Why You Need Pre-Maritial Counseling

 

pre-marital counseling

 

Marriage is one of the most exciting and meaningful journeys of your entire life. It’s full of new beginnings, but for many, it’s laced with high anxiety. Even though over the years the divorce rate has slowly dropped, it still remains high. Which is why pre-marital counseling is a good idea before walking down the aisle. Counseling is a way to strengthen your current bond and can be used as a way to explore potential trouble spots and bumps that could pop up throughout the course of your marriage. While some people may hold a negative connotation about counseling before you’re married, there’s nothing bad about being proactive about your relationship. Here are some benefits of pre-marital counseling.

Peace of Mind

It’s not unusual or uncommon to have anxiety prior to tying the knot. In fact, it’s perfectly normal. It’s a major life decision, so it’s no surprise you’re feeling anxious. But sometimes the anxiety isn’t just general and it’s actually tied to specific issues. Premarital counseling will help to reassure you of your relationship. Also, it can give you the confidence you need to resolve your differences and not sweat the small stuff.

Learn Practical Tools

The biggest issue people have within a marriage is not understanding how the other communicates. Miscommunication is the #1 cause of arguments. However, premarital counseling is solution focused. Which means you and your partner will learn how to express difficult feelings, how to listen, how to meet one another’s needs, and how to have healthier arguments.

Enhancing Intimacy

Counseling of any type is extremely insightful which can have countless benefits in all areas of your life. With premarital counseling, you’ll be able to achieve greater insight in your relationship, which will ultimately increase and enhance your intimacy with your partner.

Deciding Next Steps

The first year of marriage is particularly hard because there are a lot of undiscussed issues that didn’t seem worth talking about. Things like who will do the dishes, who does the cleaning, who does the cooking, where holidays will be spent and other seemingly mundane things can have a major impact on your relationship. All of these questions and others can be answered during counseling.

Pre-marriage counseling is a smart investment for anyone getting ready to walk down the aisle. Choosing to do premarital counseling is not a sign of your relationship’s weakness, but rather a strength. It proves that you and your partner are both committed to making this marriage work. If you and your partner are thinking about tying the knot and have questions about marriage, call us today. One of our marriage counselors would be happy to talk with you and guide you through some of the challenges and strengths marriage has to offer.

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5 Signs Your Arguing Has Gone Too Far

5 (1)When people first reach out to us about couples therapy, I always ask, “Why are you calling now? The most common answer is that they’re arguing.

While being proactive about the health of your relationship is always a good thing, couples are often relieved to learn that arguing isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it’s perfectly normal for couples to argue. Of course, there are times when arguing is a problem. So, how can you tell the difference?

Here are five signs arguments could be causing more serious problems in your relationship.

  1. Arguments never lead to resolution.

Most couples have themes that recur in their disagreements, but when you have the same argument over and over without any resolution, you may have a bigger problem. It could be that the basic communication skills are in need of a tune up, or it’s possible the recurring arguments are triggering deeper issues but blocking any sort of resolution.

  1. Arguments end with one of you stonewalling.

Another way to avoid resolution is by stonewalling, which is one person shutting down the argument before you’ve reached any sort of conclusion. A person generally walks away like this because they are either too frustrated to continue or they are just emotionally overwhelmed. If one of you feels the need to just walk away from a heated conversation with your partner, your arguing may be in the problematic zone.

  1. Arguments regularly include name calling or excessive cursing.

Sometimes it’s not the argument that’s the problem, but the way in which you argue. What’s the harm in using a few four-letter words? Well, if your arguments include calling one another names or excessive cursing, this may be a sign of a higher level of frustration that should be addressed.

  1. Arguments leave you feeling disconnected from your partner.

Recently, when talking about their sex life in therapy, a Brooklyn couple agreed that they still liked having sex with one another but felt as if they were always arguing or still stinging from an argument. This meant neither ever felt close enough to approach one another for intimacy. If your arguing is affecting your feelings for your partner, and in turn taking a toll on your intimacy, it’s time to address it.

  1. Arguments are what you remember when you think of your relationship.

If arguing is OK, how do you know if the arguing is happening too frequently? When you see a picture of your partner, or hear a song they love and think of them, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If it’s your hostile feelings from recent arguments, you are arguing too much.

What type of “fighter” are you?

In order to help keep arguments from going too far, it’s important to identify what kind of “fighter” you are. According to University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center, there are at least six categories most people fall under when they’re fighting.

  • You avoid conflict at all costs
  • You feel that any criticism or disagreement is an attack on you
  • You hit “below the belt” and regret it later
  • You feel out of control when conflict arises
  • You withdraw and become silent when you’re angry
  • You store up complaints from the distant past

At one time or another, we’ve all done or found ourselves doing one or more of these. Mainly, that’s because, conflict can cause discomfort and we’ll use anything in our arsenal to avoid it or find a way to just get through it without actually having come to a resolution.

How to fight fairly

  • Remain calm: Nothing is ever accomplished successfully by stressing out or getting more upset. Taking the approach of staying calm during a conflict will help keep it from escalating or going too far.
  • Express feelings in words, not actions: In this sense, actions do speak louder than words. If your body language is in conflict with what you’re saying to your partner, an argument is sure to intensify. Remember to relax your body. Don’t tense up, roll your eyes, ball your fists or show any signs that contradicts your words.
  • Don’t revisit old conflicts: It’s never a good idea to bring up old arguments, especially if those conflicts were seemingly resolved. No one wins any extra points (or points at all) by bring up old conflicts. This can also make solving the conflict at hand even more difficult, because you may forget what you were even arguing about in the first place.
  • Avoid accusations: Never begin an argument by accusing a partner of a wrongdoing. This only serves to put the other person on defense. Defending actions or words doesn’t help get to the root of the issue.
  • Avoid staying silent: This might seem like the smart options when a partner is upset about something, but it can be very counterproductive. Staying silent can be misconstrued as insensitivity, which can make the other person feel as though their partner doesn’t care about how they feel. If you feel the need to stay silent, at least let the other person know why you’ve decided to keep quiet for now (e.g., trying to collect your thoughts, trying to keep from saying something you’ll regret, etc.).

Don’t worry. Even if your arguing is causing more serious problems in your relationship, you’re not doomed! Couples therapy can help identify and manage deeper problems, and help couples learn new conflict resolution skills so they can argue better. The truth is, you’re never going to not argue. The ultimate goal is having a disagreement, understanding where the other person is coming from, and moving on.

If you think arguments may be causing more serious problems in your relationship, reach out to a couples therapist sooner than later.

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Jennifer Aull Marriage and Family Therapist Sex Therapist
Jennifer Aull
is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the founder and director of North Brooklyn Marriage and Family Therapy. Jennifer brings with her a wealth of life experience. Along with her marriage and family therapy practice, Jennifer serves part-time as a pastor at the Greenpoint Reformed Church. She has also worked as a chaplain in both hospital and hospice settings. These experiences have taught her that life can be a journey toward greater awareness and spiritual growth and that such awareness can bring about deep joy and fulfillment. Read more about Jennifer.

 

Couples Therapy For New Parents

family therapy
Whether you’re a seasoned vet or a brand new parent, there’s no guidebook on how to be a “good parent.” Every parent is just doing the best they can with the information they have. Sure, there are parenting books you and  your partner can read, but nothing truly prepares you for parenting quite like the real deal. Thankfully, there are a few things all parents should know that can provide a bit of relief.

1. Kids Will Act Like Kids

Probably one of the easiest things to forget about kids is that they’re going to act like kids. You can’t expect a child to act as civil or proper as an adult. Fortunately, these opportunities where a child acts out is a great time to gently teach them life lessons. Immature behavior is completely normal for immature brains, which are what children have since the brain doesn’t fully develop well into our 20s. Be a supportive guide in their life.

2. Set Limits with Respect

What does it mean to set limits with respect? Well, many times limits are set for us through the use of cristicm. However, when you have a young child who is first learning about the world, you want them to be as open minded as possible. Just because they are a child doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same level of respect you do when it comes to being critiqued.

3. Give your Child Lots of Play Time

Children need play time.This is how they learn to socialize, problem solve, and develop critical thinking skills. Plus, playing is just plain fun. Unstructured play time allows children to explore their world and interact with it. When they are unable to explore and interact with their surroundings, it could potentially stunt them developmentally and socially.

4. Know When to Talk and When to Listen

Children are surprisingly full of great ideas and sage wisdom if only we’d listen. It’s important for children to learn how to talk out their problems. Which is why you, as a parent, need to know when to talk and when to listen. It’s easy to jump in and solve all their problems for them, especially when you love them. However, you’re doing more harm than good when you don’t practice active listening.

Remember that you and your partner are a team when it comes to raising your children. But, sometimes there are going to be bumps along the way. Parents don’t always see eye to eye and sometimes even have completely different parenting styles. If you and your partner are struggling with parenting, call us today to find out how couple and family therapy can help you both be the best parents you can be.

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Is Individual Therapy Right for Me?

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Many people of all ages, races, and backgrounds seek out individual therapy for different reasons. Sometimes, it’s because they have anxiety, depression, or difficulties with life transitions. While other times, it’s because they are struggling with long-standing psychological issues. Individuals also often seek out therapy for advice and counsel while they pursue their own personal exploration and growth. Individual therapy is right for any person who wishes to take a proactive approach on finding their purpose and passion, while cultivating a greater sense of self-awareness.

How Can Individual Therapy Help Me?

Working with a skilled counselor can help you to discover new insight and strategies that help to support you through all of life’s constant changes and challenges. Therapy can provide a support system and enhance problem solving skills that can help you manage issues like:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • relationship troubles
  • unresolved childhood issues
  • grief
  • stress
  • body image issues
  • creative blocks.

The beauty of therapy is that it can help to provide an entirely new and fresh perspective on old or longstanding issues.

What to Expect During Individual Therapy?

Typically, your first session will be all about getting to know you and what’s going on in your life. Everything from work to relationships, friendships, activities, passions, goals, and anything else that makes you, you. You can discuss you past and present mental and emotional concerns that you’d like to bring with you into therapy. It may take a few sessions for you and your counselor to develop enough of a rapport for you to feel comfortable to start diving in to what your issues you’d like to work on.

It’s highly encouraged that you primarily do most of the speaking. At first this may seem odd, but over time you will come to find that speaking your thoughts out loud has a cathartic effect. This can help you build your confidence to problem solve your issues after you leave therapy. Your counselor may sometimes assign you “homework”, which is designed to help you become more self-aware and develop healthier thinking patterns in your daily life for a more positive mood.

Put your Best Foot Forward

Individual therapy is confidential and a wonderful tool for anyone. Whether you’re dealing with heavier issues like grief, trauma, or depression or simply at one of life’s fork in the roads, therapy can help you develop the problem-solving skills necessary to be successful in and outside of therapy. Call us today to schedule an appointment so you can start living your best life.

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3 Things To Try Before Giving Up On Your Marriage

 

 

Photo by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash

 

Throughout the course of a marriage, there are a number of speed bumps that will pop up along the way. Things like children, career changes or advancements, moves, and money troubles can all have negative effects on your marriage. Many couples live under the myth that when one or more of these issues begin to pile up that it’s a sign it’s time to move on from the marriage. However, this is not always the case. In fact, this is rarely the case. The truth is, life happens and it is going to keep happening. The purpose of good conflict resolution in a marriage is to help both you and your partner take on life together. Not as two separate people. Here are 3 things to try before giving up on your marriage.

 

1. Complain Without Blaming

Complaining is a really easy and real nasty habit to get into. What’s even worse than complaining is blaming. You and your partner should be able to talk about specific issues rather than broadly complaining and attacking your partner. For example, say you and your partner agreed to call each other every day at the end but they didn’t call. Rather than saying, “you’re so selfish. You never follow through!” Remind your partner that you both agreed to check in with each other.

 

2. Repair Conflicts with Skill

Putting aside resentments can and will destroy your relationship over time. Most conflicts within a marriage rarely get resolved. Being able to bounce back together from an argument rather than avoiding conflict altogether is key to a happy, healthy marriage. Couples who avoid conflict totally are more likely to build up resentments and end up in divorce.

 

3. Stay Focused

It’s really easy when you’re angry to get off topic when you’re discussing one thing that you’re upset about. This can lead to name calling and attacking your partner. It’s so important to avoid any character attacks or name calling during an argument. Anger is always an underlying symptom of hurt, fear, and frustration. These three emotions are natural, so don’t punish yourself or your partner for feeling these things. Stay focused on what the issue is and how you would like it resolved.

Marriage is work. It’s not always going to be easy and some days are really going to test your patience. However, there are healthy and positive ways you and your partner can resolve natural and normal arguments along the way. Speed bumps in life and relationships are and should be expected. However, not every couple is equipped with the right conflict resolution skills needed for successful relationships. If you and your partner are struggling to communicate in a positive and productive manner with each other, call us today to speak with one of our highly trained counselors.

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Putting a Stop to the Stigma on Couples Counseling

 

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A wise couple doesn’t wait until a crisis like an infidelity, lack of intimacy, or silence has crept into their marriage or relationship to seek couples counseling. Many couples very rarely do any type of maintenance in their relationship. Instead, they become distracted by work stress, household duties, kids, and other daily life activities and nuisances. Eventually, the relationship begins to erode; often times without either person really noticing until an explosion happens. Problematic patterns begin to entrench the relationship and begin to create a deep divide between two people who were once very much connected and in love. Fortunately, with couples counseling you can repair relationship damage, and in some cases prevent it all together with regular maintenance.

 

Prevention vs Intervention

A lot of couples believe that counseling is only for those with trouble in their relationships. However, it’s extremely beneficial for couples at all stages of their relationship or marriage to do regular maintenance. Why? Because there is a major stigma against couples counseling. But, with counseling, you and your partner may be able to stop the storm before it ever fully rolls in. That is the difference between seeking counseling as prevention versus seeking counseling as an intervention. At the point of intervention, one or both partner may emotionally or mentally be past the point of making up.

 

Misconception #1: Therapy Costs too Much, is too Time Consuming, and Hard to Find

These are very common excuses couples will use to avoid therapy at all costs. The truth is, many therapists and counselors will work with you on the financial aspect of receiving support. Therapy does have a tangible cost but so does divorce. Additionally, there are a variety of ways your therapist or counselor can work with you or your partner to make the marriage work and strengthen your bond. Often times, concerns about money, time, or availability are covers for those who struggle with vulnerability.

 

Misconception #2: Someone will Know Your Private Business

A lot of private information is going to come out in therapy, both personal and together as a couple. Information about your debts, addictions, wrongs, and tribulations will be laid out. However, just like an attorney, a counselor or therapist is sworn to confidentiality. Their entire practice is solely dependent on their ability to maintain confidentiality. Mistakes and disappointments are hard to reveal, however, recognizing trauma and hurts for what they are are a big part of therapeutic work.

 

There’s no shame in seeking marriage counseling or couples therapy. In fact, there is strength in admitting you, your partner, and your relationship need help. Call us today to find out how one of our trained professionals can help you and your partner forge a stronger union.

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5 Resolutions For Families This New Year

 

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With the start of a brand new year, everyone is ramped up and ready to tackle those New Year’s resolutions. While some resolutions may be personal to you as an individual, there are some that are easier when taken on as a family. Whether it’s to lose weight, discover your unique creative abilities, or simply just go to bed earlier. There are just some things that work better when your family is together. Here are 5 resolutions you and your family can commit to this year.

 

1. Go to Bed at the Same Time

Who doesn’t need more sleep? It’s important for children and adults to have adequate sleep in order to perform daily tasks. Usually, bedtimes are considered a guideline for adults and a rule for children. However, mandatory lights-out time for everyone could be beneficial. Try it for a week and see how you like getting those extra z’s.

 

2. Eat Meals Together

Whether you have children or are married with none, creating a habit of eating together can help you and your family connect. Leave the television off and the phones on their chargers. This is your time to enjoy each other’s company. And there’s no better company than family.

 

3. Swap Out Soda

Soda is bad for everyone, especially children. Not only is it bad for your health, it can put a serious dent in your grocery bill if you’re buying it every week. Swapping out soda for water can help you save dollars and calories. If you’re still craving that carbonated goodness, try plain soda water instead. It has zero sugar and zero calories. It’s all the fun of bubbles without the guilt of sugar.

 

4. Create Reading Time

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “ugh, I wish I had more time to read.”? Well, time is what you make of it. And everyone benefits from the practice of reading. Making it a family routine will help to keep you, your partner, and your children accountable for reading. You can even visit the library together or host a family book club.

 

5. Exercise Together

Anyone can enjoy the benefits of exercise. Additionally, children also benefit from creating the routine of daily or weekly exercise. Exercising helps to lower stress, build strength, and improves your immune system. Plus, it’s just fun. Shooting hoops, playing catch, or jumping rope are all activities that don’t have an age limit. You can also join a sports team for adults and for children.

 

You don’t have to look at new year’s resolutions as a punishment for who you were last year. Resolutions are simple ways you can acknowledge where in life you need improvement. These five resolutions are all fun, family-friendly ways you can strive to achieve to be your best selves in 2018. If you’re struggling with other familial issues, our professional counselors are here to help. You can go online and schedule an appointment today. This is the year you will be great!

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5 Simple Rituals to Reconnect Daily

 

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Relationships thrive on consistency and rituals, so just like plants they must be watered daily to survive. A relationship that is rich in rituals and traditions is able to create a shared meaning together. This shared meaning is what helps you and your parnter be able to weather the difficult times. So we found five simple rituals that you and your partner can practice daily for a stronger relationship.

 

Eat Meals Together without Screens

We’ve grown so accustomed to eating meals centered around our favorite shows. Now with cell phones there’s even another seemingly unpenetrable layer between us and dinner conversation. It’s not always possible to eat meals without screen time and sometimes sharing a show is a ritual in itself.  However, we ask and suggest that you and your partner try to eat at least one meal together without any screens.

 

Have a Stress-Reducing Conversation

Active listening is a crucial factor to the success of any relationship. Couple who share how they feel and show each other compassion through active listening will reap the rewards of more connection in their marriage. A simple, “how was your day?” can be the beginning of a meaningful conversation. Keep in mind though, that this is not the time to discuss pitfalls and grievances about your relationship.

 

Take a Vacation

An annual vacation that you both agree upon keeps you looking forward to something. Even though we know that a beach getaway isn’t always in the budget, there are other ways to “get away” so to speak. For example, a long weekend in your city, camping, or even a staycation in the house where you keep your phones off and just enjoy each other’s company for a weekend.

 

Exercise Together

Couples who sweat together, stay together. Sharing an experience like bike riding, hiking, swimming or any form of exercise can bring you and your partner closer together. Not only that, but it’s a fun way to get out of the house and have something to look forward to beyond your same old routine.

 

Share a Six-Second Kiss

Intimacy of all forms fluctuate throughout the duration of a relationship including physical intimacy. Sharing a six-second kiss will increase your emotional and physical intimacy. Physical contact releases oxytocin which helps to boost your mood and bond you and your partner.

 

The power of intentional time together can prove to repair a weak relationship and further strengthen an already solid relationship. Other rituals include saying good morning and goodnight, reuniting at the end of the day, and checking in with each other during the day. Sticking to these rituals will help you reconnect and reignite the passion that once brought you two together. If you and your partner are having issues with connecting contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors today.

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7 Tips for Making a Step Family Work

 

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There’s no real guidebook to raising a family. Especially when it comes to blended families. The stakes are already high the first time around. But when the second time comes around there are old wounds and scars left behind from divorce. However, there are key steps you and your partner can take to ensure a healthy and happy marriage and family.

 

1. Set Realistic Expectations

It’s easy to become caught up in the excitement of love and family. Of course, just like the first marriage, there are going to be issues; especially when children are involved. Navigating ex-spouses, finances, and raising children can bring a whole slew of new issues. Stay realistic and understand that these issues are perfectly normal and that doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

 

2. Communication is Essential

Conflict is inevitable, which is why learning how to effectively communicate is so important. Poor communication can chip away at the foundation of a healthy and happy relationship. Try to practice active listening when your partner or step-children bring up a new problem. Active listening can help to promote effective communication.

 

3. Parent Together, Not Separately

When you merge two families, you become one. It does not become a case of “these are my children and those are your children.” Loyalty to your own child is valid and can be very strong. However, it’s so important to establish roles for parenting and discipline early on. Not only is it important to establish roles, but to maintain those roles throughout the relationship as well. This can be a very difficult time for children, so maintaining a sense of structure in the home is essential to a smooth transition.

 

4. Practice Patience and Understanding

Blending families isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Both you and your partner need to commit to the long journey that is ahead of you and your new family. No one is perfect and your partner and yourself are going to slip up from time to time. But, it’s essential for you to find joy and happiness, even when times are testing your patience.

 

5. Don’t Give Up

Things are not always going to go as planned. There can and will be difficult periods of transition for you, your partner, and the children. During these difficult times, remember why you came together in the first place. Couples who commit to overcoming struggles together build a strong foundation to get through even tougher issues in the future.

 

No one said marriage would be easy and a new marriage with a blended family comes with its own set of struggles and strengths. As long as you and your partner are committed to the success of your relationship and family, in the end, all will be well. However, if you are struggling with the transition period our professional counselors can offer help. Call us today to schedule an appointment so that we can help you build the strong foundation your new family deserves.

 

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3 Ways To Enrich Your Marriage

 

enrich your marriage

 

It might come as a surprise to many people that just because you fall in love and marry someone doesn’t mean that love is going to last forever. Partners are often afraid to admit that they feel as if something is missing from their marriage. They find themselves asking, “why can’t it go back to the way it was in the beginning?” A successful marriage isn’t a fairy tale like the books and movies would have you believe. A successful marriage is about building a meaningful relationship that is full of rich, beautiful connections.

 

1. Sharing is Caring

Sharing a common dream, vision, or goal for the life that you two want to live together can give both of you a healthy perspective. When couples have that shared dream, the ups and downs of life don’t seem so bad. By creating a larger context of the meaning of life within your relationship, you two can avoid dwelling on the bad things and focus on the bigger picture.

 

2. Talk it Out

Talking about your shared vision can help to foster attunement. By taking the time to process your dreams together, ultimately, it will bring you closer. An important goal within a marriage is to build and establish an atmosphere where each partner can feel comfortable talking about their emotions and convictions openly. Couples openly about what makes them happy and what their dreams might be are likely to be happier and less likely to be struggling.

 

3. Creating Rituals

Daily or weekly rituals where you two can connect one on one will enable you to build shared meaning with each other. Take the time to be together doing enjoyable activities that bring you both pleasure. This can be anything from cooking weekly dinners to exploring new towns and even catching up on your shared favorited television shows. It’s so important for couples to make that commitment to spending time with each other. This also includes saying goodbye in the morning and hello in the evening.

 

Having a happy and successful marriage does take work. It’s not always going to be rainbows and sunshine all the time. Even though there are going to be hard days but that means there are also going to be easy days. By using this tips to enrich your marriage, you can help to foster a stronger bond with your marriage. Whether you choose actions that are big or small, know that each form of effort you put in will help to build a stronger and happier and more fulfilling connection.

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