What is your New Year’s resolution?

When discussing New Year’s resolutions, typically people want to lose weight, get their finances in order, be a better person, get organized, or something that can be physically seen.  How often do you hear someone say they want to make a difference in their relationships, strengthen their relationships, or work on having a stronger marriage?  Probably not too often; however, this would be a great suggestion for many couples.

Life is so hectic and busy with both people working, kids to take care of, sporting events to attend, and their own hobbies, many times couples become strangers in their own homes, and in no time at all, they begin to lose their connection to each other.  So, if you commit to making your New Year’s resolution about making a difference in your marriage, where will you begin?

  • First, you have to realize there is an issue if you are living your life like a robot or as a matter of convenience.  Many people stay in a relationship just because life is good enough, the mortgage is paid, and the kids are growing up and behaving like decent teenagers.  That is so not true.  You can make a difference just by reconnecting to your mate.
  • Be truthful and realistic.  Don’t just put on a happy face in public or in front of friends and family.  Work hard to where that smile is genuine.  Commit to making a difference and being truly happy.
  • Turn everything off; the television, the stereo, the video games.  Make time for each other.  Talk every day for at least 30 minutes.  Communication makes for strong connections.
  • Show respect to your mate, in front of everyone and in private.  Show respect in front of your children, in front of your parents, and in front of your in-laws.  Mutual respect can make a huge difference.
  • Take care of yourself.  Continue to learn by reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching educational shows on television, or whatever it is you like to do.  Don’t ever lose who are you because you spend all of your time trying to make things right with your mate.
  • Be patient.  Realize that changing your behavior and paving the road to creating a stronger relationship with your mate will not happen overnight.  It took time to lose the closeness; it will take time to get it back.

Throughout your transformation, realize what’s important and do whatever it takes to move forward, on a stronger path.  If you find you need to talk with someone throughout this process, you may want to reach out to the professionals at the Relationship Center of Orange County to help you.  Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

How to Earn Trust from Someone Who Was Hurt in the Past

One of the hardest things to do, whether it is with a partner, a friend, a parent, or someone else, is to earn trust. Even harder is earning trust from someone who was hurt in the past. Even if they were hurt by someone other than you, people who have been burnt tend to have a hard time trusting, in general. Here are some things you can do to earn the trust of someone who has been hurt in the past.

First, what is trust? Trust is a person’s integrity, honesty, and effectiveness; in one word, it’s a person’s “character”. Trust can be easily built, but it can also be easily broken. Although you may have not been the one to hurt the other person, there are ways that you can prove your trustworthiness in many different ways. In doing so, hopefully the person who has been hurt in the past will see that you are not like the other person and that you are honest and trustworthy.

Reliability – Do what you say you will do, always. This should hold true even in small things like showing up when you say you will, running the errands you say you will run, etc. Keep the number of promises to a minimum, but keep the promises you make. This will show you are dependable.

Honesty – Always tell the truth. Although that sounds like something a parent would tell a child, it is so true in every relationship. Even at times where telling a little white lie doesn’t seem too harmful, you will get much more trust by telling the truth, even when it opens the door to unpleasantness. If you tell a lie, admit it. Confess it right away. If you get caught in a lie, admit it. Don’t lie to spare somebody’s feelings or to avoid a debate. Instead, focus on the good things about the person to help cushion the blow of the pain your truthfulness might cause.

Openness – Never lie by omission, meaning not tell the whole story or any of the story in order to be vague or to spare somebody’s feeling. This will show that you have nothing to hide. As an example, imagine you had previously been engaged to someone and for whatever reason, your new boyfriend has a problem with that fact as well as a problem with your ex. This afternoon you stopped by a gas station and were pumping your gas when your ex pulled in to pump gas as well. Should you tell your new boyfriend? Absolutely. If you don’t, you are lying by omission. And what happens if your new boyfriend’s relatives were inside the store and saw you and your ex at the gas pumps? See where this is going? Always be open and never lie by omission.

Keep Secrets Shared with You by Others – Never gossip. Never talk about somebody else’s life story or problems, especially if they have shared things with you in confidence. It is never a good thing, and it will come back, full circle, and you will lose the trust of that person. It’s possible to slip sometimes, but if you do, tell the person whose confidence you broke right away.

Loyalty – This goes along with integrity and morals, which is important in any relationship. Be loyal, both when you’re with the person, and when you’re not. Trust is a no-brainer when the person knows they have your loyalty. Live by strong morals. Be objective and fair in your decision making. Have no double standards.

In the end, it is not your fault that the other person has been hurt in the past. Who hasn’t, right? If your relationship is struggling because your partner, friend, parent, or whomever can’t trust you and you have not given that person a reason to doubt your trust, that person may just not be ready for a relationship or friendship. You can’t beat yourself up over someone else’s issues. However, if you have been known to “stretch the truth”, lie by omission, or anything else that doesn’t earn others’ trust, it is your issue.

Taking time to speak to a professional may be just what you need to get through a trust issue, whether it’s your issue or somebody else. The staff at the Orange County Relationship Center are trained professionals who can help you with the problem you are facing. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us so you can get the help you deserve and move on to brighter tomorrows.

Talk it Out – Getting the Timing Right

How often have you had something on your mind that you needed to discuss with your partner, but the right time just never seemed to present itself?

It’s a common problem. The topics that we put off are always the challenging ones. Maybe you have bad news to deliver, something is troubling you about your relationship, or you want to make a change that you don’t expect your partner to be very happy about. Whatever it is, it’s natural to avoid it in the name of waiting for the ideal moment.

Of course, that could mean you’ll be waiting an awfully long time, because there’s really no such thing as the “perfect” time for a difficult discussion.

The good news is that your heart is in the right place. You know it would be a mistake to broach a touchy subject when your partner is tired and stressed out, or when the kids are within earshot . Still, don’t wait forever, or you may find that whatever’s bothering you stays bottled up until the worst possible time, and you blurt it because you’ve reached the height of frustration. Instead, plan for the right time. But how? Well, here are a few suggestions…

Follow Your Instincts

Before planning a serious discussion about what’s on your mind, do a gut check. While in most cases letting things fester only makes them worse, if you’ve been particularly stressed out and finding yourself overreacting to situations that otherwise wouldn’t bother you, you might want to wait a day or two and see how you feel before broaching a problem that today seems catastrophic. Some things may blow over on their own once you’ve had a chance to calm down. However, if your gut tells you this is going to keep bothering you until you’ve talked it through, by all means, do so.

SEt the Stage

Get a sitter and go to a favorite restaurant, take a scenic evening walk or whatever you especially enjoy doing as a couple. The benefits are obvious: The kids won’t be around to distract you, and the change of scenery will probably put both of you in a good frame of mind. There is one caveat: you must advise your partner ahead of time that you have something serious you want to discuss. The last thing you want to do is make him or her feel they’ve walked into a trap.

Be Prepared

Think ahead of time about what you want to say. It doesn’t mean you need you write a script, but you do want to make sure your main concerns or wishes are heard and taken seriously. At the same time, approach the discussion prepared to listen and keep an open mind.

Similarly, be prepared for your partner to disagree or even react angrily to what you have to say. Often we fear this will happen—why else would we be avoiding the topic in the first place?—only to find that our partner has been thinking the same thing themselves. But not always. If your partner doesn’t respond the way you were hoping, try and keep talking—calmly, rationally and respectfully—until you can reach a mutually satisfying compromise. However, if you or your partner becomes so emotional or angry that the conversation is no longer productive, be prepared to take a break and maybe table the subject until the next day.

Put it on Ice – Temporarily

If you can stop before things get really heated, maybe you can change course and go do something fun where there’s no talking required…like going to that movie you’ve been dying to see. You might not yet have resolved anything, but you’ll have made a start, which is often half the battle.

If you need help talking through a difficult subject—or want to improve your communication skills as a couple—please give us at a call at 949-220-3211 or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the Relationship Center of Orange County are here to help you.

Getting More Intimacy and Attention From Your Partner

Have You and Your Partner Grown Distant?

As the years go by, you may feel like your spouse or partner no longer feels that you are attractive or significant.  In fact, you may feel like just about everything and everybody else is far more appealing than you are in your spouse’s or partner’s world.  These other things can include work, hobbies, friends, and coworkers, to name a few.  If you are feeling a lack of connection with your spouse or partner, there are things you can do to catch their attention and make yourself more available.

What Can I Do?

  • Be Present – Be present in your relationship, always.  Maybe the two of you fell in love and everything felt perfect, leading you to believe that you would remain together forever in perfect harmony.  Keep in mind, not everybody experiences an instant connection, and not everybody is lucky to maintain an intense closeness as time passes. It takes effort and focus to stay connected.
  • Make Eye Contact – You’ve probably heard that the eyes are the windows to the soul.  It is imperative to make and maintain eye contact with your partner.  When you look into your spouse’s eyes from across a room, you’re actually being intimate.  Eye contact is an important part of socializing and is an integral part in creating any intimate relationship.  Not only does eye contact show you are interested and attentive to the conversation; it also shows trust and understanding, as well as openness and emotional connection.
  • Be Physical – Touching the one you love not only feels good; it also increases the “love hormone” called oxytocin.  This hormone is important to any romantic relationship and is the reaction to being touched, not only by having sex, but by holding hands, hugging, or touching feet. Be flirtatious and touch their arm or knee when having a conversation.
  • Be Interested – Pay attention to your spouse by listening to what is being said and by noticing body language.  In order to do this, 100 percent, you have to tune everything else out, and listen to what your spouse is saying.  Commit to listen actively when your spouse is talking.  When you spouse speaks, make eye contact and be silent while taking in everything that is being said.  When you do speak, be sure to be supportive and courteous, which will show you are understanding the dialog, as well as interested in the topic of conversation.
  • Be Emotionally Present – Share the intimate details of what is going on in your daily life. Tell them why you were excited or let down by that situation at work or with a friend; let them in on the little details of your day.  This will help build a more intimate connection.  Being emotionally present proves to your spouse or partner that they are valued, appreciated, and special.  Many times, these feelings will be returned to you.  Being vulnerable goes along with trusting that your spouse or partner actually accepts the real you.
  • Love Unconditionally – Always accept your spouse or partner for who they are, as they are.  Never try to change something about them; even something as minor as the way they wear their hair or the fact that they always wear t-shirts when you’d rather they dressed up a bit more.  Being able to accept the small things is a good indicator that you will be able to accept the larger things such as learning about your partner’s dreams, goals, and feelings without being judgmental or dismissive.
  • Laugh, A Lot – Laugh together; have a great time together. Reminisce about funny moments in your life; watch TV shows or movies that crack you up.  Laughter is contagious.  When you hear somebody laughing, it is natural for you to want to laugh as well.  People who laugh a lot have less stress in their lives.
  • Schedule Together Time – Schedule time together each and every day, for at least 10 to 15 minutes.  This can be before dinner, over coffee after dinner, first thing in the morning, or in the evening, just before bed.  Focus on each other without interruption. Also, schedule time away together, without the kids.  Have a date night at least once per month, and a date weekend (overnight) at least twice per year.

If you have made an effort to be more available to your spouse or partner and things are still not improving, you will need to have a heart-to-heart talk.  However, it is important you know what you want before you start ranting and raving about issues in your marriage or relationship.  It’s important that you know the difference between your wants and your needs.

If talking it out doesn’t improve your situation, you and your spouse or partner may want to consider speaking with a professional.  The counselors at Orange County Relationship Center are trained specialists who can help you work through your relationship issues.  Call the Orange County Relationship Center today at (949) 430-7353 to schedule an appointment or schedule your appointment using our online tool.  It may be the best phone call or the best step you ever made in the interest of saving your marriage or getting your relationship back on track.

Listen Up

Many couples already understand that listening to each other is critical to building and maintaining a good relationship. On the other hand, too often they equate “listening” with simply remaining quiet while the other person speaks. In their own head they might be thinking, “Oh, I’ve heard all this before.” Maybe they’re busy thinking of the best response before their partner is even done talking. For that matter, their mind might be wandering to plans for a round of golf this weekend. That doesn’t make someone a bad person, but if their partner is genuinely trying to convey something that’s important to them, or to the relationship – it’s a lost opportunity to understand a problem or concern that a partner or spouse really wants to convey. They appear to be listening, but instead they’re analyzing, strategizing, or simply hoping whatever concern or frustration they’re partner is verbalizing will go away.

So what does it mean to really listen?

  • It helps, for starters, to put the shoe on the other foot. When you’re talking about something that’s on your mind, wouldn’t you want to know your partner was truly paying attention to your words, especially if you’re expressing a true need, a meaningful thought or just wanting them to understand you a little better? Some people complain that their partner “never talks to them” and fear they never really know what their partner is thinking. If yours wants to talk, try not to take that for granted.
  • If the reason you find yourself tuning out is because you feel your partner is being self-absorbed and does not reciprocate by showing interest in your needs, share that thought—but do so carefully and respectfully. Try saying things like, “I really want to hear how you’re feeling, but in truth, I’m having a hard time right now too. I want to make sure I have a chance to talk as well.” Strike a deal, as silly as it might sound, that you’ll take equal turns expressing your thoughts.
  • Ask a lot of questions. It not only shows that you’re interested, it helps you understand what the other person is really trying to say. Few of us are born as gifted communicators, and asking questions can help your partner clarify their thoughts while helping you understand better. A common therapy tip is to ask your partner if you’ve heard correctly what they’re trying to communicate: “What I think I hear you saying is…” We’re not all born as gifted listeners, either, and many misconceptions arise out of simply misunderstanding what the other person is saying. When you repeat back what you think you’re hearing, it gives your partner the opportunity to clear up those misconceptions, which can be critical: Maybe you think you’re being falsely accused of something, or that your partner has expectations you’re not meeting. It’s important that you understand exactly what your partner is asking for. Anything less undermines the point of communicating in the first place.
  • Try not to “top the story.” If your partner needs to talk about a hurtful experience at work or wherever it might be, telling them you’ve been in similar situations often helps—but sometimes it doesn’t. Sensitivity is key. There’s a difference between empathy, as in “You know, I felt that way once when…” and dismissal, as in “That happens to everybody (and you should get over it).”

Understand that your partner is experiencing a fresh hurt, frustration or moment of self-doubt. The worst thing you can do is give your partner the impression that his or her problems are “nothing” compared to those of others, including your own.

  • Ask what you can do to help. This might be the most important advice I can give. Don’t make assumptions. Your partner might not want any help at all; some tend to assume that when someone vents about a problem, it means they’re asking for advice, which might not be the case. They just want to share what they’re going through.

On the other hand, if the problem involves the relationship itself, you need to listen and respond with as much clarity as possible. Are they expressing something specific they’d like to change about the relationship? Is this something you’re willing to do? If not, why? What compromises can you reach?

Don’t get me wrong: listening can be hard work, no matter how much we love our partner or spouse. But following these tips can help clarify the discussions and ultimately benefit the relationship in unexpected ways.

If you are experiencing communication problems in your relationship and need help, please give us at a call at  (949) 430-7218 or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the Relationship Center of Orange County are here to help you.

Make Him Smile: Showing Your Husband How Much You Appreciate Him

Let the Relationship Center of Orange County help you keep your healthy relationship on track!First, remember…Men are from Mars!  Seriously, men are wired much differently than women.  Men are willing to give up or modify their plans for women, especially in the “beginning” stages of your relationship or your marriage.  As time goes on, admiration and appreciation of your husband can sometimes fade.  Some may accept this as the norm, but if your husband starts to feel less and less appreciated, it can slowly erode relationship that you once deemed the most important thing in your life. Unacceptable, right? Not to worry, it is never too late (or too soon, for that matter) to show your man how much you love and appreciate him, even if you’re not quite sure how to communicate it to him.

Maybe you find it difficult to express yourself to your husband.  What follows are some small things you can do to make sure your husband knows you appreciate him.  There are hundreds more, but these are sweet, easy to accomplish deeds that will show your husband how very much you appreciate having him in your life.

  1. Say thank you for whatever he does that lightens your load.
  2. Send a sexy text message.
  3. Ask him out on a date, and you plan it out.
  4. Take out the garbage.
  5. Load his MP3 player with his favorite music.
  6. Slip a note into his lunch box.
  7. Write a note on the steamy mirror while he is in the shower.
  8. Accept him for who he is.
  9. Hold his hand.
  10. Rub his back. 

Many times, problems in a marriage come to light after the “honeymoon” stage is over and the realities of life set in.  Additionally, if you have children, a house to take care of, etc., those things can also cause a breakdown in communication with your husband, simply due to your lives become busier as your family grows.  Adapting your lives to care for your children seems to fall into place naturally, but when life revolves around focusing on the children so much of the time, your husband’s need to feel appreciated is put on the back-burner. A caring partner should always make time for their husband as well.  Even if that time is limited to a few hours a week, there should always be time for the two of you to talk about things that are going on in your lives, to spend some time alone together and reconnect.

Another way of showing appreciation to your husband is to accept him for who he truly is – including what he enjoys doing in his spare time, even if his hobbies annoy you.  Most importantly, strive to show your husband appreciation without expecting anything in return.  The most you should expect is a “thank you”.  It is dangerous territory when you enter the “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me” realm.  Living your life in that manner only makes your marriage a tug-of-war, and it is likely to fail.  Instead, start by doing the small things to show your admiration and appreciation, and build up to the larger things.  For example:

  1. Put your husband first.  Give him the last taco at dinner, or offer to get up to get him another beverage when you don’t need to do so for yourself.  That’s easy.  Spending a long weekend away with his family is not so easy.  Try to adapt.
  2. Understand your husband’s feelings.  If you don’t know what he’s feeling or thinking, ask him.
  3. Don’t judge people in his family or circle of friends.  If you don’t like certain people, keep it to yourself.  There is no good that come from your telling your husband of your dislikes.
  4. Try to accommodate your husband’s request.  If he asks you for something, it’s probably important to him.
  5. Express that you care for your husband.  If you aren’t into public displays of affection, that’s okay.  Figure out something else.  Bring him a beer or take the kids somewhere so he can enjoy the football game without interruption.
  6. The absolute best way to show that you value your husband is to say, “Thank you”.  Women do a thousand things every day and never get a thank you; however, for men, it’s necessary.  It’s spikes their ego and they feel more appreciated if you say “Thank you” to every little thing.  Try it!

It’s important that you remember there are things you can do to reconnect with your husband and show him your gratitude without spending a dime.  Many people think romance is buying expensive gifts or going on exclusive vacations.  That could not be farther from the truth.  Sure, it’s great to get away, just the two of you, but let’s face it, getting through all the normal things in life, day by day, and still being in love and enjoying each other is an accomplishment in these busy times.

There are many ways to show your husband how much your respect and appreciate him, even if you only have a few hours a week to be together. As hard as it may be, do not spend your few hours a week talking about the kids, or anything else that is not specifically about the two of you. Try talking about things like when you first met, first fell in love, or any other particularly happy time.  Reminisce about those significant times in your life together.

Think about all the reasons you are blessed to have your husband in your life.  Over time, make a list of these things and share them with your husband.  Make the list specific; in other words, don’t write, “He is helpful”.  Instead, write, “He helps with gathering the laundry.”

Lastly, remember that you chose this wonderful, helpful, decent man to be your husband.  Right?  Your husband obviously has wonderful qualities that drew you to him in the first place.  All marriages hit a few bumps in the road at one time or another.  Rough times are often the result of communication breakdowns, as well as when spouses no longer feel loved, appreciated, or respected. Those rough times can also strengthen the relationship, when properly worked through.

If you are struggling in your marriage and need to talk about your issues and learn how to get things back on track, the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County  can help you.  Call us today 949-220-3211, or book your appointment via our online calendar.

5 Tips for Finding Harmony with Your In-Laws

Let the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you get along better with your in-laws.There is no shortage of theories about why people clash with their in-laws. There are parents who appear to resent giving their precious child over to someone else. There are parents who seem inherently judgmental, unnerving a new spouse who feels they never live up to their standards. I even know a woman who, having lost her own parents at a relatively young age, sometimes feels resentment toward her in-laws’ presence in their lives because she doesn’t have her own family to balance them out.

Sometimes, however, it’s more effective to look beyond the “whys” of these conflicts and look instead at how we can resolve them—or at least get along as civilly as possible.

Here are five simple tips that can help keep the peace:

 

  1. When you anticipate conflict, plan ahead. This doesn’t mean preparing the perfect comeback for your mother-in-law’s annual Thanksgiving criticism of the dressing. Instead, strategize: Maybe you could swallow your pride, call her beforehand and say, “You know, you’ve always had good suggestions about how to make the dressing, and I’d love to try yours if you’re willing to bring it this year.” Chances are, she’ll be delighted—and will lose her ammunition for picking apart your cooking.
  2. Stay out of the fray. If your in-laws are difficult to be around, your spouse most likely has his or her own issues with them. However, if an argument breaks out, try to support your spouse without jumping into the ring yourself. Your partner is likely to cool his or her heels after a while, and you don’t need any ugly comments that you’ve contributed to come back to haunt you—with your spouse or with your in-laws.
  3. Try to ignore the qualities that bother you the most while also acknowledging the better ones. It’s easier said than done, but even though they’re not perfect, try not to lose sight of the bigger picture. When they babysit so you and your husband can go away for the weekend or commit other acts of genuine kindness, always show your appreciation.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Some in-laws seem to always have unsolicited advice that smacks of criticism about everything from how you do the laundry to how you raise their grandchildren. If you have an in-law like this, try and let it roll off your back unless it crosses the line into offensive or outright disrespectful commentary. If you don’t let them get under your skin, their words have no real power.
  5. Set boundaries. Do your in-laws drop in unannounced or plan extended visits to your home without your blessing? If your partner condones it even though it bothers you, you need to stand up for your right to a certain amount of privacy, or it could become a serious problem between not just you and your in-laws, but you and your partner as well.  Agree to limits about visiting rights and stick to them.

The next time your husband’s parents call and say they’ve booked the month of December to spend with you, your husband (who is probably the better one to address the issue with his parents) needs to speak up and say, “We are really looking forward to your visit. However, Lily and I agreed that our schedules just get so crazy that time of year, we’d be a lot more comfortable with a week rather than a whole month.”

The bottom line is, when it comes to conflict with in-laws—whether it is in the open or simmering beneath the surface—all you can control is your own response to it. Use humor to diffuse tension. Come up with alternate reactions, or no reaction at all. Communicate with your spouse about your concerns and most of all, try to keep it in perspective. After all, you’ve chosen to spend your life with your partner – not his or her parents!

Are you desperately seeking harmony with your in-laws, but don’t know where to start? The counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County can help. Call us today at 949-220-3211, or book your appointment using our online calendar. We look forward to connecting with you.

Staying Close When Far From Home

Let the counselors at the Relationship Center of OC help you keep it close when you're far apart.When people hear the phrase “long-distance relationship,” they often think of high school sweethearts who try to stay together after graduation after they go away to different colleges, or couples who meet at some far-flung locale, hit it off famously and try to keep the chemistry going in spite of the miles that separate them.

I’m prepared to say up front that these situations rarely work out, and I could take up a lot of space explaining why (though you could probably guess several of the more obvious reasons). Instead, what I’m thinking of today is something else entirely: established relationships that turn into long-distance relationships, at least temporarily. Maybe one partner relocates for work and moves months ahead of the rest of the family so the kids can finish out the school year. Or one partner travels almost weekly for work and is home primarily on weekends only.

How do you keep the relationship on track in spite of the physical separation?

Keep Parenting on the Same Page

If you have kids, make sure you’re both on the same page about family rules, discipline and other decisions about what’s expected. This creates consistency for both the kids and the adults.

Remember that for the partner who’s frequently away, they probably already hate feeling out of the family loop. If, on top of that, they return from a business trip and find that their partner has stopped enforcing, say, limits on computer time that they’d established together, they’re liable to feel even less relevant as a parent…or they just feel like the bad guy for swooping in and enforcing rules that go unchecked during their absence.

The opposite, of course, is also true. Sometimes the parent who stays at home tries to be diligent about maintaining the status quo during the week, only to have their partner come home to complain that the kids’ rooms are too messy, they’re being too boisterous in the house, or whatever it is. If you find yourself being that parent, remember that your partner has borne the sole responsibility for holding down the fort in your absence. Cut him or her a little slack if they don’t have the kids lined up at attention like the Von Trapps the moment you walk in the door.

Protect Your Connection

Continue to make special time for each other just as you would when you’re physically together. Along with regular phone (or video) calls, send little texts or emails to let your partner know you are thinking of them. I knew a man who wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, which takes about six months from start to finish. He finally did it, with his wife’s blessing, and she loved starting every day with a new picture he’d sent of a breathtaking vista or sunrise.

Focus on the Time You Have Together

Remember that the separation is hard on both of you. For the one at home caring for the kids, pets or just household chores, it’s easy to feel pangs of resentment and jealousy of your partner’s “glamorous” life in hotel rooms with peace, quiet and room service. For the one who’s away from home, though, the loneliness can be excruciating, not to mention the travel hassles of flight delays, getting lost in strange cities, missing home-cooked meals and sleeping in their own bed, next to their love. So when you talk or, better still, have a long weekend together, don’t waste precious time complaining about how hard the separation has been for you, because you’re both making your share of sacrifices. Save that time for enjoying each other’s company and appreciate the time you have together.

After all, one of the silver linings of spending a lot of time apart is that you the value your time together even more. So make the most of it!

Are you and your partner or spouse having a difficult time managing a part-time long-distance situation in your relationship? Talking with a trained counselor can help. Give the caring therapists at the OC Relationship Center a call today, or use our online calendar to schedule your appointment. We’re here to help.

Money Matters: Seeing Eye to Eye in Your Relationship

Money matters too much to handle on your own? Let the trained therapists at OC Relationship Center help.When couples first get married, one of the fundamental changes they face is suddenly sharing their lives in ways they never have before. In an ideal world, these would all be happy changes, but without a doubt, there are also difficult adjustments that come with living a life in which the decisions are no longer yours alone. And the mother of all these is learning to share decisions about money.

You may have different spending habits. When one of you is more of a spender, and the other is more of a saver, this can obviously be a source of stress. You may have different ideas about where the money should go. When you’re used to having all the say as a single person in how you handle money, learning to share, compromise and work together can be a challenge for any couple.

However, there is one fundamental decision you can make today that could make a world of difference in mitigating the problems that money causes in your day-to-day relationship: make a budget (and stick to it).

Now, I realize that’s not as simple as it sounds, because it involves confronting all the challenges I mentioned above about reconciling the differences in your wants, needs and habits (although addressing them is in and of itself a good thing). However, as soon as you make the decision to treat budgeting more as math than a power struggle, to live within your means, and have a plan that brings you more security day-to-day as well as in the long-term, you’re on your way to making your lives a lot less stressful. Here is the beautiful thing: when that happens, it frees up space in your mind and your relationship to work on some more of the fun stuff, like enjoying your time together.

This is equally important for single people, but for couples, money issues that get swept under the rug tend to morph into all kinds of different stresses that undermine your relationship while disguising themselves as problems that simply don’t need to exist. Imagine if your partner’s golf expenses, manicure bills or clothing charges—whatever they may be—became less about accusations of selfishness or carelessness and more about simple money management.

Studies have shown that major catastrophes—even financial ones—take less of a toll than the slow-burning ones that crop up over and over again, and that’s where good budgeting can make a huge difference. People with relatively large incomes and those with more modest ones are equally capable of money mismanagement. To be clear, I am not giving any specific financial advice—I’m not qualified for that and wouldn’t even pretend to be. But, I have learned from experience working with couples, or even just talking about friends, that when they’re struggling to pay an unexpected bill because they don’t have a rainy day fund, or get stuck with late fees because they overspent over the holidays, it causes a lot of stress. And in so many cases it can be avoided if you will make the commitment to plan, stick to your promises and keep open clear lines of communications about financial matters—preferably, before problems arise.

If it helps, take advantage of a neutral third party at your local bank or credit union—or even a good book about money management—as a source of impartial advice to deflate the tensions, accusations and emotions that can get in the way. The important thing to remember is that you are in this together, so use it as a way to strengthen your relationship and feel more secure.

The bottom line is that making a shared commitment to be responsible with your money can bring rewards tenfold—financially and emotionally—because the less time you waste worrying about how to pay the bills means more time and energy you have to enjoy the relationship, and that’s always a good thing.

If you’re struggling with communicating about finances and budgeting in your relationship, a couples counselor can work with you to help you understand each other better. Sometimes it takes the insight of a professional in order to see things differently, communicate and find common ground over such a touchy subject.  Please give the counselors at OC Relationship Center a call today at 949-220-3211, or book your appointment via our online calendar.

Why We Regress to 5 Year-Olds When Under Stress

Is stress driving you to act like a 5-year-old? Let OC Relationship Center help!

Here’s an easy question: The last-or most memorable-time you said something hurtful you came to regret, were you basically feeling calm or were you feeling stressed out?

We all know children act out when they’re tired, hungry or mad that someone is hogging a favorite toy. But many also experience stress far more serious than missing naptime. It could be parents divorcing, a serious illness in the family, bullying at school, or any number of circumstances that threaten a child’s sense of security and feelings of lovability.So often, when we lash out at a spouse, partner or family member, stress is a factor. It may well start with a legitimate grievance, but add into the mix a bad day, a bad headache or other underlying stressors, and suddenly mature adults can regress to five-year-olds-tantrums and all.

When it comes to adults, here’s where stress can get really sneaky: it can take us back to those times when we felt stressed as a child, and we may regress to childlike responses. When your boss is critical of your work, it might remind you of a parent who never seemed to fully accept you. When your own child has trouble at school, it might remind you of similar situations you experienced. It can add up to make you feel vulnerable, lose perspective and regress to a more childlike state.

One result could be that when you go home and find your spouse forgot to pick up the milk at the store, you don’t think, “Oh, well. We can do without for one day.” Instead, you might actually feel that the household is falling apart while suspecting him or her of not caring enough to do what you asked-and lash out as a result.

Of course, your frustration has next to nothing to do with a jug of milk, but in the moment neither you nor your partner realizes that, so a very minor complaint can spiral into a full-blown fight. If it happens repeatedly, it can cause real damage to a relationship.

The healthy response – one worth practicing – is to identify stress as the monster-in-hiding that it is, and when either person in a relationship seems to be overreacting to minor problems or otherwise regressing to five-year-old behavior, both need to back off. If you are the one feeling stressed out, take time to calm down, think about the current sources of stress in your life, put them in perspective and identify actions you can take to mitigate them. Did your boss really reject your proposal, or just offer some constructive criticism? Is a teacher really out to get your kid, or is she simply stricter than last year’s? This will help bring you back to the present and stop the five-year-old tantrum in its tracks.

Understanding, coping with and mitigating stress are among the most important steps you can take to feel better, enjoy your relationships more and improve your overall health and mood. Then you can keep tantrums where they belong – in the nursery.

It can also help to talk with a trained therapist who can help you work through stress you experienced as a child and make you more aware the next time it rears its ugly ahead. This way, you can react more calmly to future adult stressors that are, unfortunately, inevitable.

If you are considering counseling, let the counselors at Orange County Relationship Center help you.  Call us today at 949-220-3211 or book your appointment via our online calendar.