Tag Archives: marriage

The Use of Home Work in Couples Counseling

By: James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC
Senior Staff Therapist
The Family Institute at Northwestern University

Homework for couples

As a cognitive behavioral therapist, I assign homework between sessions to the couples I counsel. Homework will not solve conflict, communication or resentment issues. Those issues need to be addressed in session. Home work will, however, help and typically addresses the following:

Civility and Respect
This one is a must. Civility and respect is the foundation of your relationship. When a couple loses civility and respect, their relationship is in serious trouble. They feel distant and as a result intimacy suffers. There is never a good reason to scream, swear, name call, or act out. If you have gotten into these habits you may need professional help to get it under control. It will take some time; it is a process – but if you work at it and strive for consistency you can regain civility and respect. As in any process, owning your errors is important. Don’t hesitate to acknowledge it if you say something that is not civil or respectful. Say, “I am sorry I should not have said that.” and mean it. All couples need rules of engagement for conflict. You can never allow yourself to lose control. It is the foundation of your relationship. You can’t build a house without a good foundation. Couples can’t permit yelling, screaming, swearing and name calling to undermine their relationship.

Call Time Out
When conflict becomes too intense and one or both of you are in danger of losing civility and respect, call a time out. The words time out will become a signal for both of you to settle down. Never follow your spouse when they are trying to retreat from the conflict. Standing outside the bathroom door and continuing the discussion is out of bounds. If you decide to go for a walk or to a movie, say so your spouse knows when you are coming back. It is cruel to just walk out without regard for the others feelings. The rule of time out is you must get back to the discussion within 24 hours. Far too often couples will just let the issue go unresolved, swept under the rug. This creates resentment and distance. Hopefully, after a day to reflect, you will be able to discuss the issue calmly. If not, hold the issue for the next therapy session.

Reduce Alcohol/Drug Use
Many fights occur when too much alcohol has been consumed. Alcohol reduces inhibitions making it easier to allow yourself to lose control. If you are drinking daily, you may have a problem. Denial is a huge part of alcoholism. I typically say, Can you stop drinking for a week or two month (for binge alcoholics). If you make excuses and refuse the challenge, you have an alcohol problem. There is no good reason one should be drinking on a daily basis

Date Night
A night out alone is a common suggestion among both therapists and self-help books. As I have said, couples lose their way because of all that life throws at them. Don’t forget to nurture the relationship by spending time together alone. This does not have to be a big money issue. Many people with financial stress will simply go out for coffee or ice cream. I find it a statement of the current economic times and somewhat sad that couples will go out after therapy because they can’t afford a babysitter twice in one week.

Meet and Greet
Meet and Greet is another way to address the lack of affection that many spouses feel. Touch is very important. This is not sexual touching. This is simply affection. Offer a hug and kiss when you leave and when you return. The responsibility is on both of you to find one another and do this when one of you walks in the door or leaves for work. Reaching out and holding hands when walking or just watching TV is also a way to address lack of affection.

Parent as a Team
Children learn quickly who to go to get what they want. Sometimes tension between parents is picked up on by the children and they will take sides. As I say, “the walls have ears.” Even when you don’t think they hear your arguments more than likely they do. I have had children tell me, “I listen to their arguments through the heating vent in my room.” A daughter will often side with mom. The result is when dad tells the daughter to get ready for bed, she ignores him. He gets upset and mom steps in often creating even more conflict between mom and dad. Mom needs to back dad and of course vice versa. “Do what your father says”. When mom is angry at dad anyway due to unresolved marital issues, mom unconsciously gets satisfaction from the child’s disrespect toward dad. This will continue for a while until marital issues are addressed and parents recognize how they undermine the others authority and the child sees that they are consistently parenting as a team . Parents need to support one another in family meetings to address disrespect to the other parent. This is a common issue addressed under family meetings below.

“I feel” Statements
Inability to express feeling is a major issue in many relationships. One of the hardest things for many men to do is to get in touch with feelings. I find that many men have difficulty expressing their feelings at all let alone civilly and respectfully. Yet, lack of expression of feelings is a major cause of marital discontent. Opening up is critical for a good relationship. In addition, expressing feelings out loud appropriately helps dissipate negative feelings. Women, especially it seems, need to know what their man is feeling in order to feel connected and consequently warm and fuzzy in the bedroom. Men are more R rated; they don’t like to talk. Women say about 6,000 words per day; men only 2,000. I believe that good communication is romance and that communication is needed for marital success. For most women and many men, it is that expression which makes a couple feel connected. I encourage “I feel” statements….”because.” It may at times still be a confrontational statement but much less so than when you begin statements with “you always“. First of all, never say never and always. When you have something difficult to say be nose to nose with your arms around the person. Say, “I feel” and it will more likely be perceived less defensively then things are said from across the room or behind a closed door.

No History Lessons and no skidding off current issues
Stay on the present issue. Many couples allow their conflicts to skid into the past. When this happens there is rarely a resolution to the current issue. This can create hostility and resentment. When you find yourself fighting about where you squeeze the toothpaste tube (he squeezes in the middle you squeeze on the end) obviously you are not addressing the real issues.

Not in the Chicago Area! Now I can work via face time with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance.  Check with your BCBS representative for more information.

For those in the metropolitan Chicago area, I have offices in Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, and near 22nd St and Wolf Road in Westchester. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://manageyourmood.net
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com
http://takenotelessons.com  Effective on line, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, test preparation, via face time or skype and much more!

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

How to conduct family meetings to improve your relationship.

Conduct family meetings to manage child behavior too!
Once upon a time, families ate dinner together. There was no eating in front of the TV; no texting or answering the phone and no internet. This was a time when families discussed what was going on in the household i.e. news, upcoming events, behavior issues and general discussions. Dinner used to be the natural time for families to discuss their lives, upcoming events and issues of importance.

Today, I find that families rarely eat together, missing the opportunity for family discussion. Child activities including little league, football, soccer, music lessons, dance lessons, and all kinds of after school activities have come to interfere in this essential family event. Families have become ships in the night passing one another as they head out the door. The idea of after school activity is potentially a good one: keep the kids busy and you will keep them out of trouble. However, what has been lost is the sense of family and the opportunity for good communication.

When I was a child, dinner time was always between 5 and 5:30pm. I had a lot of freedom but I also knew what was expected of me. In this case, it was “be home by 5pm” for dinner.

We would hear stories, news and discuss family issues. Today parents have become dependent on dual incomes in order to maintain the lifestyle they want to give their family. Now that the world economy has become more difficult and we have high unemployment and home foreclosures are rampant, parents are working two jobs just to make ends meet. They work late or have different schedules and their relationship suffers. They too, are ships passing in the night. Many couples today report they feel disconnected, their communication has suffered and, in turn, so has the level of intimacy they share. This will ultimately lead to bickering, conflict, infidelity and possibly divorce. How sad that an important family event has disappeared without realizing the major negative impact on the family. Even when couples do realize the problem, there is little that can be done since they are trying to stay afloat financially.

One way to reclaim some of that lost family communication time are family meetings, though some of my clients prefer to call them team meetings. I encourage families to gather at least once per week to discuss four areas. Ideally, this should be done at the same day and time each week.

There should also be a pre-family meeting with just mom and dad!

There should also be a pre-family meeting for mom and dad to discuss their issues, in-laws, finances, (make your own agenda) and get on the same page for the meeting with the kids to ensure you are parenting as a team.  Take this opportunity to plan a date night! Try to be consistent.

The general topics to discuss are News, Compliments, Issues and Feedback. Here are some examples:
1. News: This is a chance to keep everyone up to date of all the family events coming up. The more informed everyone is, the more opportunities to share the scheduled load and the less stress for last minute- must do projects. “We are going to grandma’s house next weekend or Joey has a science project due and he will need craft paper”

2. Compliments: Search for things your child is doing well, no matter how small and acknowledge it. It will increase their sense of confidence and self-esteem. Show that you are excited and proud of them. “You did a nice job getting ready for school on time.”

3. Issues: We live in an increasingly complex world that challenges us every day with a wide range of disturbing issues. By initiating conversations with your children, you will create an open environment and be able to address the tougher topics i.e. homework, curfew issues, chaotic morning or bedtime routine, alcohol and drug abuse. Hopefully, next week you will have compliments from improvement in this weeks issues.

Tip: don’t tackle too many issues at once.

4. Feedback: Listen to your children and allow them the chance to express their concerns, complaints and express their feelings. You will learn more about your child if you open your ears and close your mouth.

I have found that both parents and children love this opportunity. The only concern is that as much as everyone in the house likes this, parents themselves have a difficult time being consistent. They often report that they were consistent initially but the process hasn’t been repeated in weeks. Be consistent! Family meetings are just one way to address the potentially poor communication within the family.

Not in the Chicago Area! Now I can work via face time with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative.

For those in the metropolitan Chicago area, I have offices in Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, and near 22nd St and Wolf Road in Westchester. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://jamesdelgenio.com
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com
http://takenotelessons.com   Effective on line, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, standardized test preparation, via face time or skype.

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

Don’t let a lack of civility and respect destroy your relationship!

James E. DelGenio LCPC           

No relationship will last if there is a lack of civility and respect. 

All couples need rules of engagement for conflict. When a couple loses civility and respect their relationship is in serious trouble. They feel distant, disconnected and as a result, bickering occurs.

Case Scenario – Tony and Julie
Tony and Julie have been married almost two years. Tony is thirty-two; Julie is thirty. They have one child who is one and a half years old. Tony’s parents divorced when he was 6 and Julie’s parents are still married but have never had a good relationship. Tony and Julie dated for almost three years before marriage but they never learned how to resolve conflict. Both are determined to win the argument. When this happens, no one wins. The baby has not helped the situation because he has colic. The resentment is building because of unresolved issues which are now affecting their level of intimacy. Arguments turn into history lessons in which the conflict is never resolved and never focuses on the issues at hand. They recognize their marriage is in trouble. Tony and Julie want to find their joy again and address issues before they end up divorced.

After getting the necessary preliminary information, I acknowledge the stress that they are experiencing and try to reestablish civility and respect when in conflict. No couple can withstand loss of respect. I point out that it will take some time to change their communication habits. When one or the other fails at respect, I encourage them to immediately say “I’m sorry; I should not have said that” as a step in the right direction of not having lost respect in the first place. Time out is the signal that this conflict is going nowhere but the rule of time out is that you have to get back to the issue within twenty-four hours. Hopefully, with a day to reflect on the discussion, it will be more productive. If that fails then they are instructed to save the discussion for our next appointment. I also look at how long it has been since the baby was born that they have had a night out together. In most instances, they have had no time out together because they have no baby sitter that they trust. I encourage taking the time to find a babysitter; bring in the sitter and let them get to know one another under the parents supervision. Their goals also include a date night at least twice a month if possible. It may take three or four sessions to begin to see some changes but more often than not they will start to see better communication and less conflict.

Poor Communication
Many marital problems are rooted in poor communication. As seen above, effective communication between partners can be learned and developed.

When communication is poor and feelings go unsaid or unaddressed, the couple feels disconnected. Over time, this leaves them feeling distant, even resentful. Resentment creates a further distance which in turn creates a lack of civility and respect and a lack of intimacy.

Good communication is often oversimplified as just being romantic. It is not. Good communication involves the sharing of ideas and feelings. Good communication is made possible by means of trust, confidence, and mutual understanding.

Try to convey to your spouse the importance of expressing their feelings, even though they may think it’s silly. Explain how important it is to you and how it makes you feel. Explain to them how never knowing how they feel about this or that, confuses you and makes it more difficult for you to feel connected.

I encourage both men and women to use “I feel” statements. This allows the couple to say things that have in the past created conflict when sentences are started with: “You always” or “You never”. Never say never or always. This is known as skidding into other issues or a history lesson into the past and therefore a minor conflict is never resolved and may even be magnified.

Not in the Chicago Area!
Now I can work via secure zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative for more information.

For those in the metropolitan Chicago area, I have offices in near Wolf Road in Westchester. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://jamesdelgenio/com
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com
http://takenotelessons.com    Effective on line, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, standardized test preparation, via face time or skype and much more.

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.

How to nurture your relationship?

James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC

Nurture your relationship if you want to make it last.

It is a hectic world we live in. Everything seems to take precedence over our relationships. Health issues, kids’ activities, work issues all take precedence. The next thing you know when you look back is that you haven’t had time for just the two of you in months!

All-in-all life just gets in the way so it’s easy to lose your connection to your significant other. The way to deal with this is to plan your quality time. Trade who gets to pick what you will do.

Gentlemen, don’t let her do all the planning; it takes the joy away for her. When you do get out that is not the time to talk about the kids or your issues with one another. It’s time to be a couple and have fun together.  I recommend that you each pick 3 date night activities and you should rotate so you have at least two date nights per month.  You each get one veto in terms of your spouses selection.  In other words, if my wife chooses the Lyric opera, I would definitely veto that one.  When you are done with all 6, just start over. Date night twice per month will keep your relationship strong.

Some couples even plan for intimacy which I have also seen work. The goal here is to reconnect but if it’s going to happen planning will be necessary. Put it on the calendar and have fun. It’s good to have fun. Have fun together! I’ll bet your level intimacy will improve also.

Zoom! Now I can work via Zoom with anyone, anywhere in the country and it may still be covered by BCBS Insurance. Check with your BCBS representative for more information.

For those in the metropolitan Chicago area, I have offices in Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, and near 22nd St and Wolf Road in Westchester. Call James E. DelGenio MS, LCPC, Senior Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 847-733-4300 Ext 638.

http://manageyourmood.net
http://family-institute.org
http://psychologytoday.com
http://takenotelessons.com   Highly effective on line, one on one, SAT, ACT, GRE, standardized test preparation, via face time or skype.

Disclaimer: This material is meant to be used in conjunction with psychiatric treatment, medication, if necessary, and supportive therapy. Always share this material and your questions about this material with your doctor and therapist.