Coping with Spousal Abandonment

It felt like you were in a war zone—because you were.

The enemies were closing in around you. You knew you couldn’t fight alone. But you weren’t alone–thank God.

But just when enemy fire was strongest, that someone you depended on abandoned you. Left you all alone to fend for yourself.

You were going to do this together. You were going to fight together against problems, not fight with each other about them.

If you’re drawn to this topic, there’s a good chance you’re hurting right now. Your feelings are understandable. Here are some thoughts on coping.

Seek Stability Alone (At Least At First)

Is it possible your relationship could be restored? Anything’s possible.

But is it guaranteed? No.

Definitely, own any shortcomings you find in yourself without beating yourself up. After all, you’re the only person you can change.

Trying to control a spouse who walked out on you is the surest way to make yourself miserable.

Whatever you do, though, don’t make a knee-jerk reaction.

Keep your distance from easy ways to fill that spousal void if it’s unhealthy.

That temptation may run the span from risky relationships, overeating, substance abuse, to pornography among many others.

Take small steps towards stability on your own. That means (as soon as possible) setting a new and healthy routine.

That healthy routine will involve meaningful work, adequate sleep and time with those who want to help you, not exploit you.

Stay Away from Exploiters

Speaking of exploiters, they come in many forms and are the last thing you need right now.

There are certain people who can smell suffering like sharks can sense blood in the water.

They often dress themselves up as someone who’s genuinely concerned.

But watch out. Appearances can be deceiving. These are the “scab pickers” who always attend deep suffering.

Exploiters have many specific names: Moral-superiority specialists, Abusers, Gossipers and Controllers.

They make your life worse.

They kick you while you’re down.

If you find a romantic admirer like this, you especially need to be vigilant and quickly show them the door. Such a person can make your life a living hell.

Just like looters creep in and steal after disasters, these people see your emotional wreckage and look for what they can take from you. Helping you rebuild isn’t on their radar.

Find people who actually care about you and allow them to help protect you from the “wolves”.

Get Your Hurts Out

You don’t need to cut yourself–Bleed words instead. You have to get those emotions out or you’re in trouble.

Journal, talk to people you trust and consider scheduling time with a trusted professional.

Getting everything out is, at first, part of your survival strategy.

Eventually, it will be your healing and happiness strategy. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Before You Marry—Setting the Stage for Happiness

Preparing for a happy marriage is much like the beginning of building a house.

Before you construct a house, do you find a rough piece of land and just start building walls?

Nope.

You make sure that land is level. You painstakingly work on your foundation.

What’s the point of building if there’s nothing strong to build on in the first place?

That’s a good question. After all, you want that house to stand for a lifetime. You want it to weather any storm.

So, how can you set the stage for happiness in your marriage? Here are some ideas.

Prepare Your Finances for Marriage

No matter how much you love each other, “living on love” won’t cut it—at least not for long.

Finances are not an exact science. There are many things you can’t foresee until they happen. Also, if you wait until your job and financial situation is perfect, you’ll never get married.

Still, there are some things you can do. Talk openly about your plans for work, housing and the ongoing pursuit of more fulfilling and higher paid work.

Identify areas you or your potential spouse may be weak in. Maybe one of you tends toward impulsive spending. Come up with a good way to handle this such as discussing purchases over a certain amount before buying.

It’s also wise to decide who will take care of your finances in the marriage.

You don’t want to worry yourselves to death because financial security isn’t everything. It doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage. There are plenty of financially secure and miserable couples out there.

That said, one of the biggest issues of contention and fights in a marriage involves finances. A little preparation can go a long way in setting you up for success and happiness.

Pursuing Something Bigger Than Yourselves

Before marriage, get to know each other as well as you can. This could prevent a bad marriage from happening before it ever starts.

Next, assuming you both still want to take the green light, spend plenty of time dreaming together.

Now is the best time for this. Once you have kids—as special as they are—it will be harder to stop and think about your hopes and dreams.

Find something more compelling and enduring to base your happiness on than money. Work together to answer the big “why” to your lives.

The Pursuit of Happiness

If you try to be happy at all costs in marriage, the irony is you’ll make you and your spouse just the opposite.

Plan on an enduring relationship based on an unwavering commitment to faithfulness and trust.

Not every moment will be happy, but you’ll build a deep satisfaction that will last a lifetime by staying committed.

True happiness, at its deepest level, isn’t based on superficial things like job success and finances.

Those are petty things compared to loving others and being loved. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

When Your Spouse Doesn’t Contribute Financially

There are few stressors that can wreak havoc on your relationship like financial ones.

In a healthy relationship, there needs to be an agreement about who makes the money.

Feeling shortchanged (no pun intended) because your spouse isn’t helping to bring in money for your bills?

Here are some ideas about how to navigate this challenge.

Our Current Culture and Unique Roadblocks

There was a time when a single-spouse income could provide pretty well for a family.

More than ever before, that time is over.

These days, families are maxed out. Many don’t know of any other way to provide for their expenses other than with two incomes.

Further complicating matters, spouses with young children often question if it’s even worth having a second income given daycare costs.

On one hand, that second job seems like a necessity. On the other, it doesn’t look like the second job will make much of financial difference.

Further adding to the stress is a continuing divide between the rich and poor. We now are the fourth-worst country on a long list of developed nations regarding that divide.

There are plenty of jobs but few good ones–Ones that actually pay your bills.

So, given these challenges, it’s not surprising that this is a hotter topic than ever.

Why Is Your Spouse Not Contributing Financially?

If you can come close to answering that question, you’ll have a better idea of what to do.

Here are some potential reasons your spouse isn’t helping with the bills:

  • They are depressed or experience other mental health challenges.
  • They’re so discouraged about the job market that they’ve given up.
  • There is an underlying physical health challenge.
  • There hasn’t been adequate communication for them to know they’re expected to help.
  • They’re already maxed out with taking care of kids, cooking meals, running errands and keeping the house (which is vital hard work though it doesn’t pay the bills).
  • Your spouse is battling an addiction.
  • Your spouse is able-bodied but still refuses to work.
  • Several other possibilities or combinations of the above-stated reasons.

What to Do Now

The number-one thing to do is communicate your frustrations in a healthy way even though you’re upset.

It may be that you can downsize and find some other ways to cut spending that would be equal enough to the extra money you think you need.

Yes, downsizing sounds scary. Ironically, many report that the experience isn’t what they expected. They anticipated slavery but, instead, found freedom.

There’s a saying that most in the western world can learn a lot from:

“The more you own, the more it owns you.”

Living above your means truly becomes slavery. Life consists of constantly making money so you have enough to spend on the “high life”. It isn’t focused on what’s way more valuable than money—people.

Every situation is a little different as is the solution.

Seriously consider discussing your challenges with a therapist to help you and your spouse work through them.

You do not need to feel alone in this struggle. You do not need to feel ashamed.

These days, many families are feeling the financial crunch like never before. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

High School: Changing Schools Can Be Stressful for Your Adolescent

It’s easy to minimize the effect changing schools can have on your high school teen.

Not too long ago, we went through the high-school thing and then moved on. But we quickly forget the unique stressors those in high school experience. And those stressors are arguably greater than we experienced a generation or two ago.

Moving to a new school exponentially increases those challenges.

If You Can’t Help Your Teen Like You Want

Is your teen changing schools because you recently moved?

If so, you’re likely having a difficult time nurturing your teen during their transition.

Why?

Because you’re dealing with an immense amount of pressure yourself.

We’re talking about major change stress for everyone involved. While you’re adjusting to a new job, learning how to get around town, changing your utilities over and maybe getting used to a new relationship, your teen is trying to process life as well.

Not only does your high schooler feel your heightened stress level–Their new high school experience is possibly putting their stress levels at near or actual levels that are unmanageable for them.

It may be possible that you can’t help your teen like you want. After all, you’re feeling pretty swamped.

This is a great time to be intentional. Instead of feeling guilty because you can’t help like you want, look for opportunities for others to help your teen. You can’t do everything and admitting it can be freeing.

That could mean seeking out a therapist to help your child work through their transitional stress. If you’re near family or friends, consider scheduling some time for your teen to spend with them so he or she can feel some normalcy and greater stability for a while.

Be Careful Not to Downplay Your Teen’s School Transition

As already said, this is easy to do. But experts in the mental health field know all too well that moves for high schoolers can lead to low points in their mental health. This can even be true for those who are generally considered pretty resilient.

Do your best to keep open communication with your teen about these struggles (or as already shared, find someone who can).

Your high-schooler is grieving for friends they can’t see as easily and scared about the ups and downs of new relationships.

It’s important to regularly remind your teen that things won’t always be so difficult. Eventually, a new routine will be established and new friendships will bloom. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Women: How to Manage All the Hats You Wear

Our society credits women with being talented multi-taskers. Although that can be true to a point, you still have a breaking point. You’re still human and can only handle so much.

So, what should you do when the number of hats you wear is about doing you in?

Here are a few quick, bail-you-out ideas.

Women: Just Say ‘No’

Yep. The same way you say “no” to drugs.

That saying’s nothing new. You’ve heard it thousands of times. But are you practicing “the art of no”? That’s the more important question.

There’s no special prize for doing the most things. After all, what good is it if you’re so overloaded that you no longer can do anything well?

And what good is it if you wake up dreading every day of your life because you have too much on your plate? You’ll soon wonder what the point of it all is.

Closely evaluate what must be done and what’s not important. As good as volunteering each week is, are there more important things that are being neglected as a result?

Decide what you can cut out and do it. Then, watch your quality of life quickly improve.

Carefully guard your time and decide if you should say “no” when asked to do one more thing.

Even good activities aren’t good if you have more than one person can handle.

Manage All Your Hats by Delegating

Another thing you can do is find others to help you.

Businesses unashamedly practice delegation all the time.

You can do the same thing in your personal life.

This means getting your kids to assist you with tasks. If your family isn’t used to helping you, things need to change.

It can seem like more work at first to ask for help. But in the end, it’s far more work not to.

Plus, doing all the work yourself is frustrating and lonely.

Maybe there’s a task you do outside of the home that you no longer have the time to do. Ask someone with the necessary skill set to take over that task.

Do Less to Do More

In America, we’re often ridiculously busy. Women have mastered the ability to have never-ending responsibilities.

Intentionally try to do way less and discover something important.

You’ll realize that less is more. No, you’re not defined by how much you do. You’re more than a robot with thousands of tasks to accomplish.

Your family and friends need you more than your schedule does. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Stay-At-Home Dads–What to Say When Well-Meaning People Say Dumb Things to You

If so, you know all too well that people can say some pretty insensitive things. Most aren’t intentionally trying to hurt you. Still, you leave many conversations scratching your head and feeling misunderstood.

What do you say when people say dumb things to you about your unorthodox occupation? Here are some ideas.

Educate People When They Something Dumb

There are a lot of misconceptions about your role in our culture. You can help dispel the myths and make it easier on all stay-at-home days by teaching people the truth.

You only need to share as much about your personal life as you want. There’s no need to feel like you’re on the defensive.

Based on your personality, you can let people see into your life and understand why the stay-at-home-dad thing makes the most sense for your family.

Maybe your spouse can bring in a better income than you but two incomes don’t make sense due to daycare costs. It’s ok to say that.

Or maybe you just prefer working at home more than your spouse does. That’s ok, too.

You can also showcase that side business you do along with all your other responsibilities as a stay-at-home dad.

Let people see for themselves that your role makes the best sense for many families including yours.

Stay-At-Home Dads: Say Something Clever

Think of the most common questions you get asked and think of fun, clever things to say in response.

Maybe you don’t want to educate others so they say less dumb things to people like you.

That’s ok. Why not try this instead.

Here’s a textbook question you can have more than enough fun with:

“So…..(longer than necessary pause) What do you do all day?”

You saw that question coming from a mile away didn’t you?

Why not go on the offensive instead of the defensive?

Try something like this:

Smile and chuckle at this question (like, boy, that’s a funny one!).

“Maybe a better question is what don’t I do? My house would literally cave in if I wasn’t there to make everything work.”

Or how about this one:

“What I do all day? Let’s see…Laundry, doctor’s appointments, taking care of puking kids, kids’ homework, school/sports taxi, paying bills, cooking meals, cleaning toilets, fixing cars, yardwork, a side business and a million other things…

I’m not sure what to do all day! Do you have any suggestions?”

Unfortunately, you already know the dumb questions will probably keep coming. But you also know that your family desperately needs you.

That can give you the confidence to stick up for yourself and your family! If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

The Best Way to Handle People Who Talk Too Much

Do you struggle to deal with people who talk too much? This is a surprisingly common problem.

More surprising, though, is the fact that many just live with this difficulty instead of finding ways to better cope.

Here are some quick suggestions to be more intentional so you’re less frustrated.

The Specific Reasons You’re Frustrated

Ok. You walked away from that conversation irritated once again. Why were you bothered? That’s the first question to ask.

Once you know the answer, your solution will be way easier.

Most people enjoy conversation. We usually feel validated when we make verbal exchanges about our lives and what’s going on.

Mutual sharing on both sides happens. The result is energizing and works to strengthen relationships and improve our lives. Sometimes, those conversations can be quite long without ever feeling draining.

When mutual sharing doesn’t happen, though, a five-minute conversation can drain the life out of you quicker than an hour-long one.

Besides the fact that someone you know talks too much, there likely are other underlying and specific problems that bug you.

It could be that the person you have in mind talks too much because of the following:

  • They only talk about themselves
  • Are consistently negative
  • Generally engage in conversation at inconvenient times
  • Talk about things that don’t interest you
  • Are prone to conflict with you
  • Don’t come across as trustworthy
  • Are entertaining romantic interest in you–which, if you’re reading this article because of them, you don’t feel the same way.
  • Several other possibilities

Once you’ve decided on a more specific problem, you’ll be able to come up with a more specific solution.

Stop Worrying About Being “Nice”

Yes, you want to be kind. That’s likely one of the reasons you have a hard time with this one. But is being “nice” in conversation really being nice?

Here’s an all-too-common scenario:

The person in question has now been talking for 20 minutes. Your eyes started glazing over 17 minutes ago. You’re engaging in a plethora of head nodding and uh-huhs and disheveled, anxious eye-contact. But the person you’re talking with (or more accurately, the person who’s talking to you) isn’t picking up on the cues that you’ve sunk into the perilous swamps of one-sided conversation and that you’re struggling to come up for air.

What you need to come to grips with is that the uh-huhs, head nods and pitiful eye-contact you’re exhibiting leave you feeling guilty for not being more engaged.

By pretending to be engaged, you’re actually not being “nice” even if the person rattling off to you hasn’t noticed.

Instead, be prepared to be honest. Admit if the person talking to you lost you or you’re too busy or whatever the reason.

If you need an excuse to exit the conversation, you needn’t lie. Your life is busy enough without having to do that.

You have kids to pick up, bathroom breaks, pressing calls, texts and emails and the list goes on.

Stop worrying about being “nice” and just be honest even if there’s risk of hurt feelings. By so doing, you’ll be well on your way to acing the talk-too-much problem!

Another way to deal with this challenge is to set a specific amount of time aside in your mind. It could be five or ten minutes. After the time is up, kindly but firmly share that you need to get going.

There’s a reason that person that frustrates you is in your life. It’s likely beneficial for them to share with you. By striking a balance, you can be an encouragement and help without becoming overwhelmed! If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Your Stress Is Different Than Your Parents’ Stress

Have you ever wondered if you’re more stressed out than your parents or vice versa? If so, that question may have left you stumped.

Are you stressed out? Yes. Are your parents stressed out? Yes. We all deal with varying levels of stress on a consistent basis.

But are we comparing apples to apples? In many cases, the answer is “no”.

Here are some reasons why.

What Your Stress Looks Like as A High Schooler

Ever felt like your parents don’t take the level of stress you deal with seriously?

Something you potentially heard from your parents was, “I wish I had your problems.” This probably happened after you complained, whined or freaked out about your difficulties.

These words may have come across like your parents were making light of your difficulties or didn’t care.

More likely is that they just didn’t understand. They looked at the size of their stressors and then looked back at yours and wondered what you were so worked up about.

But could there be more to it than that?

Yes. There can be and is.

First, your parents have had decades to deal with stressors that you’re new at figuring out. This means that parents generally have a higher ability to handle greater amounts of stress than you.

This also explains why things seem so hard to you and why your parents wonder what the big deal is.

And that isn’t all. Everything around us is becoming increasingly complex. You’re expected to know more in school than your parents ever could’ve imagined and at an earlier age.

You also feel the pressure and trappings of constant technology immersion. It’s not just academics that are more complex but relationships as well.

There are now oodles of ways to grow or destroy a relationship because of the “techie age.” Fights, break-ups, bullying and suicide all happen because of online activity. So do healthy long-distance friendships and a myriad of ways to give others hope.

Another major stressor?

It feels like everyone’s asking you what you want to do with your life. But, in many cases, you don’t know. No career-direction genie ever dropped out of the sky and unraveled the biggest questions you have.

Questions like what the heck you’re supposed to do with your life. The rubrics cube of your existence keeps getting more complicated. You can’t solve it and everyone you ask can’t either.

One thing’s for sure. The crossroads of your life keep getting closer and closer. You increasingly wonder what you should do and be.

Do you just guess? Do you pursue something only for the money? Part of you says “yes” but another part keeps nagging you not to sell out.

Although you need money, deep down, you realize you exist for a greater reason than simply chasing the “paper.”

Most days, you’re just trying to survive another school day, more homework and maintain some semblance of a social life. Then, you go to bed, wake up and repeat this pattern day in and day out.

What Your Parents’ Stress Looks Like

Your parent or parents feel consistent pressure to protect you from a world that can be cruel and dangerous. Hopefully, they work hard to make sure you have adequate housing, food and clothing.

That in itself is no easy task. There are an increasing number of jobs that do not pay a livable wage. Many parents feel persistent employment and financial stress.

Even if your parents have adequate means to provide, they realize that there are no guarantees it will always be that way.

Besides the stress of providing for you and your family, there’s the need to get along with and enjoy each other despite life stressors (Often no easy task).

Lastly, your parents feel a stress you don’t fully feel yet. The incredible gift and challenge of being responsible for other people besides just themselves.

They have the constant stress of making sure you and others are doing well and will be ok.

Summing It Up

Ok. Hopefully, all that didn’t stress you out too much!

It’s good to know what you’re up against. It’s also good to remember that some amount of stress is normal and healthy.

You and your parent(s) can work together to better understand each other’s stress and help each other out. Stress doesn’t have to overwhelm you.

If you ever feel overwhelmed, we would be happy to help you and your parent cope better. Life can be very satisfying and things can get much better! If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

First Date: 3 Red Flags to Avoid

It’s time for your first date. You want to make the best-possible first impression. But first impressions are a two-way street.

What if that first date winds up being an epic fail and it wasn’t because of you?

Worse yet is another fear. What if your first date gives you some serious red flags and you don’t even notice them? Because you don’t notice them, you later find yourself deep into a toxic relationship?

Although there’s a host of potential red flags, here are three to consider.

Your First Date Only Talks About Themselves

Want a major Red Flag?

You’re an hour into your time together and your date hasn’t ceased talking about themselves. It’s almost like you’re invisible—like you’re not even there.

Have you noticed or are you blindly overlooking that fact?

Your relationship will always struggle if only one side is numero uno.

Things aren’t likely to get better, either. Most sensible people are on their “best behavior” for first dates.

What’ll happen when familiarity sets in? The odds aren’t very good that your opinion will matter or that you’ll be valued.

All your needs, hopes and dreams will be eclipsed by the narcissist you’ve made such a large part of your life.

Your First Date Pressures You to Be Physical

You shouldn’t feel any pressure to be physical on your first date. Your date needs to respect that fact or you’re starting out on shaky ground.

No, you don’t owe your date a thing if they buy you something to eat or a memento.

Take some control and avoid opportunities or places that could lead you to compromise or even danger.

It’s best to decide ahead of time on this issue. If your date can’t respect your boundaries on a first date, tell them to get lost.

Your First Date Is Too Pushy

Your initial date should be relaxed. It’s better if you don’t go to a fancy dinner or do something that could feel high pressure.

If your date tries to make things feel otherwise, they could be intentionally (or unintentionally) moving too fast.

They may fear losing you and feel the only way to prevent that is to do something big.

The truth is that there’s already enough pressure on a first date as it is. Find something to do that’s fun and relaxing instead of cramped and potentially stressful.

There’s no need to feel pressured into another date. You’ll need time to process that later.

In Conclusion

Watch how your date treats other people and then decide if you’d like to be treated the same way.

No date will be perfect just like you’re not perfect. This needs to be understood.

At the same time, you want to look for patterns that could cause you more grief than it’s worse. And if you find patterns like that, put the brakes on and then change lanes. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Big Expectations—The “Killer” Of A Good Relationship

Big expectations in relationships are a greater problem in America than ever before.

If anyone would disagree, the fact that our country experiences more failed relationships than anywhere else in the world should be explored first.

One thing is constant for us—choices.

We have a baffling amount of choices at our fingertips. More books are being written than ever before. There are more services and products than there ever were. The option to live virtually anywhere is a real possibility and career choices abound.

Although we’ll explore this topic in light of a committed relationship, many of the principles are easily transferrable to other friendships.

Choices and Expectations

Due to the consumer mentality of our nation, we’re used to a myriad of choices. Near-perfect choices.

So, what happens when we take that consumer mentality into a committed relationship? The results are predictable if we’re not careful.

We secretly tell ourselves that if our mate doesn’t turn out to be darn-near perfect, somewhere out there, someone will fill that perfection void.

This often leads to virtually insurmountable expectations placed on a partner.

The Consequences of Big Expectations

The consequence of absurdly high expectations also has a predictable result.

Expectations go unmet. Surprised? Bet you’re not.

When expectations aren’t met, disappointment ensues. Ongoing disappointment leads to an increasing desire to want out of a relationship.

We also should mention that the person who receives unrealistic expectations loses trust, becomes bitter and feels powerless to measure up. Many rebel and become emotionally detached under these circumstances.

When the person with high expectations doesn’t get what they want, they’re prone to pick out the smallest faults in their partner.

Because of the many faults, those with high expectations justify there are now grounds for the relationship to end.

There’s just one problem: No one can meet unrealistic expectations for long. There is no Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. It’s a lie, a mirage.

And so, in time, the next relationship is not what was hoped for. In fact, none of them will be. Too high of expectations will kill any and every friendship and romantic relationship.

A Better Focus

Most people don’t begin a relationship focused on how they can make someone else happy. They seek their own fulfillment and pleasure above everything else.

That is also the goal of unrealistic expectations. The problem is that these desires, taken too far, become selfish and destructive.

It’s not bad to desire pleasure and happiness in a relationship. Things can disintegrate when one’s desire for happiness comes at the expense of a partner, though.

The best thing you can do is set high expectations for yourself instead of for others. After all, you can only control you.

Instead of setting high expectations for your partner, consistently encourage them knowing that you still have a long way to go yourself. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.