As I was watching the new sitcom “Splitting Up Together”, I noticed many traits depicting “disasters” of relationships. Gottman research revealed that there are specific behaviors that lead to couples’ relationships breaking down. For those of you that do not know, the basis for the show is a couple that has decided to get divorced but due to financial reasons must continue to live together. The couple starts out strong at the beginning of their relationship but once they have kids and everyday life gets busy, their relationship begins to deteriorate. While watching their interactions, I saw the husband living his own life and as Gottman phrases it “not turning toward”. It is so important to respond to bids for attention. When your significant other engages you, make a point to listen and take an interest. Also, I observed the wife saying many things that were critical and at times contemptuous. Criticism and contempt are 2 of Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. For example, “You never help around the house” which can lead to contempt and viewing your partner as lazy or selfish. An antidote to contempt is to focus on the positive aspects of your significant other. Nurturing fondness and admiration that enhances your relationship is crucial. In the show, you see both of them start to realize their roles in the deterioration of their marriage. Maybe it’s not too late! According to Gottman, even relationships that are in peril, can be saved with the right intervention. Taken from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I recommend this book and I will be teaching a workshop based on the principles in August.
I have not written a blog in a while. As I was thinking about it, I realized I did not create a routine or form a habit of writing. I would have ideas but not write them down. Which brings me to the concept of creating good habits for ourselves. According to Jeremy Dean, an author and psychologist, and his research, a good habit takes a while to form. The research showed that it takes 21 days to form a habit but that depends on the type of habit and the person. The harder the habit, more likely it will take longer to form. What I take away from that is to take baby steps when trying to develop good habits. Pick an attainable goal. For example, exercise and nutrition are often good habits we try to set for ourselves. Start out small, like walking after work a few days per week and just becoming aware of what we are eating. If you try to change everything about your diet and set goals to exercise every day, the more likely you will burn out and fall back into old habits. Once you create the easier habits, then gradually move on to harder ones. All in all, change is hard but make sure you set realistic expectations and celebrate daily when you meet your goal. I am celebrating today because I posted a blog and then I will work on following my own advice!
Information is now literally at our fingertips. Does this sound familiar – you wake up, check your phone and find out everything that is going on that day. It really is amazing that we can do so much with our phone. We can check out the news, correspond by email and text, find out things about our friends and celebrities on social media and of course the list goes on. Because our phones can enable us to do so much, inevitably it has become a habit that is hard to break. Just look around and I’m sure you have. Most people are looking at their phones absorbed in the vast array of information that it offers.
Being distracted with your phone can lead to disconnection in relationships. In addition to impacting relationships, social media use can possibly lead to feelings of depression. In 2015, the University of Missouri conducted a study that reported feelings of envy could lead to symptoms of depression. Feelings of envy could occur when seeing all your friends go on vacation, buy new houses and appear to have the perfect life. The study does have some good news. If you are self-aware of the fact that most people only post things in their life that reflect a positive light, then hopefully the feelings of envy will lessen. Just remember that no one leads a perfect life!
Awareness…that is the cornerstone of my therapy approach. Becoming aware of what you are doing and experiencing on a daily basis. I am not saying stop using your phone or using social media because there are great things about both. Just be mindful of the time you are spending using technology. If after assessing that it may be impacting your relationships set aside time to connect and communicate.
It is so important that you nurture yourself and your relationship with your significant other. When you are physically and emotionally healthy, you are a better parent. This is especially important after the birth of a baby. According to Shapiro and Gottman, 67% of couples experience a decline in relationship satisfaction after their first baby is born. Also, 1 in 7 women will experience Postpartum Depression.
Having a baby is a wonderful, monumental time in our life but also life altering and stressful. That is why it is so important to rely on your support network or create one if you don’t have one. Sleep is the main thing that goes out the window when baby arrives. It is so important to meet your needs even though it seems impossible with all the new demands that are now placed on you after baby arrives. Have a trusted family member or friend watch the baby while you take a break to sleep or do something for yourself or with your significant other. Continue to communicate with your significant other and express wants and needs. Be aware of signs or symptoms of Postpartum Depression. The Postpartum Health Alliance is a great website with tons of information.
If there are signs of Postpartum Depression, there is help out there and there is hope. If your relationship is suffering, seek out help. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. If you do, you will be a better parent and partner.
Parenting is the most rewarding yet hardest job we will ever have. We are in charge of shaping and molding our children to become well-adjusted adults which can be daunting! As adults, we have many responsibilities and multiple roles- mom, dad, wife, husband, sister, brother, daughter, son, friend and co-worker to name a few. As a clinician helping families navigate through parenting ups and downs, I have read many books on parenting approaches. I do not subscribe to a one type fits all parents model. Each family is unique and must figure out what works for them.
Here are some tips that each family can mold to fit their lifestyle:
- Take care of yourself and your relationship
- Be aware in daily life
- Play and spend quality time with your children
- Create structure and routine but also at times be flexible
- Consistency- If you say something follow through
- Communicate with significant other and children
- Forgive yourself and others…there is no perfect parent!