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Embracing Pluralism: The Future of Relationships

Flying hearts from cupped hands of young woman, Valentine's Day, Happy Valentines day, love concept, isolated on white backgroundWith marriage rates on the decline in the U.S. and abroad, what does the future of romantic relationship look like? Rather than predicting the death of marriage, Jacob Goldsmith, PhD, at a recent TEDxRushU event, explains the rise of pluralism, the idea that there is more than one right way of doing relationships. Considering the history of relationships as well as present trends, pluralism is a way to reduce stigma and increasing personal responsibility in defining the kind of relationship that works best for each person.

Learn more by watching “Embracing Pluralism: The Future of Relationships.”

Dr. Jacob Goldsmith is a staff therapist and the associate clinical director of the Epstein Center for the Study of Psychotherapy Change at The Family Institute. He provides individual, couple, and family therapy to adults and adolescents. He has particular passion for working with young adults with a broad range of issues including transition to adulthood, identity development, sexual identity, relationships, and recovery from trauma. He also works with families with adolescent and adult children, specializing in issues of transition to college, transition to adulthood, and substance abuse. In addition, he has an interest in therapy with couples, including working with young couples to develop the foundations of a strong relationship.

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Learn more about our services on our website.

Stop the Fighting! 3 Red Flags to Save Your Marriage: Part III

Couple Having ArgumentIn the final installment of “Stop the Fighting,” Staff Clinician Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, discusses a third “red flag” fight that couples have — feeling as if they have dramatically different points of view.

Red Flag #3: “We don’t live in the same reality.”

When a couple recounts a fight in a therapy session, the therapist sometimes wonders whether the partners were even in the same room when the fight happened because their stories are so different. This can be a reflection of a deeper problem which is a lack of willingness or ability to work collaboratively to create a story of the relationship that honors multiple realities and differences in perspective. If this continues, it can feel demoralizing and lonely. When there is untreated addiction, untreated mental health problems like anxiety or depression, or relational abuse of any kind (emotional, physical, and/or sexual), spouses are particularly at risk of feeling like they live in two different realities.

TIPS:

  • Commit to living and loving with humility. Your reality is ALWAYS shaped by your perspective and is ALWAYS limited.
  • Lean in to your spouse’s view of the problem and actively look for pieces of his/her story that you can buy into and empathize with. In other words, work with your spouse to create a shared couple story of the problem.
  • Try to look at the fight from the perspective of a neutral third party. This is why couples therapy can be so helpful. The couples therapist has the advantage of being able to look at the dance between partners rather than being stuck in one partner’s story or the other and he or she can help the spouses begin to hold this “third story” view as well.

Each of these “red flag” fights — “You don’t have my back”; “I don’t believe in us”; and “We don’t live in the same reality” — can be worked out. If you see these red flags in your relationship, be sure to talk to your partner and work on the tips. Do not be afraid to reach out to a couples therapist to work through a bump in your relationship road.

 

Dr. Alexandra H. Solomon is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. Read more about Dr. Solomon on our website.

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. We have a team of clinicians dedicated to helping couples strengthen their relationship. To learn more about our therapy and mental health services, please visit our website.

Stop the Fighting! 3 Red Flags to Save Your Marriage: Part II

couples_feet_facing_opposite_way_in_bedIn our last blog, Staff Clinician Alexandra Solomon, PhD, discussed the first “red flag” fight that many couples have — not being there as a support for their spouse. Today she explains the second — when one partner separates themselves from the relationship.

Red Flag #2: “I don’t believe in us.”

The first step to a whole host of marital problems is disengagement. When spouses become emotionally and physically disengaged, they can start to question their love for each other, wondering, “What are we all about?” In a happy marriage, couples create and work toward individual and relational goals, dreams, aspirations and hopes. Here are some tips for preventing disengagement or for finding your way back to a place of closeness and collaboration.

TIPS:

  • Create a couple manifesto or mission statement. Update it regularly.
  • Create short, medium and long-term goals for each individual and for the marriage.
  • Create couple rituals (daily affirmations, weekly movie night, monthly dance class, annual vacation)

It’s important to notice that you and your partner are arguing about disengagement, and talk to each other about it. Remember that help is available. Couples therapy can bring you back together, and help to work through the things that may be separating you.

The next installment of “Stop the Fighting” will cover another “red flag” fight couples have — not living in the same reality.

 

Dr. Alexandra H. Solomon is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. Read more about Dr. Solomon on our website.

 

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. We have a team of clinicians dedicated to helping couples strengthen their relationship. To learn more about our therapy and mental health services, please visit our website

Stop the Fighting! 3 Red Flags to Save Your Marriage: Part I

Couple holding handsAll couples fight. You probably know that, but did you know that there are three “red flag” topics that tend to frequently be the focus of those fights?

With the start of the New Year, it’s a great time to look at your relationship and make it a priority.

In today’s blog, part one of three, Staff Clinician Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, discusses what can happen when a spouse doesn’t seem to have their partner’s back.

Red Flag #1: “You don’t have my back.”

Trust is a key ingredient in a healthy marriage. It allows you to believe that your spouse has your best interests at heart. Trust acts as an emotional and energetic shortcut. It is the difference between:

  • “I take you at your word.”

AND

  • “I listen to your words, seek data that confirms or denies that, run it through my own internal sensors etc. …,” which is exhausting.

Untrustworthy behavior (including around money and sexual fidelity) creates a sense of “you don’t have my back.” It is very difficult to stay in a marriage when there has been a breakdown in trust. But trust can be rebuilt, usually with the help of couples therapy.

TIPS:

  • Maintain trust by valuing direct communication (say what you mean and mean what you say), practicing emotion regulation (“It’s hard to be honest with you because you freak out when I am”), and asking the question “What does the marriage need?” (Which may be different from “What do I need?” or “What do you need?”).
  • Two ingredients are key for rebuilding trust:
    • Time. Trust builds slowly with time and with repeated opportunities to behave in a trustworthy fashion.
    • Accountability. The one who has behaved in an untrustworthy fashion must be willing to apologize and make different choices going forward.

If you find that trust is lacking in your relationship, talk to your partner. A couples therapist can help guide you on a path back to trust and work with you to get through the hurdles blocking that trust.

The next installment of “Stop the Fighting” will discuss disengagement, where one spouse separates him/herself from the relationship either emotionally or physically.

 

Dr. Alexandra H. Solomon is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. Read more about Dr. Solomon on our website.

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. We have a team of clinicians dedicated to helping couples strengthen their relationship. To learn more about our therapy and mental health services, please visit our website.

JULY COUPLE TIP OF THE MONTH

Couple with communication issuesThe Family Institute’s July Couple Tip of the Month discusses the third ear we each have, which hears the mood and emotion of our spouse.

From this month’s tip:

We all have a Third Ear, but we don’t always use it. The Third Ear hears beyond the surface words to a spouse’s underlying mood or emotions. With our Third Ear we’re like an audience listening while staying in our seats, never climbing onto the stage to join the drama. While hearing something potentially button-pushing, the Third Ear’s signal reminds us to refrain from taking the bait … and to aim for Being Smart instead of Being Right (read Right Versus Smart).

Read the entire Tip of the Month and learn how to control emotional reactivity.

For additional Tips and to sign up for our Tip of the month, visit our Tips webpage.

The Family Institute offers affordable counseling for families, couples and individuals. Learn more about our services on our website.

To get support at The Family Institute, visit our Find a Therapist page.

How to Treat Your Marriage Like You Treat Your Health

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RelationshipWe go to the doctor when we have severe pains, fevers or other physical symptoms. We take vitamins, have routine checkups, exercise and adapt our diets to prevent physical illnesses. As we commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month at The Family Institute, we’re talking to our expert clinicians about the connections between physical and mental health, as well as what can be done to prevent more serious mental illnesses.

Today’s insights relate specifically to couples, and come from Jaime Henry-Juravic, LMFT, a staff therapist at The Family Institute’s couples services. We asked Jaime a couple of questions about how we can tend to our relationships the way we tend to our physical health.

 


 

What are some symptoms that might clue an individual or couple in that she should seek mental health treatment to help with marriage issues?

  • Feelings of disconnection from the other that are not remedied by spending quality time together or participating in activities that once cultivated a sense of connection
  • Persistent thoughts or impulses to engage in a physically or emotionally intimate relationship outside of the primary relationship
  • Increasing or repeated conflict that you have not been able to resolve on your own, despite repeated attempts.
  • Significant life transitions that are contributing to increased stress in the relationship. These can include the birth of a child, the transition of a child out of the house, a change in location, a career change, or an ongoing physical illness in one or both members of the couple.
  • Dissatisfaction with sexual intimacy or the presence of sexual dysfunction

 

 

What are some preventative measures an individual or couple can take to avoid larger conflict, mental health or marital problems?

  • Continue to prioritize each other and the relationship throughout the entirety of the relationship. Avoid the trap of “checking the relationship box”.
  • When spending quality time together, focus on quality. Experiment with keeping technology out of the equation during your time together. Phones and computers can often serve as a barrier to intimacy and quality time.
  • Have dinner (or another meal) together as often as possible. Be intentional about engaging in conversation with each other, rather than zoning out in front of the TV or your phone. *Note: Zoning out is sometimes necessary. Just be aware of how often that occurs when you are spending time with your partner.
  • Experience new things together
  • Incorporate playfulness into the relationship. This can be in a sexual or non sexual way
  • If you are parents, be intentional about maintaining the “couple sphere” of the relationship in addition to the “parent sphere”. Imagine these as separate spheres, with areas of overlap. Each sphere has unique responsibilities and needs in order for it to thrive.
  • If you are feeling disconnected or unfulfilled, say something. These feelings will not simply disappear if you ignore them. And if you are struggling with how to communicate these feelings effectively to your partner, or are feeling invalidated when you do communicate them, reach out to a professional (such as a couples therapist) for help. That’s what we’re here for!

The Family Institute offers affordable counseling throughout the Chicagoland area. To learn more about our therapy and mental health services, please visit our website.

Relationships in the Digital Age: An interview with Alexandra Solomon, PhD

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On Thursday, April 30th, The Family Institute will present our Circle of Knowledge event Dating, Mating & Marrying in the Age of Social Media. This event, presented by Alexandra Solomon, PhD, will explore how our digital age has added enormous complexity to relational communication and romance. Dr. Solomon will help individuals and couples learn how to use social media to enhance and expand their love lives, not replace it.

To gear up for this exciting event, held at Microsoft’s office in downtown Chicago at 6:30 p.m., we sat down with Dr. Solomon to get a sneak peak at the sort of issues she’ll be tackling in her presentation. Read a few of her responses below, and visit our website to register for the event.

 

TFI: Has our digital age impacted the way interact with romantic partners?

AS: Our digital age has impacted how we interact with romantic partners in complex ways that range from the subtle to the profound.  And I think we are only just beginning to wrap our minds around these changes.  It is difficult to find a facet of our intimate relationships that the digital age has not touched.  Everything from seeking a partner using online medium, to formalizing commitment to that relationship in a series of status changes, to shaping our definitions and experiences of fidelity, monogamy, and betrayal (How much texting is too much texting?  Can I be Facebook friends with my ex?).

 

TFI: Technology moves at such a quick pace—how does that pace compare to that of forming a romantic relationship and/or intimacy?

AS: Our relationship with technology is marked by our expectation that we can have exactly what we want, exactly when we want it, preferably at lightning fast speed.  However, intimacy requires an entirely different energy.  Trust must build over time through, as M. Scott Peck says, “a relationship of constancy.”  Technology also offers us such quantity, such volume.  Building a romantic relationship requires less—less distraction, more mindful presence in this moment with another.  Neither of these energies is good or bad per se, but we need to be careful not to bring what we expect from our technology into our expectations of our intimate relationships.

 

TFI: Are there advantages to technology/social media/the digital world? How can these things positively impact relationships and/or dating?

 

For sure!  I am confident that online dating is here to stay.  Many people report positive experiences and create amazing relationships with people they would not have otherwise had the chance to meet.  And it invites all of us to elevate our games, so to speak.  To be really conscious about WHY am I selecting this media avenue right now?  What is my intention?  We are invited to practice discernment and to observe ourselves.  All of that is very positive.

 

Dating Mating & Marrying in the Age of Social Media will feature Dr. Alexandra Solomon addressing these questions and more. The event, held at no cost at Microsoft’s downtown Chicago headquarters, will focus on how the digital age impacts our relationships — for better and for worse.

Find more event details below, and visit our website for more information.

Dating, Mating & Marrying in the Age of Social Media

Presented by Alexandra Solomon, PhD

Thursday, April 30, 2015
6:30 p.m. registration, 7:00 p.m. presentation
Microsoft, 200 E. Randolph, Chicago

Free of charge, space limited
Register online today!
Deadline to register: April 23, 2015

For more information, call 312-609-5300, ext. 480 or email cok@family-institute.org.

 

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