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Marriage Counseling Parents

Lessons Learned from Mom

Mothering it’s a hard job, for sure!   Here is a funny Mother’s Day video to make you laugh. Melissa Mohr show’s you how to… well you just gotta watch the video.

In honor of Mother’s Day, she’s has some words of wisdom for all mom’s because let’s face it; moms are human beings too. Bad Moms (great movie BTW) showed us what life sometimes feels like for moms with ever increasing societal and family demands.

Mother’s Day reminds me of my work as a couples therapist and how we view motherhood through the lens of relationships. Of course many of you reading this maybe grew up without a mother.  Think about the women or people in your life you played a mother role.  We all have many mom type influences.

Depending on your age and background, your own mother may not have had the same opportunities for career advancement you and your daughters do now. There may have even been laws forbidding your mother from working, or extreme societal pressure not to work. It may have been frowned upon for your mother to want relationship counseling or marriage help.Marriage Counseling Parents

Whether you’re married and a mother, in a relationship, or still single, it’s important to think about the lessons learned from your own parents, about what roles and responsibilities you individually were taught to bring to the relationship and conversely, the roles and responsibilities of your partner.

Considering Parenthood…

Some questions I like to ask couples who are parents or considering having children are:

  • What did you learn about love and relationships from your own mother?
  • What things did you want to incorporate into your relationship/marriage/children based off your parents? What things did you not want incorporate?
  • My core beliefs on parenting are…
  • The thing(s) I love MOST about parenting are…
  • The thing(s) I love LEAST about parenting are…
  • One thing I wish we could change about our parenting is….
  • Something my mom did/taught me that is important to me in our parenting is…
  • Something my dad did/taught me that is important to me in our parenting is…
  • Something my mom did that I didn’t like that when I was a child was…
  • Something my dad did that I didn’t like when I was a child was…

In fact, I’ve got a whole worksheet with 25+ questions you and your partner can ask yourselves or one another about your roles in the marriage as well as a parent.

Asking yourself questions about what you liked, and didn’t like, about your parents, their relationship with you as a child, and their relationship with one another gives you an opportunity to examine your parenting and relationship strategies. You may find you’re repeating the very same behavior you swore you’d never do. There’s a reason we laugh at the joke, “Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out!”

Reflecting on your role as a parent and a partner may be a bit jarring at first, especially if you fall into the category of “I didn’t know I was doing that…” And if you read the above two questions and started sweating, that’s why I’m here. I encourage you to review and/or talk about these questions, despite how difficult some of the questions may be to answer, and use those answers to move you and your partner towards growth.

As you reflect on Mother’s Day either as a mother, grandmother, aunt, step-mother, like a mother or the son or daughter of one, use what your momma gave you, good and bad, to achieve the type of of relationship you want and be the type of partner or parent you want.

If you’re struggling to make some positive change, I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 and Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com and I’m here to guide you and your partner in your marriage counseling. Talk to you soon!

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Family and Couples Counseling Katie Lemieux LMFT Coral Springs

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!

Family and Couples Counseling Coral Springs Katie Lemieux LMFT

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.

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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.

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Relationship Counseling

Top 4 Ways to Support Military Families

We had the great pleasure of interviewing our colleague, and friend, Jessica Jefferson on tips for working with military families. Jessica is uniquely situated to work with military families and couples, coming from a military family herself. Below, she offers the top 4 ways to support military families. Relationship Counseling

Military couples go through the same issues as most couples; however, it’s often heightened and other issues are added onto everyday struggles. When working with military families, it’s important to have a background knowledge of the the military. The top 4 tips Jessica offers for families with a member in the military are:

  • Create Structure

Deployment and station changes can be stressful on families; sometimes spouses don’t always accompany the military member on the station change. It can be a hard transition and sometimes a family member can be unsure of their new role in the family, especially when a returning family member rejoins the family and hasn’t been around for a while. A structure when the service member is both home, and deployed, is key especially with your children. The structure will allow for an easier transition upon returning home from deployment.

  • Create Memories

Service members don’t always have their deployment on a timeline and may not necessarily know when they’ll be deployed. Jessica suggests creating memories together as a family even before the service member leaves and keeping the memories alive, so they can be sent as snippets throughout deployment, as a way to stay connected and communicate. This is also a way that children can stay involved and have a sense of control through participating.

  • Build Resources

A military family is always moving, making a support system so necessary for families. It can be tempting to rely entirely on a spouse as a support system but this can create dependency, which is especially hard when that service member is deployed. Conversely, welcoming a returning service member back into the home and social network will go a long way in reintegration. The spouse who stays home will want to avoid becoming overly independent and unneeding of the spouse, in addition to avoiding over dependence.

  • Be Understanding, Compassionate, and Accept Limitations

In retirement, military members can lose a sense of identity. It’s important that the partner be understanding and compassionate, while also recognizing when they need additional resources. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is commonly found in service members who return home and in some instances, a diagnosis of a mental health issue may result in a service member returning home prematurely. Individuals with PTSD may have higher stress responses, particularly around holidays with loud noises, or fireworks, as it’s reminiscent of combat. A result of PTSD can be increased introversion, withdrawal, and avoidance of potentially triggering situations.

A military family, like any other, goes through ups and downs of the family cycle. As clinicians and family members, it’s important to educate ourselves on best practices and individualized ways in which we can support and treat our returning active duty service members and veterans.

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How “Dogs” Help Relationships

I’ll admit, I’m a dog lover in fact I am a bully breed lover.  Don’t get me wrong, I like cats too and in fact I grew up having cats.  It seems anyone I ever dated was allergic to cats, so in order to have a pet I had to get a dog. And I’m making the case for how dogs help relationships.

We recently adopted a pitbull rescue in the month of September not even knowing that October was Adopt a Dog month.  One year old Charlotte came into our lives at the right time not knowing what was going to happen just 5 weeks later when we had to say an unexpected goodbye to our sweet and loving Destiny who was an 11 year old blonde (red nose, her coat was super light) pitbull who changed the hearts and minds of those who misunderstood the breed. The last 12 hours of her life highlighted so many things for me, not only about animals but about relationships.  Being able to be there for my spouse who had her since she was 6 weeks old was a precious time in all of our lives.  It highlighted to me the meaning of love, relationships, and marriage.  When I think of marriage the symbolism for me is choosing someone to “do life with”, the ups, downs, twists, turns, the belly laughs, and times of deep grieving and sorrow. How a Dog Helps Relationships

Pets, no matter what kind, can be a wonderful addition to a family and an excellent component in therapy. Studies show pets can actually improve our health, reduce stress, and help us live longer. Personally I think they make us better humans overall.  Therapists utilize pets in numerous way with clients, to help them heal from trauma, teach valuable life and coping skills, and much more.

Pets help us practice patience, teach caring, learn empathy and just plain enjoy life!  Are we really taking them for a walk or are they taking us out for some fresh air and exercise, of course I love a both/and scenario any day.  Pets bring us the utmost joy watching them play, being silly or showing us their personalities. When a dog especially comes into a relationship, couples must come together and decide on ideas ranging from how to raise and train the dog, notice and monitor the health and well-being of the dog, how the dog should be disciplined, and at the end of our time with them very difficult decisions on how to proceed. Couples also come together on the enjoyable moments pets bring.

Animals teach us so many things.  They can teach us a lot about relationships.  Having a pet is responsibility just like having a child or perhaps your dog IS your 4 legged child. I know to some couples having a child or having a dog may not be a future goal and I’m not going to convince you to do either. Although I do want to convince you to look at an area of your relationship this month that could use improvement. Maybe things are going smoothly in your relationship but you’re regularly annoyed your partner or spouse doesn’t empty the dishwasher or fold laundry. Maybe you’ve both been talking about taking that dream vacation to an exotic location yet haven’t quite nailed down a plan of how you’ll achieve that goal or seriously started budgeting.

Think of the “dog” in your relationship as the piece of your relationship for which you are jointly responsible. The maintenance of the house, mutually finances, short and long term goals. If you’ve both agreed to maintain separate responsibilities (Your spouse does the laundry while you mow the lawn) perhaps it’s simply a matter of keeping your spouse up to date on your tasks and vice versa. This open communication is important.

One way couples can reconnect, or recharge, is to focus on a shared vision. You may have both started out with a shared vision and slowly moved away from that goal. As we quickly approach the end of the calendar year, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about ways to adopt a “dog” into your relationship.

But don’t wait for the next two months to start working towards this goal! Begin today. If it seems like maybe you and your partner can’t identify the “dog” in your relationship, I’m always here to chat, Katie Lemieux, LMFT www.FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com.

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What Mask Do You Wear in Your Relationship?

Ever wonder what mask you wear in your relationship? A late night Pinterest prowl produced the following Pin:

Blog

Interested in what this could mean for couples, I quickly used Google to search for “Japanese phrase about multiple faces”. While it appears the above statement is not Japanese in origin (but still very clever and thought provoking), there is the idea in Japanese philosophy of honne and tatemae. These Japanese words describe the contrast between a person’s true feelings and desires (honne) and the behavior and opinions displayed in public (tatemae).

With Halloween fast approaching (my favorite, and yes I still dress up) the idea of having two faces can seem akin to wearing them within your relationship and begs the question what do you wear in your relationship with your family, friends, co-workers, kids, partner…? Are there parts of yourself that you hide from others because you believe they won’t be accepted or because they are conflicting with a commonly held belief?

As a counselor one of the most important things I find when working with individuals or couples, one of my most important tools is unconditional positive regard. This acceptance of my clients allows for a more open dialogue between us about aspects of themselves they would like to change and how to bring about this change.

During a recent intern supervision, an intern expressed a deep sadness over some family troubles with a teenage child and voiced concern about the fact that while trying to help clients navigate difficult relationships and family dynamics, felt fraudulent because of their own perceived failings to handle their own family conflict.

Perhaps you even feel this way too. Successful in one area of your life, maybe at work, you desire improvement in another area, like your relationship.

  • What mask are you wearing at work that you take off at home?
  • Conversely, what mask are you wearing at home that you leave behind when you go to work?
  • Is it wrong to wear a mask anyway?
  • How is wearing a mask helpful in certain situations and not in others?
  • Do you want to wear a mask?
  • What would it be like if you can be your true self in all situations?
  • Are you even aware of the masks you wear?

The term “two faced” undoubtedly garners negative attention. We feel that those individuals who cannot show their true selves must be sinister or untrustworthy, hiding the truth and speaking negatively behind our backs. In essence, someone who lies or makes contradictory statements may be someone we think twice about befriending.

Is that mask acceptable? This month, I want to encourage to be your truest self, without fear of being too much or too little.

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Coral Springs Couples Counseling Yoga

How Yoga Can Make Your Relationship Superior

It’s a great idea and fun to celebrate, random monthly holidays. What better way to brighten your (or your partner’s) day than by celebrating Happy Cat Month by looking at pictures of happy cats everyday for the month? (Not for you? There’s always Adopt-A-Dog month).  Speaking of Adopt-A-Dog that’s exactly what we just did.  We added to our family.  We adopted a 1 year old rescue from the humane society.  Now, I’m making the case for how yoga can make your relationship superior. 

September holds numerous monthly holidays (Happy Cat Month is one of them) but it’s also National Yoga Month and “Superior” Relationship Month. That got me thinking: what makes a relationship “superior”? Could every couples make their relationship superior? And could this been done through yoga?

Coral Springs Couples Counseling YogaI spend most of my time thinking about how couples can improve their relationships and find satisfaction in their lives together. While superiority holds a rather negative connotation, I’m reminded of the Ernest Hemingway quote, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” This month, I want to encourage couples to try and become superior to their former selves.

Where does yoga fit into all this? Yoga can be an incredibly transformative practice, for individuals and couples alike. Through yoga practice we find inner strength and peace, an ability to calm our mind, a way of letting go of judgement and living in the present. When couples practice yoga together, the experience is eye opening. Poses specific to couples yoga require clear communication as the couple moves from one pose to another, using each other’s bodies to stretch deeper into a position and really becoming in sync with one another.  I have done both couples yoga and flying yoga, so much fun.  What a GREAT way to enhance communication, create connection, and build trust with your partner.

There is no superiority in yoga practice and each individual honors where he or she in that moment of their practice. Why would we turn to yoga for superiority, if it appears to go against the basic tenets of the practice? Let’s return to the Ernest Hemingway quote, about being superior to our former selves.

Everyday is another day in our lives with opportunities to change the parts of ourselves we feel unhappy with or find cause us distress. The same goes for our relationships. There is nothing to hold back couples from starting today to become a superior couple, a healthy and loving couple, a successful couple.

A daunting task for most individuals and couples, one that doesn’t just start by taking a yoga class or two with your partner. Rather, the path to a superior relationship starts the way most yoga classes start: with an intention. You set your intention for your practice, whether it’s to try that headstand or stay in downward dog, why not set an intention for your relationship. The intention can be to express more gratitude towards your partner for completing a small chore, leaving a little love note, or even a quick phone call to check in on a lunch break.

Once you’ve set your intention, work towards reaching your intention each day with your partner. Encourage your partner to set an intention with you, not necessarily related to you, maybe related to a work related stress or personal goal your partner is working towards. There’s no right or wrong intention for you or your partner (unless of course that intention is spiteful in nature, that’s not the type of intention you want to set).

It takes time, effort, energy, and intention to achieve our goals in life and the same holds true for transforming your relationship into the type of relationship you want it to be. I’m always here to lend a guiding hand or a listening ear if you find yourself struggling in your relationship and can’t quite get it to the next level. I can be reached at katie@familyandcouplescounseling.com or (954) 401-9011; remember, your relationship is worth it!

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Couples Counseling Coral Springs

Give Your Relationship a “Labor Day”

If I asked you what Labor Day and your relationship have in common, how would you answer the question? It might be hard at first. Read below to find out why it’s so important to give your relationship a “Labor Day”. 

Unlike other holidays throughout the year, like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veteran’s Day, Labor Day is one of those holidays which gets a lot of love but little understanding. Created during the Industrial Revolution, when twelve hour days, seven days a work was the normal working schedule for the average American, Labor Day was meant to honor workers and provide a much needed day of rest.Couples Counseling Coral Springs

What does Labor Day mean to us now? For many couples and families it’s a welcome day off from work, right after the start of the school year in some parts of the country.

So what does this have to do with your relationship? Recently, I began rewatching old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and I found myself noticing how often the theme of career versus relationships or families was referenced. The title character struggles with how her childhood was marked by frequent absences from her mother, due to her demanding career as a surgeon.

It seems many couples fail to understand, or understand yet fail to act on, the idea of a relationship being largely like a job; a good job, hopefully, but a job none the less. A job is something that requires you to show up, be present, focus on tasks, and commit to seeing through to its completion. Sounds nothing like a relationship, does it? I beg to differ. Relationships are work; again, hopefully good work, yet work all the same.

Couples who struggle with intimacy and romance in later years often cite similar complaints: “The romance is gone” or “He/she simply doesn’t try anymore” maybe even, “It’s not like it was when we first started dating.” That initial spark which initially attracted the two of you together has slowly dimmed and gone are the days of couples taking the extra time or effort on one another. Couples may find the little things they do for each other taken for granted and unrecognized.

Just like Labor Day was created to acknowledge the hard work of the average American, couples should create time or ways to acknowledge one another’s hard work in the relationship. Each couple will find a different way of creating this time or way of showing appreciation to one another and below are some ideas to get your started on the path of appreciation with your partner:

  • Create a morning ritual
    • Most couples may have the same work schedule of 9 to 5; for those that don’t, getting quality time together before or after work can be a challenge. Something as simple as making a pot of coffee or preparing breakfast if your partner wakes after you can positively impact the rest of your partner’s day and your relationship. If you’re lucky enough to have mornings together, use an extra few minutes to share that cup of coffee or breakfast and start your day connecting.
  • Say “Thank You”
    • In my blog “Top 10 Tips for Saving Your Marriage” I write about ways couples can strengthen the relationship and tip number five is “Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude”. You’d be surprised how much of a difference a simple “Thank you” can make in a person’s day. Test it out: thank one of your co-workers for taking out the trash or getting something to you on time. Notice how it changes the interaction between the two of you. Then, test it out on your partner.
  • Dismiss distractions
    • Experts agree the bed and bedroom should be reserved for only two activities: sleeping and sex. If you find yourself with your TV, iPad, tablet, laptop, or even cell phone ignoring your spouse as you surf the web, take a break from electronics in the bedroom. See if you can go at least three days without electronics in the bedroom and talk to your spouse before going to sleep. Your quality of sleep won’t be the only thing that improves.
  • Anywhere but here
    • It might be too tempting to fall into everyday routines at home; there are chores to complete and easy access to all your (de)vices. Schedule a getaway for you and your partner (even if it’s a small staycation, a one night stay at a local hotel). This one requires a bit of commitment and planning on your part, unless both you and your partner are spontaneous and enjoy last minute decisions. Labor Day is a perfect time of your for a short getaway.

No one wants to think of their relationship as work; yet to ignore the fact that relationships take work would do a disservice to you and your partner, creating resentment and anger in the relationship. This Labor Day, instead of focusing on the barbeques and all the chores you’ll catch up on around the house, take a moment to focus on your relationship. If the chores are done with your partner, great! Just don’t forget about your partner and the hard work he or she is putting in the relationship. If you find yourself feeling like perhaps you or your partner need a little boost bigger than just Labor Day, I’m always here to chat, Katie Lemieux, LMFT www.FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com

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Couples Corner Divorce or Mediation

Is Divorce the Only Option?

This week on The Couples Corner we had the pleasure to chat with Leisa Wintz, a family law attorney, about mediation as an option for couples who wish to divorce, and whether or not divorce is the only option. Leisa’s background is unique in that she holds a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and worked as a mediator prior to becoming an attorney. Although it’s never pleasant to reach the conclusion that a marriage has come to end, the terms on which a couple separates can make a world of difference. Leisa discusses what mediation is and questions to ask if mediation is something you’re considering as you separate from your spouse.

Couples Corner Divorce or MediationIt’s important to note that the information Leisa shares is specific to the state of Florida; however, you can gain some insight on mediation and if you have specific questions regarding your state we recommend you consult an attorney in your state.

Why mediation?

Leisa shares that divorce through mediation is a common question couples have for her, mostly because individuals may not want a judge to make decisions about the situation. There are times when mediation will be the best choice and also not the best choice for couples. We all have preconceived notions of what we think divorce looks like; if you’re curious about your options, most lawyers will offer a free phone consultation and if you don’t like the first attorney you speak with, hang up and call another. Your lawyer should be your partner in this process and having a like minded lawyer who is on the same page as you will be your best asset. Mediation will consist of a third party, neutral individual who will help negotiate the terms of the separation. As Leisa says, in all good compromises, you’ve got to give up a something and if one person walks out of mediation feeling like he/she got everything he/she wanted, something went wrong.

For some couples, they want the divorce to amicable. Additionally, mediation is required in the state of Florida if there are children involved and you can’t settle. While it’s not required that you reach an agreement in mediation, it is required that you attend.One thing Leisa points out is that the results of a mediation will depend one two things: your mediator, and how nice you (or your spouse) want to be in the process. Should you take a lawyer with you to mediation?

That all depends. It’s not always necessary to bring a lawyer with you to mediation but Leisa recommends knowing yourself and knowing how you respond in situations. If you’re the type of person who can live with a decision and move on, maybe you don’t need a lawyer. If you’d rather have a very clear understanding of the how assets are divided and know what you’re entitled to, it may be worth having a lawyer there. It’s also important to remember that while many couples may start off with good intentions, things can change as the divorce progresses and it’s important to be prepared.  If you are contemplating divorce there are many things to consider.  The emotional, legal and financial aspects of divorce can be difficult on all involved.  There is also the option of Collaborative Divorce which we share on another episode of The Couples Corner.