When Should the Kids Meet the New Boy/Girlfriend?
December 12, 2016 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Separation/Divorce · Permalink · Comments (3)

brady250If only life was really like ‘The Brady Bunch’. An easily blended family, no exes to complicate matters, minor disturbances that are resolved with a great little moral lesson. In actuality, real life mirrors what was going on behind the scenes of the show – complicated, passionate, and sometimes stormy. So introducing a new romantic partner after divorce or death is a situation that may not go as smoothly as when Carol met Bob. It is a decision that warrants a lot of thought.

When you meet someone new, your initial instinct will be to want them to meet your children. Your kids are central, important and in many ways the main loves of your lives!  It may feel odd to keep a relationship separate from them.  It may feel sneaky.  You may be inclined to resolve this by having your new lover hang out and share in activities with your children as a new “friend”. Right? Wrong!!!  These reactions are completely understandable but remember, not all are instincts are best followed. Children are no dummies – even children under three will register the different energy present with a platonic vs. non-platonic friend. Furthermore, if there was an extramarital affair involved with this partner  your children will be aware consciously or unconsciously regardless of being told explicitly.  So don’t kid yourself.

A good rule of thumb is wait to introduce your children to your romantic interest until the relationship reaches six months of seriously seeing one another.  This guideline protects kids from experiencing the inevitable romantic ups and downs of a new relationships and of having another potential loss. Shielding your children from the early stages of your relationship will require sacrifice on your part; keeping your private life private takes energy, planning and giving up time with your new lover.  It is not lying, it is not sneaky, it is privacy – necessary privacy.

Children have very mixed feelings about new relationships. They may feel disloyal to the other parent if they have fun with this new person. They become jealous of sharing your time.  They may feel uncomfortable because the sexual energy present with a new relationship is different than that of their married parents. It is not as if kids cannot develop meaningful relationships with girlfriends or boyfriends after divorce — of course they can — but the more thoughtful consideration on your part the better the chances for your children to adapt to the new situation.

It is in your child’s best interest to wait and see if this looks like a relationship that will have sticking power to withstand the pressures of step parenting and blending families. Once the six month mark has come and gone, you are ready to begin integrating this person into your family. Inform your ex of all developments. If he/she introduces your children to a new relationship as well, try to be as generous as you can — keep all complicated feelings to yourself. Your reaction will play a huge role in your kids openness to accept this new person and to experience less conflict over loyalty.

The first kid-new-partner meeting should be activity based. Do something together, a movie, bowling, ice skating — something that comes with distinct time limits and allows your child to ease in to the meeting with focus on the activity rather than “getting to know” your new lover. Gauge your child’s readiness as you decide the frequency of these get-togethers — keeping in mind that slow is always better in these matters. In terms of sleep overs and joint vacations, especially if other children are involved, take it very slowly. No one has ever complained that they wish they had moved faster on integrating families — on the contrary, most difficulties come from rushing in with idyllic expectations. Consider yourself very lucky if all goes smoothly as life is not The Brady Bunch.

Bookmark and Share
Blind Spots
September 21, 2016 · Posted in Communication, K-5 Kids, Marriage, Parenting, Preschoolers, Relationships, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (3)

images-1

Everyone has blind spots. They are unconscious conflicts from the past that creep up on us unexpectedly and influence reactions we have and decisions we make in the present. They are a normal part of the human experience; pockets of feeling or behavior that are hard to explain or understand, and which seem to control us.

In the course of parenting, we all hit up against these blind spots. Something in our child’s behavior or stage of development triggers an overly intense reaction. We may know that we are “over-reacting” but do not know why. Left to our own devises these areas can become repetitive patterns of negativity in our relationship with our child. At Soho Parenting, we help parents learn to identify their own blind spots so they can untangle the past from the present.


Jeff sits in my office looking sheepish as his wife Tina, frustrated and angry, talks about why they have come for some help. She complains that Jeff continually undermines her attempts to control the wild and often disrespectful behavior of their four-year old son Gabe.

“It’s like having 2 children,” she says in exasperation, “I cannot stand to be the only parent. He just cannot say no to him.”
“I’ve tried to be stricter”, says Jeff, “but I hate it when he gets so upset.”

In trying to understand more about why saying no is so hard for Jeff, I ask him to talk about his own upbringing and early experiences of discipline. Jeff looks uncomfortable and then starts to talk haltingly about his own strict and overly harsh father. He describes him as cold and quick to anger, with little patience for childish behavior.

“My father was always flying off the handle. He wanted us to be like perfect little adults. If I didn’t hang up my towel after a bath he’d freak.”

Jeff has sworn that he will not repeat this treatment with his own son and in these first four years he has been very successful in being a warm, affectionate and available father to Gabe.

So where is the blind spot? Jeff has not been able to see that his old hurt from childhood has been keeping him from entering into an arena of parenthood that is critically important for a growing child’s health and development. Discipline. Not the harsh and punitive kind, not the arbitrary and scary kind, but the kind of discipline that teaches you how to be respectful and gives the feeling of safety that comes with knowing that your parent is the adult and will keep you from getting out of control. It was easy for Tina –and anyone else for that matter– to see that Jeff was not providing the stabilizing function of a strong but loving parent. But for Jeff, who was unconsciously avoiding setting limits for fear that he would “become his father”, couldn’t act on his son’s need for boundaries.

Jeff really understood and felt this connection in the session. He knows now that he needs to actively counteract his worry about “becoming his father” and step up to the challenge of being Gabe’s father. He was thankful for the concrete advice about discipline; having a real game plan was reassuring. TIna felt validated and more hopeful about being allies instead of adversaries. A blind spot uncovered and a path made clearer!

For all parents, raising children confronts us with our inevitable vulnerabilities. If we use these discoveries as an opportunity for growth, we can take more control of our behavior, and be more the parents we want to be.

This article first appeared on A Child Grows in Brooklyn.

Bookmark and Share
Make Your Wife Happy! Finish Your Jobs!
December 15, 2014 · Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

This post is for the guys. Want to make your wife feel loved, taken care of and appreciated? One very simple way is to finish whatever household jobs you begin to completion. A task done fully and completely is an act of loving kindness.

After decades of meeting with mothers the same refrain is constant, “If he would just do the whole job, I would be so happy!” Translation: If you are supposed to empty the dishwasher, empty it and put every last thing away. Do not leave a pile of tupperware on the counter for her to do. If you are making a snack for the kids, put the peanut butter and jelly away and wipe the breadcrumbs from the counter. If you are bathing the baby, go back to the bathroom and empty the tub, put the used diaper in the garbage and put the dirty baby clothes in the hamper.

This may seem trite, but it is not. When a wife comes in to a fully emptied dishwasher, a cleaned up kitchen, or a drained tub she feels loved, thought about, appreciated and relieved. If you were counting on her making dinner and only the salad -no main course- was prepared, how would you feel? If she was supposed to bring your suits to the cleaners but never picked them up, what message would that send to you? You would feel burdened, frustrated, unappreciated. I guarantee it.

So here is a clear road map to less conflict, more team work and love: Always finish the tasks you start at home. It is an easy way to show how much you care and believe me, won’t go unnoticed!

Bookmark and Share
Being Right
June 25, 2014 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

The Curse and Seduction of Being Right

by Lisa Merlo Booth

 

Many people struggle with the curse of being right.  When people struggle with being right it feels as if you’re constantly in an argument about the “facts.”  Sometimes it can feel as if you’re talking with a lawyer instead of a friend or partner.  For example, you might ask your partner to lower their voice and they respond with, “My voice isn’t loud.  I was just being passionate.”  Or perhaps you start to tell a story about work and say, “When I left home at 8 a.m.…” and your partner quickly butts in and corrects you with, “Well, actually you left after 8 a.m.”  Whatever the circumstances are, you feel as if you’re in an endless battle.  All you want to do is share your thoughts or make a request, yet the other person is busy checking your facts instead of listening to your message.

Needless to say, if you’ve ever been on the other side of this dynamic, it can be incredibly frustrating.  If you’re the one constantly “correcting” or arguing the facts, then you can be incredibly frustrating.

Stop correcting and start listening.

Being around someone who is constantly telling others how they’re wrong blocks intimacy and connection.  Ironically though, many people get caught in the being right trap…because being right is seductive.  After all, people think, isn’t it important to have the right facts?  If my partner says he’s angry that I was late for our dinner on Saturday and I know we went out on Friday—shouldn’t I correct him and tell him I was late on Friday, not Saturday?  After all, I’m right—I happen to know for a fact that we went out on Friday because Saturday was our son’s soccer game and we ate dinner on the road while driving to his game.  Shouldn’t I correct him when I know I’m right?

No.

The seduction of being right is that often our information…is right.  We’re not making it up, we’re not giving false information and we’re honestly correcting wrong information.  What’s wrong with that, we wonder?  Several things are wrong with that.  To start with, when we’re so ultra-focused on arguing the facts, we miss the bigger point.  In the dinner example, my husband was upset that I was late.  My focusing on the “accurate” day is irrelevant—even though my information may be correct.  Second, if I’m busy critiquing what he says, then I’m shutting down the conversation.  If I shut down the conversation then I’m blocking repair.  It’s often only a matter of time before people give up trying to talk with someone who seldom listens and instead corrects the minute details.  At some point we just say forget it.When it comes to healthy relationships, remember to not get lost in the details and instead hear the main message.  If you’re stuck on critiquing the messenger, s/he is likely to stop relaying messages.  When that happens, your relationship is in trouble.  The other person gets tired of being blocked repeatedly and in the end they often just turn away.  It’s in your best interest to have the courage to stop getting lost in the details and instead hear the message…and fix your part in the situation.  Insisting on being right is damaging.  Don’t give in to the seduction.

 

Bookmark and Share
A Note to Men: Want more Sex? 5 Things You Should NOT Do
September 1, 2011 · Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

by Lisa Merlo Booth

In my work with couples, I often hear the men complain that there’s not enough sex and the women complain that the men always want more.  What’s up?  Besides the likely differences in sexual appetites, there are a lot of things men are doing that’s shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to increased physical intimacy with their wives/partners.

If you’d like to increase the amount of sexual intimacy in your relationship, below are 5 things NOT to do:

1.    Don’t turn every kiss, hug or handholding into a sign that you might get lucky. Women complain all the time that they can’t even hug their partners without them turning it into a sexual move.  Really men?  Aren’t we past the adolescent days of even the wind blowing getting you excited? The more you turn the slightest act of affection into a sexual come on, the less affection your partner will show you.  Don’t be desperate—it’s a huge turn off.

2.    Don’t have sex be the only time you show any affection. As Dr. Phil often says, “Foreplay should start 24 hours in advance of being sexual.”  It takes more for women to get into the mood than men and men need to know that.  Be loving, playful and affectionate long before you actually do the act.  Give her compliments, hold her hand, tell her you love her and act like you actually like spending time with her.

3.    Don’t be a jerk 90% of the time and then expect that your wife will want to be sexual with you. Your wife/partner does not “owe” you sex.  This is crazy thinking that I hear from men all the time.  If you’re generally a pill to be around then don’t be surprised that your partner isn’t feeling intimate.  Stop the anger, harsh tones and meanness.  Similarly, don’t barely speak to her day-to-day and then wonder why she’s not feeling close.  Be engaged and respectful and act as though you love her if you want her to act as though she loves you.

4.    Don’t have her be responsible for the house, the kids, the food and your entertainment—even if she doesn’t have a job outside the home. Being the sole person responsible for the home and children is like being single; that’s not what she signed up for.  Remember that if your partner is the one home caring for the family, this does not mean that her job should be 24/7 while yours is only 12 hours a day 5 days a week.  Help…or watch her burn out.

5.    Don’t make derogatory comments about your partner’s body. If you would like her to take better care of herself, have an honest, respectful and loving conversation.  Don’t throw out digs to get her to notice. Similarly, don’t point out the hot bodies of other women or ogle them in front of her and then wonder why your partner isn’t interested in being sexual with you.

In general, if you want a more loving relationship, you have to be more loving.  Be cherishing, show interest in her life and world and have sex be something that adds to your marriage/relationship not a duty that is owed to you.  If you don’t add the relational aspect to the picture, sex will become a chore to your partner.  Eventually she will grow tired of doing another chore and lose any sexual desire she may have had.

Bookmark and Share
Chore Wars – Finally Equal?
August 25, 2011 · Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (1)

Household duties have long been a battle ground for couples, especially when children enter the picture. Ruth David Konigsberg’s recent cover article in Time Magazine, Chore Wars, sheds new light on the age old perception that women do much more work than men. After doing research, Konigsberg reports that hours spent in paid and unpaid labor for men and women in 2011 are practically the same. This is not to say that chores are split 50/50, but the extra amount of time men spend in the office counter-balances the time not helping in the home. The exact number, 8 hours and 11 minutes for men and 8 hours and 3 minutes for women per day, has never been as equal as it is now.

What’s more, Konigsberg sites data from the The New Male Mystique, which shows that it is actually fathers who are having a harder time handling dual roles of professional and parent – not mothers. The imbalance over household jobs clearly isn’t completely gone, nor are the frustrated and overwhelmed feelings that accompany. But it does look like we are slowly getting closer to equal.

 

Bookmark and Share
Are You Living With A Woman Who Struggles with Intensity? What To Do and Not to Do
July 21, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

by Lisa Merlo Booth

A common union I see in couples is a very strong woman partnered with a fairly passive man.  The men often say their partners are overbearing, controlling, intense, critical and never satisfied.  The women say the men don’t talk, are walled off, often passive-aggressive and say yes just to get the women off their backs.  Often they’re both right: the women are over the top and the men are too passive.

If you’re a male and happen to be living with a woman who matches the descriptions above, here’s your cheat sheet for being in relationship with her.

1.    Stop ducking in response to intensity.  The worst thing you can do with an angry woman (or man for that matter) is to duck.  If your partner is coming at you with high intensity (yelling, swearing, raging, name-calling, etc.), then set a limit on the intensity.  Don’t try to talk her down or jump to do what she’s asking of you until you address the way she is speaking to you.

2.    Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Learn to become a man of integrity and stop lying to avoid her intensity.  Do not just “yes” her to get her off your back.  If you say you will do something, do it.  Otherwise, say no.

3.    Ask for your needs and wants.  Stop being resentful that you’re constantly trying to please her and stand up for yourself.  Healthy relationships require that both partners ask for their needs and wants.  The more you try to do what she wants without asking for what you want, the more resentful you will get.  Pay attention to what you want and learn to ask for it.

4.    Don’t play the victim.  Too many passive men act as if their wives/partners make their lives miserable.  No-one has the power to make your life miserable without you allowing it.  Look at how your behaviors contribute to your unhappiness and address those.

5.    Be direct.  Do not sideswipe your partner by throwing out underhanded comments, sarcastic quips or disdainful looks.  If you’re not happy about something—speak it.  Don’t stoop to being passive-aggressive by emotionally withholding or being behaviorally irresponsible.  Those are child-like responses to adult issues; step up like an adult and address things directly.

If you’re with a woman who you believe struggles with intensity, start looking at what you’re doing that is not helping the situation.  Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect at all times.  If your wife or partner is highly intense or reactive, she is not being respectful.  It’s your job to teach her how to treat you.  Do not play the victim to her rants…or you will ensure they will continue.

Bookmark and Share
Healing Our “Connective Tissue”
May 19, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

Healing our “Connective Tissue” by Carrie Krawiec, LMFT

Yogis have long known the healing power of turning into oneself and deeply stretching one’s muscles and ligaments — while also stretching one’s mental focus, tuning out the static and noise of the world outside. This practice, thousands of years old, has far-reaching physical, mental, and spiritual benefits for the individual, and it fosters a sense of community and fellowship for the group.

In Yin Yoga class, practitioners hold nonmuscular poses to delve into connective tissue, healing joints, tendons, and ligaments. Recently, the instructor said in a slow, smooth voice, “There is a reason why there are only 10 of you here this morning.. We live in a society that does not value turning into ourselves, focusing on our values, or taking the actions necessary to facilitate our intentions.” How true. We live in a culture that instead turns out or tunes out; we turn to iPads and smartphones to get relief from daily burdens.

Perhaps this observation resonated so deeply with me because, as a marriage and family therapist, I often see the breakdown of “connective tissue” in individuals, couples, and families. No one is shocked to hear that Americans have the highest rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and obesity in the world. Turning out and away from our burdens naturally leads us to seek relief from outside. This temporary relief may come in the form of food, alcohol, prescriptions, hours spent on Facebook or Farmville, gambling, shopping binges, or infidelity. Such activities damage our “connective tissue” to our unique values and intentions — and prohibit us from taking the actions to reach our goals. Likewise, these activities also damage the “connective tissue” of our relationships with those we hold closest.

Just as the practice of yoga can be strenuous and challenging, the practice of turning in to ourselves will likely be painful and difficult at times.

Just as yoga helps the body to melt away soreness and tension, shifting our focus to our true values and needs will help to ease the emptiness and anxiety that often cause us to look for external solutions.

Whether it’s within the practice of yoga or within the context of the individual or family, the act of turning inward involves behavioral, emotional, and cognitive adjustments.  An initial — and rudimentary — behavioral change is simply to turn off everything electronic. Silence the radio and cell phone on the way to work, and ask your child to turn off his iPod or DSI. The silence will help you hear your own worries, questions, intentions, and goals — and those of your child or partner.  Emotionally, make an effort to be patient, positive, and open, both with yourself and others. Leave denial, defensiveness, judgment, excuses, criticism, resentments, and competition at the door. Remind yourself of what you admire about yourself or your child/partner.  What are your/his/her strengths? As you gain strength, you may consider asking yourself,  “What can I learn from this? ” or “What is my part in this problem? ”

As we begin to heal the “connective tissue” in our bodies and our relationships, we can hope for a society that is more sensitive to the needs of the individual and the community. If we look inward for solutions, we can aspire to be part of a society with less substance abuse, mental illness, divorce, violence, and crime.

Read more: http://addictionrecoveryreality.com/healing_connective_tissue.html#ixzz1LaYKgzvV

Bookmark and Share
Women in Relationships: The Five Biggest To Do’s!
May 12, 2011 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off

by Lisa Merlo Booth

•    Listen to your gut. Too many women ignore their instincts.  We need to learn how to tune into that voice that tells us something is off.  If something feels off, it usually is.  Check it out, don’t tune it out.  In my experience, this voice is usually right on—even when others swear it’s not.  (Note:  the only caveat to this is if you tend to be suspicious, jealous or untrusting to begin with.  If this is the case, then you need to get more data and ask yourself if your jealousy is at work here or are the facts supporting your suspicions).

 

•    Ask for what you want, not what you think you’ll get. Too many women base their requests on what they believe the other person will be willing to do.  Your requests should be based on what you want—that’s why they are called requests.  Do not dummy down your request because you don’t think the other person will want to fulfill it.  Ask for what you truly want and then celebrate the yeses you get and learn to accept the nos.  If the nos far outweigh the yeses, decide how you want to handle that imbalance and then step in and speak to it.

•    Share what you want to share, not what you think others want to hear. If a loved one asks you how your day was or something similar, share about your day if you want to.  Don’t silence yourself because you think the other person won’t be interested.  Speak about what you care about and know that if the other person cares about you, s/he will be happy to listen.  (Note: this, by the way, goes for you, too.  You need to listen to what others choose to share — even if it’s not something you’re excited about hearing).

•    Be authentic, not “nice.” I’ve seen countless women lie to friends, lovers, parents and kids under the guise of being nice.  Believe it or not, lying is not nice—even when you do it with the best of intentions.  Telling your girlfriend you’re sick and can’t go out to dinner because you want to go out with someone else is not being a nice friend.  Be honest, not fake.  If you can’t be honest, then, minimally, be neutral…but don’t lie.

•    Speak directly. If there’s something you don’t like, stop stewing about it and, instead, discuss it.  Trust me, you will feel much better, even if the conversation doesn’t go well.  When we hold things in, we pay the price.  We end up holding the unspoken stress in our bodies and then get sick, depressed or worse.  Nobody — and nothing — is worth that.  Be determined to speak directly—and respectfully—about issues from the start.  The more you deal with things directly from the beginning, the less baggage your relationships will have…which can lead to the end.

Bookmark and Share
Intensity and Relationships: Why People Get So BIG in Times of Upset
February 24, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Marriage · Permalink · Comments Off

Lisa Merlo Booth

Time and again I find myself working with clients on their intensity.  Countless men rage, bully or intimidate when things don’t go their way.  Many women yell, scream and threaten when they don’t get what they want.  Bosses are going off on their employees and parents are going off on their children.  The intensity can be off the charts.

Our athletes, politicians, parents, teachers, leaders and followers are all getting BIG when things don’t go their way.  Almost everywhere I turn, I see someone bullying, intimidating, threatening or raging in times of disagreement or upset.  Countless marriages are being impacted—and destroyed–by this intensity.  Numerous businesses are losing employees due to intense bosses and co-workers.  And too many friendships are breaking because of words said in the heat of the moment.

So why are so many people reacting to things with such intensity?  There are a number of reasons people get so intense, including: it feels good, yelling takes no discipline or thought, it’s a learned behavior from childhood (and our culture) and — the main reason people react by getting “BIG” — is because IT WORKS.

The bottom line is when people rage, yell, bully and/or threaten, it gets people off their backs.  People grow quiet in response to intensity.  They do what they need to in order to get the intensity to stop.  If, every time you bully, others shut up and do what you want, then why not bully?  It works, right?  Wrong.  The truth is, getting BIG often leads to short-term gains and long-term losses.  People do quiet when threatened…and they also stew, get resentful and begin to pull away.  This is true at work, at home and in friendships.  Nobody likes to be bullied; it’s just not fun.  And, while you may like the way it gets you what you want in this moment, you had better be prepared for the backlash.

The reality is that bullying almost always comes with a price.  You may not pay that price today, but almost certainly you will pay for it in one of the tomorrows.  I’ve seen the meekest of wives leave raging men and the meekest of men leave raging women.  I’ve seen complacent employees reach their limit and leave well-paying jobs.  And, I’ve seen lifetime friendships end when the intense friend didn’t settle down over the years.   Intensity may work in the short run; however, the cost in the long run is often more than people want to bear.

If you find yourself often yelling, intimidating, snapping at others, etc., then know the timer is ticking.  The more you act BIG, the faster that timer ticks.  The only way to slow down the timer leading to the end of relationships is to slow your intensity down.  Seek help for your reactivity before it truly wreaks havoc in your life—if it hasn’t already.

Bookmark and Share
Buy Our Book, 'A Mother's Circle'
Facebook  RSS

Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /nfs/c07/h05/mnt/180010/domains/sohoparenting.com/html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 345

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /nfs/c07/h05/mnt/180010/domains/sohoparenting.com/html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 345

Warning: mysql_query(): No such file or directory in /nfs/c07/h05/mnt/180010/domains/sohoparenting.com/html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 346

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /nfs/c07/h05/mnt/180010/domains/sohoparenting.com/html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 346

Warning: mysql_fetch_row() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /nfs/c07/h05/mnt/180010/domains/sohoparenting.com/html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 346