Rescuing Your Most Important Relationships

Posts tagged ‘Breach of Trust’

Coping with Mental Illness. . . Continued

How to Help Yourself. When you’re in the middle of a chaotic or confusing situation, taking care of yourself can be the last thing you think of, yet, it is crucial.

According to NAMI, the National Association for the Mentally Ill, here are a few ways to do that:

Educate yourself about mental illness. Read everything you can about your loved one’s condition, its treatment options, as well as tools and strategies for coping with the illness and minimizing relapses. NAMI has a wealth of written and audio material, as well as 1,200 local U.S chapters.

Seek support. You do not have to suffer in silence. NAMI offers free support groups for loved ones as well as a HelpLine: 1-800-950-6264. You can find enormous relief from sharing your thoughts and feelings in a supportive environment among those who understand.

 Accept the reality of the situation. While you can offer valuable support and love, you cannot cure your loved one’s mental disorder. His or her symptoms may get better or they may get worse. Hospitalization may be necessary. Medication can restore stability and functionality, but may not heal the condition. You may have to lower your expectations of what your loved one can do. For instance, he or she may only be able to work part-time or, in some cases, not at all.

Set boundaries and clear limits. If you feel strong resentment, you are giving too much. If you need a break from the situation, find a way to get it. Don’t tolerate violent behavior. As hard as it is, consider if you need to leave the situation or make other arrangements for care.

Don’t lose hope. Advances in our understanding and treatment of severe and chronic mental illness occur every day. People get better and learn effective ways to cope. Relapses can become less common and shorter in duration.

While your loved one may never completely heal, and coping with the situation may challenge you like nothing else, it is possible to learn how to manage the stress of the situation as you care for your loved one as well as yourself.

AFC 2012

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Coping with a Loved One’s Mental Illness

Witnessing the suffering of a loved one can be one of the most difficult situations we face. Among other things, we may feel powerless, frustrated and frightened. That’s true whether the suffering originates from a physical illness or injury, addiction or self-destructive activity.

When a loved one suffers a debilitating, persistent and chronic mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, those feelings can be compounded. Strange, unpredictable behaviors can be terrifying and confusing. Your loved one may suddenly rage at you with blame or be utterly dependent upon you for basic needs and emotional stability.

You may experience many confusing emotions yourself, including anger, grief, guilt, fear and sadness. As you struggle with each episode of illness and worry about the future, you may feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, since serious mental illness still carries a stigma, you may be keeping it a secret, resulting in increased isolation, frustration and difficulty because you may have no one to talk to about your feelings or no way to get information and support.

Read next weeks post to find out how To Help Yourself in coping with mental illness. . .

Book of The Month

Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

by E.J. James

Fifty Shades of Grey is a New York Times #1 bestselling erotic fiction paperback and e-book by E. L. James. Set largely in Seattle, it is the first installment in a trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steele and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of BDSM. The second and third volumes are entitled Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed respectively.  The New York Times noted that the series has sold around ten million copies, with book rights having been sold in 37 countries.

Reading Between the Lines

Well, you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of the controversial “Fifty Shades of Grey” book by E.L. James (see it under the book of the month). With almost 5000 reviews under Amazon, everyone has an opinion of this book that sells itself as erotica, a romance novel or a BDSM manual, depending on your opinion. While many readers criticize the book for its bad writing, poor character development and repetitive language, I see something different. Something that I think that most couples can use, and take to heart.

Yes, the writing isn’t great, and the language is limited at best. The sex scenes are good enough for authentic erotica, and that is the first benefit of this book for couples. I have recommended the book as a tool for several couples in my practice, all with good results. If you are looking for a little spice, couples can re-enact the scenes (which they have) and really enjoyed the change in their sex lives.

While the sex scenes are titillating, E.L. James does a really good job in two other areas: trust and compromise. One of the main characters (Christian) has had severe sexual and physical abuse in his past, and must learn to have complete, total trust in his partner in order to move forward in the growing relationship. This is no easy task, and his partner (Ana) is very careful to take things at a slow speed, allowing Christian to make incremental steps towards sexual healing of his past.

These two characters must compromise at every step of the relationship, communicating to each other when they aren’t being clear, and creating their boundaries within their sexual and emotional experiences. They are continually aware of their own and their partner’s needs and wants, and negotiate their differences. As they readily compromise and trust each other, their emotional intimacy grows, and this is the key that expands their sexual intimacy as well.

So in my book, as erotica this book gets a decent grade. As a primer for fundamental principles that create great relationships, Fifty Shades gets an A.

Night On, Night Off

As a couple’s therapist, my social acquaintances are always asking my opinion on their relationships.  While ethically I cannot give advice outside of the scope of my practice, we are still able to have some fun and light conversations about the state of relationships in general.  I am always curious as to what keeps couples together, and will ask my social group what successes they have had with their own partners.  The other day I was talking with a woman I know fairly well (we’ll call her Mary), and asked her what has kept her 25 year marriage going. Mary replied that she was a bit embarrassed to tell me this, but as I was a couple’s expert she knew I would “get it”. Mary told me that she and her husband practice what they called “Night On, Night Off”.

Well, I have heard many things from clients over the years, but what on earth is “night on, night off”? Mary explained that she and her husband had created a plan where they have sex on the nights on, but not on the nights off.

Now I’m really intrigued- sex every other night? For over 20 years? Most of my clients have sex far less frequently than that- which causes tremendous problems in their relationships. Mary has children, a career, a home and a husband- how does she have enough energy to keep up with this plan?

After questioning her more (because I am really curious as to how this works!) I found that she has been doing “night on, night off” for most of her relationship. After five years of marriage and two kids, she and her husband found themselves with a sex life that was lacking, too many fights and too little communication.  Rather than continue with the unsatisfactory relationship, they decided to do something about it.

So, what are the main principles behind the success of this “Night On, Night Off”? Over the years I have developed what I call the 5C Reconnection plan-a plan that has proven to work with hundreds of couples in re-establishing intimacy and connection.  Here are 3 of the components of the plan, successfully illustrated by Mary and her husband.

  1. Communications- when a problem, issue or concern arises, instead of sweeping it under the rug you sit down and talk about it. Sound simple? It should be, but it’s hard to put into practice. Finding the time and space to talk on a regular basis is crucial to keeping the connection going. Mary and her husband sat down after months of sexual confusion and frustration to determine what the problem was- and what it wasn’t.  They had the love, desire and motivation to connect sexually, but not the commitment or scheduling in place for it to occur. By discussing it openly and honestly they were able to come up with a plan that worked for them.
  2. Compromise-typically, as humans we are not able to turn the sexual switch to “on” or “off” just like that.   Here is where the compromise piece of this plan is in play- Mary and her husband knew that there would be evenings that were supposed to be “on”, that one of them would be exhausted, in a lousy mood, or just not physically or emotionally up to being sexual.  What they had discussed and agreed on was that if that were  the case, they could move the “night on” to the next night, but that they would never go another night past that with the new schedule. This gave them both something to work with, something to look forward to and to plan for. The compromise that they both made was to put their own needs aside (temporarily and after agreed upon) in order to commit to the schedule that they had initially decided.
  3. Commitment-   there is a real, authentic commitment to a plan that stays in place for over 15 years.   Although we pay lip service to the idea of commitment, do we practice it in our everyday lives? As a couple, commitment means saying “no” to many things we might want to do- in order to maintain and grow our primary relationships. This includes social events, volunteer services, family and friends and work responsibilities that may interfere with our giving of time to our relationships. Mary and her husband committed to their plan and then actually did it- something that many of us fall short on.  They have as busy a life as anyone, but committed to making their relationship a priority over everything else.

So, let’s think about what this would look like if we practiced night on, night off- no more mixed signals as to whether you are in the mood, no more frustrations about the frequency of your sex life, no more endless arguments about your relationship, no more wondering if this is “the night”.  Replacing these thoughts you would have evenings to look forward to, already planned and anticipated.

7 Tips to Fighting Fairly

Many of us don’t like having conflict with our partners. It can be uncomfortable. However, it’s a very normal and even healthy part of a relationship, that is, as long as it’s done fairly. Bottom line: it’s about respect. You can be really angry and express those feelings in a respectful manner. Below are 7 tips that will help you keep the argument at a healthy level:

1)      Your partner is not your enemy. Without realizing it, when you begin to argue with your partner, you may be seeing them as a foe rather than a friend.

2)      Use “I” statements to say what is bothering you. Own your thoughts and feelings. Use a variation of the following phrase: “I felt_____ when you said/did ______.”

3)      Stick with one point at a time. If you tell your partner about all the things that are bothering you, your partner will feel overwhelmed, become defensive, and attack or shut down.

4)      Focus on behaviors, not the person. Avoid attacking the person. Focus on specific things he or she says or does that bother you.

5)      Avoid exaggerations. Using words like “never” and “always” are extreme and unrealistic. None of us is “always” or “never” doing this or that. Stick to your take on what has specifically happened.

6)      Leave the past in the past. If past mistakes are frequently brought into the present, it makes it very difficult for the relationship to heal. It’s like picking a scab over and over until a nasty scar forms.

7)      You can always call a truce. When an argument is getting to an atomic level, it’s time to call a truce. Usually people who want space will need to provide some reassurance to their partner so that they can walk away.

If you follow these 7 tips, you’ll find that arguments can be more easily kept at a respectful level. Maybe the outcome of the argument won’t be what you wanted (like an immediate resolution), but if you can keep the conflict at a healthy level, you won’t be experiencing the shame or guilt of handling the argument in an unhealthy way.

Bryan Norman 2011

Have YOU ever thought about cheating on your partner?

Have YOU ever thought about cheating on your partner? Chances are that you have, and if so, you aren’t alone. Some research numbers say that as many as 60% of all couples will experience infidelity in their relationship. That’s 6 out of every 10 relationships that might have a cheating partner. If we accept these numbers, not only are there thoughts about cheating, there’s also quite a bit of action around cheating. Sounds pretty high, doesn’t it?

We all know that no relationship is perfect, and that there are many stages and phases we go through in our relationships that are less than ideal.  Some of these stages are so uncomfortable that we may find ourselves wishing that we had a different, better relationship.

Well, for those of you that feel this way, here’s the news:

I have a new book out, “Keep Your Pants On: Preventing Infidelity in your Marriage that addresses these concerns. This book was written as a direct response to all of my clients that struggle with their thoughts about cheating on their partner. While these thoughts can be a normal experience for some, it’s the taking action on these thoughts that becomes a big problem when we are in a committed relationship.

Infidelity is extremely painful for the partners that are going through it; it is also painful for the therapists working with these issues to witness the damage. That is where the original idea of this book took off- trying to prevent infidelity before it happens, to stop the actions of cheating before it is too late.

Keep Your Pants On has been reviewed by several experts in the field of couples and relationship counseling, and includes their own testimonials plus others on my advisory team. The book includes interactive exercises, action steps and “RSS Feeds” (Relationship Super Strategies) to help support your choice of commitment within your relationship. There is also a brand new website, www.keepyourpantsonbook.com that has even more information.

I am so excited about finally finishing this book that I am making a special offer to you for the month of September– giving you a free copy of the book!  If you are an active client at AFC you can get one from your therapist at your next session, or you can come in to the office and pick one up from Sarah, our administrative assistant. I do have one request- if you like the book, go to Amazon and say so by writing a review. If you don’t like it, just tell ME! I really hope that you take advantage of this offer, to help strengthen your relationship and prevent infidelity with your partner.

Finally, this book is truly a labor of love for my clients; past, present and future. And for anyone else who struggles with these problems- this one’s for you.

Kelly Chicas 2011

Book of The Month

“Ten Stupid Things Couples Do to Mess Up Their Relationships 

by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

You can love her or hate her, but Dr. Laura packs a good punch with her direct, “in your face” style of saving relationships.

Her broad statements like “the feminist movement has become hostile to heterosexual relationships in general” and her tendency to react to callers in anger may offend, but if you can put this aside, you’ll find some solid advice in this book. While Dr. Laura excels at placing blame, her bluntness can be refreshing, and you know right where she stands.

Much of the book has been created from letters written by listeners of her show. These personal anecdotes are used to illustrate points and provide examples we can all relate to; given their tremendous variety, you’re sure to find some that click with you. They make the book an easily absorbed read and provide a welcome break. You’ll find suggestions on taking time to really listen to each other, ways to respect each other’s needs without catering to selfishness, and a firm belief that relationships are nearly always worth saving.

 

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