How Can I Change?

“It has been one week with zero communication with my partner who has a sex addiction. It may seem like not a lot of time; however, when you have spent the last three years (every day) speaking with or seeing him, then you come to realize that these seven days can feel like a lifetime.

I’ve looked at my phone to see if there are any messages and I’ve “creeped” him on instagram to see what he has been up to; but I am now realizing that only one person called me today. So I start to look back on my life (or at the past 3 years) and wonder what I have done and whom I have neglected.

I’ve become aware that there are a number of people I’ve neglected in the past three years…myself included. Reading through google searches of how to help my sex addicted partner, I found the word codependency come up quite frequently.

I then read a little further and have identified that I am able to relate to almost all common characteristics of being a codependent.

So although I am sad about not having any contact with my addicted partner, I am realizing that it is time to work on myself. Perhaps that is the best way to help my partner….starting with me first.”

Some of the common characteristics of codependency, that others may also relate to are:

  • Spending a great deal of time focusing on the person with addiction and neglecting yourself and others.
  • Sacrificing self with the unrealistic expectation that it will foster loyalty.
  • Becoming someone you don’t like (e.g. angry, hopeless, helpless, untrusting, drained)
  • Giving the person struggling with addiction the unearned benefit of the doubt over and over again.
  • Enabling by seemingly turning a blind eye, compromising yourself, and trying to control or “parent” the person

To learn more about overcoming codependency and addictive behaviours, call us today .

Who Knew?

Are you expecting your first child? At first you can’t wait to share the news with your family and loved ones. You get to hear such sweet and sincere congratulations and best wishes. Then a couple of weeks pass by and the advice starts creeping in from all avenues.

It’s so nice that people want to share their self-proclaimed words of wisdom with you but when do you get to press a pause button? When do you get to say that you already know that you can’t have sushi?

Daily articles begin to fill your inbox about pregnancy, flu shots or the latest report on a child possibly killed due to a vaccination. Sometimes you just want to scream, “Can I have my child first!”

Amidst the barrage of uninvited advice, we may dare to share some of our thoughts about how we will be raising our child (e.g. cloth diapers, not using formula, and planning a natural childbirth). Instead of words of encouragement, we often receive looks or comments that obviously imply we probably won’t be, shouldn’t be or certainly wouldn’t be carrying these ideas out.

Your body is changing, hormones may be racing, and you can’t get away from friendly advice or simple reminders. The best option is not to hide that you are having a baby (although it may seem tempting), but instead take care of yourself. Find, improve and develop coping strategies to relax and ease your mind, eat healthy, and do yoga!

Think positive thoughts, breathe deeply and remember, you are about to be part of a miracle… child birth.

Post Separation Thoughts and Behaviours Really Matter

Let’s consider why we think we may have a difficult time co-parenting with our ex-partners:

  • She/he has an addiction and refuses to get help.
  • Who knows who she/he will have around my child?
  • She/he has repeatedly lied and betrayed our trust.
  • We keep arguing.
  • I feel completely disrespected by my ex-partner, so why should I cooperate?
  • She/he has shown no interest in the care of this child!
  • We didn’t get along before so …

And BREATHE! Now that we have let all that out (and I’m sure we can express quite an extensive list of additional thoughts and feelings associated with our broken relationships), let’s consider just a few of the benefits of effective co-parenting:

  1. Children will feel more secure, relaxed and confident growing up with two involved and cooperative parents;
  2. Enhancement of children’s social, physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development;
  3. Parents actually improve their health and development as well;
  4. Positive examples and role models for children by working together through difficulties;
  5. Both of us have the pleasure of being cooperative, compassionate and mutually involved parents;
  6. Extended family members are able to remain more involved;

In his extensive review of the literature on the impact of separation and divorce, conducted for the Department of Justice Canada 2001, Ron Steward highlights  “a study of 51 families with an arrangement for joint physical custody, Steinman et al. (1985) identified a list of factors that lead to successful joint physical custody. Families who successfully maintained joint custody had the following qualities:

  1. respect and appreciation for the bond between the children and former spouse;
  2. an ability to maintain objectivity about the children’s needs during difficult periods of the 
divorce;
  3. ability to empathize with the point of view of the child and the other parent;
  4. ability to shift emotional expectations from the role of mate to that of co-parent;
  5. ability to establish new role boundaries; and
  6. show generally high self-esteem, flexibility and openness to help.” 

Separation or divorce can be an extremely difficult time for parents, and the children and extended family members involved. Feelings are hurt, people often choose sides (even though there are no sides in a family), distance is created (which is a normal part of any separation) and the emotional intensity and practical logistics of separating can inhibit parents’ attention to co-parenting for some time.

Co-parenting does work and is more likely when parents dig deep to develop the qualities listed above. With appropriate training, coaching, planning and practice, both parents will have the opportunity to create amazing lives for themselves, their children and extended family.

To improve your co-parenting by learning the how to strategies – book an appointment with us today!

The Art of Effective Conversation

Communication, when performed effectively, (e.g. calmly, lovingly. sensitively. wisely, respectfully) enhances and fosters positive relationships. However, when done poorly, it leads to communication breakdowns which are draining on those involved. When we have difficulty communicating (causing increased arguments and stress), it is normal for us to feel like giving up.

Poor communication involves certain tendencies or habits that almost everyone resorts to at one point or another. Any of these following communication blockers can inhibit effective discussion, especially during stressful and crucial conversations:

  • Interrupting
  • Ignoring
  • Blame Game
  • Using Sarcasm
  • Insulting/Name Calling
  • Globalizing (i.e., using “always” or “never” statements)
  • Judging
  • Stating opinion as fact
  • Mind Reading/Assuming
  • Advising (i.e., providing solutions without permission)

In the heat of the moment, our body moves into “fight or flight”, a part of which leads to reduced oxygen to the brain. This blocks effective thinking from taking place. Effective communication coaching or counselling helps people identify the triggers in their bodies that prevent rational thinking. It also teaches creative and light-hearted ways to communicate under duress and high stress. Working together, counsellors and people develop strategies to decrease anger and confusion that arises in stressful situations making it more possible to approach tough situations and conversations with appropriate communication techniques.

Therapy also helps individuals, couples and families sort through crucial conversations and create strategies together to resolve conflict and improve relationship satisfaction. Call us today to enhance your communication style!

Extramarital Affairs Harden Hearts and Threaten Health

It may seem we live in an age where almost “everything goes”.  If it makes you happy, and it isn’t illegal, then it should be your choice as to whether you do something or not. This thinking seems to have made its way quite effectively into marriages. I’m no lawyer, however, taking risks that threaten another’s life and their physical and mental health seems like some sort of crime to me?

In an article titled; “New Hampshire lawmakers look to get rid of 200-year-old adultery crime” (The Associated Press December 14, 2009), a contemporary lawyer argues, We shouldn’t be in the business of regulating what consenting adults do with each other,” Horrigan said.  The article goes on to point out history;

“Convicted adulterers years ago faced standing on the gallows, up to 39 lashes, a year in jail or a fine of 100 pounds. The punishment has been relaxed to a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $1,200 – with no jail time.”

  • Remember that extramarital affairs are a chargeable offence under the United States Code of Military Justice.
  • As of 2011, adultery was still considered illegal in 23 of the 50 United States.
  • A joint statement by the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice states that: “Adultery as a criminal offence violates women’s human rights” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adultery).

Although the District of Columbia and approximately half of the states continue to have laws on the books criminalizing adultery, these laws are rarely invoked. Traditionally, states advanced three goals in support of their adultery laws: (1) the prevention of disease and illegitimate children; (2) the preservation of the institution of marriage; and (3) the safeguarding of general community morals.     (found at http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Sexual+infidelity).

Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines ‘adultery’ as: “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband”.

The bible defines adultery more broadly, indicating significant concern should be given to even the act of lustfully looking. In Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus states;  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In his National Post article in support of current Canadian laws criminalizing not telling a sex partner about having HIV,  Matt Gurney says, “It is a crime for a reason, and should remain so”. He adds the following rationale;

“The issue is not really about how likely someone is to become infected with HIV, or any other serious sexually transmitted disease or infection. It’s about who gets to make the decision to expose someone else to that chance of infection, whether it be 100% or 1%. How severe the risk is irrelevant — each of us should have the right, and expectation, to know what we are getting ourselves into. None of us should have the right to decide for someone else whether they are exposed to a potentially deadly disease. The only person qualified to make that kind of decision is the person accepting the risk. If they are denied the opportunity, they have not consented. That’s a crime.”      Matt Gurney| 08/02/12 | Last Updated: 08/02/12 11:15 AM ET.

I leave you to consider this matter for yourselves, of course, yet it seems strange to me that some of the things we actually charge people for are significantly less damaging and hurtful than the familial destruction and emotional devastation that most often accompanies adulterous behaviour. The long term impact on both adults and children, the loss of productivity in the workplace and the extensive use of mental health and medical services is a drain on society. While we may not want to place judgement on people or look down on them for their choices, it may be about time we reopened responsible discussions about adulterous behaviour, breach of marital trust and placed some judgment on this behaviour. Through these conversations, we may even develop more effective solutions and preventative strategies to incorporate into our legal, social and educational institutions?

“New Dad… Nobody Asks Me What I Think?”

I spoke with a young girl today and we were discussing the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. It was approaching fast and this year appears to have gone by so quickly. This was not a counselling session; just a casual conversation with a young friend.

A lot happened in your life this year.

Yah! I guess.

What did you like the most?

Summer time and my birthday pool party.

What didn’t you like so much about this year?

[A lengthened silence prior to her response]

Like… I’m happy to see my mom happy, but I don’t like that she got engaged. I like it but I don’t. I like him, he’s nice. But I don’t know what this means for me. I hear all these plans being made and no one asks how I feel. I’m happy I get to decorate my own room when we move though. Do I have to call him ‘dad’? What about my dad? Now I have two dads?

Sometimes parents attend to their own needs for love and companionship without having open communication with their children. This is especially true when parents determine their children are too young to have these types of conversations. Although we may attempt to keep our children’s best interests top of mind, when selecting and bringing a companion into their lives, it is still important to talk with our children, explore their feelings and concerns along with their positives.

When significant events happen in our lives, the strength of a co-parenting relationship can allow for the entire family to understand and celebrate special times. When the entire family takes part in open conversations, we foster improved understanding of each others’ view points, strengthen our connection as a family, and make adjusting to new members go more smoothly. In other words, we prevent frustrations and potential problems in advance.

Merging families sucessfully and enhancing co-parenting is best done with coaching from professional counsellors.  After twenty years of working with families, experience helps families cope with and adjust to difficult life changes. At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, areas of support include the following:

  • Helping couples cope with separation/divorce, grieving and adjustment issues
  • Family structure assessment and re-establishing effective roles and rules
  • Establish a co-parenting communication plan and strategy
  • Identify goals for raising children in the most healthy and appropriate manner
  • Create safe and healthy boundaries between co-parents
  • Develop positive relationships with co-parents’ romantic partners
  • Improve communication skills; specifically, conflict resolution and problem-solving
  • Assist with crucial conversations in a non-blaming and accepting environment

Call us today to improve post-separation adjustment and co-parenting relationships. Why? Because you and your children are worth it!

“My Dog Treats Me Better!”

“After years of lies, betrayals, and secrets paired with infidelity and inappropriate sexual behaviours, I ask myself why I’m still here. Why am I still in this relationship? He says he loves me, and I actually trust that he does; however who cares? My dog loves me and treats me way better than he does…and HE’S A DOG! I have never experienced such a magnitude of hurt from any of my family or friends, so why do I put up with this guy?”

We all may be able to relate to “Stephanie” to some degree. Romantic relationships are difficult to maintain and even more difficult to cope with when the relationship is in trouble. When trust has been broken, couples spiral through a crisis and without healing and recovery work, often begin the dynamic or pattern of living crisis to crisis. This is often referred to as a chaotic or crisis-oriented relationship.

Stephanie’s dilemma is common in that we tend to compare our romantic relationships, albeit without sufficient facts or data, to those of our friends, family members and even to examples from popular media and literature. Our perceptions and misperceptions of others’ relationships colours our view of “what intimacy should be”, often leading to us setting the expectations for our relationships too high. With limited and inaccurate information, our expectations can easily become unrealistic, gradually contributing to worsening and even quite hurtful communication.

Of course, when our intimate relationships are in a crisis state, like Stephanie, we start to question why we are still in the relationship. By obtaining more accurate information about relationships and doing some analysis, we can improve our understanding and thus our ability to resolve relationship troubles. Robert Sternberg from the University of Wyoming, proposes the “love triangle” framework in which he presents love’s three main dimensions: intimacy, commitment, and passion and the seven relationship types below have more or less of these qualities (Psychology Today).

When couples consider their place in this model, they can identify their relationship to one of 7 types of relationships (Psychology Today):

  • Consummate (the highest form): a high regard on all three dimensions of the love triangle
  • Infatuated: high on passion only
  • Fatuous: high on passion and commitment
  • Empty: high on commitment only
  • Companionate: high on intimacy and commitment
  • Romantic: high on intimacy and passion
  • Liking/friendship: high on intimacy only

Some couples experiencing a crisis in their relationship escape, withdraw or give up. Consideration toward getting assistance and more research-based analysis helps individuals and couples understand the dynamics underlying their dilemma. This then helps us negotiate the type of relationship we want to achieve and navigate the journey to it. Couples counselling can create a space to work together to heal the hurt, achieve goals, rebuild trust and, ultimately, get the loving relationship you want.

Let us help! Book your appointment with us today!