Posts

Could Those Bored Couples in Restaurants Actually Be Happy? by Jonathan Decker, LMFT

CB100665There may be no greater argument against lifelong monogamy than the bored couple in the restaurant. “Oh heaven, please don’t let us end up like them,” you may have thought as you observe them silently picking at their food, looking at their phones, or vacantly scanning the restaurant for something presumably more interesting than their partner, from whose mundane company they are almost certainly planning their escape. They seem to display the opposite of the flirty chemistry and laugh-filled companionship we’re all looking for. But could these “bored couples” actually be happy?
While some of these pairs may indeed be as miserable as they look, many others have found a level of intimacy in which silence is comfortable, not awkward, no matter how it looks to outside eyes. My wife and I are better friends, and more in love, now than during our “all-fun-all-the-time” courtship phase. When we go out, we often chat and laugh and flirt, but sometimes we’re just…tired. Grownup responsibilities, like work, finances, and taking care of the kids can leave us tuckered out. A night out together becomes a grateful opportunity to catch our breath. Sometimes we sit together and don’t say much, lost in our thoughts or taking in the flavor of the food. And you know what? It’s nice.
?????????????????????When I was single, I always feared becoming half of a “bored couple in a restaurant” one day. Now I’ve discovered that maybe those couples aren’t bored after all. In my marriage, while it’s important to fan the flames of passion, enjoy conversation, and laugh together often, it’s equally important to reach a point where, if we don’t feel like doing any of that, we’re perfectly content just to be together. Adult life can be chaos, and sometimes we need our partners to help us create, and enjoy, the calm.

jonathan - CopyAbout the Author: Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George. He is available for face-to-face or online video conferencing sessions. He can be contacted at jdeckertherapy@gmail.com or by phone at (435) 215-6113. To read more of Jonathan’s articles, please visit www.jdeckertherapy.com.

Balance by Jamie Porter

?????????????Lately, I have been challenged to find balance. This wasn’t by any particular person’s request or by a class requirement, but by a chain of events that redirected focus onto myself.

What exactly is balance? How does one achieve it? Why is it so important? And how do you do it?

Balance is defined by a state of equilibrium or equipoise (dictionary.com). In biomechanics, balance is an ability to maintain the line of gravity (vertical line from centre of mass) of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway.[1] Sway is the horizontal movement of the centre of gravity even when a person is standing still. A certain amount of sway is essential and inevitable due to small perturbations within the body (e.g., breathing, shifting body weight for one foot to the other or from forefoot to rearfoot) or from external triggers (e.g., visual distortions, floor translations). (wikipedia.com). The merium-webster.com dictionary defined it as a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.

An activity I do often with overwhelmed clients, is to have them hold onto a small plate. As I ask them what they have on their plate, I add sugar packets for everything they list. I have a doctor appointment, homework in science, need to wash my car, take my daily medicine, talk to the neighbors about babysitting my dog this weekend, washing clothes, paying the bills, cleaning my carpet, calling back my grandmother….. The list can go on and on and on. When the plate starts to overflow and sugar packets are falling on the floor, I am reminded by the overwhelming fact that there is absolutely no balance and it’s my job to help my clients prioritize, re-structure and build better coping skills.

Now the trick and truth of every therapist, is to not just give sound suggestions, but to follow it themselves.

single 2See the following….
MAKE YOUR LIST AND PRIORITIZE: take a couple of minutes to sit down, write out your list of things you need to get done TODAY, and then start putting numbers on what is most important TODAY. 1 would be most important and the higher the number, the less of importance. The higher numbers may even be done tomorrow or the next day, even set for long term goals.

PRIORITIZE SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM: As you are making your short term goals, long term goals will develop too. Prioritize those too. You may have a project that you want to do, but don’t need to do. If your attention was focused on it today, all the TODAY objectives would never get done and then your project that doesn’t need to be done today takes over the importance.

STAY FOCUSED:
A problem that people that ‘do too much’ or ‘focus on too many projects’ run in to, the they often lose focus of what really needs to be done. Some even hyperfocus on one subject, loosing focus on everything else. Additional tips to best manage distractibility might include:

Close-up of four business executives standing in a line and applauding1. SET AN ALARM: if you need to get something done in a short period of time, set your alarm clock.
2. GET A CALENDAR: use your calendar to remind yourself of deadlines. (paper, electronic, both)
3. BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD: cross things off your list done, re-mind yourself what is on your short term, long term goal list, prioritized with numbers of importance and continue to attempt
4. REWARD: It’s only human nature to want to be rewarded when a project is done. Don’t forget to reward yourself with a break, a walk, a treat (food or financial), friends and family, internal gratification, words of affirmation

And remind me again of some things that will help me find balance?

MEDITATION/BREATH: Focusing on one word at a time like the word ‘Calm’, ‘Peace’, ‘Pause’ are very helpful for grounding emotions. Meditation allows the body to slow down, worries to fade and pushes the mind and body to be present in the current moment. Breath from the deepest part of your core, down to the floor in hale deeply, and breath loudly, slowly exhale out of your mouth and repeat. This is a good practice when you feel overworked, overwhelmed, out of balance, stressed. Go ahead, practice. Find a quiet place to sit. Cross your legs or sit in a position where your legs are bent at the knees. Then practice your core breathing, focusing on meditative words. Be completely and fully present.

ART: This is a great way to re-center too. Paint, color, pastels, chalk or other are great ways to get balance. Display your raw emotions on paper, capture a piece of nature, or just doodle/scribble the negativity away, looking for the balance in your revealed masterpiece.
READING: Reading is mindless. It takes you to another place. It distracts in a healthy way. It builds vocabulary. It restores balance.

Athlete Running Through Finish LinePHYSICAL ACTIVITY:
Move! Run, walk, hike, jump….it’s important that we get our endorphins moving to help us find an outlet. Sweat result leaves us with a heightened energy level, healthier body movement, and feelings of accomplishments.

THERAPY: the inside joke is that all therapists need a therapist. But the truth is they do. We have the tendency to focus so much on our own clients that we lose sight of what is important for us and how to manage, especially when overwhelmed with other’s emotions. One of the best ways to manage and maintain balance, is to be honest with yourself, with your therapist, and dig deep. Allow unhealthy emotions of the past to move past the detrimental stage and re-gain balance in your new life. So whether it’s at the most personal level as a therapist, or the personal level as a client, it’s important to not self-neglect.

singer 3PLAY: Don’t forget to play. Have fun. Smile. Play with your kids. Play with your spouses. Play with friends and families. Play card games, board games, pool, park, movies, and/or travel. ENJOY yourself!

BOUNDARIES: it’s okay to say NO! It doesn’t make you a bad person. It helps you stay accountable to the things you can do and can follow through with, versus over-planning and over-committing and not completing a task.

How does this work again? Taking the time to be cognizant of yourself, your emotions and your priorities will help you keep a balance. Balance exists in life, friendships, relationships, work, emotions and functionality. As long as you can PAUSE and reflect on where you’re sitting in the midst of your ‘full plate’, then you are more willing to take care of the things on the plate and the person balancing the plate. A great analogy is that of a waiter with their tray of plates, glasses and food. If one glass slides and all your focus goes onto that one glass, you will lose everything on your tray. If you move the whole tray to help rebalance the glass, than everything else on the plate gets a level of respect and attention that is needed for safety. The greatest of these challenges, is follow through. Take the balance challenge. Are you ready for a life of balance?

jamieAbout the Author: About the Author: Jamie Porter has a Master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from UHCL. She has worked in non-profit settings working with women, adolescents, children, families, couples, and equine assisted psychotherapy. She is currently the Sugar Land Center for Couples & Families office manager, and an AAMFT approved supervisor.

Birds and Bees (Sexting) and Smartphones by Dr. Jeff Temple

Cover 2Adolescence is often described as a period of storm and stress – where children begin separating from parents, establishing their own identities, and discovering their sexuality. This development into junior adulthood coincides with myriad hormonal, physical, and emotional changes. In short, adolescence is difficult, overwhelming, and taxing. The fact that most kids make it through this critically important developmental period to be better human beings than when they entered is remarkable.

The fact that parents of adolescents make it through this period is nothing short of miraculous. And as if this period wasn’t hard enough, we now have to deal with smartphones – at the dinner table, on vacation, while they’re sleeping. Now we worry about cyberbullying, online predators, hundreds of dollars of in-app purchases from Clash of Clans to…SEXTING.

Sexting is defined as sending or receiving sexually explicit messages or images/video via electronic means (usually phones). My team at the University of Texas Medical Branch published some of the first studies on this relatively new behavior. While research in this area is still new, we and others have consistently shown that teen sexting is common and that it is often associated with real life sexual behavior.

Between 15% and 30% of adolescents have participated in sexting, with higher rates reported by older adolescents or when the sext is limited to just messages (no images). In my study of nearly 1000 teens, 28% of boys and 28% of girls had sent a naked picture of themselves to another teen. Nearly 70% of girls had been asked to send a naked picture.

Like all studies published on the topic, my research also shows that teens who sext are substantially more likely to be sexually active. Indeed, in a study published in the journal Pediatrics, my colleague and I recently found that teens who sexted were more likely to be sexually active over the next year, regardless of prior sexual history.

RF2_1734These statistics will alarm any parent. But should they? The short answer is “maybe.”

Let me begin by saying that I don’t want my kids sexting. That being said, most sexts are harmless in that they are seen only by the intended recipient and not the entire school, they do not end up on the internet, and they do not land the teen in jail. “Normal,” well-behaved kids sext, and accumulating evidence suggests that, when not coerced, sexting is not likely to have psychological consequences.

Furthermore, more teens are having real sex than are sexting. Thus, our priority should be promoting healthy relationships and teaching teens evidence-based and comprehensive sex education. Sexting education should be a part of this, but not at the expense of valuable information on the importance of delaying sex, and the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

However, sexting can have disastrous consequences. So what should we do? Most importantly, we should talk to our kids and we should do so in a fully informed and honest manner. Approach this like you would a conversation about something as mundane as seatbelts. You probably would not tell your children that if they don’t wear their seatbelt they will likely die the next time they drive. You would probably say something like, “You’ll probably be fine if you choose to not wear a seat belt, but ‘what if?’” or “It only takes one time.” Similarly, we should not tell teens that their future is ruined if they sext. Instead, we can say, What if it does end up on the internet; what if someone forwards it to your teachers; what if your coach finds out; what if the college you’re applying for learns of this?” Adolescents are impulsive and moody and irritable and weird; but they are smart. We should treat them as such.

But what do I know? I have a 12 year old at home who knows everything and thinks I’m stupid. Wish me luck.

Jeff Temple[1]About the Author: Dr. Temple, a licensed clinical psychologist, completed his undergraduate degree at the University ofTexas-San Antonio and his Ph.D. at the University of North Texas. In 2007, he completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at Brown Medical School. Dr.Temple is an Associate Professor and Director of Behavioral Health and Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UTMB Galveston. He is a nationally recognized expert in interpersonal relationships, with a focus on intimate partner violence.

Families and Cellphones by Camille Olson

RF2_1751Families and Cellphones: Technology has brought some amazing things into our family lives. We are connected in ways that we never imagined when we were kids. Paradoxically, we are often more disconnected as families than ever before, as our time and attention is increasingly absorbed by electronic media. There is a concept in physical/organic systems called “disentropy,” which is the idea that living systems tend to fall into a state of disorder or disorganization without constant action or forces to keep them together. Think of a family being in a boat together trying to row upstream on a river with a strong current. Without constant effort to maintain position or move forward, the strong current will quickly move the boat downstream. Even more insidious are the quiet and slowly moving currents beneath the surface that are almost undetectable but are carefully leading us away from our goals as families.

As a mom, I’ve watched the tides shift in my family as our kids have grown and been increasingly exposed to the pressures and expectations of being fully “plugged in.” While certainly helpful in many respects, the strong effects and pull on our kids (and others) to spend more and more time in front of a screen has been alarming. At the risk of sounding old fashioned (I never thought I would say that about myself), there is a need for a “call to arms” to confront some of the risks inherent in the currents of electronic media that are moving our kids into dangerous waters. With 91% of adults and 60% of teens reporting owning cell phones (Pew Internet & American Life Project Survey), it isn’t likely that we will avoid these challenges in our families, in some form. Medical and social/behavioral sciences are finally catching up to our kids and reporting some concerning effects.
In a recent Baylor University study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, James Roberts (study co-author) reported that “cell phone and instant messaging addictions are similar to compulsive buying or substance addiction and are driven by materialism and impulsiveness.” He further explained that “technologic addictions (a subset of behavioral addictions) are no different from substance addictions in that users get some kind of reward from cell phone use, resulting in pleasure. Cell phones are a part of our consumer culture, as both a tool and status symbol. They’re also eroding our personal relationships. A majority of young people claim that losing their cell phone would be disastrous to their social lives.” (http://www.news-medical.net) This is just one example among studies that have reported “side-effects” of constant use including: 1) generating negative feelings during face-to-face conversations when the device is visible/present, 2) increasing stress levels, (constant ringing, vibrating, alerts, reminders, etc.) insomnia and depression, 3) increasing risk of chronic pain (pain and inflammation in joints including fingers/hands, neck, shoulders, and back), 4) increasing risk of digital eye strain, among others.

RF2_1742Perhaps one of the most harmful effects is the way that cell phones, texting, and social media interrupt the flow of our time together as families and the opportunity to have face-to-face, meaningful time and contact with each other. Hence, the “tail wagging the dog:” something that is a minor or secondary part of something controlling the whole.

Putting things back in place:
The most important principle of change is to start where you are! One of the first challenges is to be willing to unplug, as the parent, and make time for the family. If you are willing to do that, everyone else may be more willing to follow your example. Another guiding principle of change is to understand the “why” of change. If your family understands the risks, the consequences, and the benefits of making time for each other and “parking” electronics during set times, they will be more willing to follow along. Particularly if you are using the black-out time to actually enjoy quality time together. One suggestion is to “dock at dinner” so that, as your family comes together at the end of a day, everyone shuts off, unplugs, etc. and is present with each other. The phones stay

Camille Olson is the marketing director at the Center for Couples and Families. She is also the editor of the Bay Area Health & Wellness Magazine in South Houston, TX.

Can Facebook Harm Your Marriage? by Dr. Mark White Ph.D, MFT

Mature couple with laptop.Can Facebook harm your Marriage?  Although we’ve been hearing since 2009 that Facebook may be playing a role in divorce, a recent study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior1, appears to be the first to scientifically examine divorce rates, marital quality, and the use of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook.

The researchers examined two kinds of data. For each US state, they collected recent divorce rates and the proportion of persons in each state with a Facebook account. The second was an online survey of almost 1200 individuals specifically examining marital well-being and SNS use.

Across the 50 states, they found that as the proportion of Facebook users increased, there was a slight elevation in the divorce rate. While this finding is interesting, it doesn’t tell us anything about what’s going on for the individuals in that state. That’s where the individual-level data comes to play.

Attractive couple portrait.The researchers were able to control several variables in these analyses, such as income, education, race, age, and religious attendance. After removing the contribution of such factors, increased SNS use was shown to play a small role in predicting lower marital quality, less perceived happiness in the current marriage, more perceived troubles in the current marriage, and thoughts in the last year about leaving spouse.

Unfortunately, the design of this study did allow the re searchers to identify which is the cause and which is the effect (the perennial chicken and egg problem). Does SNS involvement cause marital problems, or do people in unhappy marriages spend more time on SNS? Although these data cannot answer that question, common sense would suggest that both occur.
For some, SNS detracts from the marriage and also provide an avenue for various forms of infidelity (such as wondering what your high school girlfriend is up to these days). Others seek support and contact with others to cope with an unhappy marriage.

Young Woman Sitting Looking at Laptop ScreenSo how can you prevent Facebook from harming your marriage? Here are 10 common sense suggestions:
1. Don’t hide anything on Facebook from your partner and don’t have anything to hide.
2. Have a shared understanding about how you each will use SNS. Some couples have a shared Facebook site (BradndSusan), others share the password to each other’s account, while others frequently look at Facebook together. There’s no right solution here—I just recommend you reach an agreement about the use of these sites.
3. Do not friend, or promptly unfriend, any person that makes your partner uncomfortable.
4. Analyze how you spend your time—are you spending more time with your virtual friends or your real-life partner?
5. If you discover that you’d rather post another kitten meme or play Candy Crush Saga than be intimate with your partner, it’s time to seek help.
6. Be willing to ask yourself some hard questions if you find yourself tempted to spend time perusing the pages of your ex, old flames, or people you find attractive (either on or offline). What’s going on in your life or your marriage that makes such behaviors appealing?
7. If you are unhappy about some aspect of your marriage, address your concerns with your partner rather than seeking support online.
8. If you both enjoy SNS, use them to flirt and communicate with each other. Message each other and post on each other’s page regularly. Make sure your status updates and photo albums convey that you are happily married.
9. Do not engage in any activity on an SNS (posting pictures, sending messages, etc.) that you would not participate in if your partner were sitting next to you, viewing the same screen.
10. Remember Rule #1.

1 Valenzula, S., Halpern, D., & Katz, J. E. (2014). Social network sites, marriage well-being and divorce: Survey and state-level evidence from the United States. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 94-101.

markAbout the Author: Dr. Mark B. White is the Marriage and Family Therapy Doctoral Program Director at Northcentral University. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and AAMFT Approved Supervisor and provides therapy at the Vernal Center for Couples & Families