Marriage counseling after infidelity

Can Your Relationship Recover From An Affair?

One of my favorite movies is “Gone Girl” the 2014 psychological thriller starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. The movie is based off the 2012 book of the same name, written by Gillian Flynn, which chronicles the relationship between the two main characters and the aftermath which ensues following Amy’s discovery of Nick’s extramarital affair.

Marriage counseling after infidelity

If giving away the story line of Nick’s infidelity has already spoiled too much for those of you who haven’t seen the film, I won’t say anymore. I will say that Amy’s reaction to Nick’s affair would give anyone pause before even thinking about committing such a spousal betrayal.

An affair is one of the most devastating events that can happen within a relationship, married or not. The stakes appear higher when a couple is married; there may be more to lose, like home ownership, custody of children, and a lifestyle to which one is accustomed. The flip side of the coin is that couples who find themselves cohabiting or co-parenting without the legal documentation of a marriage certificate may face even greater difficulties when it comes to a division of assets. No matter the size of the legal headache a divorce or break up may be, it doesn’t compare to the amount of emotional and psychological pain experienced after an affair. That’s why many couples find themselves reeling after an affair and often seeking a way to recover.

While many people may say that once a partner has an affair the relationship is over, others choose to work on continuing their relationship in the wake of the betrayal. If any of you have ever broken a bone or undergone major surgery, chances are you know a thing or two about physical recovery and how long it takes to heal from a physical trauma. The recovery from an emotional trauma such as an affair may feel almost impossible and you may even find yourself wondering, “When will these feelings end?” or “Will I ever feel right again?”

In my blog post 5 Key Ingredients in Healing from an Affair, I share with you some tried and true methods that couples who decide to stay together after an affair can use to strengthen their relationship and heal from the hurt. I want to highlight that these key ingredients are used when couples decide they want to stay together in spite of the infidelity. Some of you may be reading this and might not have reached a decision yet on whether or not to stay. This decision is not an easy one to make and should not be one made hastily or during extreme emotional duress. If you’ve just learned of your spouse’s infidelity, stop for a moment before you spring into action. The Scientific American released a podcast in 2010 providing just a brief overview of why quick, emotional decision is not always the best (you can listen to it and read the transcript here). You might be saying to yourself, “I’m hurt, I don’t want to make a logical decision.” and that’s okay. Humans are emotional beings and our behavior is often, if not always, guided by our desire to achieve a certain emotion. I want to empower you to take a moment to consider a few the following questions when determining whether or not your marriage is worth saving:

  • “How often has something like this happened and with how many people?”

This isn’t the question you ask to torture yourself and your spouse into chronicling and detailing every aspect of the affair, such as “How many times?” A part of you may be curious to know whether or not this was a one night stand or a longer standing affair that occurred over a longer period of time. The answer to both of those questions can help you reach your decision about whether to try and save your marriage but that’s not the purpose behind this question. This question is designed to help you determine if your spouse’s behavior is habitual. The answer to this question can be followed up with..

  • Is there abuse in my current marriage, including physical, emotional, psychological, or financial?

Domestic violence is illegal and it is not confined to physical assault. Many people may not consider an affair an abuse within a relationship and in most instances, that’s correct. But ask yourself, “Has my spouse consistently been unfaithful, with numerous sexual partners, and possibly put my health at risk by practicing unsafe sex in these affairs?” You’ll also want to consider the arguments you and your spouse engage in (does your spouse use derogatory language against you when arguing, including curse words, and attack your character/intelligence/abilities?) and also ask yourself, “Is my spouse controlling of me in way that I find uncomfortable, such as who I spend my time with, how I spend my money, my schedule, etc.?” Identifying any fear you may have of your spouse is an extremely important factor when deciding whether your marriage is worth saving. Lastly, ask yourself

  • How did I feel in my marriage before this happened?

It’s important to take make an honest assessment of your marriage in the wake of an affair. If you found yourself struggling to see the value in continuing your marriage prior to the affair it may signal that the road to recovery will not be an easy one and possibly not the one you will take on your journey towards healing. Try to identify what you want most out of your marriage and see if you can imagine achieving those goals within the boundaries of your current marriage. You might find that you and your spouse have differing opinions on what the future holds for you as a couple and you’re unable to compromise or reach an agreement on how to move forward and accept one another.

No matter the decision you make deciding how to proceed in your marriage after an affair is a difficult endeavor. As always, I’m here to help. Feel free to give me a call to further explore the possibilities of healing from an affair in your relationship 954.401.9011.

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Top 10 Tips for Saving Your Marriage

Looking for tips to save your marriage? Look no further. Here are top 10 tips for saving your marriage.

1. Want It

Tips+for+saving+your+marriage,+couples+counseling,+Coral+SpringsThe number one tip for saving your marriage is that you, and your partner, have to WANT to save the marriage. It sounds counterintuitive, and you may even say, “I wouldn’t be reading this article unless I wanted to save my relationship”. The truth is, we’re human and we lie. We lie to others and we lie to ourselves. Sometimes, couples and individuals enter marriage counseling as a way to say, “Well, we tried to overcome this but even counseling couldn’t help!” Marriage counseling sessions usually last one hour a week. While helpful and beneficial, the real change in your marriage comes from implementing the techniques you learned in therapy and putting them into practice. What good is it to score a three point basket in basketball practice only to choke in the game? Likewise, what good is it to calmly express how you feel in your counseling session only to blow up at your partner the next time he/she forgets to do the dishes?

2. Find Your Love Language

Everyone expresses love differently and chances are if you’re like most couples, you and your partner express love differently. Once you determine your love language it can make figuring your partner out a little less complicated. TheLove Languages is a great place to start, if you’ve often found yourself wondering, “What was my partner thinking when he/she did this?”. This simple online quiz allows you to explore how you show love and how you like to be shown you’re loved. Some people feel loved when their partner does something for them and they show their love in return by giving their partner a gift. It can be especially devastating when we perceive that our love is not accepted or returned.

3. Make Time to Connect

Couples who connect more find greater happiness within the relationship. Recently, I wrote a blog post titled “How a Quick “Smoke Break” Helps You and Your Love”. In the post, I talk about a couple I worked with who realized their relationship developed out of the small, five to ten minute smoke breaks each day and getting back to their small connections throughout the day strengthened their relationship.

4. Ignore Other People

What works for one couple may not necessarily work for you and your marriage. Self-discovery and discovering your partner, will make more of a difference in the quality of your relationship than trying to implement any number of techniques or tricks other couples may have told you. If you are looking for concrete directions on what you can improve or change, using an evidenced based therapeutic approach like the Gottman Method or Emotionally Focused Therapy can provide practice tips and techniques to utilize with your partner and help your marriage.

5. Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

In 2011, Harvard Health Publications wrote a piece titled In Praise of Gratitude in which it provided an overview of the science behind gratitude and health. The article is not directly tied to marital happiness but it sheds some insight on how gratitude can influence happiness. An individual who practices gratitude for his or her partner may find that it changes the interaction between them, leading to a happier and healthier marriage.

6. Take Your Relationship on a Diet

Major changes require major work. Just ask anyone who has ever stuck with a diet or exercise regimen and reached his/her goal. It won’t be easy but you can change your thoughts about yourself, your partner, and your relationship.  What is more important about the diet is the maintenance.  Once you reach your goal you have to continue to maintain.

7. “Let It Go, Let It Go”

It’s hard to let the past go, especially if there are strong unresolved emotions associated with the past. Individuals who harbor negative feelings towards another find it difficult to develop positive feelings for that person in the present.

8. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

A professor of mine in his Trans-Atlantic almost Kennedy sounding accent saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.” While the class scoffed at this statement, my time as a professional counselor has shed some light on this seemingly contradictory statement. After all, don’t fences keep people apart, not bring them closer together? What my professor was talking about was boundaries and boundaries are not a bad thing. Boundaries allow us to clearly make sense of our world and our relationships. Some boundaries are unspoken; for many couples the boundary of no extramarital sex is huge and when broken causes serious turmoil in the relationship (CLICK HERE to read more about my blog on affair recovery). Other boundaries must be explicitly stated, such as, “Please put the dishes in the dishwasher and not leave them in the sink.” If you and your partner can set clear boundaries with one another it leaves less room for misinterpretation and unmet expectations.

9. Laugh a Little

Laughter is good for the soul and your relationship. If you’re finding yourself struggling to find something funny find a way to incorporate laughter or fun activities into your daily routine. Don’t overthink it though! There’s nothing worse than gritting your teeth and saying through clenched jaw, “We’re going to have fun today.” Forcing the fun and laughter will only feel contrived and can ultimately lead to more stress. Instead, take a moment to reflect on what makes you and your partner laugh and do that activity together. While you may not always find the same things funny there’s a good chance you’ve found a little common ground in what you each find funny.  One of my favorite, WATER BALLOON FIGHTS!!!!  Check out more of ways to have fun in a relationship CLICK HERE.

10. Be Honest
Honesty is key in saving a marriage; without honesty, your relationship is going to be a lot harder. Honesty is not meant to be hurtful, like admitting that your partner’s weight gain leaves you feeling less attracted to them than in your early years together. Honesty in relationships is about being truthful and respectful. This includes honesty with yourself. It’s easy to view ourselves through rose colored glasses and take a superior stance to our partner but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Being honest with ourselves about our own faults and how we’ve contributed to the problems in our marriage can make a world of difference in our acceptance of the situation and empower us to solve the problem. If we brought ourselves to this place, we can certainly bring ourselves out.

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How a Quick Smoke Break Helps You and Your Love

I’m sure you’re probably wondering, especially if you aren’t a smoker, how taking a cigarette break can help your relationship. As a couples counselor I’ve come to learn that couples who stay consistently connected throughout the day and week have more satisfying and longer lasting relationships. This information is also supported by current research in the field of marital and family counseling. Of course there are many other factors to having a great relationship, but when we connect with our partner and our partner reaches and connects back, overall we feel more connected with one another.

Couples+Counseling+Coral+Springs+ParklandI’m a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with couples day in and day out.  My work is extremely rewarding. I love working with couples!  Working with couples makes me a better person, spouse and partner.  I am trained in the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy, a research-based way of helping couples create stronger and healthy relationships, created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. I also trained with Dr. Sue Johnson on Emotionally Focused Therapy, another evidenced based model of therapy on couples, attachment, and relationships. The couples I work with are often the inspiration for my blogs. This particular blog post was inspired by a couple I am currently working with. One day in session, the couple was sharing with me their relationship history, or as I like to call it, taking a walk down memory lane. This couple originally met one another through work, and their relationship began to form through the small five to ten minute cigarette breaks they would take together outside. Whether or not you’re a smoker, you get the idea of what happens on a cigarette break. If you take a cigarette break at the same time as another person, day in and day out, naturally you begin to develop conversation, and potentially, a relationship with that person. This relationship continues to be built in small moments throughout the day over weeks, months and perhaps years.  Conversation often develops from sharing random facts, discussing the weather, your general interests, things that frustrate you, how you’re feeling, what you worry about, what you dream about, your goals, and so much more. These are the types of conversations we have with our partner’s when we first meet and how we get to know them and their world. In the beginning, usually with in the first two years or so, everything is good, even great! We’re in love with the things our partner says, the things our partner does, how they make us laugh, how we think they’re funny, and the sex is often better.

But the honeymoon phase is quickly over and we are forever trying to get some sense of that back.  Couples who don’t work on their relationship or make their relationship a priority can find themselves feeling distant. Distance, physical or emotional, can be a symptom of many things happening within the relationship. When we fail to meet our partner out back for our proverbial cigarette break, we forget to connect with our partner. When they come home from work, we’re on an important call for work and we forget to kiss them “Hello” or the next morning we’re running late and heading out to our next meeting, we forget to say “I love you”. There’s only so much alone time before we have to hop back on the phone for another conference call. What we know and what research shows is that couples that connect consistently throughout the day maintain their connections. These connections come in a variety of ways like sharing a funny story, calling your partner when something bad happens or you’re feeling frustrated at work, replaying a funny story about your child, the list could go on. When a partner takes the time to listen, respect, and reply back, it makes us feel secure and helps us stay connected and a part of each other’s lives. Just like what happens outside on a cigarette break.

When working with the couple that inspired this blog, I asked them to go back to taking their cigarette breaks. Although they have both quit smoking, and I wasn’t encouraging them to pick up the habit again, I was encouraging them to go outside, sit down together, and connect for five, ten, or even fifteen minutes or more. It’s in these easy, naturally flowing moments that many magical things happen for relationships. Often, nothing big or grand happens on one cigarette break, but the consistency of the communication and connection overtime builds the relationship. So, whether you’re a smoker or not, I suggest you invite your partner to go have a cigarette break. And if you’re finding it difficult to talk or connect and you’re finding you need some support, I’m here to support you and help get your relationship back on track.

pina-colada

What Does a Pina Colada Have to Do With Rediscovering Your Partner…

pina-coladaAs a couples counselor my work is profoundly rewarding. I love being the catalyst that reignites a spark between the partners I work with deepening their connection, love, intimacy, friendship, understanding and compassion for one another.  The majority of the work I do is with couples.  My work with couples is a reciprocal relationship, one in which my couples don’t even realize the benefit that I receive watching the magic unfold in the counseling room.  In meeting couples for the first time I am educating them on not only the process but also the dance they have been doing.  I share and explain to them what is happening or occurring in their relationship and why.  They often listen intently with heads nodding as if I have been a fly on the wall for the majority of the time they have been together when the disconnection and distance started to slowly seep in.  I get the process, I see the process and how it unfolds, and I see what creates and sustains it.

The reciprocity happens for me when I sit and watch couples communicate and connect after teaching them new tools and guidelines for communicating and connecting.  As they share, open up and connect sometimes I see and hear myself in their words.  As they share with one another they bring new awareness to my relationship, of course I don’t disclose that, but I can often find myself saying, “huh that is interesting that is exactly how I feel”.  My work is a beautiful thing!

Through my work as a couple’s therapist I get to help two people connect with one another again. I love watching couples increase their emotional intimacy, willingness to share and be vulnerable with their partner. I get to spend my time helping people reconnect and rediscover one another no matter how long they’ve been together.  I am honored and privileged to be a part of the deep intimacy that occurs in my therapy room between 2 people. Being just three or four feet away from people who are able to connect and share genuinely their fears, worries, hopes, dreams, desires and longings is not an experience most people get to witness.  I am often touched as I watch things transpire and unfold in the room.

As our work gets underway, and I teach couples new ways of being and communicating, I can’t tell you the number of times that couples have said to one another, “I didn’t know that about you. I’ve never heard you say it that way, or I had no idea.” Watching this in session reminds me of the “Pina Colada Song”. If you’ve never heard the “Pina Colada Song” it describes perfectly what I get to watch evolve in couples counseling as I help couples communicate and re-connect in their relationship.

If you’ve never heard the lyrics I will give you the “Reader’s Digest” version.  The song is about a couple who has fallen out of love and has gotten into the “same old mundane routine”, one that I am sure that many of us can relate to.  The man in the relationship decides one night to look into the personal ads as his woman is sleeping by his side.  He finds this captivating ad and is intrigued by it. He decides to respond to the ad without informing his partner.  He writes a catchy ad back to this woman expressing the things that he is into.  He tells her, “I need to meet you by tomorrow noon at a bar called O’Malley’s where we will plan our escape.”

So, he waits in anticipation of meeting this woman.  As he walks into O’Malley’s, the bar, and looks around for this woman he sees and recognizes her instantly.  He says, “I knew her smile in an instant and the curve of her face.  It’s my own lovely lady and she said uh, it’s you. We laughed for a moment, and I said I never knew.”  What happens in the song is that they reconnect on things that they never knew that one another enjoyed, things like drinking pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, drinking champagne, and making love on the dunes at the cape, . Ultimately what they were looking for was something that they had always had within each other.

I hear so many stories of couples who resemble the “Pina Colada Song”. They’ve been in their relationship long-term and have grown distant. They haven’t discovered ways to connect or reconnect. Many times couples try to insert solutions into their relationship in an attempt to circumvent the challenges they have. I tell couples it’s often not their fault because they don’t have the training, education, or knowledge on how to communicate deeply in a space where it’s safe to be exposed and vulnerable. I share with them that our work together is not about creating solutions but moving from the upstairs, our brain, to downstairs, our hearts. The process is about feelings, connection and love.   When we deeply connect with ourselves, share and feel validated by our partner new “solutions” naturally arise between two people shifting and transforming the course of their relationship and lives.   Just for fun, here is the song… Enjoy!

healing from an affair

6 Steps for Couples Healing from an Affair

1. The Start of Affair Recovery – The recovery clock on infidelity doesn’t start ticking unit the contact (all stimuli – texts, calls, seeing one another, etc.) stops.  Given this, what is the motivation to recover, as not all couples come to counseling to recover.  It is important to be really clear on what it is that you and your partner/spouse both want.  Sometimes couples attempt couples counseling as a demonstration that they have “tried everything” to make it work, and they aren’t really committed.

healing from an affair

Recommend Reading, “Why We Love:  The Nature and Chemistry of Love” by Helen Fisher.

2. “Closing the Pharmacy” – is an important next step and something to be aware of.  The involved or unfaithful partner must be willing to “close the pharmacy” on the love drugs that keep him or her involved and unfaithful.  Love drugs are seducing and intoxicating and keep the unfaithful partner returning to the drug store for more contact with the affair partner.  The interaction produces a strong feel-good chemical production in the brain, and it is like self-medicating with drugs more powerful than crack. It is also important to remember with any “drug” or “addiction” it is always temporary and never lasting and often can have serious consequences.  The high we get and feel when we initially fall in love or lust doesn’t last.

3.Establishing Guidelines – Once both have agreed to terminate contact and to start healing from the affair, guidelines need to be established and followed by both parties. The involved partner MUST be transparent. It is therapeutically recommended that the hurt or betrayed partner not ask about the specifics of the sexual acts as research has shown this to be more traumatic and detrimental to both parties. Being transparent helps to re-establish and regain trust.  The involved/unfaithful partner must help the hurt partner understand how far back he or she has to go to find the truth in their relationship, how long has this been going on, etc. It is important that the hurt partner’s questions are to understand, not to punish or make feel guilty!  The betrayed or hurt partner must learn to contain emotions, take time for self care and learn ways to self soothe. Although the hurt partner may feel justified in his or her actions, comments, rages, blames, etc. it can further damage the relationship if emotions aren’t contained.  Emotions, especially early in this process can feel like a glass of milk that spills all over the counter. Affair Recovery can be messy and is often a moment-by-moment, day be day process. This is why having ground rules and/or guidelines helps. Your trained couples counselor can help you in establishing these as well as work with you to support you in the healing process by facilitating and teaching communication skills to both you and your partner/spouse.

4. Both Parties Hurt – The unfaithful partner also hurts, can be anger, and feels resentment. These feelings can interfere with effective and corrective expression of remorse. They are angry too. They are hurt too. Often affairs or infidelity are a symptom or manifestation of issues in a relationship. Sometimes while the couple is going through couples counseling it can be helpful to have each party engage in individual therapy if they are having difficulty expressing themselves or working through some of the emotions they feel.

Recommend Reading – “After the Affair” by Janis Abrahms.

5. Re-Building Trust – During couple’s sessions the couple’s counselor will work with both parties to teach them different ways of communicating that deepens the understanding of each other. This is done through communication techniques that are validating, curiosity seeking and empathic.  Couples learn to show empathy for one another. Getting the couple to turn toward each other with their feelings, their experiences, and helping them sort through the day-to-day rubble of their marriage or relationship.

6. Forgiveness – This is the final stage, the place of acceptance that the affair happened, understanding what was going on in the marriage or relationship, oneself, and taking responsibility – on both sides, for what has transpired. Dr. O’Mara tells the couples she works with, “your relationship is wounded and this affair is just one symptom of many that needs your attention. Affairs are co-created in relationships. EXTREME RESPONSIBILITY” is her motto. “You can’t fix what you don’t own”.

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site
Dr. Michele O’Mara has a private practice in Plainfield, Indiana mainly serving the lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, and transgender community. She is committed to helping couples through difficult times in their relationship and enhancing their love and connection for one another.

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What Does Fried Lemonade Have To Do With Enhancing Your Relationship?

Wow, some time has passed since I have reached out to you all or “y’all” as they say in Texas. I just flew back Sunday night from Dallas and had the pleasure of meeting some really cool folks all the while getting to expand my “Treasure Box” of interventions and tools to help couples. I also took a spin by the state fair, did you know that they serve “Fried Lemonade” there! I had to consult Google to really understand it. It was a frenzy of fried food – Fried Oreos, Fried Pumpkin Pie, Fried Butter, and the list went on.

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While in Dallas, I attended the Gottman Level III conference this past week and weekend put on by National Marriage Seminars. My practice continues to expand with a keen focus on couples work. I think it is because I just love, love and want to help others remember why they fell in love and help them create AMAZING relationships. So what does “Fried Lemonade” have to do with having a better relationship…trying new things of course! I mean, unless you are a Texaner I bet you have never tried Fried Lemonade either. I wanted to share with you a few fun ideas. Drs. Julie and John Gottman, the creators of the researched based “Gottman Method of Couples Therapy”, identify 3 main areas in helping couples expand their relationship. Those 3 areas are: Managing Conflict, Building on Friendship, and Creating Shared Meaning.

I personally love the “Building on Friendship” area because it fits with my fresh, fun, and clever side.  Here are 10 NEW things I recommend to build on your friendship and make things FUN in a stressful world.

1. Buy a board game and have game night.

2. Grab the game Loaded Questions and just ask one another questions or text them to each other during the day. You can utilize this as a family game as well. Great way to engage those teens too! I have used this in working with teens, you get to tap into their world in a whole new way.

3. I came across this cool book written by Dr. Michele O’Mara an Indiana based therapist. She has a very focused practice working with lesbian and transgender couples. She wrote a book called, “Just Ask: 1000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship.” Here is a fun one, question #361 – “Do you have any routines or behaviors that you engage in every day that many others do not?”  I know you are thinking about this right now, and your answer is…????

4. Gottman – Love Map Cards, This deck of cards helps you understand one another’s world. You can play these cards in a variety of ways. Answer them yourself, answer them about each other, or my favorite… answer them about your mate through a friendly and fun game of Pictionary. If you ever decide to enter couples counseling with me we can DEFINITELY play this, just remind me!

5. Gottman – Building Ritual of Connections and Opportunity Cards.  This is a GREAT way to talk about ways to connect with your partner.  For example what are your rituals when you: depart in the morning?  come back together at the end of the day?  are away on a trip?

6. I came across this book in the store. “What I Love About You and Me.” I just recently ordered it.  It is a fill in the blank book.  It will get you and your other half talking about the love you have for one another.

airplane7. Make a bucket list together.  I am adding to mine – “fly first class to a foreign country with my beloved beside me.”  What is on yours?

8. Take a class together. I met a Texas based therapist, Stephanie Coker of Coker Counseling, who did a couples improv comedy class with her husband. How fun is that! I will be looking for one of those in my state.

9. Act out a love scene of a movie, over dramatize it just for fun!

10. Check out the “If…” books. Here is one, “If…On The Game of Love.” One of the questions from the book is, “If you could have a massage from anyone famous, who would it be?”

BONUS – this one comes from a  really cool couple I currently work with. They introduced me to the “Heads Up” app.  We actually played it at the start of a session.  I love when the people I work with teach me new and cool things!  They play it everywhere and anywhere.

So, I just gave you 10 FUN things to do with your beloved, friends, family, teens, anyone really, AND I made it REALLY easy for you.  Even though you should probably be working just click on a hyperlink of one of the things that might interest you and if it moves you, order it and take TOTAL credit when you bring it home to your other half.  Tell him or her that YOU thought of this cool and creative idea unless he or she read this blog then that won’t go over so well. Either way, I won’t be offended by you taking full credit, just email me the result of trying one of these 10 things and that will be all the reward I need… YOU having a more fulfilling relationship. See you soon!

by Katie Lemieux

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15 Ways to Make Your Relationship Sizzle This Summer

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Are you ready for some fresh, fun and clever tips to make your relationship sizzle like the summer heat??? Perfect, then keep reading!

  1. Share an ice cream cone and feed each other.
  2. Take a trip to the beach, a park or any place you deem a natural beauty.   Spread out a blanket, sit on a bench or a rock and take an oath of at least 15 minutes of silence.  Just be in the space with nature and your partner.   Utilize all your 5 senses to fully experience this moment.  When the time is up, turn face-to-face, touch, and talk about your experience and what you noticed.
  3. Sit in a quiet place face-to-face, Indian style or on chairs.  One partner closes his/her eyes and the other partner gently caresses the other one (the partner being caressed keeps his/her eyes closed) for 5 minutes.  Touch the face, ears, hands, fingertips, knees, back of neck, etc.  Partner one breath deeply in and out and focus ALL your attention on each touch.  After the 5 minutes is up open your eyes, and both of you share about your experience, then switch.
  4. Skinny Dip – PS – make sure you don’t get caught.
  5. BBQ sauce isn’t just for chicken or for a summer BBQ – lick the BBQ sauce off your partner’s fingers.
  6. Wrestle in the water.  Make it a game where the winner wins and the loser wins!
  7. Recreate and relive a summer memory the 2 of you enjoyed.
  8. After a day out enjoying the summer sun, bathe one another; don’t forget to apply lotion after your shower or bath.  I can’t be responsible for what happens after or before that, for that matter.
  9. For fun and for “old times sake” write a love letter to your sweetie in your handwriting and mail it to him or her.  You can even send it to his or her work.
  10. Sit by a campfire or make your own, roast marshmallows and feed each other S’mores.  Use other ingredients like your favorite chocolate bar or a different type of “cracker”.  Just for, fun, together, create a new name for it.
  11. Red lights = kisses, at each red light give one another a kiss.
  12. Do an Internet search for “sex tips” and try several of them out.
  13. Find a roof top or somewhere secluded and watch the sunset or sunrise, pair this intimate moment with delicious foods and/or drink.
  14. Declare War – have a squirt gun fight.
  15. Looking to build and create trust, then take your sweetheart rock climbing.  This is a great way to increase trust in your partner and increase your listening and communication.

* Did you like these 15 tips to make your relationship sizzle?  If so sign up for our newsletter to receive more great tips.

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by Katie Lemieux

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25 Ways to Have Fun and Be Playful in Your Relationship

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Below, I share with you some creative ways to express your love and have FUN!  As always feel free to share with others, and it is actually encouraged!  I mean who doesn’t want more love, better communication and connection in their lives!

  1. Play Lover’s Olympics – no money needed just some creativity.  Don’t forget a special prize for the winner.  Some ideas are:
    • Shot for Shot – paper and a trash can
    • Race – from one point to another
    • Timed Task – who can complete a task the fastest
  2. PILLOW FIGHT!!! Enough said – so much fun and great stress relief.
  3. Have an “Attitude of Gratitude” – write down 25 or more things you appreciate about your beloved, take turns sharing with one another what you wrote.
  4. Go on a trust walk – one person leads the other while blindfolded and then switch.  Talk about the experience, how well did you trust this person?  Was this an easy task or hard task, why?
  5. Have a surprise day for no reason, surprise your beloved with something as if it was a special occasion.
  6. Stop saying “no” and start saying “yes” to your partner’s wishes for one evening.  Remember to take turns, perhaps go ride bikes and race to see who wins.
  7. Feed one another – chocolate, ice cream, or any yummy treat your partner loves.   For extra surprise and fun…blindfold the receiver.
  8. Discuss something you would like to change within your daily regimen, such as going to bed. Perhaps you hold each other and talk about 10 good things about your day or you move the TV out of the bedroom.
  9. Get reacquainted – ask each other interesting questions the will enhance and deepen your connection and understanding of one another and that facilitate conversation.  Such as:
    • If you could never speak again how would you express your love to me?
    • What was your first thought when we met?
    • What was your favorite part of your childhood?
    • What is one value you learned growing up that you bring into our relationship today?
    • If we only had one more day together how would we spend it?
    • Power Outage – pretend for 1 night there is a power outage in your home!  No electronics, no stove, no microwave, what would the 2 of you do?  This one is also great for parents and kids.
    • Water balloon fight!!!  I have done this before and it was sooo much fun. We laughed, we plotted, we bombed each other with water balloons. At the end we were both wet and had a great laugh. Best done outside, just saying!
  10. Cook a meal together – select the meal, shop for the ingredients, and divvy out the tasks.   Cook, eat, and make sure you clean up together.
  11. Just for fun make out like when you were younger.
  12. Get silly – play a game of “Simon Says”.
  13. Thumb Wrestle – may the best thumb win!
  14. Game Night – pull out a board game, bring on the appetizers and enjoy.  Make sure there is a prize for the winner.
  15. Roll the dice – grab 2 dice, for 1 of the die assign tasks such as 1 = hug, 2 = kiss, 3 = foot massage so on and so forth.  For the other die this would be for the amount of times or minutes.  For example, roll the pair of dice.   On 1 die you roll a 3 and the other die rolled 6.  This would be a 6-minute foot massage.  There is no telling where you can go with this game, but keep the TMI to yourself :o)
  16. Snuggle!!!!  I have to say this is my favorite past, present and ALL time.
  17. Eye Gazing – sit on the floor Indian style or in a chair knee to knee and gaze into each other’s eyes for a period of time without words.  This is a VERY intimate exercise.  Many people have a hard time with this level of intimacy, you may giggle or laugh, some may even cry, it is all good!  You are showing your true self to your partner.
  18. Take a walk or a stroll hand in hand if you feel like it break out into a skip, hop like a kangaroo, just get your silly on!
  19. Get your jammies on, put the jazz, R & B or whatever you fancy for music and have a dessert night.
  20. Do something fun you have never done before.  Groupon and Living Social or so great for these ideas.  Just plan something already!
  21. Either create a bucket list or get out your bucket list, go down the list and start planning to make one of those items a reality.  This year I will have fulfilled 3 items on my list!
  22. “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon.  Don’t let life pass you by without really living it.
  23. Pick an activity you used to do when you were dating and go recreate the moment.
  24. “Adventure Night” – this one comes directly from me to you!  It is a Katie special.  This is one of my favorites.  You get in the car and the passenger picks a direction to drive. The driver starts driving, then the passenger continues to choose different directions without any agenda. You drive with no specific purpose and then you start looking around and find something new and fun to do.  This is a great way to take the pressure off anyone person for having to make a decision and choosing the same ole, same ole stuff to do.
  25. Feel free to write us, tweets us, or inbox us to tell us how you did and what was most useful! We always love to hear how we helped reignite the spark. Northerners don’t forget to send us your most creative snow people replicas!Like the 25 Playful Tips?  Sign up for our newsletters and receive more great information.

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    Katie Lemieux, LMFT – Lemieux Solutions Unlimited, LLC
    Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com
    By Katie Lemieux
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Parental Alienation – When Having a Marriage and Family Therapist is Important

The National Parents Organization put out a great article on a change coming out in the DSM V – Diagnostic Statics Manual for mental health diagnoses and disorders. According to the article in the new DSM V it addresses Parental Alienation.

This is a huge advance in the world of systems. Parental Alienation is being defined as the impact that parents have on their children by alienating them from the other parent. This most often happens in bitter divorces, when one parent has strong resentment towards the other, etc.

Parental Alienation according to the article is “Parental alienation is a mental condition in which a child  usually one whose parents are engaged in a high-conflict separation or divorce allies strongly with one parent and refuses without good cause to have a relationship with the other parent. This process takes place when a parent or caregiver encourages the child rejection of the other parent. Parental alienation is driven by the false belief that the rejected parent is evil, dangerous, or not worthy of affection.”

You can read more by going to the article.

If this has occurred to you or someone you know getting a Marriage and Family Therapist or a therapist skilled in family therapy or systems therapy can be very beneficial. Also involving the legal system to court order therapy requiring both parents to participate can be beneficial as well. If you have further questions on how we can be helpful to you please contact us 954-401-9011.

by Katie Lemieux

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Marriage and Couples Counseling – Shifting the Anatomy of an Argument

This comes from our work with couples and families. All couples and families argue and many of them have tried different things but they seem to talk about and discuss the same argument over and over. Seeing we do couples and family counseling often we have created and suggested shaking things up.  Here are some of our thoughts, interventions and ideas!

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1. Schedule and Time Your Argument: Do you argue often with your significant other?  Why not set a certain time aside and commit everyday to arguing for a set amount of time. Crazy you think, but why not, you are most likely to do it anyway?

If you feel like arguing earlier put it off until the time you agreed upon, save everything you want to argue about until the time comes. If you set time to argue every evening at 7pm for 20 minutes then do it, diligently.  If you run out of things to argue about keep arguing until the time is up.  When the time is up, stop and resume same time tomorrow or whatever days and times you choose.

2. Relocate: Take your argument to a different place.  If you always argue in the bedroom why not jump in the shower and continue to argue, perhaps the library, grocery store, stand on opposite ends of the garage facing the wall,  turn back to back and keep arguing…

3. Get Close: get really close! For this one I suggest hugging each other and continuing to argue or wrap yourselves into a sleeping bag and carry on.

One of my favorite stories is from my friend Kim.  When she was a child her mother ingeniously created a consequence that yielded amazing results.  In order to “punish” her for being mean to her younger brother her mother used to make her and her brother sit in front of one another indian style and hold hands.  Kim was so disgusted by her brother’s “puppy dog smell” being mean to her brother didn’t last long.

4. Communicate in a Different Way: Does speaking add fire to the argument? Why not write it out or type out your argument?  It will shift and change the anatomy of the argument.  Want to make some fun out of your argument how about playing “Wheel of Fortune” or Hangman with what you want to communicate to your significant other.  There are many ways to communicate differently.  Feel free to add your creative ideas by leaving a comment for other to read.

5. Record It: This is a juicy one, only for the brave!  You get to see, explore, examine how you really behave and act when you are upset.  Go grab your phone, a voice recorder, a video camera, etc and record your next argument then when you are calm and can listen from an objective point of view play it back to explore patterns of behavior, themes, etc.

by Katie Lemieux

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