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5 Ways to Grow Together When Depression Enters a Relationship

Couple Embrace Hug Rain Affection

No one teaches us how to navigate a relationship when mental illness enters the equation.

I recently read a Washington Post article by a woman whose relationship was torn apart while she and her partner tried to deal with his depression.

My personal take is that the author simply wasn’t equipped to deal with a partner coping with depression. Most of us aren’t.

Last year when I plunged into a depressive episode, my partner was at a loss. He had never dealt with this and wanted so badly to help, but had no idea what to do.

What It’s Like Inside The Psychological Purgatory of Depression

We went looking for books and found there were very few out there, and what currently does exist approaches the topic in a “you vs. your partner and his or her depression” way. We weren’t comfortable with that, and set out to find a different approach — a way that would give him insight into my experience and allow him to support me, while giving him what he needed as well.

Our experiment worked!

Check out YourTango for relationship advice

Sure we hit bumps along the road, but in the end I felt loved, supported, and understood in a way I never had during a depressive episode, and he felt like he knew what was going on — a big deal in this situation — and was equipped to deal with it.

Our experience inspired this list of 5 ways to grow together rather than apart when navigating through depressive episodes with your partner:

1. Get On Your Partner’s Team

Another common advice mode that makes my blood boil is one I call the “broken and lucky” model.

It operates on the notion that the not-depressed partner is wonderful and selfless for standing by the partner with depression.

The message to partners dealing with depression is there’s obviously something inherently wrong with them (they are broken) that could justifiably make a “normal” person not want them. They should therefore feel so lucky their partner is generously taking them on — ergo, broken and lucky.

This unhealthy model only results in anger, resentment, and destroyed relationships.

To avoid this, remember your partner doesn’t want to be clinically depressed any more than you do (in fact, he or she probably wants it even less than you).

Instead of acting as adversaries, get on each other’s team.

This means trying to follow each other’s lead. Listening more than you talk. Trusting each other. Believing your partner when he or she describes their symptoms. Learning about what depression is. Meeting your partner where he or she is. Recognizing your partner isn’t his or her diagnosis. Being open to communicating differently.

Clearly, it means a lot of things.

Getting on your partner’s team is making the mental leap from thinking of your partner as someone who “has depression” to recognizing symptoms of depression as they show up in your partner and being able to ask informed questions when they do.

To get started, check out How To Help Someone With Depression by Steven Skoczen. It’s probably my favorite thing anyone has ever written on the topic.

2. Create a Common Language

Those individuals dealing with depression are living in a whole different world. Getting angry at them for not showing up for you the same way they did before a depressive episode struck is like getting mad at your dog for not being ice cream —–futile, frustrating, and kind of mean.

To continue engaging in a relationship you need to start speaking the same language and, as we’ve already established, your partner can’t speak yours right now.

One of the first things I taught my partner was the Spoon Theory. Created by Christine Miserandino (who I consider the patron saint of folks with chronic invisible ailments), the Spoon Theory gave my partner a concrete understanding of my limited physical, mental, and emotional resources, as well as a simple language with which to ask about them.

The other resource that we found most helpful in understanding the unique language around depression was, well, a video game! Seriously!

When I first played Depression Quest, I wept because I’d never felt so understood.

When my partner first played it, he called me, sounding shaken. He asked if it was accurate, if that’s really how it felt. I told him yes, and he admitted that depression was so much harder, scarier, and more frustrating than it looks from the outside. The word “dystopian” may even have been used…

Is Depression Quest’s story universal? No. Does it describe everyone’s depression? No.

Depression looks different from person to person and even from episode to episode, but I have never seen anything else evoke the feelings of depression the way that game does.

3. Let Each Other Know It’s OK to Be Wherever You Each Are — Often

Depression can turn us into people who don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. It can make us a person who gets angry easily. It can make us cry a lot…all the standard things people picture when they think “depression.”

What we don’t talk about as often is the excessive guilt and shame, which can both be a big part of the depression package.

When your partner feels like her or she is ruining your plans, not fun to be around, crying yet again, both may kick in.

Let your partner know that wherever he or she is at is okay and you still love and support your partner. Then repeat. A lot.

When your partner texts that he or she doesn’t want to go to the concert after all, a reply as simple as “I’ll miss you but I totally get it. Do you need me to bring you anything before I go?” makes all the difference in the world, because it lets your partner know it really is okay to be wherever he or she is.

20 Things You MUST Accept For Your Relationship To Succeed

4. Take Responsibility for Your Own Social Life

Jumping off that last one — sometimes your partner won’t want to go places when you do, and that’s okay.

We live in a world that is really intense about the whole “couples must do everything together” thing. I really don’t get this.

I was lucky heading into my last episode of depression, because I am an introvert in a long distance relationship with a pretty intense extrovert, so we were already used to socializing separately. However, for many people the “I can’t go places without my partner” mentality puts extra strain on relationships that involve someone dealing with depression.

This is especially true for partners who live together. It’s a recipe for resentment if the choice comes down to one of you forcing yourself to brave social events you don’t have the emotional capacity for or the other skipping events to stay home with while growing more and more resentful of missing out yet again.

The solution here is so simple, though: take responsibility for your own social life.

Don’t make everything you do contingent on whether or not your partner does it, wants to do it, or can commit to the plan three months in advance. (Spoiler alert: if someone is dealing with depression, he or she probably can’t).

Make the plans you want to make, let your partner know he or she is welcome to join but wherever your partner is, is okay (remember?), and then go have a social life.

This may sound like I’m telling you to go out and leave your depressed partner behind, but actually, I’m suggesting you simply take the social pressure off your partner by letting him or her know he or she is not responsible for your social happiness. You can still exist out in the world even if your partner is not up to it right now.

You may need to discuss this idea with your partner if separate socializing is new for you, but ultimately, this can lift a whole lot of strain off of you both of you and give you each much-needed self-care time.

5. Find a Support System for Yourself

This is a lot of work for one person and you are doing some serious heavy lifting in this relationship.

What about when you need to vent?

What about when you need someone to be your soft landing place and during a period of time when your partner just CANNOT do it?

How do you stop that from filling you with frustration and resentment?

Make sure you have your own support network. Hopefully your partner has a therapist, and you may want to consider one for yourself. Or maybe you have a really strong network of family and/or friends you can talk to. Maybe there’s just one person in your life who really gets it, or who even doesn’t understand it at all but with whom you can shut off you brain and do something else entirely.

Make sure you’re getting support too, because you need it, you deserve it, and no matter how much your partner may want to provide it for you, depression can make it near-impossible for him or her to do so at times.

Overall, when it comes to navigating depression together, think about what will make you each stronger. These ideas are all about standing in solidarity with your partner, validating your partner when he or she feels vulnerable, and ensuring support for yourself.

When we talk about depression and relationships, we tend to talk about frustration, anger, and confusion. I firmly believe getting on the same page with one another can remedy a whole lot of that, because I believe people have more capacity for empathy and mutual support than we give them credit for.

In short, I know you BOTH can do this.

This guest article originally appeared on 5 Things You MUST Do If Your Partner Suffers From Depression.

3 Things You Might Be Neglecting in Your Relationship — and Tips to Help

Neglecting relationships and helpful tips

things you might be neglecting in your relationshipAll relationships require care and tending. Anything that you want to thrive does. But in the midst of our fast-paced days and family obligations, we may neglect the very actions that are essential to building a beautiful union. Or maybe we miss these vital components because we never knew about them in the first place. After all, so many of us aren’t taught how to have healthy relationships. For instance, we assume that we’re listening to our spouses because, well, we can hear them. But hearing someone’s words and understanding them are two very different things.

Below are three things you might be neglecting to do in your relationship — along with some helpful suggestions from Shelly Hummel, LMFT, a Gottman certified therapist who has worked with couples for 18 years.

You might be neglecting to appreciate each other 

How often do you thank your partner or tell her (or him) you appreciate her? How often do you greet her in the morning or when you walk in the door? Most of the time we don’t just neglect to be kind. But we forget good manners and common courtesy, even with the people we love most.

And yet, according to John Gottman, Ph.D, couples in happy marriages had a ratio of 20 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction. As Hummel said, “that is 20 compliments to one complaint.” A number that might surprise you.

You can create positive interactions by expressing your appreciation to your partner. Hummel shared these examples: You might compliment your spouse’s great traits: “You are so good with the kids. They are lucky to have you as their father.” You might thank them for their help: “Thank you for picking up the dry cleaning. That saved me a lot of time today.”

Appreciating each other strengthens your friendship and intimacy, Hummel said. It also adds money to your “emotional bank account.” “This account needs to be as full as it can be when the inevitable happens, and the two of you have a conflict.”

You might be neglecting to really listen to each other 

“Most people listen to respond, instead of listening to understand,” Hummel said. That is, as our spouse is talking, we’re not focusing on what he’s saying. We are formulating our response. We are formulating our argument, figuring out the points we want to challenge and gathering our evidence. When we hear something we disagree with or that triggers anger, we automatically get defensive.

Instead, Hummel encouraged readers “to postpone your agenda while your spouse is venting, complaining and yes, even nagging.” Hummel suggested getting curious and asking questions. Try to better understand your partner’s perspective. This doesn’t mean you agree with him. It means that you want to know what it’s like to be walking in his shoes.

“We’ve all had arguments that are so tangential that we can’t even remember what we were fighting about,” Hummel said. “This occurs because, in the end, we are really fighting about not feeling heard or understood.” And all of us want to be understood and validated.

You might be neglecting to fight fair

Many people assume that couples in happy relationships don’t fight. But that’s not true. In fact, “happy couples fight just as much and about the same things as unhappy couples, Hummel said. But there is a difference: It’s how they fight. Gottman found that couples whose conflicts regularly feature “The Four Horsemen” are at risk for divorce. These are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.

Hummel suggested accepting that discord is part of every marriage and learning to eliminate those four elements when you fight. In this piece on The Gottman Relationship Blog, writer Ellie Lisitsa shares antidotes to the four horsemen.

For instance, she writes that criticism is telling your partner: “You always talk about yourself. You are so selfish.” The antidote is saying: “I’m feeling left out by our talk tonight. Can we please talk about my day?”

Defensiveness is saying: “It’s not my fault that we’re always late, it’s your fault.” The antidote is taking responsibility for your part. Here it’s saying: “Well, part of this is my problem, I need to think more about time.”

Contempt is everything from being sarcastic to rolling your eyes to spewing insults. The antidote is Hummel’s first tip: Regularly show your partner appreciation and respect.

Stonewalling is physically or emotionally withdrawing from the conversation. This piece shares suggestions on what to do when you’re the one who stonewalls or when your partner does.

Some of these tips are easier to implement than others. But either way, they’re certainly worth it. All relationships need work. And that’s a good thing. Because that’s when you as an individual and your relationship as a whole grow and flourish.


What Self-Love Might Look Like for You

What Self-Love Might Look Like for You

The Number 1 Relationship Killer

#1 Relationship Killer & Therapy Can Help

Couple fighting

#1 Relationship Killer & Therapy Can Help

By Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.
~ 3 min read
When there’s a problem in a relationship, couples try to talk about it. If they can talk about in a way that resolves the problem, all is well. If they can’t talk about it in a way that resolves the problem, all is not well.

When they can’t talk about the problem successfully, it is usually because of one thing. They are trying to win. Wanting to win causes them to argue about the problem rather than discussing it in a calm and objective manner. They have a need to be right. The need to win is the one thing that is most likely to destroy a relationship.
“It’s you,” one partner will say to the other. “You are the cause of the problem. You just can’t see it.”

“No, it’s you,” the other partner will respond. “You’re wrong and you don’t want to admit it. All my friends agree with me.”

The need to win (the need to be right) is an aspect of narcissism. Narcissism is an outgrowth of insecurity. The more insecure we are, the more we need to compensate for that insecurity. We compensate by erecting a defensive shell. That defensive shell wants to protect us from being wrong, because being wrong would mean, in our unconscious mind, we are a total failure as a human being. Being right means we are successful; we are a human being who knows what is right and what is wrong.

Invariably when couples come to me for therapy, this is the underlying problem. It is an easy problem to detect. As soon as I hear them arguing in my office it becomes apparent. You might think that all I would need to do to help them solve the problem is to tell them that they are trying to win and this is the main obstacle to their having a successful relationship. But it is not that easy. They may respond, “Yes, you’re right, I’m trying to win,” but a week later they are arguing the same way. They are still trying to win. It is deeply ingrained in their character.

10 Rules for Friendly Fighting for Couples

By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.
~ 4 min read

For some people, this is a truly radical idea: There is no need to fight with your partner. Ever. Accusations, recriminations, character assassination, threats, name-calling, and cursing, whether delivered at top volume or with a quiet sarcastic sneer, damage a relationship, often irrevocably. Nobody needs to be a monster or to be treated monstrously. Nobody who yells will ever be heard. In the heat of a moment, it is always a choice whether to go for a run or run your partner down.

On the other hand, no two people in the world, no matter how made for each other they feel, will ever agree about everything at all times. (It would be quite boring if they did.) Couples do need to be able to negotiate differences. They do need to have room for constructive criticism. They do need a way to assert opinions and to disagree. And they do need to have a way to express intense feelings (that the other person may not understand or support) without feeling that they will be judged as lacking for doing so.

A healthy relationship requires knowing the skills necessary for “friendly fighting” — dealing with conflict respectfully and working together to find a workable solution. Friendly fighting means working out differences that matter. It means engaging passionately about things we feel passionate about, without resorting to hurting one another. It helps us let off steam without getting burned. Friendly fighting lets us “fight” and still stay friends.

Couples in mature, healthy relationships seem intuitively to understand the notion of friendly fighting. Some people have been fortunate enough to grow up in families where their parents modeled how to disagree without being disagreeable. Others were so horrified by the way their folks treated each other that they refuse to repeat the behavior in their own relationships. Most couples, though, learn the art of friendly fighting by working it out together and supporting each other in staying in close relationship even when differences mystify, frustrate, and upset them. Most come up with stated or unstated rules for engagement that are surprisingly similar.

Below are some tips to ensure that conflicts will strengthen your marriage instead of harm it.

Ten rules for friendly fighting: or how to ensure that conflicts will strengthen your marriage instead of harm it.

  1. Embrace conflict. There is no need to fear it. Conflict is normal, even healthy. Differences between you mean that there are things you can learn from each other. Often conflict shows us where we can or need to grow.
  2. Go after the issue, not each other. Friendly fighting sticks with the issue. Neither party resorts to name calling or character assassination. It’s enough to deal with the problem without adding the new problem of hurting each other’s feelings.
  3. Listen respectfully. When people feel strongly about something, it’s only fair to hear them out. Respectful listening means acknowledging their feelings, either verbally or through focused attention. It means never telling someone that he or she “shouldn’t” feel that way. It means saving your point of view until after you’ve let the other person know you understand that they feel intensely about the subject, even if you don’t quite get it.
  4. Talk softly. The louder someone yells, the less likely they are to be heard. Even if your partner yells, there’s no need to yell back. Taking the volume down makes it possible for people to start focusing on the issues instead of reacting to the noise.
  5. Get curious, not defensive. Defending yourself, whether by vehemently protesting your innocence or rightness or by turning the tables and attacking, escalates the fight. Instead of upping the ante, ask for more information, details, and examples. There is usually some basis for the other person’s complaint. When you meet a complaint with curiosity, you make room for understanding.
  6. Ask for specifics. Global statements that include the words “always” and “never” almost always get you nowhere and never are true. When your partner has complaints, ask to move from global comments of exasperation to specific examples so you can understand exactly what he or she is talking about. When you have complaints, do your best to give your partner examples to work with.
  7. Find points of agreement. There almost always are parts of a conflict that can be points of agreement. Finding common ground, even if it’s agreeing that there is a problem, is an important start to finding a common solution.
  8. Look for options. Fighting ends when cooperation begins. Asking politely for suggestions or alternatives invites collaboration. Careful consideration of options shows respect. Offering alternatives of your own shows that you also are willing to try something new.
  9. Make concessions. Small concessions can turn the situation around. If you give a little, it makes room for the other person to make concessions too. Small concessions lead to larger compromises. Compromise doesn’t have to mean that you’re meeting each other exactly 50-50. Sometimes it’s a 60-40 or even 80-20 agreement. This isn’t about scorekeeping. It’s about finding a solution that is workable for both of you.
  10. Make peace. An elderly friend who has been married for 68 years tells me that she and her husband made a rule on their wedding day never to go to bed angry. They agreed from the outset that the relationship is more important than winning arguments. Sometimes this meant they stayed up very, very late until they came to a workable compromise. Sometimes it meant that one or the other of them decided the issue wasn’t really important enough to lose sleepover. Since they both value the marriage, neither one gave in or gave up most of the time. When one did give in or give up, the other showed appreciation and made a peace offering of his or her own. These folks still love each other after 68 years of the inevitable conflicts that come with living with another person. They are probably onto something.

More Ways to Manage Racing Thoughts

Check out this great blog on managing racing thoughts by Tartakovsky and if you need assistance with managing your thoughts, please feel free to contact me.

Yesterday, I shared some suggestions from Sarahjoy Marsh’s book Hunger, Hope & Healing for decelerating racing thoughts and calming our minds and bodies. Because racing thoughts can steal our enjoyment. They can follow us into bed and onto the couch. They can boost our anxiety and sink our mood.

Today, I’m sharing other suggestions, because there are so many great tools out there. Most of the below tips are meditations or based on mindfulness, as these are powerful in creating calm and helping us refocus.

  • Listen to this “leaves on the stream” meditation. I love what the speaker says about the meditation’s purpose: “to notice a shift of looking from your thoughts to looking at your thoughts.” Because we don’t need to control or change our thoughts. We can simply observe them as they come and go naturally.
  • Think of your racing thoughts as a movie you’re watching.
  • Start narrating your every step. That is, to yourself, say exactly what you’re doing. For instance, if you’re trying to relax on the couch, you might say: “Right now, I’m sitting on the couch. I’m looking at the TV. I’m having a hard time concentrating on what I’m watching. My right arm is moving to the left to wrap a blanket over my entire body…” and so on.
  • Listen to this 18-minute meditation, which features bells, waves washing ashore and instructions to breathe in deeply and exhale fully.
  • Start doodling your racing thoughts. As the thoughts are swirling around your mind, draw them. Avoid writing down these thoughts or any words in general. Instead sketch shapes, patterns or any other images that arise as you’re observing your thoughts.
  • Read something really, really boring. Maybe this is a manual for your fridge or names in the phone book (remember those? :)).
  • Listen to classical music. Or listen to your favorite songs, and sing along.
  • Try this breathing meditation for slowing down and cultivating stillness.
  • Pick one thing to look at. Just one thing. Set your timer for 5 minutes and stare at it. Study it. This might be anything from a magazine to a print on your wall.
  • Make yourself something to eat that requires multiple steps, which really can be anything. Pause, and take the time to smell what you’re making. Focus your attention on your hands as they’re chopping or filling a pot with water. Pretend you’re making a food video, and every little step counts. Make it as conscious and deliberate as possible.
  • Watch a funny film or YouTube videos of your favorite comedian.
  • Picture yourself in the middle of a beautiful field. Your racing thoughts are thought bubbles, which surround you and more keep popping up. Picture yourself putting these thought bubbles in a huge box, and locking it up. Or picture the thought bubbles as balloons, which you pop with a needle one by one. As you do, they transform into beautiful splatters of paint. Create any visualization that works for you. You can even write the visualization down or record yourself saying it. Return to your visualization whenever your racing thoughts reappear.
  • Practice one of these three meditations for helping you calm your mind so you can fall asleep.

Racing thoughts are bothersome. They’re overwhelming. They’re frustrating. It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle, and the tapes your head is replaying.

However, know that you can stop the tapes or at least slow them down. You don’t have to join your thoughts on the highway as they race each other. You can find an exit and a quiet place to rest.

In some cases, the techniques you try on your own may not work. That’s OK. It might mean you need to see a therapist (especially if you’re struggling regularly). This way you can receive one-on-one support that specifically addresses your concerns. (You might start your searchhere.)

The Benefits of Premarital Counseling & How to Find a Therapist

This is a great blog by Margarita Tartakovsky if you are thinking of getting married and premarital counseling.

The date of a wedding is circled on a white calendar with a magenta colored marker, surrounded by a drawn heart

Associate Editor
~ 4 min read


Many people think premarital counseling is only for certain couples. That includes engaged couples who have relationship issues or who are required by their congregation to attend, said Meredith Hansen, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist who specializes in premarital, newlywed and couples counseling.

However, any couple can benefit from premarital counseling. It can help couples who are about to get married, have been married for five years or fewer, are living together or will have a domestic partnership, said Victoria Brodersen, LMFTA, a psychotherapist who specializes in premarital counseling.

She suggested thinking of your relationship “as a piece of machinery” — “[E]ven those that run well require regular maintenance.”

The Benefits of Premarital Counseling

The goal of premarital counseling is to help couples navigate important questions about their lives together, said Hansen, who has a private practice in Newport Beach, Calif. Her premarital program consists of five sessions. Couples talk about the importance of marriage in their lives and what they’d like their marriage to look like.

Hansen often asks couples to describe in detail what they want their life to look like one year and five years after they’re married.

They also learn how to communicate and resolve conflict. They discuss hot button topics, such as money, sex, in-laws, parenting and religion, she said.

“By the end of the program, couples should have a more in-depth understanding of their partner and feel like they are starting their life and marriage on the same page.”

Premarital counseling helps couples better understand their own motivations for getting married, which might include building their own family, increasing their commitment to each other and creating a future together, Hansen said.

It also helps them recognize what they want from a partnership and identify their own needs, she said. For instance, a couple might realize that their needs are “to feel loved, valued, validated, heard, to have someone who is always there for them, to work together in life.”

Brodersen, who practices at Marriage and Family Therapy Services in Hickory, N.C., places a special emphasis on showing couples how unspoken expectations can get them into trouble. She helps them create an environment of understanding and safety. They define what sex means to them along with what they view as infidelity.

She also asks couples to consider their roles and division of labor in their household. She discusses getting enough sleep and rest. “One-third of their life will be spent in sleep so it is worth working on to help give the other two-thirds a firm foundation to start from.”

Reasons Couples Skip Counseling

Money is a big reason couples pass on premarital counseling (especially because of wedding costs). However, Hansen encourages couples to think of the long-term benefits. “The wedding is one day, but their marriage should be forever.”

Brodersen suggested couples call around, and ask about the costs before making any assumptions. She also suggested finding out if you can use your insurance benefits, or if therapists offer sliding fee scales or reduced rates.

The most affordable option, she said, is to get counseling from student therapists at a university clinic, which has a Marriage and Family Therapy program. “It also allows you to glean the knowledge of multiple therapists as those students are supervised by therapist professors that have years of experience and stay up-to-date on the most recent research.”

Another barrier is time. However, according to Hansen, “The key is to find a program or option that will work for you.” Today, she said, there are many options to choose from, including weekend retreats, programs with five 50-minute sessions and even home study programs that guide you through specific questions.

Probably the biggest obstacle is fear, Hansen said. This is twofold. Couples worry that going to counseling means there’s something wrong with their relationship. Hansen suggested reframing this perspective. “[R]emember that working on your relationship in the early phases will help keep it strong and healthy as you grow together.”

Hansen reminds couples about the benefits of focusing on what is and isn’t working in your relationship and learning helpful tools. Plus, going to counseling shows your commitment to your relationship, she said.

Couples also fear that talking about tough topics and exploring their relationship will create or trigger serious conflict. According to Hansen, “it is better to delve into these issues in counseling so that you have a professional who can help you make sense of any issues and learn how to work through them.”

The conversations or conflicts you avoid will only creep up later and might cause bigger problems, she said.

Hansen likens it to catching an illness in its early stages and getting it treated right away, while it’s still mild. If you ignore the illness, you’ll likely need more intensive or invasive treatment later on, she said.

Picking a Therapist

To find a good premarital counseling program, Hansen suggested asking your friends or the person marrying you for referrals. “Often officiants and clergy offer these services, but it can still be beneficial to receive these services with a psychologist or someone trained in marital dynamics.”

Brodersen suggested searching online for marriage and family therapists in your area who discuss premarital counseling on their websites. Hansen also noted that you want premarital counseling to be a regular part of the therapist’s practice. This helps “to ensure that they recognize and understand what you and your fiancé are going through and what you need to discuss to start your marriage off right.”

“If your religion is central to the relationship, call and ask if the therapist can incorporate that into the sessions,” Brodersen said. “Most are happy to do this, regardless of their own religious orientations.”

Pick a therapist that both of you feel comfortable working with, she said. Also, make sure they’re staying in the community.

“Establishing a relationship with this therapist should be like selecting your family physician,” Brodersen said. “You will initially see them for premarital therapy, but as issues come up you want to be able to get in again and pick up where you left off.”

Seeing the same therapist as your marriage and family grows and changes provides you with stability, she said. It also leads you to seek help at the first sign of trouble instead of waiting until things may get worse.

Premarital counseling offers many benefits. As Hansen said, “Every engaged couple wants to have a long, healthy, happy marriage and starting it out by having important conversations about the life you are going to build together, learning how to improve your communication skills, and working together to create your ideal marriage is a great thing.”

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Feb 2015
Published on All rights reserved.

8 signs You May Be Having An Emotional Affair

Photo by couscouschocolat

Photo by couscouschocolat

This is a blog worth reading about emotional affairs and if you are struggling with this issue, please consider contacting Fort Myers Relationship Therapist – Dr. April Brown


By Donna M. White, LPC/I, CACI
~ 2 min read
Infidelity is not as taboo as it used to be and it’s definitely become easier to hide. From workplace relationships to internet encounters, it is not a surprise that emotional affairs seem to be on the rise. Many people spend more hours in the workplace than at home, and as a result, working relationships are more likely to turn into friendships. The internet and social media provide us with the ability to be more social, with less attention. Social media can often hide our best kept secrets.

Most emotional affairs start as simple friendships. Many never intend for those friendships to become anything more than just that. However, there is a thin line between friendships and emotional affairs; and emotional affairs often lead to sexual encounters.

Even when these affairs do not cross the line sexually, the effects can be just as damaging, if not more. The intimacy involved in emotional affairs can often have a level of intensity deeper than a sexual affair because we are more emotionally invested. If you think you may be having an emotional affair or are not quite sure, here are eight signs that indicate you may be crossing the line.

Contact outside of “friendly” hours. If you find yourself communicating at questionable hours, this may be a sign. Most friends don’t text at 2am.
You talk about the difficulties in your current relationship. You may have a close friend or two that you share your frustrations about your partner with. However, if you find yourself sharing all of your problems and concerns with this “special person”, you may be crossing the line.
He/she dominates your thoughts. You think about him/her when you wake up, when you fall asleep, and mostly anytime in between. It’s important to remember that most affairs don’t start off in the bedroom, they start in the mind.
He/she becomes the first person you call. You get some exciting news or you’ve had an awful day. Who do you call first, him/her or your partner?
He/she “gets” you. You’re treading on thin ice when you start to feel like he/she understands better than your partner. This usually leads to increased communication with him/her and less communication with your partner. We are more likely to communicate with someone who we feel “gets” us than someone who does not.
Spending more time with him/her. If you find yourself finding excuses or creating more reasons to spend time with him/her, this may be a sign. However, spending more time does not just mean physical time. If you are spending more time texting, emailing, or video chatting, this may be a sign as well.
You start comparing your partner to him/her. Do you ever find yourself talking to your partner and you think to yourself, “he/she wouldn’t respond like this” or “he/she would be more attentive?” Are you often out with your partner and think, “if I were with him/her, I’d be having more fun?” This type of thinking is dangerous because it aut0matically makes him/her the good one and your partner the bad one.
You lie. Yes, lying by omission counts. So whether you leave out meeting him/her for lunch, deleting messages from your phone, or you just deny communicating with him/her at all – a lie is a lie. If you have to lie, chances are you have something to hide; and if you have something to hide, chances are you know it’s not okay.
If you think are having an emotional affair, it may be time to evaluate your relationships.

For more resources on ending an emotional affair, contact Fort Myers Relationship Therapist -Dr. April Brown.

Photo by couscouschocolat

Looking for a resource to save your marriage in Fort Myers


Check out this article and consider contacting Dr. April Brown, Fort Myers Counselor and Therapist, if you are interested in couples or individual counseling.

If You Want To Save Your Marriage, These Are the Four People You Should Never Be

By Richard Taite
~ 2 min read

I’ve had my fair share of unsuccessful relationships. Now, in a wonderful relationship with the mother of my children, a woman who inspires me to be the best man I can be, I can look back and see many of my mistakes, in this relationship and relationships past. In the treatment center, I see others come in with ruined relationships. Sometimes they can be put back together. Other times, they can’t. One thing I have learned is that there are four types of people you don’t want to be in your marriage. If you are displaying these traits and want to save your marriage, seek the help of a good psychotherapist now.

The Abuser – It’s obvious to say that you should never raise your hand to your significant other, but there are many ways to abuse a person that do not involve overt physical violence. Calling your partner names, talking down to him/her, belittling – these are all forms of abuse. Your job in a relationship is to be an encouragement and support. If you disrespect your partner to the point that you feel the need to cut him/her down, the relationship is doomed.

The Manipulator – We all want to get our way now and again, but if you find yourself unable to get what you want without manipulating your partner, there is an underlying problem in the relationship. In a healthy relationship, you should be able to honestly ask for what you need and negotiate priorities. Sometimes you’ll get what you want and sometimes another priority will take precedence. Withholding affection or sex, or using them as negotiation tools, are forms of manipulation.

The Sugar Mommy/Daddy – A form of manipulator, if you happen to be the major breadwinner in the family, you should not use this economic power as a form of manipulation. Countless people have stayed in atrocious, abusive relationships because they have no means of financial support if they leave their abuser. If you’re not willing to share your finances, don’t get married. Be transparent and fair in all your financial dealings with your partner.

The Cheater – Infidelity is a choice. It doesn’t just “happen” the way some people claim. If you find your eye wandering, that’s the time to start working on your relationship, to figure out what is missing or unfulfilling to the point that you’re thinking of going outside the relationship to get your intimate and/or emotional needs met. Many times, the relationship has changed. Children may have been added to the mix, pulling your spouse’s attention from you. Make time to be together, alone, for romantic interactions. Remind yourself of the reasons you love your spouse and married him/her in the first place.

If you recognize your behavior in any of these profiles and you want to save your marriage, seek help, both individual and couples counseling, immediately. A good marriage is worth fighting for.

– See more at:

Source: If You Want To Save Your Marriage, These Are the Four People You Should Never Be | The Science of Addiction

6 Ways to Stress Less at Work

Stressful work Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, Naples – Contact Dr. April if you need confidential help in dealing with a stressful work environment.

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. on
~ 5 min read


6 Ways to Stress Less at Work

Today’s employees are expected to do more with less, which has become a major source of stress at work, said Vicki Hess, RN and author of SHIFT to Professional Paradise: 5 Steps to Less Stress, More Energy & Remarkable Results at Work.

Other sources of stress on the job include worries about performing well as demands rise and time diminishes, pressure to continuously be plugged in and squabbles with co-workers or disagreements with the boss, according to Hess and Terry Beehr, Ph.D, director of the Industrial/Organizational Program at Central Michigan University.

In fact, some jobs can affect your mental health so much so that unemployed people seem to fare better. According to recent research, people in a bad job — defined as job insecurity, sky-high demands or heavy workload, little control over workload and unfair pay — had either the same or worse mental health than unemployed individuals.

But while you might feel helpless and stressed at times, there are ways you can empower yourself and change your job situation for the better. Here are six ways to stress less about work.

1. Take care of yourself.

The problem with job stress is that it can make people sick, both psychologically and physically, according to Beehr, who studies job stress and satisfaction. So an effective way to stress less is to work on reducing this tension.

For one, you can seek professional help for your symptoms from doctors or psychologists, he said. Also, you can engage in activities that are relaxing to you, such as yoga, or anything that you really enjoy, such as meeting with friends, reading, watching TV or gardening, Beehr said. Of course, physical activities are a boon to your health — and can be protective. Being “in good physical strength” also “makes you somewhat more immune to effects of stress.”

2. Shift your mindset.

In her book, Hess talks about creating a Professional Paradise, which she views as a state of mind — not the perfect employer or paycheck. So it isn’t what actually happens at work but how we perceive events that matters.

She refers to any event that elicits a negative reaction, such as sadness or frustration, as a POW, and anything positive as a WOW. She divides POWs into external — such as criticism from the boss — and internal — such as beating yourself up (and does the same with WOWs). The goal is to “try to minimize the internal POWs, manage the external POWs and increase the internal WOWs,” Hess said.

Hess has developed a 5-step approach for just that, which she calls SHIFT. Here’s the breakdown:
◾Stop and take a deep breath, an action that Hess said we just don’t do enough of. This not only helps calm you down, but prevents you from saying something you might regret.
◾“Harness your harmful knee-jerk reactions,” which is essentially your fight or flight response. When something negative happens, some people mentally withdraw from the situation, while others go on the defensive and lash out. Another negative knee-jerk reaction is worry, Hess said. For instance, say your favorite supervisor typically dresses casually but today he’s wearing a suit. Your knee-jerk reaction is to assume that he’s interviewing for another job. Because knee-jerk reactions seem automatic, it’s often hard to pinpoint them. To recognize them, Hess suggested asking others. “If I don’t realize my knee-jerk is to be more controlling when I’m stressed, that’ll be hard for me to get a handle on that,” Hess said. So she asks her family to keep her in check. Asking co-workers is another option. When Hess worked at a hospital, she regularly talked to her director, which kept her up-to-date on company information. During staff meetings, she’d unwittingly tap her pencil out of boredom. Fortunately, one of Hess’s good friends told her, and she promptly stopped. Another easy way to spot patterns is to just observe your reactions when you’re stressed.
◾“Identify and manage your negative emotions,” Hess said. Take a minute, and consider how you’re feeling. It also helps to “identify where these emotions are evidenced in your body” and figure out what helps you “in the heat of the moment,” whether that’s listening to your iPod or taking a walk.
◾Find new options. To do that, Hess suggested “the Rule of Three.” Ask yourself these three questions: What has worked in the past? What would someone I admire do? What would someone objective do?
◾Take one positive action. This could be as simple as finding the humor in a situation, Hess said. Consider, how can I look at this situation differently? If you’re overwhelmed with a project, a positive step is to make a list, breaking it down into manageable parts.

3. Resolve your concerns.

Pinpoint your sources of stress, and consider how you can resolve these concerns, Beehr suggested. For instance, if you’re stressed about a project, consider who could help to clarify the scope and required tasks. If it’s a conflict with a co-worker, think about what you can do to resolve it. Basically, the key is to take a problem-solving approach and try to fix what’s within your power.

4. Practice gratitude.

Hess suggested thinking about one thing you’re grateful for every day at work — even if it’s as simple as being thankful that your boss buys bottled water for the office. Every time something good happens at work, write it down. At the end of the day, you might be surprised how often good stuff actually happens. As Hess said, “we tend to remember the one POW instead of the 10 WOWs.” You can even have your co-workers share what they’re thankful for. Hess has seen managers do this at staff meetings.

On a related note, spread the love. Hess encouraged readers to do something nice for their co-workers, such as leaving them a treat.

5. Hang with a great crowd.

The people at your job can have a big impact on your level of satisfaction. Many workplaces have what Hess termed the “chain gang,” co-workers who are constantly stressed out and do a lot of complaining. Instead, choose to hang out with people who are supportive, relaxed and just fun to be around.

A great group of co-workers also can help with a heavy workload or just provide moral support. Interestingly, though, social support isn’t always helpful, according to Beehr’s research. “Sometimes people will help us when we don’t want it,” or their help implies that we’re inferior, he said.

Social support needs to be given freely — so there’s no obligation for the person to return the help — and from a peer perspective, not because you’re superior.

6. Reconnect with what you loved about your job.

Hess suggested asking yourself: “What is good about my job? How am I helping somebody?” Make the “connection to a strength of yours or a way in which you’re making a difference,” she said.

“Most people are more satisfied if they have a job that they see as meaningful and gives them the chance to use a lot of their skills that they value,” Beehr said. This is especially true if an individual uses their skills for an entire project, such as writing a report versus contributing just one paragraph, he added.

You also might find this list of tips helpful for decreasing stress in general. And, again, if you’re really struggling with the day to day, don’t hesitate to see a therapist.

Scientifically Reviewed
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on All rights reserved.