.  You have to have fun, spice it up, be spontaneous or silly.  Fun things to do – go to a movie during the week, play a fun family game, have dessert for dinner, break the rules a little, relax and enjoy.  

There you have a quick and easy recipe for a healthy relationship. If you think your recipe with your partner needs, a little adjustment, don’t hesitate to contact me at Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com or 954-401-9011.