Boundaries With Others – How To Set Them

When you’re trying to create boundaries with people they will be tested. It’s like when cows enter a new pasture, they will knock their shoulder against the perimeter a few times to check out where their boundaries are and how strong they are. Cows are strong enough to take down barbed wire if they really wanted to, but they aren’t really testing if they can get out, they are testing if they are safe from the external world. Once they know that the boundaries are consistent and stable they feel safe and they graze in the middle. If the cows don’t have that consistent boundary they will rely on the cowboy to tell them when they have gone too far. The cowboy however doesn’t have consistent boundaries, they will only correct the cow when they notice the cow has gone too far, which doesn’t create a feeling of safety. People are the same when they have never experienced consistent boundaries, or they are experiencing new boundaries. People will test boundaries, not enough to break them but enough to trust that they are there to stay and to trust that they are there to keep them safe.

A lot of young adults who never experienced boundaries, because their parents wanted to be their friend. They have a great relationship with their parents, but they will tell me that they feel like they grew up as an orphan because they don’t have a secure home base. but they will tell me that they are afraid to explore and take risks as an adult because they can’t trust that they have parents who are watching out for them, to make sure they don’t make a mistake big enough to ruin their entire life.

It’s important that people are given the space to grow and find their own solutions within appropriate limits. When your setting limits the goal is not to get a specific outcome, rather the goal is to prevent a specific outcome. It is quite spectacular what people can come up with when their possibilities aren’t limited, but just the same we don’t want anyone hurting themselves or others in the process. Limits are set to prevent irreversible and/or irreplaceable damage, while still allowing people to learn how to cope with and improve from mistakes.

When cattle are being herded they have the instinct to turn around when they feel blocked, which can be disruptive to the flow and requires more work to redirect them back into the flow. To redirect a cow, you want them to feel pressure on their shoulder. If you are in front of them when you apply this pressure they feel blocked, if you are beside them when you apply this pressure they will simply turn a bit from where they shouldn’t be. People are the same, when they are told to stop doing what they are doing (and they don’t continue trampling over you) they will do a complete turnaround, even if this wasn’t your intention. If you’re only wanting a slight redirection from a no go zone you want to adjust your approach to let them know that you understand that they want to move forward, and you want that too, but you want them going forward in a slightly different direction.

Written by Madison Price, MA, LAMFT – therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

 

Divorce – Counseling

Once the decision to divorce becomes imminent, components of the family system must prepare for change.  As a marriage and family therapist, its always my initial response to determine if the marriage can be repaired.  However, when people choose to end the relationship, the best course of action is to remain engaged in a therapeutic process throughout the transition.

The couple will need to work with one another to at least determine how to make decisions required for the legal aspects of dissolving the relationship.  If a couple can manage this on their own, and collaboratively and respectfully complete and submit the required documentation directly to the appropriate State department, and implement resulting legal stipulations, then this is typically the least intrusive and cost-effective method for divorce.  However, most couples have a level of financial, family, possession, and interactional patterns and history to require a divorce mediator to become involved. Typically, within a few sessions, the mediator can direct a process which results in immediate and long-term legal conditions to best assist the couple in divorce.  

All too often, individuals facing divorce immediately discontinue therapy because the marriage is over.  This can be biggest mistake they make in the process, especially considering how many different aspects of their life will require adjustment and change.  While I do not request that the couple meet together in session once they decide to divore, I strongly encourage them to remain engaged in individual therapy, and if children are involved, to make arrangements for each parent to attend therapy with their child(ren) in order to work through the questions, fears, concerns, and aspects of change they will all face, and most importantly, how to establish a new relationship with each parent individually.

Finally, without each partner exploring how they contributed to the dissolution of their marriage, they will most likely repeat harmful interactional and communicative patterns in future relationships.  Even if individuals post-divorce do not have the current intention of entering into another relationship, they should engage in the work which would otherwise place them in a position where they can, in the most healthy way, be available to engage in a future relationship.

Written by Anthony T. Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE, Director at the Holladay Center for Couples & Families

Cleaning Out Your Marriage Closet – Couples Counseling

People are often worried about drudging up the past with their loved ones. There is controversy as to what is healthy for the relationship. People certainly don’t like to bring up an old fight when everything is going well. The issue is that we all have a closet of sorts where we hide everything that “isn’t worth the fight.” At first this closet is empty and the intention of putting things in there is good, you intend to talk about it later, it’s just not the right time.

The problem is that you enjoy the times you’re not fighting, who wouldn’t! You soon forget about what you’re storing in the closet, and you continue to throw everything “not worth the fight” into the closet. Your closet becomes full, and when you try to fit one more thing in there everything topples over. This is the fight of all fights, this is when you seemingly “loose it” out of nowhere about nothing and everything. This fight happens at a time when something was already “not worth the fight” and you were trying to put it in the closet. Therefore, you are probably not up for resolving everything in that closet either. It’s like if your junk closet toppled over just as company is coming over, you’re going to scoop everything up and stuff it back into the closet because you don’t have time to sort through it. This fight leaves everyone upset and confused and often nothing is resolved in this fight.

So how does one clean out this closet? Well its much like spring cleaning, you are going to take everything out and you begin to sort everything into categories. You evaluate if it is something that only happened once and will never happen again, if this is the case it truly isn’t worth the fight and can be thrown out. If it is something that continues to happen you need to address it, you will be bringing up the past not as a weapon against the other person, but as a justification for bringing it up as an issue. It is absolutely necessary that cleaning this closet is done at a time when your calm and you remain calm to be able to assess what the core of the problem is, what does their behavior tell you about your relationship with them. For instance, If someone is always late, how does their behavior effect you, why does it feel disrespectful to you and how does it create distance in your relationship, what is the message you receive about their feelings toward you. As opposed to judging their behavior as something you wouldn’t do and lecturing them about how it affects them.

When you clean out the closet you are transferring responsibility to the people it will be useful with. You will find that the cleaner your closet becomes the more clarity you will have in your relationships. Your intent in cleaning out the closet is not to change other people’s behavior, it is meant to change your relationships. You will find that some people will choose to become more distant because they are unwilling to make changes, but the relationships that become closer and the internal peace will be worth the distance in others.

Written by Madison Price, MS, LAMFT – therapist at Holladay Center for Couples and Families

Relationship Land Mines – How to Handle Them

All people have topics or behavior that are emotional landmines. I think of watching M.A.S.H seeing a big sign saying, “DANGER-MINE FIELD.” I love to picture this sign in my relationships. If these emotional landmines are going to be there I think it is essential for survival to create a boundary around the mine fields. I have found it courteous to set boundaries around mine, so that people have more freedom within a relationship with me. If people don’t set boundaries around their own boundaries I have to create boundaries to keep myself safe from their emotional landmines, unfortunately I don’t know exactly where the landmines are, so I have to create a boundary with large radius for extra safety. This is unfortunate because If boundaries are bigger than they need to be for the emotional safety this is limiting the potential for emotional intimacy in the relationship.

This is not only unfortunate for the person who “steps” on the emotional landmines, but also the person with the emotional landmines without appropriate boundaries. People thrive on relationships and connections. People who don’t create boundaries are absolutely terrified of being alone. Without knowing about emotional landmines, if you had the choice between land without blocked off areas and land that had nothing on it, the land without any blocked off areas seems more attractive, at least until you start walking over it! A person without boundaries want to attract people, and boundaries are not attractive. Their need for connection is not inherently bad, they are meeting this need in the only way they know how, because they haven’t experienced a long term intimate relationship as an example. Therefore, they have people around them who are avoiding a close relationship, or freeze to avoid any emotional landmines.

When you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t create boundaries, you will often find yourself apologizing without knowing how you’re at fault. If apologizing becomes your default to suppress emotional explosions, you will attract people who have a need to blame.  People who blame are only considering their own needs, people who apologize as a default only consider the needs of others. A healthy relationship will balance your emotional needs with the needs of others with consideration of the context. If this isn’t happening your efforts to get closer to people will result in resentments. If you’re thinking “if they only knew what I was really thinking, they wouldn’t love me.” You will feel lonely in a room of people who love you.

When you share your truth, unfortunately you do risk losing people in your life.  However, knowing that even the one person who stays loves every part of you, and respects you enough to respect your boundaries will be worth anyone you lose. This is the most difficult part of setting boundaries, you have to reach a point where you can accept losing a relationship all together in order to do what it takes to be a healthier person. Accepting that you could lose a relationship means that if they are uncomfortable with boundaries they may cutoff communication with you. When you respect yourself and you respect other people enough to show them where your boundaries are to keep you and them emotionally safe, you will begin attracting healthier relationships.

Written by Madison Price, MS, LAMFT – Therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

 

Why Couples Therapy Often Fails

Couples often start therapy years after they first need it. I work with couples who tell me about their struggles years before they end up in my office. Its sad to hear how they saw the need for help, but didn’t get it for one reason or another. I hear them talk about things they try, reading books, talking with church leaders, trying harder, date nights…to no avail. There is nothing wrong with these types of activities as they do help strengthen a marriage. The problem is that the couple needs more fundamental healing and work. They need a solid relationship foundation (i.e., secure attachment, emotional safety), not a superficial fix (i.e., date night).

Here is what I tell these couples – start focusing on yours and your spouses emotional needs and experiences. Most couples struggle to do this because it is scary and unfamiliar. Understanding what your emotional needs are helps you to know what to communicate with your spouse. The trick is, at that point, communicating those needs in an appropriate manner. Extending an Invitation rather than an Demand regarding these needs is important. Invite your spouse to understand your needs and collaborate with you how to get them met. The more you then do this for your spouse the better your relationship will be. Understanding their needs and trying to meet them will help them feel safe and secure in your relationship and give them the ability to do this for you. This can be a difficult experience for both of you. Its scary to be that vulnerable and exposed with your spouse. No one else can hurt you like they can in this world. Opening up in this manner requires that you trust them to take care of you and be soft and caring. Them opening up in this manner requires the same type of trust in you.

A couples counselor can help you learn to be that vulnerable with each other while maintaining emotional safety.

By Dr. Triston Morgan, LMFT

When Teenagers Refuse to Accept Parental Influence

You have been there, most of us for the 2nd time around.  A parent offers a lifetime of experience, knowledge, and observance of others, and their teenage child refuses the knowledge, insight, suggestion, direction, or invitation.  Let’s explore how this plays out in families, and how we can approach these situations differently.

I know for myself, I was that teenager.  At the time, I felt like I needed to figure it all out on my own. My parents didn’t know my life, my situation, my perspective.  How could they get what I was going through, let alone provide accurate or helpful support?

I now find myself as the parent of three teenagers, and feel as though I see them clearly, and have excellent advice, support, and direction for each of them.  Of course I would, I am a therapist, however, my children refuse my support and suggestions on a frequent basis.

What’s really happening here, and what can we do about it as parents?  Although I cannot provide suggestions for every situation, I will propose an invitation to consider these dynamics from a different perspective.

First of all, we need to consider what relational process encourages the stance of resistance.  As parents, we want to feel valued in our role. We want to improve the next generation, and most likely, prevent our children from some of the difficult, painful, and regretful experience we have had in our life.  However, we typically deliver them in a manner which only reveals the constraints of though, belief, and action, rather than exposing the confusion, pain, and suffering caused by our previous and current actions in life.  

How would your teenager respond to you differently if they were afforded the opportunity to hear what those experiences were truly like for you.  Most teenagers will find it difficult not to get sucked into listening to those kinds of disclosures from their parents. Imbedded in these life accounts are lessons which they can then choose to interpret and implement in their life as they see fit.

Once we get around our teenager’s resistance, we then gain access to mentor, teach, and influence.  Do not take this as control over their decisions, as you are extremely limited in your ability to control your children’s thoughts, believes, and actions.  However, when your teenagers have no reason to resist, what are they left with? Its like engaging in a tug of war, and one side lets go of the rope. If there is no resistance, the attempt to pull on the rope becomes obsolete, and a new perspective of interacting becomes necessary.

I challenge you to attempt to do this in your own way with your teenager. The sooner you attempt to approach them differently, the more likely you will be successful in shifting your teenager’s resistance to your influence and create opportunities of connection which will influence them for the rest of their lives.

by Anthony T. Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE

Hidden Signs of Depression

Studies show about 1 out of every 6 adults will have depression at some time in their life. This means that you probably know someone who is depressed or may become depressed at some point. We often think of a depressed person as someone who is sad or melancholy. However, there are other signs of depression that can be a little more difficult to detect.  

Trouble Sleeping 

If you notice a change in a loved one’s sleeping habits pay close attention as this could be a sign of depression. Oftentimes depression leads to trouble sleeping and lack of sleep can also lead to depression.

Quick to Anger
When a person is depressed even everyday challenges can seem more difficult or even impossible to manage which often leads to increased anger and irritability. This can be especially true for adolescents and children.  

Losing Interest 
When someone is suffering from depression you may notice a lack of interest in past times he or she typically enjoys. “People suffering from clinical depression lose interest in favorite hobbies, friends, work — even food. It’s as if the brain’s pleasure circuits shut down or short out.” 

Appetite Changes
Gary Kennedy, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York cautions that a loss of appetite can be a sign of depression or even a sign of relapse back into depression. Dr. Kennedy also points out that others have trouble with overeating when they are depressed. 

Low Self-Esteem 

Depression often leaves people feeling down about themselves. Depression can lead to feelings of self-doubt and a negative attitude.  

What to do
If you suspect you or someone you love may be suffering from depression talk about it, encourage him or her to get professional help and once he or she does be supportive. Remember that at times symptoms of depression need to be treated just like any other medical condition.

Originally published on http://utvalleywellness.com/

 

Pornography Use –

Pornography use in our community is at an all-time high – and there seems to be no slowing down. Unfortunately, those who get caught in its grasp struggle to get free as their lives and the lives around them suffer. Shame accompanies pornography use in a way that is damaging and debilitating. Pornography often acts as a numbing agent for those who use it. Not wanting to feel uncomfortable emotions, several people go to pornography because it takes them from that uncomfortable emotion. It’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes people get into pornography out of curiosity and it become habit forming. Now-a-days, young people are getting exposed at younger and younger ages to more and more explicit pornography. The ease of access makes this a serious problem at a young age. I often work with clients who tell me that they started using pornography after stumbling on it when they were anywhere from 5-10 years old (at first use). They report that their parents didn’t know and didn’t ask – they certainly didn’t tell anyone either. They used heavy/severe pornography for years before they were caught or eventually told someone. The secrecy that enables this type of behavior is damaging and serious. Ask your children what their experience is with it – you will be surprised to what they have to say. If we aren’t asking and talking with them about it, they are facing it on their own. A professional counselor can help you talk with your child about pornography.

Written by Dr. Triston Morgan, LMFT of the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

Family Counseling – Tips for a Stronger Family

Here are 5 quick tips on ways to strengthen your family!

 

  1. Appreciation

Showing appreciation to someone increases self-esteem and makes the person feel valued and accepted. Appreciation creates a sense of belongingness which helps to build a strong bond and tells the person that you love them. Short, sincere comments can make a huge difference in improving one another’s moods and creating an atmosphere of love and kindness. Take time to point out the positive attributes that you see in each of your family members. Become comfortable in giving and receiving compliments. Appreciation motivates the person and makes them feel more enthusiastic about contributing to the family.

  1. TIME

Your family needs quality time together in order to know and understand each other. Your family needs time where you can laugh, play and communicate with each other. If you are like most families and have a busy schedule, finding time to get everyone together can be hard, but don’t let that stop you. Get creative, make it a family rule that no matter what Monday night dinner is spent eating together as a family. Do family chores together allowing you to be together while doing family tasks. Play games together, plan birthday parties, go camping, or take a walk to the park together. These are all small things that make big differences in strengthening your family relationships.

  1. Communication

Communication is key to successful relationships. The happiest families that I see, are the families that can openly discuss all issues in their lives. I have watched as family members have openly spoken about their greatest fears and sorrows, and they have been met with listening ears that desired to understand and love. I have also witnessed family members shut down or be told not to feel a certain way when they are trying to openly communicate with their families. The families that are able to communicate their worries, sorrows, and other grievances with each other are often stronger and visibly happier. They are able to work through conflict much more quickly. Be aware of your family’s specific needs during times of change or conflict and encourage your family to express what they are feeling rather than bottling it up. Through honest communication your family will learn to trust one another and will become an excellent support system for one another.

  1. Traditions

Family rituals, such as movie night or the annual Smith family turkey bowl, gives your family something to look forward to and helps bond your family together. Look for ways that your family can create special rituals of your own or take traditions that were special to you or your spouse as a child and implement them into your family. Sometimes these traditions will be created on accident, be flexible and let some traditions develop naturally. Traditions do not need to be serious, formal, or over the top events. Simple, inexpensive, humorous rituals are what children remember as adults. These traditions will be memories that your kids will talk about 20 years from now. Memories associated with joy and time spent with their family.

  1. Expectations

Families that set clear expectations for their children are happier. Make sure your children know and understand your family rules. Hold a family meeting and practice healthy communication by taking the time to explain your family rules and expectations. During the meeting give your children a chance to ask questions and express any concerns that they have. Work together to ensure that your family understands what is expected of each other and what it means to be a part of your family.

 

Written by Brandi Hess, MS, LAMFT at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

Fighting Fair – Couples Therapy

Couples often fight. Leading researcher, John Gottman, found through decades of successful research, that it’s not the presence of fighting or arguing in a marriage that causes divorce. He found that it was how a couple fights that would cause them to divorce. Learning how to fight fair, in a sense, is important for a healthy relationship.

 

Here are a few principles to consider when learning to fight fair:

  • Soft Start-up – how you start your discussion matters. If you come at your spouse with an accusatory tone, it would be called a harsh start up and usually not end well. Starting your discussion with a softness can really help. For example, you might say, ‘I’m trying to understand how you feel about this, but struggling to do so. Can you tell me more about…’ This sends the message that you are not looking for a fight, but rather to partner up with your spouse in this difficult time.
  • Solve your solvable problems – There are solvable problems and perpetual problems. Knowing the difference and then knowing how to focus on your solvable problems will help you not get stuck. Perpetual problems are ones that seem like they just won’t budge. Most of marriage problems fall into this category. However, you don’t’ have to solve these for your marriage to work well. You just want to know how to deal with them in a manner that allows for them to be present and for your marriage not to fail.
  • Listen to your body – When you argue, your body often reacts in a manner that makes it difficult to use the skills you know. John Gottman calls this flooding. Your body gets overwhelmed. The trick is to let your body calm down when you are in an argument. This often takes some time alone. Let your body’s signals tell you when it’s the right time to take this time-out. Your body might respond to arguing by an increased heart rate, body temperature, sweating, or pressure. As soon as you feel this, know that you are becoming flooded and need to take a break.

Using these three simple principles will help you have a happier marriage and one that can last. If using these principles don’t seem to help, come in to see a therapist. We can help with marital problems such as infidelity, pornography problems, depression, anxiety, arguing, parenting issues,

Taken from John Gottman’s book: the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

 

Written by Dr. Triston Morgan, LMFT