What can I say about family? Like many of you, it probably depends on the day! Family is complicated. It is compiled of a bunch of people who do not choose each other, who have a variety of different personalities, and who may vary greatly in how they think, do things, or approach the world. In addition to this, there are also different organizational structures defined under that one simple word. There is our immediate family. These are the people in our current world, many times under our roof. Then there is extended family, all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We all have at least one crazy one in that bunch, right? And then there is the crowd favorite, family related by marriage, our in-laws, which can also be made up of parental figures, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, etc. Obviously, a structure as complex has lot of room for lots of issues. And most of my clients have some kind of family issue causing them distress. I personally have multiples family issues that cause me distress. Figuring out how to negotiate these issues is so complicated and individualized. It is one of the issues that can lead to happiness or despair in life. Continue reading My Thoughts About Family
If you’re like me, you dreamed of a life involving children since you were a child. You couldn’t wait to be a mother one day. You imagined dressing them up, feeding them pretty bottles or rocking gently while nursing, taking them on walks, giving them peaceful and bonding baths, and generally enjoying every minute with your new, Johnson-and-Johnson-lotion-smelling bundle of joy and cuteness! And then they were born. “Oh. My. Goodness. What have I gotten myself into? “ I don’t know about you, but that quickly became the thought that crossed my mind daily.
I remember giving birth to my first baby, having a C-Section after 36 hours of labor. I was a wreck. I was exhausted, drugged, and looked scarier than I every have in my life. The nurses were kind enough to take the baby to the nursery so I could get some sleep that first night in the hospital. Then the next night, I asked them to do that again after he was fed and asleep, so I too could rest up. The nurse told me the nursery was full and the baby would have to stay with me the whole night. I remember clear as day asking her, “but what about me, I need to get some sleep” to which she replied, “welcome to motherhood honey!” I was appalled. The rudeness! The dismissal of my needs! Wasn’t she a caretaker? Wasn’t it her job to help me? That was the beginning of the shocks of motherhood. What seemed so insensitive and dismissive to me at the time was actually the beginning of the journey that would often look like that. Because, unlike the cute fairytale we dream of, babies actually spit up, poop up their backs, cry, throw food, refuse to nurse, stay up half the night, and have about every other issue that will feel like it is sure to be the breaking point for any new mother!
Eventually they get a little older, and it all gets easier, right? I wish! Then they enter toddlerhood, and the war between parent and child ensues. You thought your baby could have a temper tantrum, you ain’t seen nothing until you’re in the midst of a toddler tantrum! Eventually those years pass (some days not fast enough) and you finally enter what’s called the latency years (my husband, the biology major, laughs at the reference to disease this stage is named after). These are the few “peaceful” years in childhood development. Though I think “peaceful” is way too extreme of a word. I’d say it’s just a little easier during those years than the years of differentiation (toddler and teen years). Then of course there’s the tween and teen years. I’m sure in time you’ll find many articles on those years in this section!
Boy, I’ve sure painted a grim picture, haven’t I? If I didn’t know better, I’d wonder if I even enjoy parenting. The truth is, I do, very much. I wouldn’t change the craziness and eventfulness of my family of 5 for the world. But it sure isn’t the picture perfect image I had as a kid, or even as an adult, all the way up to becoming a mother. It is a crazy adventure, to say the least. Children challenge us in every way. The lessons that can be extracted from parenting can be some of the most powerful ones we can learn. If we pay attention, we can experience a lot of personal growth during this time, because we are forced to look within and change what doesn’t work. But there is also a ton of opportunity for things like conflict, hurt feelings, insecure attachment, helicopter or drill sergeant parenting, rebellion, the list goes on and on. The good news is, parenting does not require perfection, it just requires that we try to do right by our children, or at least the best we can. My goal through this eventful journey as a parent is to help create well adjusted, loving, kind, responsible children. My goal for this section is to assist you all in doing so as well. “Welcome to motherhood (or fatherhood), honey!”
I think the goal of most people is to eventually end up one half of a couple. Rather that’s an acknowledged goal or just an expectation a person has in the back of their mind, as some point, most of us end up coupled in some way. This can take many forms, but whatever it looks like, the complicated issues of coupling create the opportunity for lots of joy and contentment and also the opportunity for much pain and despair. How we do it makes all the difference in the outcome. Being part of a couple is tricky, there are so many facets to this issue. I am part of a couple, having been a wife for over 15 years and with my husband for over 20 years. We, like most couples, have had our ups and downs. There’s no way to journey through life without a few bumps in the road. I feel very lucky that I am a marriage therapist, because I think it helps me to stay focused on what’s important. I see every day what can go wrong in relationships. I have the education to know how relationships need to function to be strong and healthy. However, as I will discuss in future articles, love is not something that happens in the cognitive part of our brain. So having information is not enough. I can know what to do to resolve an issue with my husband, I can be in the middle of an argument with him and know exactly the cycle we are in, but in that moment, I am still caught in my own emotion and at times still do exactly what I should NOT do.
People come to be all the time who were once madly in love. Many decided years ago to commit their lives to each other through marriage, having realized they like and love each other so much that they want to spend every day together. And yet, somehow, that has all gone away. Now they see more negative than positive in their partners. They find themselves in pain, feeling discouraged, often times hopeless, and not sure if they even want to be married. The reasons for this are complex. It involves multiple layers and individual reasons. However, there are some parts of it that are universal, believe it or not. Having an understanding of the neurology of love, learning one’s own cycle when it comes to their relationship, and learning how to interact in a way that meets needs are all important aspects to healing the pain and finding the connection that was once there.
I intend to post many articles on coupling. Most will be about long term relationships, as this is where people typically run into problems. However, I’d like to do a segment on finding the right partner as well. After all, if you don’t start with a person who is good for you, the rest becomes irrelevant. I hope to explain why I, like anyone else, get caught in my cycle without the ability to change it at that moment. I want to help everyone understand attachment and all that it means to our species and how it impacts us in so many areas of our life. I hope this section is helpful in assisting couples to improve the overall quality of their relationships, learn how to meet each other’s needs more effectively, improve communication, and maybe even put a little dent in that 40-50% divorce rate, at least for whoever is reading.