“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!

Thankfulness is good for mental health

Having an attitude of gratitude and genuinely being appreciative for what we have is healthy. The recognition that we have benefited from something outside of ourselves inspires both humility and thankfulness. In the depiction above, titled The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1850-1936) , we see early Pilgrims and American Indians sharing the first Thanksgiving together, having helped each other with the harvest.

Certainly we can be thankful for anything, such as health, work, education, family, friends, sport, romance and love. The traditional and historical roots of thanksgiving celebrations, however, rise out of a deep appreciation and thankfulness for the harvest of food; cupboards and pantries filled with sufficient supplies to sustain life until the next growing season.

In North America, Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed* formally as follows;

On Thursday, January 31, 1957, the Parliament of Canada proclaimed:
A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

 

Thanksgiving Day, is a holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. It has been an annual tradition since 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. *From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia {emphasis added}

Although it appears our American neighbours’ observance of thanksgiving predates ours in Canada, Wikipedia goes on to report “The history of Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher”. Martin and his crew were thankful for surviving the icy waters to the north, where some did not.

Enough history? What about thankfulness and mental health?

Citing research from Robert Emmons’ new book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) Bruce Campbell reports:

“Summarizing the findings from studies to date, Emmons says that those who practice grateful thinking “reap emotional, physical and interpersonal benefits.” People who regularly keep a gratitude journal report fewer illness symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the future. Emmons conclusion is that gratitude is a choice, one possible response to our life experiences.”            (from: cfidsselfhelp.org)

Giving thanks has been healthy since the beginning of time. Practicing an attitude of gratitude takes work. Positive psychological approaches, like mindfulness, narrative re-writing, solution-focused and cognitive-behavioural therapy help people more fully develop healthy and positive mindsets. It may not surprise us to learn that thankfulness, as with most positive psychological approaches, has its origins in ancient religious teachings.

Helpfulness and altruism share these spiritual origins and also contribute positively to our mental health. This Thanksgiving, when we are giving thanks for what we have at our table, it is equally important to help those in need. Our native American Indians and Pilgrims to the south helped each other survive and were understandably thankful.

“No matter what struggle, challenge or issue we are facing it seems wise to direct our focus on what we are thankful for. In addition, helping those who are less fortunate is a healthy, outward extension of our thankfulness.”

Genuine thankfulness and altruism can take more strength, more energy and more grace than we have. This may be precisely why the pioneers of thankfulness along with our world leaders chose to extend their thankfulness to God.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

How many times do you hear this phrase from a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend?  “We’ve grown apart”.

I wonder where and when we first heard this phrase? Was it in a movie or on a TV show?  Is it really true? Do people grow apart?  This sounds like an excuse to leave. Like the person who says this no longer has a say in the relationship. Perhaps they feel they have no ability to change, grow, develop and adopt new behaviours that will spark up and enhance the relationship.

Change in ourselves changes the way we relate with others. I don’t really think we grow apart as much as we make choices, a series of decisions that are not supportive to the relationship. Choices can be made arbitrarily, without considering the other’s opinion. Maybe we are not open to getting their feedback?  These can certainly take away from intimacy and reduce closeness. Another behaviour or action that is harmful to romance and dating relationships is not really hearing the other person’s concerns or feelings. These are just a few ways we can be choosing, whether we are aware of it or not, to create distance in the relationship.

Long before the break-up, the realization we are no longer close, both partners have usually made thousands of decisions against closeness, detrimental to the construction of a wonderful and amazing intimate romance.

Making positive choices and taking action for the relationship include politeness, calm negotiations, hearing one another and acting upon what is heard, punctuality and sharing of day-to-day tasks and chores to name just a few. Additionally, reading a few good books on ways to build a healthy romantic relationship (e.g. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman or Love and Respect by Dr Emerson Eggeriches) can greatly assist couples in their journey toward romantic joy and satisfaction.

Combining this with coaching, before things are “too bad” is also a good idea. Our counsellors located in Oshawa are professionally trained to guide you to healthier communication, interpersonal skill development and toward the quality relationship you desire. Like the roots and branches of trees intertwined, gradually over time, so too can couples learn how to become closer, more caring, empathetic and understanding. Each person can choose to develop more positive and optimistic views which in turn increases positive feelings and behaviours toward one another.

To find out how we can help you grow together Contact us todaynature

“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!

Loss of a loved one, whether a grandparent, parent, child, sibling, friend or another close to you can be quite painful and heart-wrenching.  Initial shock and disbelief are often quickly replaced by feelings of sorrow, grief, confusion and even anger. These emotional responses are quite normal…uncomfortable, yet normal.

Can you imagine getting close to another person, sharing special times, stories, events and situations, some very intimate and challenging and others exciting, joyful and exhilarating… then suddenly they are gone and you felt normal, unaffected? That would be strange wouldn’t it?  

Significant loss is supposed to impact us, change us and even throw us off our normal routines. The greater the love, the greater the loss, the greater the impact. In ancient times, those who lost a loved one may display their grief by tearing their clothes, covering themselves in ashes and mourning for months and even years.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote two of the best books to help people grieving the loss of a loved one; On Death & Dying” and “On Grief & Grieving. These fine works help those grieving with the journey, finding new meaning, restoring faith and adjusting to a life without their special loved one.

Sometimes the struggle after loss can seem simply too much to handle, too hard to face on your own and maybe even too difficult for surviving family and friends to help you with.  This is not a flaw or weakness. It may simply be the loss is so great extra assistance and supports may be required.

If you should find the loss of a loved one is just too much, fueling overwhelming emotions (e.g. excessive crying and anger) and increasingly troubling behaviours, please reach out and to get the supports available. You may even Contact us 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!