back burner

What exactly does “back burner” mean?

Well this “back burner phrase is very popular in the therapy room, usually carrying quite a negative connotation with it. Couples struggling with their marital relationships, due to both internal and external stressors, readily admit to placing their romance “on the back burner”. This usually occurs shortly after children are born and when they are infants and toddlers.

This makes perfect sense given how adorable and dependent children are, not to mention all the adjustments and change that occurs once children are part of the equation. These stress factors are likely why close to a third of couples who separate do so during the first five years of having children.

Parental responsibilities added to work, extended family and social obligations can leave much less time and energy for romantic efforts. Dating may dwindle as evenings are spent bathing, story-telling and singing lullabies. Even time to just sit and chat with each other becomes more difficult to find.

Weekend opportunities are sacrificed for extra laundering, feedings, special food preparation and for simply special moments holding “little bundles of joy”. It becomes very easy to look at each other and agree, perhaps without even a word, to put the marital needs “on the back burner”.

This is, however, very dangerous.  Children benefit most from parents who are happy, work together and stay together creating a healthy and satisfying relationship.  No, this type of relationship does not come naturally. Just because it wasn’t taught in school doesn’t mean training and hard work aren’t required for excellence in marriage. There are many resources to help, ranging from marriage counselling, coaching, seminars and retreats to books, videos and good internet site materials.

We at Jeff Packer MSW & Associates Inc. have developed a seminar called “The Seven Spheres of Intimacy” that helps couples examine their current functioning across the spheres and develop priorities for enhancing marital intimacy.  Our trained counsellors in Oshawa work with couples throughout the Durham Region and world wide through internet on-line video-based counselling sessions.

For a consultation, assessment and to schedule your initial meeting Contact us today !

Horrendous secrets many people carry for months, years, decades and maybe even to their grave can lead to debilitating stress. This can result in what many people call a “break-down”.  It was historically referred to as a “nervous breakdown”, “hysteria” and “shell shock”.

I like to call it a “letting out“, in what may appear like sudden release of the awful trauma from the past. The information may be considered held in the background of the mind until the person suffering is better equipped to deal with it. It can take years to reach the point of release. When the abuse and violence happens during childhood, it is quite common to keep it secret; possibly not wanting further upset in the family, because of embarrassment, confusion, shame and guilt or simply because the child has no way of dealing with this at their age and stage.

This is a very serious psychological dilemma, a catch twenty-two. Victims are caught between two very stressful choices: speak up or not?

Studies show as many as one in four girls and one in six boys experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of eighteen. Not only is the offending behaviour severely troubling at the time, in the years that follow there is usually increase in emotional upset and imbalance. Negative thoughts can gradually increase with one’s heightened awareness of the nature of such an offence, the stigma associated and throughout the subsequent stages of sexual development.  

Of course, with the negative thoughts, or what I reframe as “stinkin thinkin“, comes negative emotional states and the negative behavioural patterns are not far behind. Those suffering from what Judith Herman (Trauma and Recovery, 1992) first called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (or reaction – PTSR) may display symptoms often related to depression or anxiety, may engage in harmful and hurtful “risk-taking” behaviours, substance misuse and experience severe and chronic difficulties with relationships.

If you have experienced such a trauma, and feel ready and able to work on this obstacle to growth, I encourage you to seek out a specialized professional counsellor for assistance. There are also good books and resources to use in combination with recovery and restorative therapy. For more information on this and other issues  Contact us today

Gettin Rid of “Stinkin Thinkin”

Imagine your brain like a massive hard drive, super storage space, maybe a gazillion terabytes (that’s a lot of stuff on our minds). What do you think is on it at birth?  How much information is on the brain of a newly born baby? The philosopher and teacher David Hume called the mind at birth a “blank slate”. I’ve simply upgraded this to be the “virtually blank harddrive”, virtually because of some in vetro experiential loading in the womb.

Every input from the second we’re born… through our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and every nerve loads onto our brain. This super fast processor receives data from parents, family, extended family, media like TV, books and the internet, pets, nature, on and on. Brain or neuroscience experts suggest we don’t really forget as much as we have storage and retrieval challenges. Tough to keep all that data in the front of our hard drive.

Amazing to think about. Everything we see, taste, smell, touch, feel and hear stored in the “background” with very little on the desktop so to speak.

Wow! So much data. How we organize it from early on in our lives, whether consciously or not, begins to shape our thought patterns, schemata, constructs which then shape our emotions and moods. Together thoughts and feelings then drive our behaviour, this is simply going on in the background of our mind.

Computer Head

To think almost all the information loaded on our hard drive comes from elsewhere. Why do we quite often believe all the thoughts in our head are our own? Why do we quite often believe all the thoughts in our head are our own? This is perhaps my favourite question! That’s why I asked you twice.

If this analogy holds true then consider that we may also call the negative thoughts a virus, thoughts that spread, overshadow positive thinking, disrupt and infect healthier thoughts and files. Suppose it is possible to have a cognitive virus made up of all those negative, defeating words and phrases? I call this “Stinkin Thinkin”.

Through counselling that combines cognitive-behavioural therapy, we can effectively catch and “quarantine” out negativity.  At the same time, drawing upon narrative theory and re-writing of your story, our professional counsellors help people bring out their more positive thoughts and self which improves mood, emotional expressions and behaviour.

This counselling is a very effective therapy and can best be considered the first line of defence for those struggling with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, chronic health issues, addictions and most relationship issues. 

To find out how get rid of “stinkin thinkin” easier…  Contact us today




“We have kids now! There’s no time for intimacy!”

“NOT NOW! I’m too tired!”

“You want to try what???”

Do you remember when you first met your partner? Remember the passion, the flirting, the loving gestures, the quickies? Then two, three, five, ten years later you wonder where that “excitement” of being together went?

Maintaining any kind of relationship requires intentional effort. If you and your partner are experiencing intimacy concerns, a great way to bring that connection back to your relationship is to start in the kitchen.

Dr. Kevin Leman’s book “Sex Begins in the Kitchen,” expresses the necessity of foreplay and flirting. We, at Jeff Packer & Associates also suggest tiny little love gestures (77 to be specific).

It is important to understand that intimacy is not just sex. And perhaps the reason that sex has gone astray in your relationship is because you and your partner have neglected the six additional spheres of intimacy: emotional, conflict/crises, recreational, intellectual, spiritual, and experiential.

If you would like to assess where your relationship is in regards to the seven spheres of intimacy and would also like to find out how many of those 77 tiny loving gestures you and your partner can express to each other daily, then book an appointment with Andrea and Jeff today!

Looking around in our society today does not seem to support this “traditional” vow. What ever happened to “for better or for worse”… “in sickness and in health” … “for richer or for poorer”? I guess more contemporary vows are supposed to read “until serious struggles arise that we can’t handle on our own” “unless I change my mind”… and “except if I’m no longer feelin it”.  Seriously, who would sign up for this type of commitment?

So, what is the benefit to long-term committed romantic relationships? One of the lesser known benefits of marriage is memory and identity. Couples help one another with story-telling, co-creating memories to tell and re-tell. That trip down east, decorating the house, dealing with a child’s illness and celebrating great moments in time are just a few examples of events that are woven into the identity of the couple. Intimate companionship and an avenue for truly healthy sexual expression are, of course, the common aspects people may give as the value of marriage. And for many, reproduction and child rearing in partnership brings amazing satisfaction that is well worth the challenges and stress associated with building a life-long romance.

Maybe these benefits contribute to the 62% of marriages in Canada that surpass the 30th anniversary mark!

Healthy relationships are built upon a commitment to work on learning from each other daily, helping each other become the most amazing spouses possible and by being open to guidance and support to accomplish this goal. Why not “till death do you part”? After all, isn’t that what’s in our hearts, dreams and wishes? … forever!

“Safe Sex” What does it really mean?

A lot of people get nervous when they are faced with answering the question: What is safe sex?Quick standard answers involve: 1) “condoms and contraceptives”, or  2) “abstinence or no sex”. On the contrary, these are actually simplistic and misinformed responses that can contribute to risky business.

Healthy and informed messages, to adequately guide our teenagers in the complex area of sexuality, require more detailed conversations throughout the adolescent stage.  Although people often say this talk makes them “feel awkward”, it is important to push past this normal apprehension in order to prevent future problems and increase healthier decision-making down the road.

We can help you have quality conversations about:

  1. what sexuality is and what truly safe sexual expression is,
  2. what is involved in having a healthy and satisfying intimate relationship, and
  3. what to do if problems arise or possibly have already occurred.

There are lots of things that you can do! Explore how you can enhance your communication skills to open up conversations with your teenagers. Contact us today !