Night On, Night Off

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One of the pitfalls of being a couple’s therapist is that my friends frequently ask my opinion about their relationships.  While I can’t ethically counsel them, we still have some pretty interesting chats about the state of relationships in general.  I’m always curious about tips and ideas keep couples happy, healthy and together, so I’ll ask my friends what successes they have had with their own partners.  The other day I was talking with someone (I’ll call her Molly) and asked what has kept her 25-year marriage going. Molly replied that she was a bit embarrassed to tell me this, but as I was a couple’s expert, she knew I would “get it”. Molly told me that she and her husband practice what they called “Night On, Night Off”.

Well, I have heard many things from clients over the years, but what on earth is “night on, night off”? Molly explained that she and her husband had created a plan where they have sex on the nights on, but not on the nights off.   

Now I’m really intrigued- sex every other night? For over 20 years? Most of my clients have sex far less frequently than that- which causes tremendous problems in their relationships. Molly has children, a career, a home and a husband- how does she have enough energy to keep up with this plan?

After questioning her more- because now I’m REALLY curious how this works- I found that she has been doing “night on, night off” for most of her relationship. After five years of marriage and two kids, she and her husband found themselves with a sex life that was lacking, too many fights and too little communication.  Rather than continue with the unsatisfactory relationship, they decided to do something about it.

So, what are the main principles behind the success of this “Night On, Night Off”? Over the years I have developed what I call the 5C Reconnection plan-a plan that has proven to work with hundreds of couples in re-establishing intimacy and connection.  Here are 3 of the components of the plan, successfully illustrated by Molly and her husband.

1.      Communications- when a problem, issue or concern arises, instead of sweeping it under the rug you sit down and talk about it. Sound simple? It should be, but it’s hard to put into practice. Finding the time and space to talk on a regular basis is crucial to keeping the connection going. Molly and her husband sat down after months of sexual confusion and frustration to determine what the problem was- and what it wasn’t.  They had the love, desire and motivation to connect sexually, but not the commitment, energy or scheduling for it to happen. By discussing it openly and honestly, they were able to come up with a plan that worked for both.

2.      Compromise-typically, as busy, stressed out humans we are not able to turn the sexual switch to “on” or “off” just like that.   Here is where the compromise piece of this plan is in play- Molly and her husband knew that there would be evenings that were supposed to be “on”, that one of them would be exhausted, in a lousy mood, or just not physically or emotionally up to being sexual.  What they had discussed and agreed on was that if that were the case, they could move the “night on” to the next night, but never go another night past that with the new schedule. This gave them both something to work with, something to look forward to and to plan for. The compromise that they both made was to put their own needs aside (temporarily and after agreed upon) in order to commit to the schedule that they had initially decided.  

3.      Commitment-   there is a real, authentic commitment to a plan that stays in place for over 15 years.   Although we pay lip service to the idea of commitment, do we practice it in our everyday lives? As a couple, commitment means saying “no” to many things we might want to do- in order to nurture and grow our relationships. This includes social events, volunteer services, family and friends and work responsibilities that may interfere with our giving of time to our partners. Molly and her husband committed to their plan and then actually did it- something that many of us fall short on.  They have as busy a life as anyone, but committed to making their relationship a priority over everything else. 

So, let’s think about what this would look like if we practiced night on, night off- no more mixed signals as to whether you are in the mood, no more frustrations about the frequency of your sex life, no more endless arguments about your relationship, no more wondering if this is “the night”.  By replacing these thoughts you’d look forward to your evenings, that are already planned and anticipated. Sound good? I’m sorry, I must go now- it’s Night On.

If you would like more help working through your marriage commitments, please consider coming in for marriage counseling. Rescue your most important relationship today.

Understanding Grief, Knowing Change

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Grief is a topic that hits everyone at some point in time.  For some of us, though, those feelings linger. And for still another aspect of our population, grief returns to haunt them. If any of these describe you right now, find comfort in the knowledge that you aren't doing anything wrong. Grief is different for everyone and thus has to be treated on an individual basis. 

  • Triggering Grief: What triggers grief is highly individual to the person, but a common theme as to what triggers it is being taken out of your comfort zone while reminded of your loved one who has passed. While there are a few working theories with graphs and estimated steps (such as the Change Curve, or the 5 stages of grief that are popularly quoted, and misquoted) grief is highly personal and should not be expect to fit in a box of expectations. Your grief is your grief, and it's ok to feel it how you are feeling it.

  • What can be done: If you feel you need help with your grief, it's important to reach and not try to internalize it. Talking to a friend can be useful, or see your counselor or therapist so they can help you through it. Even though it's highly personal, you don't have to feel it alone. If you are still afflicted after what you think is an unreasonable amount of time, you may be suffering from what is called "Complicated Grief" and require a specific regiment of psychotherapy. Sometimes called 'persistent complex bereavement disorder', it's considered if you are grieving for longer than a year with no noticeable progress in or fading of grief. It is important that you don't self diagnose your symptoms and that you allow a professional to determine your diagnosis. There may also be a group sessions near you to share your grief with others going through similar experiences.

Contact our office today for one on one counseling. Remember that you never have to suffer in silence, and to not feel guilty if you need help. You are not alone in your suffering.

If you are in immediate crisis, you can also text home to 741741 and a crisis counselor will help you. 

Are Expectations Ruining Your Marriage?

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A wife feels burdened with all the meal-making. A husband feels worn out and used because he is the sole provider of the family. Many marriages run into trouble when the two fail to meet their spouse's expectations. Disappointment and bitterness toward each other sets in, disrupting an otherwise loving marriage. What is the real problem here?

Where do our expectations in marriage come from?

Most of our expectations come from our personal family experience growing up. For example, a woman who grew up with a father who always drove the car on family vacations might expect her husband to always drive the car on family vacations. A man who grew up with a mom who handled all the house cleaning might expect his wife to clean the house without his help. 

These expectations shape our thoughts about marriage roles. Do you expect your husband to fill a specific marriage role, and he doesn't? That can lead to some tense moments in your marriage! If your husband doesn't understand where that expectation is coming from, he may feel like you are trying to make him be someone he isn't. 

When marriage roles are in conflict

Not only might your spouse feel "boxed in" a role he doesn't fit well, your expectations might actually compete with each other. For example, if you are a husband who firmly believes you should be in charge of the budgeting, and your wife decides to change the budget so she has more money to buy groceries, you might get upset at your wife. On the other side of the coin, your wife may think you're not being fair to her if you don't let her have some say in how the money is budgeted. Your marriage roles are in conflict. What can you do about it without starting WWIII in your own household?

Be realistic!

Instead of flying off the handle at your spouse, try thinking of it this way, "My wife is not meeting my expectations; I wonder if I don't meet her expectations? Maybe we can discuss this and work out some sort of compromise." Be realistic about who your spouse is. You husband is not your father, so don't expect him to have the same idea of a husband-role as your father did. Instead, work together to come to an agreeable solution to the problem.

Maybe you can agree to cook every other night. Or your husband can agree to help with the vacuuming. Your compromise might make you both feel uncomfortable at first, but soon it will be a unique aspect of your marriage, not someone else's marriage.

If you would like more help working through your marriage expectations, please consider coming in for marriage counseling. Rescue your most important relationship!