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Finding your Marriage of Awesome

The power of looking for “awesome” moments in marriage:

Uniting Couples to Strengthen Families

marriage of awesome Photo by Gray Wren Photography, http://www.graywren.com

As the mother of 7 children, one word I admit I have grown fatigued of hearing over the years is “awesome.”  I don’t have anything against that particular word – it’s even a bit energizing – it’s just that it brings so much promise and then falls flat when it’s used to describe something that’s really just copacetic.  Then, it just feels tawdry, like Christmas decorations in February.

However, I have to admit that I am a big fan of Neil Pasricha, author of The Book of Awesome, and other related titles.  He’s just so darn optimistic – but in a way that feels authentic.  He highlights the moments in life that when juxtaposed with the mundane, become downright exceptional – things like popping bubble wrap, high-fiving babies, sleeping in new bedsheets, etc.  It’s an excellent strategy, and one that I think could effectively be applied…

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My Parable of the Wedding Ring

I still see decades of built up resentment between too many couples:

Uniting Couples to Strengthen Families

ring

Every so often, someone will notice my wedding ring and ask me about it, because it is somewhat unusual.  It’s a ring that I had made in the jewelry district in Los Angeles back in 1987 while I was engaged to be married.  I was trying to explain what I had in mind to the jeweler who was getting frustrated that I was rejecting everything he was showing me.  Finally, I sketched out my envisioned design on a piece of paper and he asked if I just wanted them to custom make that design for me, and I happily agreed.

I am actually not a jewelry person.  My accessorizing is generally haphazard, and I have a whole drawer full of baubles that sit mostly untouched.  I have simple tastes.  The one thing I almost never leave the house without, however, is my wedding ring.  When the jeweler presented it to…

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Couples Therapy, Love, marriage, Marriage and Family Therapy, Uncategorized

Upcoming Marriage Workshop in Orem, Utah by Dr. Lori Schade, LMFT and Brian Armstrong, LCSW

 

holdmetight-bl-10-7-16-ver-3

My colleague, Brian Armstrong, LCSW, and I are offering this intensive marriage workshop based on Sue Johnson’s “Hold Me Tight,” book. This is an interactive educational format is limited to 12 couples. We are offering it as a Friday night/Saturday morning intensive program. These workshops are a great way to gain a foundation for marital attachment and to try out partner activities. It’s NOT group therapy, so you don’t have to worry about disclosing marital issues in front of other people. I have had really positive feedback from couples completing this course. Please help us spread the word to any couples who might benefit from this experience! To register, click here.

This couples workshop is based on the revolutionary work of world-renowned couples therapist, Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight. She has developed a research-proven  program to help couples connect and heal previous relationship wounds.

For most of us, our romantic attachments are extremely important to us. Because they mean so much to us, it is common to experience deep distress when things are not going well in these couple relationships. As human beings, we can become very emotionally reactive in these scenarios. As couples start emotionally reacting to each other over time, they get caught up in negative cycles that perpetuate the disconnection.

Couples completing this workshop will be able to identify their own negative cycles. They will also learn skills that will help them repair relationship ruptures in their marriage and will discover how to create safe and meaningful emotional connection. When this occurs it can often lead to deeper physical connection. The workshop provides therapist-guided opportunities for couples to practice skills.  Couples will leave the workshop with a clearer vision for improving their relationships.

Workshop Price Includes:

  • 8 hours of instruction and practice
  • Handouts and notes
  • Engaging, professional, and experienced presenters
  • Small group for increased access to presenters
  • Light snacks and water
Family Adventures, Humor, Uncategorized

What Ann Romney and I Have in Common: Toilet Humor from the Skaddy Shack

toiletA few years ago, I was listening to an interview between a talk show host and Ann Romney, wife of presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.  My ears perked up when the host began questioning her about raising five sons, since 5/7 of my children are male.  My first four were boys, meaning that I developmentally progressed from living in a perpetual cub scout den meeting to a male locker room to a frat house.  My experience with my last four children, in a gender-alternating sequence of boy, girl, boy, girl, was exponentially less draining and demanding than the experiences with the first four boys together.  When I think back to when they were all young, I start twitching, remembering the necessity of living my exhausting life in a perpetual state of hypervigilance, never knowing what they were going to spring on me next.

When Ann was asked what dinner time was like at her house, she asked, “Do you really want to know?”  As the host affirmed that he did, she answered, without missing a beat, “Non-stop toilet humor.”  Finally!  A woman who understands my life!  I felt an immediate kinship with Ann, though it’s unlikely that our paths will ever cross.

As a tribute to mothers of young children, I decided to recycle a true story for my blog that I wrote several years ago, illustrating a day in my household, The Skaddy Shack (for those of you who don’t know, my last name is pronounced “Skaddy”).  It represents typical challenges that a couple with young children may face, and hopefully will put a smile on your face as well.  I would love to hear your similar funny stories.  I call it my “omniflusher story,” or “The Rush to Flush.”  Enjoy.

Is My Life Really in the Toilet?

Each of my children has, at about 18 months of age, developed a fascination with the flushing mechanism of the toilet.  I refer to this stage as “omni-flushing,” for the obvious reason that everything within flushing distance of the toilet will likely disappear into the dark portals below as part of a toddler’s ongoing science experiment.

For readers wondering why not just use toilet latches to prevent omni-flushing, I have a two-part answer: 1) most household latching devices designed to keep children out of various domestic areas were routinely broken off or dismantled by my boys long before I could figure out how to operate the devices, and 2) By the time older children in the house were using the toilet, they would inevitably unlatch toilets and leave them that way.  Omni-flushers, armed with some kind of toilet-detection super powers, rush to flush open toilets, after throwing in any loose items not bolted to the floor.  I never was successful at figuring out how to be physically present in more than one place at a time to effectively police toilet usage in the home.

One evening, my fourth son and 18 month-old omni-flusher had, in a matter of ten minutes, successfully clogged two of our three toilets on two different levels of the house.  After my husband’s failed attempts to unclog the toilets with the plunger and snake we had purchased for previous sewage-related adventures, we locked the doors to the bathrooms, shrugged our shoulders and expressed gratitude for a remaining working toilet.  In the morning, April Fool’s Day, a week before my fifth child was born (I mention this detail because my condition just added to the fun at the time), my omni-flusher clogged the final working toilet after an hour into the day, and I finally called the plumber.

After removing two toilets from the floor and snaking a third to retrieve a large “L-shaped” Lego, a hockey puck, a hairbrush and a toothbrush, I thanked the plumber effusively and sent him on his way.  Feeling suddenly rejuvenated by the availability of indoor plumbing, I remembered that it was April Fool’s Day and decided it would be fun for my boys to plan a trick to play on Daddy.  We unanimously agreed that we should buy rubber dog feces and place it on the floor of the bathroom.  Our plan was that when my husband came home and entered the room, he would see the mess and think my youngest son had missed the toilet, and hopefully provide us with a proportionately entertaining reaction.  I could already imagine him calling my name, since this would be a crisis requiring my attention.  At least the boys would have a good laugh over playing a trick on Daddy, immature and feeble though it may be.  Wholesome family togetherness, right? Choreographing memories that last!

We drove to the joke shop, purchased the goods and drove home to prepare the scene.  After the set-up, I waddled to the living room couch, collapsed and breathed a sigh of exhaustion.  Seconds later, I heard a toilet flush, a bathroom door slam, and an omni-flusher pitter-pattering into the kitchen.  Suddenly, with sub-conscious recognition, my eyes widened and I sat up.  I realized what may have happened and ran into the bathroom.  Sure enough, the “joke,” was gone.  I proceeded to the toilet, flushed and watched open-mouthed as water rose to the rim of the bowl, threatening to overflow yet again.  My newly unclogged toilet had just been clogged with fake doo-doo!  What irony!  “Happy April Fool’s Day to me,” I thought.  I chided myself for my failure to recognize the inevitable result of placing anything resembling waste next to a toilet in a home with an omni-flusher.

That evening, when I could finally laugh about what happened while my husband and I unclogged the toilet, this time with success, I realized that life’s frustrations can be blessings in disguise.  What better way to develop patience and endurance, not to mention a sense of humor, than living in such an unpredictable environment, which was (at least for me) an apt description of life at home with several young children.  After all, this was not an atypical day.

Sometimes parenting can feel like preparation for some kind of combat, but the rewards in memories, character development and love are worth it.  When I start to feel discouraged because I have been cleaning all day and my house isn’t clean or my home isn’t as contention-free as I had always imagined, I like to think of the future when I have hopefully been refined by the process of mothering a large family of mostly boys.  I will say to myself, “That was hard, but I did it!”  Then, while I am visiting my adult children in their homes, I will ask, “May I please just use your bathroom….?”

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/cncphotos/2439322589/”>cncphotos</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Couples Therapy, Marriage and Family Therapy, Uncategorized

The Difference One Sunset Can Make: Sliding Door Moments in Marriage

 

sunset blog photo
One of my husband’s sunset texts

My husband has a thing about sunsets.  If we aren’t together when he sees a spectacular sunset, I will receive a picture of it on my phone.  Fifteen years ago when we moved into a new house, one of the first things he did was build a deck on the second story with tempered glass so we would be able to sit on the deck and view the lake and mountains in the distance.

Right after the deck was complete, one night after dinner, he walked outside while I walked to the sink to start doing dishes.  He came running back in and reached around me from behind, putting his face close to mine and whispered in my ear, “Come on, you have to come see this amazing sunset with me.”  I had five children between ages one and nine and was stressed about getting things cleaned up, helping kids with homework, and getting them to bed.  I shrugged him off and said, “I can’t.  I’m too busy.”  Even after he suggested that I come see the sunset and we do the dishes together, I was unwilling to leave my post at the sink.

I have often regretted that moment in my marriage.  It was the last time for a long time that my husband asked me to join him to view the sunset.  I felt so bad about it that later I bought us a special swing just for sitting and watching the sunset.  When he asks me to look at the sunset with him now, I go.

My husband’s request was what John Gottman and Nan Silver would have called a “sliding door moment,” which happens when one partner makes a bid for emotional connection.  In these moments, a partner can either slide the door open and walk through, or “keep it shut and turn away.”  Gottman’s longitudinal process research on couples revealed that most of the time if a partner makes a bid for connection and is rejected, he or she will not bid again.  Gottman makes the distinction between “turning toward,” and “turning away.”  When my husband wanted me to go see the sunset and I didn’t, I was “turning away,” or keeping the sliding door shut.  It was a small rejection of him.

Couples often generate these patterns without even realizing they are rejecting their spouses, usually because rejection is not the intent.  The reality is that we are busy, and we fail to realize how important these micro-moments are.  Collectively, they matter.  A lot.  Repetitive patterns of turning away leave spouses feeling unwanted, and over time can lead to distance and resentment.

Shifting the pattern is easy, but first you have to be aware, which starts with watching.  If you have a partner who has given up “bidding,” for connection, you can actively walk through the sliding door. Today.  And there really are some amazing sunsets out there.

Following is an adaptation of fourteen ways Gottman and Silver suggest to figuratively walk through the sliding door:

  1. Pay attention to what your partner says
  2. Respond to simple requests
  3. Help or work with a partner
  4. Show interest or excitement in partner’s accomplishments
  5. Answer partner’s questions or requests for information
  6. Chat with a partner
  7. Ask about the events of your partner’s day
  8. Respond to a partner’s joke
  9. Help a partner destress
  10. Help a partner problem solve
  11. Be affectionate
  12. Play with your partner
  13. Join your partner in adventure or exploration
  14. Join your partner in learning something

From John M. Gottman and Nan Silver, What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal, New York: Simon & Schuster (2013).

Couples Therapy, Marriage and Family Therapy, Uncategorized

Fighting the Metaphorical Dragons Together

cropped-cropped-img_11551.jpgFor the cover photo for my blog, I chose a picture I took when my husband and I visited the Outer Banks in North Carolina a few years ago.  The word, “unconquerable,” was one engraved among others on a monument to Wilbur and Orville Wright, at Kitty Hawk, where the first flight took place.  When I saw it, I told my husband, “I need a close-up shot of that word,” because I wanted to blow it up and hang it in my house where my children could see it.  The word feels powerful, like a call to action.  I am hoping it will inspire people to work at uniting in their marriages in order to be “unconquerable,” together.

There are all kinds of metaphorical dragons that can threaten couple relationships.  Couples face financial worries, physical, mental and emotional limitations, parenting struggles, betrayals, and a seemingly limitless array of potential uncertainty.  The difference between couples who are destroyed by these challenges and those who overcome them seems to be largely in their abilities to recognize the “dragons,” as they appear and unite together to defeat the enemy.  The capability to unite has everything to do with the ability to gain reassurance from one’s spouse that he or she matters more than anyone or anything else.  In couple relationships, people want to feel special.  When they have access to that kind of reassurance, they gain the safety to join with partners in committed relationships to defeat common foes.

I have counseled with and supervised therapy for thousands of couples representing various educational and socioeconomic levels.  I have met with Ivy League graduates and couples without high school diplomas; I have met with physicians, attorneys, entrepreneurs, professional athletes, engineers, professors, plumbers, bus drivers, and people involved in just about any career imaginable. I can even predict some of the unique marital challenges certain careers bring to the table.  Regardless of our differences, at a fundamental level, we all have one thing in common.  Unless a relationship is over, EVERYONE wants to know that they matter to their committed partners.

When couples identify their dragons, and learn ways of shifting out of repetitive damaging cycles of interaction, they can learn to unite and fight the dragons together.  They assimilate more flexible and adaptable ways of solving common and even uncommon problems.  Most importantly, they can garner courage from having a secure marital base from which to face the world.

This blog is dedicated to providing information for couples to learn how to unite in their marriages, and therefore provide strong foundations for their children.  Children garner a lot of intrinsic mental, emotional and physical protection when their partners provide not just stable marriages, but high quality marriages.  I believe in a “trickle-down theory of marriage,” in which fixing the marriage peripherally fixes child and family problems much of the time.  In other words, a united marriage can make a family “unconquerable.”