Should Marriage Be Hard?

I’m assuming I’m not the only one who’s ever heard this, right? “Marriage is hard work.” It’s as ubiquitous a saying as, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” or, “What goes around comes around.” And I don’t like it. I don’t like that marriage has a bad rep as something difficult, something that has to be endured. Marriage rates have continued to lower, especially amongst a younger demographic (Hi millennials!), and I’m not surprised, because a culture that is increasingly obsessed with instant gratification is really going to shy away from one more thing that looks hard. 

And “marriage is hard” isn’t a new concept. Each generation has faced its own unique set of challenges, and the saying has continued. Divorce rates, while still high have been in decline since the 80’s, and there is a lot of speculation as to why. Delayed age of marriage plays some part in couples being less-likely to divorce, and it’s likely that the US economy plays a part as well, but even though marriages are statistically doing better, the stigma tends to sound the same. Marriage anecdotes still sway towards the negative, and when it doesn’t, there’s often a tone of judgement, “They just don’t know yet,” “They’re still newlyweds,” “Just wait, you’ll get sick of your spouse soon enough.” It’s hard for people to be happy for happy people. 

But we all want to be happy people right? When people come to therapy we look a lot at specific goals, but the theme is usually, “I just want to be happier!” And I want to help people be happier. I want people to be happy whether single, dating, monogamous, polyamorous, married, etc. and I want people to stop believing that a marriage license is a certificate for unhappiness. 

So how do we do this? How do we make sure that our marriages are happier? 

  1. Start at the beginning: in the dating phase. Far too often I hear from people who make dating sound like a life long commitment. For a lack of better terms, they are putting up with a lot of bull shit for someone they have no real commitment to yet. If it’s been less than a year and you find yourself more sad than happy, it might be time to call it a day. Don’t be afraid to break up and move on, because while time can heal many wounds, time can also bring new and harder life challenges, and if you are already strained, it’s only going to get worse. 
  2. Be really honest with yourself: While some of dating is about putting your best for forward, there is going to come a time where the really, ugly, only likes to shower once a week and never puts dishes in the dishwasher side comes out. If you’ve spent all of your dating life hiding that, and then once marriage hits, you let it all go, that is a recipe for resentment. With that being said, I’m not proposing acting like a total slob right out of the gate either. Find a middle ground where you can be your best self, and sustain it. For the long haul. And don’t lie in your online dating profile. If you’ve never camped or hiked a day in your life, there’s no need to click the “outdoorsy” box. It won’t win you life points. 
  3. Think about the end goal: Marriage might not be that for you. Maybe you only ever see yourself in consensual non-monogamy, you’re asexual and want a child raising partner, or you would prefer to be a solo world travel blogger. That’s cool. Just get real with yourself, and don’t assume that you have to give marriage a try because of external pressures. Being a square peg in a round hole is painful, and you don’t have to do it. And if marriage is for you, be honest about that too. Don’t try and change someone who doesn’t want that, because you’ll end up spending the length of your marriage trying to convince someone it’s worth it, and again that’s a painful process. 

If you’re already married and feel like it’s too late, it might not be. Couples therapy isn’t for everyone, but in so many cases it’s the recipe for success. The problems that continue to cycle back around can often be worked through, and when they are you can find yourself being that happy couple that everyone envies. Find a way to break out of the “hard work” and find a place where you can enjoy each other and just enjoy being in love. 

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5 Myths of Online Therapy

 

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In an increasingly digital world it is hard to find a commodity that isn’t accessible online. If I run out of dog food, Amazon can have it to my door in two days (thank you Prime). If I’m hungry I can use GrubHub. If I owe a friend for the dinner bill, I use Venmo. All of these things have made my life more convenient, and come with little to no downside. It got me thinking: in a world where time is of the essence, and most things are available at my fingertips, why not create a business that offers therapy in a similar way?

Online therapy functions in the exact same way a traditional therapy session would, the only difference is, rather than having to drive to my office, you click a meeting link and are joined to the session instantaneously. No longer are you having to fight stressful traffic to get in your self-care, you can literally find a quiet space and start. What I’ve noticed as I continue to grow this model, is that while those who try and do online sessions with me love it, there are still a lot of misconceptions about what it is and how it works. I want to dispel those myths and help you see that not only is online therapy essentially the same, but the perks of this new model might make you wonder why you didn’t try it sooner.

So here are the most common myths about online therapy:

  1. It’s not legitimate: I’m going to be honest: when I first started hearing about online therapy, I had this thought too. Right now if you search online therapy you are going to see a lot of businesses that offer things like constant email and texting contact with your therapist. They use untested methods of contact to promote unrealistic expectations of what their services can do. THIS IS NOT WHAT I DO! What I am talking about is exactly the same as therapy in an office, only through a screen. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of California, and I am doing this because I believe in the benefits of it and the accessibility. I use the same treatment style and methods I would as if we were in the same space. Safe and legitimate psychotherapy is available, just make sure you do your due diligence in finding a therapist.
  2. It feels impersonal: This is probably the biggest concern and also the biggest misconception. Once the session starts, and we begin our work, the screen seems to melt away. As a therapist, I am giving you exactly what you would get from me if we were in a room together, and I make every effort on my end to convey that to you during our time together. I recommend taking some time upfront in order to facilitate your own therapeutic environment: Make sure you are in a quiet and private space, make sure you don’t have anything else scheduled for the hour, and set your devices to “Do Not Disturb.” These things help ensure that you are having the same experience you would in a therapist’s office.
  3. I won’t actually accomplish anything: As with any type of therapy, the answer here is that you will take out what you put in. If you are coming to therapy because of your motivation to change, and your hope for something different, then whether the sessions are online or in person, you are going to get the same result. Choosing to be accountable to yourself will go a long way.
  4. The technology is unsafe: I host my sessions through Zoom, which uses encrypted services to offer HIPPA compliance. This means that every possible effort is being taking to make sure that your protected health information (name, date of birth, etc.) cannot be accessed or leaked, in the same way your records would be safe at a doctor’s office. Be sure to ask your therapist whether the video sessions are HIPPA compliant (Skype is not, doxyme is). As with any online contact, there are limits, but every possible precaution is taking to ensure safety in this area.
  5. My therapist won’t be able to read me as well: While there are limits to what can be seen through a screen, for the most part, I am getting a full picture when I see your face. Most of our emotion is shown in our facial expression, and posture can be noted without a full body image. If this continues to be a concern, the camera can be adjusted so that more of the body is shown, but I personally haven’t encountered this as being an issue.

Concerns aside, there are so many upsides to working with a therapist online! I cannot overstate the convenience. In California especially, traffic is an increasing problem, and a one-hour session can easily turn into 2-3 hours of your day if you are having to travel. The time and the added stress can often be counterproductive to the great work we do, and eliminating that is so helpful. Online sessions are especially great for people who own their own businesses or travel for work. Your progress won’t be interrupted by your own responsibilities, as you’re able to set aside a reasonable amount of time to prioritize self-care. During cold and flu season you don’t have to risk exposure to the germs of a waiting room, and immunocompromised clients don’t have to worry about added risk. Parents of young children can benefit as well, as sessions can happen during naptime or while kids are occupied with a game or movie.

If you’re curious about getting started, reach out and schedule a consultation. You can get a feel of whether or not it’s a good fit for you, and if it is you can get started on your progress right away. Visit my website to get started.

Facebook and FOMO

            Ladies and gentlemen, there is a new diagnosis out there, but it isn’t in any of the books (yet). It is known as FOMO and it seems to be targeting a large number of young people. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: general sadness, anxiety, ruminating thoughts as to whether one’s life is interesting enough, and a misguided belief that other people are having more fun. Symptoms can be alleviated by ignoring social media.

            If you’ve ever been scrolling through Facebook and feeling not so great about the path your life has taken, you have experienced FOMO. If you noticed that two friends went to lunch and you didn’t get the invite, and your day was ruined, you have experienced FOMO. (The second one doesn’t seem to happen as much to the men out there does it?)

            FOMO is the fear of missing out, and while it is not a disease, it is becoming an epidemic. One which is more prominent in those whose primary source of contact with friends is via social media. Many of us are guilty of harboring jealousy for a friend whose life looks flawless. The keyword here is “looks.” The problem with using Facebook to gage a person’s happiness is that is can be so skewed or misleading. I am guilty of it too! It’s not like we all hurry to post a picture of that day we stayed in pajamas until 4pm, or rush to post a status update to remind people how monotonous our job has become. We all want to present our best selves, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

            However, I do become concerned when I notice an influx of clients who base their success or fulfillment on another person’s Facebook life. It is an easy trap to fall into. We are all aware that Facebook does not encompass every aspect of our own lives, but for some reason when we see it as a representation of another person, we don’t take that into account. We start comparing the quality of our relationships, the size of our birthday parties, the shape of our bodies, the success of our careers. The list is endless of the comparisons we make on a daily basis. Sometimes the comparisons can be a motivational factor.

            Some of you might be familiar with Maria Kang, a young mother who posted a picture of herself in a bikini with her young children, and the caption, “What’s your excuse?” She claims that photo was meant to motivate other young mothers, with the thought: If she can do it, so can I. The reactions she received were varied, and many were negative. Many women’s initial reaction was to think of the challenges in their own lives, and to assume Maria did not face those same challenges (genetics, full-time job, lack of support from spouse). Now I don’t claim to know what challenges she faces, but I do know that she did not post them on Facebook… until she received backlash. If we were to get caught up in that game with our own friends we would quickly learn that everyone’s lives come with hardships, and while one aspect might look appealing, it might not be worth trading for another.

            So my advice is this: The solution does not have to be drastic. I am not suggesting that we remove ourselves from social media altogether, or assume that everyone is being fake. But I do think that next time you are feeling the green-eyed monster start to creep in, take a minute to put things in perspective. Yes, I am upset she got a promotion and I haven’t, but I am working hard as well. Yes, their relationship looks great, but I’m sure they have fights too. Those quick little reminders will help you from snowballing, and will help you to remember that these are your friends, and their happiness is yours as well.