Becoming an Incredible family

Becoming an Incredible family

I love The Incredibles family. Most families can relate with them. The teenager is surly at home and has social anxiety at school. The middle boy has behavior problems both at school and home, creating chaos for everyone. The mom used to have a powerful career but now attempts to find satisfaction in taking care of everyone else’s needs as a stay at home mom. Dad is so bored in his job that he pursues a secret life that creates emotional distance in his marriage and with his kids. And the baby… there is just something off with the youngest. Maybe all of them need to find some help.

These isolated problems are actually a family problem. The individual struggles affect how the family interacts with each other AND simultaneously how the family responds to the problem can either make the issues easier or more difficult. Healthy families help their kids to bounce out of their struggles more easily.

As a family therapist, I like to start with who is most concerned, that’s usually mom: help mom to identify what she really is struggling with and how she is uniquely equipped to help solve it. Then move on to the marriage. When mom and dad remember who they are as individuals and as a team, they are in a better position to craft a purpose and vision for their family. Lastly, the kids: empower them to better deal with their unique-ness as they become an extension of a strong family unit. The surly attitudes, rebellious behavior and undesirable responses become a family issue – because after all, they are experienced by the family.

It takes time. It takes change on the part of everyone. And change can be messy. However, if Mr. Incredible can get excited about his family, anyone can.

Communication

Communication

When most couples have struggled long enough in their marriages to decide to seek help in marriage and family therapy, their most frequent complaint in their initial intake interview is problems with communication.

Sometimes, communication is the actual problem. For example, some men are the strong silent type, which has some appeal to some women; however, more women would like their husbands to be very open with them, describing their feelings, vulnerabilities, and intimate emotions about the marriage.

Other times, communication is how other problems are manifest in the marriage. For example, if neither the husband or the wife are listening attentively to the other, then neither feel heard or respected. Both want to be known and understood, and feel hurt and disrespected when their words seem unimportant to their spouses.

A lot of marriages have communication that is out of bounds, like verbal abuse when talking too loudly or contemptuously. Or interrupting when the listener should be patient to hear what the speaker is saying.

If couples state initially their problem is communication, later during their counseling, the communication turns out to be a problem only in certain situations. For example, if he comes home drunk or she spends too much at the casino, the yelling is poor communication, but the bigger problem is the subject of the yelling.

Communication is a skill we were supposed to learn as children, just like we learned to walk and talk, or use manners at the table or in school. Many children don’t learn by what they were taught, but by what they have caught, like hearing their parents screaming and wanting their own way.

Usually during dating, couples enjoy talking to and listening to each other. As the relationship grows, problems naturally occur. To communicate about those problems effectively requires both partners to speak like they would like to be spoken to, and listen like they would like to be heard.

God is a great listener: always available with unlimited time and complete, unconditional love. Husbands and wives lack some of God’s capacity, but can mature as speakers and listeners, like Jesus did with the woman at the well.

For hurting couples, Healthy Counseling Center offers workshops, intensives, and counseling. Please call for more information about getting the help you want; call Jennifer at (509) 466-6632.

Blended Families

Blended Families

Marrying a single parent is complicated. It doesn’t take very long to realize that the Disney fantasy of happily ever after is just that, a fantasy. The divorce rate for blended family couples is dramatically higher than traditional first marriages. Why?

  1. Competing relationships. Even if the kids are supportive of the union, there is still an underlying current of competition. In some cases, the kids are dead set against the new marriage and will work against the union. This causes heartache with the parents who just want to be in love and live in peace.
  2. Baggage from the past. Whether the single parent has lost a spouse, never been married or experienced divorce, the emotional pain from the loss of previous relationship bears down on the new marriage.
  3. Being a step-parent is all the work of parenting, with very little of the joy.
  4. All the hard stuff of a traditional marriage is still there too.

It sounds like a bummer. Creating a blended family is infinitely more difficult than a traditional family. However, a very wise grandma once said, “it will work if you want it to work”. She wasn’t a scholar or a counselor. She was a woman who successfully blended a family of 8 kids in the midst of complete chaos. There is a different set of expectations that comes with blending families, but the one unchangeable expectation is that it takes two parents who are committed to making it work.

  1. Be flexible. In all things. Your family won’t look like anyone else’s. Learn to be ok with that.
  2. Be patient. It takes 4-7 years to create a new normal for blended families.
  3. Be a learner. Choose to learn more about the art of blending families and potentially see a counselor that specializes in the complexities of blended families. There is a series of books Ron L Deal that specifically addresses blended family issues. You can find them on Amazon.com.

Books/DVDs Resources:

Three Elephants

Three Elephants

Imagine…. Three elephants escape from a circus, run down the street into a neighborhood. Each one of the elephants runs into a house.

Couple #1 comes home from work and see the door is busted open, the furniture is smashed, the elephant’s head is in the kitchen eating all the groceries and the back of the elephant is in the bedroom pooping on the bedspread. This couple has a rule at their house: “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. The husband looks around & can’t identify anything nice to say about the situation. The wife looks around and sniffs…. she also can’t find anything nice to say. They smile at each other and bear it. He is glad that nothing is said. She is glad it didn’t break out into a fight. And they learn to live with the elephant.

Couple #2 comes home and sees the elephant destroying the kitchen, leaving poop in the bedroom. And their communication goal is to make observations and state their opinions. The husband responds to the situation: “YOU are a stupid idiot for leaving the door open and inviting an elephant to walk in”. The wife defends: “YOU are an even bigger idiot if you can’t see the elephant broke down the door.” He replies, “that is just like you, and your mother.” They have so many problems worse than the elephant that they don’t give it any more attention. And they learn to live around the elephant.

Couple #3 come home and find an elephant has destroyed their front door, eaten their food and made a mess in the bedroom. And their goal is satisfaction. The husband takes inventory and he is not satisfied. He turns to his wife, and says, “Honey, when there is an elephant in the house, I am not happy (I am angry). The door is broken, the food is gone and that bedspread that grandma made us is destroyed. I would like the elephant out of here and everything restored. Would you please call the circus and have them bring a truck and a lot of money?” A couple weeks later, they come home from work and the carpet has been cleaned, the bedspread has been replaced and the door has been repaired. The cupboards were once again full of groceries. And the husband turns to his wife and smiles, “remember when there was an elephant in here? Thanks for making the call to get that taken care of and doing the work to restore the house. I really appreciate that. I feel happy and that meant a lot to me. Would you accept my hug and a kiss?”

When an individual or a couple perceives that something is not right, they have a CHOICE in how to respond to the undesired situation.

  • The first couple chose to be passive. They didn’t fight, but the problem remained.
  • The second couple chose aggression. They blamed each other and the problem remained.
  • The third couple used assertive communication that addressed the issue head on and created a game plan that resolved the issue. Assertive interactions respectfully communicate “This is what I’ve got & this is what I want” without laying blame on anyone else. Spouses that respect and care for one another will respond with a helpful attitude.

Change the way your love works by changing the way you communicate.

VIDEO: Sex Addiction (Q6 News)

VIDEO: Sex Addiction (Q6 News)

Here is a news segment from Q6 News about the dangers of pornography and sex addiction from a couple years ago. It includes an interview with Dr. Ray Smith from Healthy Counseling Center on the subject. This is an extremely common problem in today’s marriages and relationships in general.

VIDEO: Sex Addiction (Q6 News)

VIDEO: Fun Communication Song

Here is a fun and lighthearted song about communication between married couples. This husband and wife standup comedy team does a great job in making fun of communication between men and women in general. It’s entertaining and fun to watch. Enjoy!

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Workshops:
We know from decades of experience that some skills are best explained in group settings in a fun and educational environment, while personal topics still remain private.

Total Costs: $35/assessment $50/week (8 week date nights $435/couple)


Blended Couple:
This workshop is best for couples that have blended families involved in your marriage.