The First Year: Common Newlywed Relationship Issues and How to Avoid Them

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We Said “I Do”, Now Comes the Easy Part… Right?

You’ve spent your entire adult life looking for your Mr. or Ms. Right and you’ve finally met your match. While some might think that the dating process is the most challenging part of it all, you may be in for a surprise during your first year of marriage. Learning to mesh two different lives into a household of unity can be a delicate process, to say the least. Before reality becomes hazy with matrimonial bliss, take a look at these common newlywed mistakes so that you can do your best to avoid them in your own marriage.

Mistake #1: Not Talking About Finances

The leading cause of divorce is finances. Most people typically bring some form of debt into a marriage, whether it be credit card debt or student loans, yet they fail to keep their partner in the loop. When this happens the couple begins to struggle financially which causes unnecessary arguments, stress, and in some cases, the demise of the marriage altogether.

What to do: Ideally, this should be discussed before you tie the knot. But, if you haven’t already, you need to sit down with your spouse and go over all finances immediately after your honeymoon. This means talking about both of your credit histories, old debts, and any current debts that you both might have. Bill collectors now see you as a unit and so your debts have ultimately become your partner’s debts. Just as you would not want to be blindsided with a $1,000 credit card bill in the mail, your partner does not want that surprise either. Sit down, discuss your financial status and then come up with a plan to get (or keep) you both on the right path for your future.

Mistake #2: Obsessing Over Baby

The next mistake that many newlyweds make is obsessing over what they believe is the next step in their relationship – a baby. Couples may get nagged by friends and parents, or overly-focused on it themselves, which creates a very stressful “deadline” to uphold.

What to do: Kindly let everyone know that you’re just enjoying each other and being married. When the time is right for children, it will happen. Most newlyweds don’t realize what a challenge the first year can be and sometimes throwing a baby into the mix too soon can really complicate things. When sex becomes a chore it’s no longer fun, so just enjoy each other and let the rest happen in its own timing.

Mistake #3: Alienating Friends

You’re in love, you have finally found your soul mate, and all you want to do is be in their presence as much as possible. This is all very normal for newlyweds to feel. They spend so much time with each other that their friends and family members are put on the back burner.

What to do: Friends and family should be an integral part of your everyday life. It is unhealthy to seclude the rest of the world and only be with each other. In the beginning you will spend more time with your spouse; however, as time goes on, find ways to incorporate your family and friends in your married life. Invite them for dinner, go out with your friends and other couples, and continue interacting as you did before you were married. You were both complete persons before marriage, you should maintain your individual friendships as you move down life’s path with your spouse.

Mistake #4: Getting Too Comfortable

As time goes on, newlyweds begin to get “comfortable” with their spouse and their new relationship together. They might not do the things they did when they were courting. Daily life becomes routine, care toward wardrobes and physical appearance falls by the wayside, and things can get a bit boring. After all, you’ve got your soul mate…. So they should love you no matter what you look like right?

What to do: Yes in a marriage things will become pretty routine as your married life routine becomes established, but you should never stop incorporating new and exciting things into the marriage. If you went out on dates a lot or you dressed especially nice for your partner when you were courting, these are things you should continue to do in order to keep the marriage alive. Allowing the relationship to go stale creates boredom, envy and in some cases can lead to infidelity. So even if you can’t do it as much as you used to, don’t get too comfortable.

As stated before the first year of your marriage is likely the most challenging (though some will disagree). As time goes by, the blissfully “in love” feelings fade and you’re left with reality. Learning to live with and cope with another individual on a day to day basis takes time, practice, and cooperation on both sides. A lot of mistakes will be made along the way, but it is how you recover and learn from those mistakes that will make all the difference. Hopefully these few tidbits of advice will keep your marriage happy and satisfying, and allow you and your spouse to grow closer together.

Working with a trained relationship counselor is a healthy way to work through the first-year bumps, as well as learn relationship skills that can help keep your marriage healthy for the long-haul. Your marriage is your most important investment. We’d like to help you keep it that way. If you are considering couples counseling, let the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you.  Call us today at 949-220-3211 or book your appointment via our online calendar.


When You Don’t Care for the Parenting of Your Grandchildren

Should You Step In or Stay Out?

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Maybe you live near your children and their families, and you are privileged to see your grandchildren on a regular basis.  Maybe you live far away and only see your children and their families a few times a year.  Either way, it is unsettling when you see things with your own eyes, or hear things from your grandchildren, that lead you to question the parenting skills used in your grandchildren’s upbringing.  Should you talk with your child and his or her spouse, or should you do whatever it takes not to interfere?  Well, it really depends on what the issues are that are causing your concern.  Of course, if you have reason to believe there is mental, physical, or even sexual abuse present in your grandchild’s life, you should never waiver in notifying the proper authorities.  This may cause discontent in your family; but you may just be saving a child’s life.

As one example, let’s say that you are spending two weeks at your child’s house so you can spend quality time with your child and his or her family.  It’s dinner time, the food is prepared, the table is set, and everyone is present to enjoy the meal together.  Your grandchild looks at the food provided and pushes the plate away, refusing to eat what was served.  Then your grandchild looks at the Jell-O that was served to him or her in a small bowl, and because it was orange-flavored Jell-O instead of cherry-flavored Jell-O, your grandchild throws a second fit.  How you would have handled this outburst when you were raising your children is very different from how your child handled it.  You probably would have said something like, “This is what’s for dinner.  You can choose to eat it or leave it, but there is nothing else being served.”  In total contrast, in response to your grandchild’s outburst, your child allows his or her screaming child to choose from something different for dinner and offers several choice, from cereal, fruit, pasta, yogurt, or pizza.  You are probably outraged at your child’s willingness to give in to your grandchild rather than making him or her eat what was prepared.  Should you voice your opinion?

As another example, during a visit with your child and his or her family, it is close to 7:15 p.m., on a school night, and your 7-year-old grandchild was told that in 15 minutes it will be bath time, story time, and bedtime.  Your grandchild seemed agreeable.  When 15 minutes passed and it was 7:30 p.m., your grandchild was told to turn off the television and get ready for bath time.  The child begs to stay up another half hour in order to watch “just one more show” on TV.  When your grandchild was told, “No”, the whining and crying began.  Again, when you were raising your children, you would’ve turned off the television and escorted your child to the bathroom and followed through with what you told your child.  Your child, however, approaches the child, hugs him or her, and says, “Come on now, Honey.  You know it’s bath time.”  The child says, “But Mommy…  But Daddy…”  And on and on it goes from there.  A half an hour later, the child is in the bathtub and rather than putting the child straight to bed, the child still is rewarded with story time.  In your eyes, your grandchild won and the adult in the situation showed weakness.  Should you voice your opinion?

“Should I Say Something?”

In both of these examples, you should bite your tongue.  You raised your children; now it is time for your children to raise theirs.  As much as you want to rant and rave, there will be no positive outcome as the result of you voicing your opinion.  What you need to realize, as a grandparent, is that your child and your son-in-law or daughter-in-law have no interest in hearing your unsolicited advice, opinions, stories, or life lessons from your own experiences in raising children.  Think about how your own parent may have offered “free” advice following the birth of your first child.  Think about whether or not you liked it.  Imagine these people are not your relatives; suppose a friend was telling you about this type of behavior in his or her family.  What advice would you give to your friend?  It’s always better to step back a little and think things through before voicing your concerns or offering advice whenever it comes to parenthood.

Discipline should be issued by your grandchild’s parents; not by you, and you should follow their lead whenever possible.  That doesn’t mean the kids should come to your house and drink out of the milk carton, throw food, or jump on your furniture.  When they are at your house, they need to follow your rules.

No matter what your opinion is regarding the parenting of your grandchildren, unless there are issues that specifically affect your grandchild’s physical or emotional well-being, it is better to be careful what you say in order to maintain a decent relationship with your child and your child’s family.  Your role is to support your child’s family, not intervene in their decisions.

A Few Other Points To Remember

Never criticize your child’s parenting skills, especially in front of the child.  Follow their rules as often as possible.  Try focusing on the good things you see your grandchild’s parents doing, such as being firm but fair.  Commend them on things that are working well or when you see a happy family unit in their homes.

If you feel that your grandchild is suffering from questionable parenting, or if you just need to get some things off your chest, contact the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County.  Our team of trained professionals are here to help you get through the rough times in your life.  Call today at 949-220-3211 to schedule an appointment, or make your appointment using our online tool.  Maybe talking with someone who isn’t attached to the family will help you to see things in a different light.

Happy Wife, Happy Life: How to Show Appreciation for Your Wife

couple breakfast bed apprHappy wife, happy life!” It is an old saying but it is true (and it goes both ways, by the way). Appreciation goes hand in hand with admiration, respect, and esteem.  All of these things are adjectives that describe how you probably felt about your wife before she was your wife; when you were trying to catch her eye, while you were dating, and when your relationship moved to “exclusive” status.  Most likely, she felt the same way about you, so you did it … you proposed!

You got engaged, you got married, and life was good.  Life was good.  So what happened?  What changed to make things more difficult than during those “good” days?  It’s called getting comfortable.  For whatever reason, at some point in time, you stopped leaving notes on the bathroom mirror, putting cards in her luggage when she was going out of town, buying flowers for Valentine’s Day or her birthday, and every other little thing that you used to do to make her smile, feel appreciated, and know that you love her.

If your wife is not feeling appreciated or loved, you are paddling into dangerous waters.  It is a fact that random acts of kindness towards your wife are crucial to marital satisfaction.  If you’re feeling less connected in your relationship, it may be time to take a step back and commit to showing appreciation to your wife.  Here are a few small things that you can do to make sure your wife knows you appreciate and admire her.  There are hundreds more, but these are little gestures that can easily show your wife how much you love and appreciate her.

  1. Make her morning coffee.
  2. Warm her car up in the winter.
  3. Hold her hand or make other gestures of affection, especially when she’s least expecting it.
  4. Speak highly of her to others.
  5. Open the car door for her.
  6. Cook for her, or pick up take-out so she’s off the hook for the night.
  7. Show her you’re a team by cleaning up the kitchen after a meal or help her do the dishes.
  8. Communicate; be interested in her topics of conversation. Ask how her day went.
  9. Give her a night out with the girls while you take care of the kids.
  10. Notice what she has accomplished and say thank you.

Many people like to hear, “I love you”, while others feel those words are just words.  It’s always nice to hear, “I love you”, but it is even nicer for you to show your wife how much you love her. Actions speak louder than words to show your support and your overall fondness of her.  Multiple studies show that the happiest marriages are made up of partners who regularly show compassion and appreciation to each other.

When random acts of kindness disappear and you no longer show your spouse that you care for her, it is an indication your marriage needs help.  On the contrary, when you are compassionate and your wife knows, without a doubt, how much you care, your own happiness increases as well.

As part of a study done in the 1990s, more men reported putting their wives’ wishes before their own.  For example, men were more likely to modify their plans for their wives’ sake, especially as newlyweds.  Additionally, men are often more comfortable showing their love by their actions, and not by their words.  So, why did you stop showing appreciation for your wife?  Most likely, life did it to you. Maybe you’ve been married for several years, you now have children, you have a house to take care of, etc.  There are many reasons why people feel comfortable in their marriages and go through each day in a routine, forgetting how to keep things alive.

Maybe you think that by now, your wife should know how much you love her.  Maybe you feel showing compassion, as far as leaving notes and doing little things to show your appreciation, are for younger couples and those who are just falling in love. Or maybe, you are lucky enough to be on the receiving end of random acts of kindness, and you never give it a thought that you should be doing the same for your wife. Don’t take your wife for granted. Rough times are often the result of communication breakdowns, as well as when spouses no longer feel loved, appreciated, or respected. Those little acts of kindness can be the glue that keeps your relationship together.

All marriages go through hard times at one time or another. 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 Orange County Relationship Center can help you.  Call us today at 949-220-3211 or book your appointment via our online calendar.

Talk it Out … Getting the Timing Right

Man and woman relaxing together.

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 and your partner are having problems communicating effectively, 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.

Handling Anger When You’re in the Red

Let the counselors at OC RElationship Center help you get your anger under control.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ~ Mark Twain

Do you ever feel so angry your face gets hot, your heart starts to pound, and you begin to grit your teeth?  Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion, but it’s imperative to deal with anger in a positive way.  Uncontrollable anger can lead to destruction, as well as to problems with your health and your relationships.  It can lead to ulcers and heart disease and can ruin friendships and relationships in no time flat.  Take a step back and feel the anger before you act on it.  Here’s how to control your anger before it controls you.

  1. Acknowledge It – Admit that you’re angry, either to yourself or as calmly as possible to the person you’re angry with.  Doing this can feel very validating and can put you on the right track to resolving your issues.
  2. Take Time Out – Count to 10 and take deep breaths before reacting to a stressful situation.  This can help calm your nerves and lessen your anger.  If at all possible, remove yourself from the area in order to take a break from either the person or the situation.
  3. Go Mental, Think Blue – If you cannot remove yourself from the area, look around and count the blue things in the room.  When you get angry, all of your energy is focused on being right and justified.  This is an emotional place that can ruin your connection with others.  It is a better idea to try to pull away from the emotions a bit so you can actually explain your feelings to the person with whom you are angry.  How do you do that?  Play a mental game.  Count the blue things in the room where you are.  This engages the thinking part of your brain and helps defuse the emotion. (Still angry? Count the red things.)
  4. Think First – Think before you speak.  This should be a motto in everybody’s life, “Once you say it, you can’t take it back.”  Collect your thoughts before you say one word.  Allow others in the situation to do the same.
  5. Seek Perspective – If possible, think of all the things you are grateful for in your life, and all the positive things going on in your world.  Doing this can really make you wonder if your anger is even worth it.  Try to remember you will not always feel like this.  When you are angry, you can quickly feel despair and a sense of hopelessness.  If you can remind yourself that this feeling is transitory, you might find that you feel more hopeful.  This hopefulness can lead you to communicate more easily, making it more likely for you to get what you really want – connection and acceptance.
  6. Don’t Hold Grudges – If you allow anger to overshadow positive feelings, you may find yourself in a position of bitterness.  Forgiveness is divine.  If you can forgive the person who angered you, you are on the right path.
  7. Find Your Rock – Discuss the problem with someone you trust, whether that’s your spouse, your parent(s), another family member, a friend, or your counselor.  Ask them to allow you to vent to get the situation out of your system.  Tell them you are not asking for advice, you just need to get it off your chest.
  8. Lose Your Lizard Brain – Understand that when you are angry, you are in “fight or flight” mode.  Brain science tells us that when we are angry, the primitive part of our brain (think: lizard or crocodile) is in charge.  The blood and oxygen normally involved in the thinking process leave the brain and go to the main muscle groups. This is so you can decide to flee or to fight.  That said, the more developed, “thinking” part of the brain is not flushed with blood and oxygen.  This means that communicating clearly and understanding relationship intricacies is not possible.  Knowing this bit of brain science can help you decide to “get your point across” later when you are not in your lizard brain and better prepared to communicate.

Knowing when to get help to learn to control your anger is challenging.  If your anger seems to make you out of control, causes you regret, and hurts those you work with or especially those you love, it’s time to seek help.  With professional help, you will learn what anger is, what triggers your anger, the signs that you are becoming out of control with your anger, how to respond to your anger in a healthy way, and if there are underlying feelings present, such as loneliness, sadness, or depression.

If you’re having a difficult time handling your anger, anger management can be accomplished by attending counseling.  The sessions can be attended by just you, you and your spouse, you and your family, or in a group setting.  If you’re ready to get your anger under control, 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.