Learn about the common mistakes engaged couples make when starting premarital counseling plus get my recommendations on how to maximize the value of your time meeting with a relationship expert before tying the knot.
Did you know that 1 in 4 couples divorce within the first 5 years after the birth of their first child? And beyond that 67% of couples report a decline in marital satisfaction after baby arrives. Whoa!
I've always known that modern divorce rates were unpleasant, but I was blown away by the statistics of marital dissatisfaction around what's supposed to be such a happy time in the lives of new families.
That's why after the birth of my first child, when the reality of parenting in New York City was fresh, I became trained by the Gottman Institute (the folks known for being able to predict a couple's risk of divorce with 94% accuracy) to help couples in this critical point in their relationship.
It's been phenomenal and I hope to share some of the knowledge I teach my couples in live workshops with you here on the blog so you can manage this transition of life like a pro. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you my Plan for Baby: The Essential Planning Guide for New Parents. It's absolutely free to download now and if you're anxious about preparing for the arrival of your new child, it's a great quick overview of what I've found couples most need to focus on in the months leading up to childbirth.
I'd love to know what you think and how this resource is helpful for you. Be sure to grab it here for free and then leave a comment below with one tip you'll take away to be a pro parent.
A couple weekends ago my husband and I saw Wonder Woman at the Alamo Drafthouse theater in downtown Brooklyn, and I have to be honest, I think it saved my marriage. It’s such a phenomenal movie that I’ve become an unashamed evangelist telling all my clients to see it. Action-packed, nuanced, and absolutely inspiring, the film left me excited to dive into the comic to learn more about this bad ass female and reeling from such a powerful depiction of modern femininity on the big screen.
But more than the colorful plot line, what I can’t get out of my mind, is how the film demonstrated a few key pillars about humanity and the marriage relationship that I believe are critical we hold onto as we seek to build intimacy with our partners.
Here are three of the lessons I took away from the film:
1. People are complicated. We can be both good and bad, saints and sinners. It’s tempting to see people in one dimension but we must always keep in mind that we all have within us both the capacity to do good and evil. In $20 therapeutic terms, we call this balance between black and white, good and bad, up and down, an understanding of dialectics. It’s an ability to see the gray. So while my husband is wonderful, he also has flaws. Likewise, your husband is amazing but he most certainly has shortcomings. It makes me think back to a moment when Jessica Biel was on The Ellen Show talking about how perfect her husband Justin Timberlake is. In a cute moment where Ellen DeGeneres calls him at home on Biel’s phone, raving about how incredible the singer is and how his wife is determined to find a flaw, he laughs and quips back, “My wife knows many flaws about me.” That’s marriage. It's the ability to see and accept that grows love.
2. Life is simple. Another lesson I took from the film was from the moment when Diana asks what people do when they aren’t fighting a war. Captain Steve Trevor stammers in response, and then describes how when there is no battle to fight, people eat breakfast, dance, and go to work. In essence, what Diana is asking, as mankind’s future hangs in the balance, is what are we fighting for? What is the vision of the good life? And Trevor’s response shows it is truly the small moments. When we think about love we can easily focus on grand romance narratives, but deep loves, true passion and contentment, are formed in the daily rhythms. A good vision of marriage might simply include church on Sundays as a family. It’s making love on Thursday mornings before work or making dinner together in the evening. Love is folding laundry on Saturday afternoons. It’s simple, slow and steady.
3. Finally, love is a daily action. I’ll try not to give any spoiler here from the film, but in the climax of the movie, Captain Trevor leans in and affirms to Diana that while much may be required for the long-term security of mankind’s future, he can only focus on saving today. How true this is of marriage! When we exchange vows we talk about forever and dream of a lifetime with one another. And that’s important. But when we say I do, we simply don’t have the resources to execute a forever kind of love. We can’t do anything to secure the whole of our love story. But like Captain Trevor, we can save today. We can make daily effort and take the next action that will build intimacy and grow us closer together. And it’s in the doing of the moments that we find our lives have been made.
Have you ever felt stuck in a pattern of negative interaction with your spouse? You know those moments, about two years into marriage where it feels like you can somehow go a week with constant miscommunication or maybe work stress starts seeping into your home life and you become short and impatient with one another? It’s so unlike you guys. But surprise, surprise, here you are…stuck in the negativity abyss.
I’ve certainly felt that way in my own marriage. Nothing was clearly wrong, no big disagreement or fallout to blame, just a series of days where the chasm between us seemed to grow and irritability dominated our tone with one another. It’s very common in marriage. After all, we are human, and our moods shift sometimes like the wind. But if we don’t put a lid on the negative cycle, layers of resentment can begin to pile up and it can be harder to find our way back to happiness.
So what do we do? How can you shift a pattern of irritation in your marriage?
It’s simple really. Be nice.
I know that sounds like elementary school advice, but your first grade teacher actually knew what she was talking about. The more you express kindness toward your partner, the more you build up positive regard for one another and the tides of communication begin to change. It’s really hard to be annoyed by someone who is telling you how great you are. And when your partner affirms or recognizes something you’ve done during the day, it’s hard to feel unappreciated or invisible. Instead you feel known, connected, and valued.
So I recommend trying a quick trick I use with almost every couple I see in marital therapy. I always begin our sessions together by having each partner tell the other one thing they have appreciated about the other person that week. It can be a big statement (like I’m so grateful for how you stuck up for me when your mom was criticizing the way I parent) or something minuscule (like I appreciate how you loaded the dishwasher this morning). There is always something to be grateful for no matter how bad your marriage feels. Let me repeat. There is always something. I haven’t found one couple yet who is at a loss for something to say about their spouse and I often work with couples on the brink of divorce or recovering from affairs. If it’s hard to identify something, think harder. We’ll wait.
It’s your turn to put this into practice. Try committing to telling your spouse one thing you appreciate about them everyday for one week. Better yet, grab my “I’m Grateful for You” free download and follow the template to do this simple activity that will enrich your marriage. Be sure to let me know how it goes in the comments below or shoot me an email.
With an overwhelming amount of to-dos on all of our plates, not to mention our electronic devices going off at nearly every turn, it’s a wonder we’re able to have a conversation with anyone...ever. Add to that a busy environment like New York City where we’re faced with literally thousands of commercial images everyday vying for our attention, and the possibility for couples to connect through deep, focused, intimate communication seems like a pipe dream.
I know personally how difficult it can be to have regular meaningful conversation with my spouse. My husband, who is a psychiatrist, and I work long hours, and with commuting an hour to and from the office, and with a busy toddler in the mix we’ve noticed how easy it is for the evenings to slip away without us talking about the deepest issues on our hearts. I don’t think we’re alone.
A report from the city's comptroller stated that New Yorkers work the longest average work hours than the next largest cities (over 49 hours per week), largely due to our long commute times. This is a big deal given that a Swedish study showed that couples with commute times over 45 minutes were 40% more likely to divorce. Ouch. Your job might actually be ruining your relationship!
So what can we do? We need to become intentional and efficient in the way we connect with our spouses. When I work with couples I often recommend integrating a daily habit of a Rose-Bud-Thorn conversation with one another. It’s an easy and thorough way to connect intimately on the content that really matters without neglecting important issues on your heart you may not have shared. So carve out some time, usually five to ten minutes, to talk to one another about the following:
Rose - Share one aspect of your day you are really happy about or think was a beautiful
Bud - Share one thing in your life that is in transition, confused, or is emerging and you are anticipating
Thorn - Share one hiccup in your day that was negative and made you frustrated, angry or sad.
Take turns speaking and be sure to listen solely with the intention to understand where your partner is coming from in that moment. You’re not judging, analyzing, critiquing or giving advice! Simply listen, confirm you’ve understood what they shared, and affirm the emotion they described (e.g. That DOES sound very frustrating or Wow what an exciting opportunity. It makes sense you’re so thrilled about it.) If you can have these conversations on a daily basis with your spouse, you’ll be sure to enhance your connection and beat those divorce statistics!
Need a reminder? Download this Share Your Roses: Rose-Bud-Thorn image to place on your refrigerator or keep on your phone as a handy reminder on the go. Be sure to share this post with your spouse so they know why you want to start this habit. Try it out and let me know how it goes. Leave your thoughts below in the comments for how this practice might impact your marriage or how you’re making the time to share your rose-bud-thorn.
Are you coming out of spring still feeling exhausted, disoriented or uncertain of what's next? Don't spend one more minute of the year without a plan to recharge and refuel so you have the energy you need to live out your life purpose. Make it a priority to treat yo'self (what happened to that philosophy?) and block time now for these 4 healthy habits to practice regularly for the rest of 2017:
Get moving. Whether you join a yoga class, start the Bikini Body Guide program by Kayla or simply make time for a daily walk, carve out time to get your body moving with physical activity. I'm not talking about your weight loss goals. A thinner you isn't necessarily more rested. I'm talking about an activity that gets you out of your head and in touch with your body. What kind of physical activity can you integrate into your lifestyle this year?
Pro Tip: Have you tried stretching? When someone told me stretching alone was a legitimate exercise I almost kissed them because I'm all about the low impact workout. A 10-minute stretch session to start or end the day is an excellent practice to build.
Get thinking. If your Facebook feed has turned your mind into mush after a series of digital disagreements and you can't believe how much you know about the Kardashians and how little you know about local government, it's time to up the ante on your intellectual stimulation. Subscribe to a podcast, take a class, or read a new book a month.
Pro Tip: Check out Malcolm Gladwell's History Revisited podcast. There aren't too many seasons so you have enough time to binge listen and read his latest book before everyone's talking about the newest episode.
Get sappy. How often do you feel your feelings? I know, I know...the therapist in me can't help but ask. However it's important to create space in your life to regularly slow down and reflect on your interior world. Whether it's journaling, relaxing in nature, or people-watching at your local coffeeshop, allow yourself the room to explore your emotions, bringing your head and heart into alignment.
Pro tip: Visit a hotel lobby. Coffee shops leaving you smelling a latte (see what I did there?) but hotel lobbies give you the same vibe without having to pay the $5 entrance fee. Soak up their free wifi and journal on a big sofa.
- Get spiritual. You are not the creator of the universe and you're not the center of it either. I hope that's one big relief for you so you can have a bit more fun enjoying yourself rather than trying to make fetch happen. Let yourself off the hook by building in a daily practice of meditation, prayer or solitude to center yourself on how big life is and how small you are. I know that sounds depressing as hell, but it works. The key is to remember your own humanity and real limitations in the midst of a world that continually puts so much pressure on us.
Pro Tip: Adopt a daily mantra you say at the start and end of your day. Take five minutes to focus on this statement to help reset and prioritize what matters.
So what are you going to start this spring? I'd love to hear your ideas. Share your thoughts below in the comments. Be sure to grab the free Simple Summer Self-Care download to identify your personal areas of health. Writing down your goals helps take the concept from "hmm, that's an interesting idea" to "hell yeah I'm going to succeed at this."
Good luck. I'm cheering for you!
I feel like I'm drowning in checklists. I mean, we have checklists for everything--what to pack in your hospital bag and what to put on your shower registry--but where is the checklist for how to prepare your relationship for having a baby? If research shows that 1 in 4 couples divorce within the first 5 years after the birth of their first child (Gottman Insititute) then strengthening our marriages should be at the top of our to-do list when we're expecting a child.
Based on my work with expectant and new first-time parents here in New York City, here are the top emotional and psychological to-dos I recommend couples focus on before baby arrives:
1. Acknowledge the changes that are coming. Babies are a blessing but with heart-bursting cuddles and tiny toes and snuggles come a few inevitable shifts in your life rhythm. Carve out some time as a couple to talk through a minimum of 5 ways you each anticipate the new baby will change your lives.
2. Become experts at managing conflict. Conflict in and of itself is not a red flag for me as a therapist. In fact, couples who handle conflict well often have the best intimacy and stability in their relationship. It’s all about how you manage these stressful moments. During pregnancy, work on enhancing your ability to wade through conflict so when moments of disconnect inevitably happen post-delivery, you’ll be easily able to lean on your skills to bounce back stronger than ever.
3. Communicate your hopes and expectations. Becoming a parent can awaken in us latent dreams and desires for the future we may never have realized existed or never acknowledged. Take some time individually to identify a couple of hopes you have for your individual relationship with your child (e.g. do you want to be the first to push baby on the swings or do you care who does bath time?). Then share your hopes with your partner so you can be a support and advocate for one another’s dreams.
4. Ritualize your romance. It’s no surprise that new parents are totally preoccupied with caring for their little one who demands so much care. Don’t lose your romantic relationship with your spouse just because junior has popped onto the scene. Find small ways now before the baby arrives to establish regular points of connection. Try date nights or committing to a no-screen policy during dinnertime. These small relational habits developed now will make it easy to have quick ways to reconnect once you become parents and have limited time alone.
Let’s make it personal and start making a plan to enhance your post-birth relationship today. What are the most significant ways you expect having this child will impact your marriage? Download this “Expect the Change Couple Activity” quick sheet to capture the transition and commit to a plan to strategically work to overcome that season of change.
Then leave a comment below sharing your wisdom. How might your marriage relationship change after the baby is born? Jot down the transition you expect your relationship will make or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can share any personal resources I may have to help you better manage this next season.
I recently finished reading Jen Sincero's You Are A Badass over vacation, and it is a ridiculously delightful read. For weeks I've been quoting her little nuggets of wisdom around my office, over coffee dates with friends, and in life planning sessions with clients.
The book is basically a compilation of all the best self-help tips she's gathered through the years so you'll find gems on meditation, the power of positive thinking, gratitude, and learning to forgive. It's all repurposed and written in her sassy, take-no-mess attitude.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
- "The most important thing is to free yourself from the drama and the conviction that your current version of yourself is the truth."
- "Living a life on purpose is available to everyone."
- "Your thoughts and beliefs dictate your reality, so if you want to change your reality, you have to change your beliefs."
Have any of you read You Are A Badass? I'd love to hear what parts really resonated for you. Drop a line in the comments below.
Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States of America. That fact leaves some people feeling devastated and others elated. Combine that with the general turmoil around the election, and most people are likely exhausted by the whole process. Now more than ever you need a strategy to recharge, care for your psychological and emotional well-being so you can effectively re-engage positively in the public square.
Last week I gave Relevant Magazine my 5 top tips on how to recharge post-election. Check them out by reading the full article at Relevant.
Do you know your core values? If so, does your company honor those values? If not...watch out!
I recently spoke to Recruiter.com about the importance of employers hiring individuals with values that align with the company in order to avoid later conflict. Check out the article for this tip plus 10 other aspects of a cover letter hiring managers should assess when considering a prospective employee.