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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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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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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.