It’s that time of year. SWIMSUIT time. A time that many women dread. A time that men dread too. All this talk about weight, diet, exercise can leave husbands puzzled. “Why are you so obsessed with this?” they wonder.
I recently talked with journalist Kristina Grish of Cosmopolitan Magazine to help her, and other women, understand how to approach her husband when it comes to weight concerns, why men don’t “get” it, and why it’s sometimes best to spare him the details of your weight woes.
I have been married for 15 years. I have grown very much but he has not. He will not deal with any issues between us. He is really immature. He never accepts responsibility for his part in any problem. (Everything is always my fault according to him.) We went to counseling two times but the same thing happened. He only argued with the counselor and she said she couldn’t talk to him.
I started my own business in 2004 so I could become financially independent so I could divorce my husband. I am still too poor to leave him, but my finances are getting a little better. I think in a year I will have money to leave. I am so antsy. I can hardly stand him. Everyday I say in my mind, “I hate him so much.” It is so difficult for me. Other people do not like him either. He is anti-social. We have no “couple” friends because no one likes him. I can hardly stand it anymore. I need to do something.
A: I’m so glad that you are reaching out for help and advice with your difficult marital situation. It sounds like you feel trapped and extremely resentful that your husband won’t own up to his contribution to your distressed marriage and continue seeing a counselor. Considering his defensiveness, I’m surprised that your husband actually attended two counseling sessions. On some level, that tells me that he does care about the relationship and about you.
I have several questions for you. Does your husband know how seriously you are considering divorce? Does he know exactly what you’re looking for from him in order for you to stay happily in your current marriage? Does he want to stay in the marriage?
If you haven’t told him how desperate you feel, it may be time to let him know. Tell him how lonely you are and how you long for a closer relationship with him, but that you are losing hope about this marriage unless you can find a way to feel closer to him. If he isn’t willing to go to marriage counseling again, ask him what he is willing to do. Is he willing to go to a marriage retreat? Attend a workshop? Will he read a book? I recommend that you both read the book Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations For A Lifetime Of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson to understand the root of the disconnection that your marriage is stuck in. If he isn’t willing to do anything to improve the relationship, then it’s clear that you need to make a change and continue with your plan of becoming financially independent so you can move on.
I am all for pre-baby counseling. We don’t really talk about how traumatic the birth of a child can be to the marriage relationship–loss of attention to spouse, sleep deprivation, jealousy, miscommunication, financial and time stresses, additional household duties…I sat down with Scott Haws this morning (bright and early) on KSL TV News to talk about pre-baby counseling for couples and why I think it’s a great idea…
How do I handle the situation without alienating my husband or making him feel torn? Weâ€™ve been dealing with it for a couple years & itâ€™s HARD. Any advice?
A: In-law relationships are particularly tricky because you’re competing for the same man’s attention — your husband/their son.
I wish I had a bit more information about your relationship history with them like: When did the relationship become so negative? Did you have a time where you did get along? How do you handle your emotions about this? Are they intentionally mean to you? If you’d like to write back with more details I’d be happy to respond again.
If the 3 most important people in his life don’t like each other he will feel torn about it.
So here’s what you can do:
1) Go to counseling to work through your own emotions about your in-laws, explore why you are so stuck in the negative emotions, find ways to become more emotionally neutral about this relationship, and work on what you can do to improve the relationship.
2) Limit the complaints that you share with your husband about his parents. This will help him have some relief from feeling “in the middle”. Chronic complaining about his parents will likely wear on your hubby and end up negatively impact your marriage.
3) Come up with a cue word with your husband so you can gently signal him when you really need him to step in and take a stand for you to his parents.
4) Decide what kind of daughter-in-law you want to be and then become her no matter how they are behaving. Taking charge of your own behavior feels better than reacting based on their behavior.
Remember that you chose your husband and by doing so you chose his family. Do your best to let the little annoyances slide, pick your battles, and do your best.
In episode 008 “Creating an Emotionally Hot Marriage” on “You & Yours” self & relationship expert and therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW shares tips to create and keep a strong emotional connection in your marriage relationship.
Get some practical tips on how to balance taking care of your children AND your marriage. I was recently interview by SheKnows.com for this article on balancing kids and marriage and it just posted online today. Here are a few snippets from the article (It’s always nice when the writer makes me sound smarter and more articulate than I am).
“The role of ‘mother’ is so loaded with expectations that it’s easy to get lost in the relentless day-to-day demands of motherhood and lose the [other] parts of yourself.”
“A warm, loving marriage relationship helps children feel emotionally safe and provides a template of what a marriage is,” says Hanks. “It gives the child the hope that a wonderful adult life awaits them and that they will be able to give and receive love.”
It’s easy for couple’s emotional connection can get lost in the busyness of life. I recently interviewed for this SheKnows article with tips on how to keep your emotional relationship sizzling! Here’s a snippet of my advice…
Hanks also recommends that couples “check in” with each other on a daily basis. “Develop a daily emotional ‘check in’ ritual with your spouse or partner,” she explains. “Not only check in with their overall emotions, but specifically about your emotional connection. Do you feel close and open? Distant and withdrawn? Or somewhere in between?”
It’s no secret men and women think differently. Men ask for what they want, while women fret over feelings. Sometimes it pays to think like a man. We have 5 reasons to give it a try.Â Therapist, Julie Hanks, says sometimes, women should think like a man.
Are gender differences in thoughts and behavior primarily biological or environment? No matter what the origin or our differences, nature or nurture or both life experience has shown all of us that men and women think differently.
According to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University, more men fall under the category of systemizers, skilled at figuring out how things work (think car repair, computer technology, math, science) and tend to out-perform women in visual spatial tasks. More women are what Baron-Cohen calls empathizers who are interested in how people work, responding more accurately to subtle emotional cue and responding appropriately. Overall, research demonstrates that women are better able to accurately assess other’s emotions and respond to social cues. Women tend to outperform men in verbal tasks.
Interestingly, according to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University, your gender doesn’t necessarily determine your brain type. Baron-Cohen found that about 17% of men have a female “empathizing brain”, 17% of women have a male “systemizing brain”, and some participants had a “balanced brain” with equal strength in systemizing and empathizing (source). Curious about whether you have a “male” or “female” brain?
Regardless of whether the gender differences are based on socialization or biological differences, we can learn from men’s strengths and practice “thinking like a man” in situations where it will better serve us. Here are five ways that women can benefit from thinking like a man:
1) Be Decisive
For men, a problem shared is a problem to be solved. Men look for solutions, and confidently make decisions. Women are more likely to get hijacked by emotion first, delaying decision-making. When they do make a decision, women are more likely to spend time wondering if it was the right choice.
To think like a man give yourself a time limit on making a decision, and once you’ve made your decision, don’t second guess yourself. You will gain the confidence in your ability to make good decisions and reserve some of your time and energy to focus on other things.
I had a friend who looked for dining table for 5 years because she wasn’t sure she would make a good decision, didn’t want to choose the “wrong” table, and didn’t want to waste money. If she had given herself 30 days to look at tables and then was going to make a decision, she would have been just as happy with her choice and enjoyed gathering her family around a beautiful table for the past 5 years.
2) Move On Quickly After Making Mistakes
After making mistakes, men are better at leaving their mistakes in the past. Patricia Bryans at North Umbria University in England studied the recalling mistakes in the workplace. Though she wasn’t researching gender differences, Bryans notices that men generally told neat stories, found the details difficult to recall, and portrayed themselves in a positive light, whereas women told complicated, detailed stores and continued to be emotionally distressed about their mistake. (source)
To think like a man try framing your mistakes as “learning experiences”, not character flaws. Try writing down the situation in the simplest story possible. Include in the story facts and feelings, and then dispose of it the story. You’ll feel better about yourself because you will have contained the situation on paper and symbolically gotten rid of it, and you’ll have the emotional freedom to focus on other aspirations.
In my therapy practice, I’ve noticed that when talking with clients about a past divorce, men will likely say things like, “She just freaked out and I couldn’t deal with her anymore” or “I just decided that I wanted to be with someone else.” In contrast, women will go through this very complicated story with dozens of theories of why it failed, how they feel about it. Several years ago I worked with a female client who was distraught about her divorce that happened years earlier, and couldn’t seem to move past the despair and confusion. One of the ways I helped her was to simplify her story and boil it down to “the marriage didn’t work out” or “he chose to be with someone else”, take responsibility for her part in the marital demise, accept the simplified story, and stop ruminating over every detail of her past marriage.
3) Make Sex a Priority
A colleague recently shared this quote that I thought was right on when it comes to gender differences and sexual desire. “Men are willing as long as they’re able. Women are able as long as they’re willing.” Men are better able to focus on physical desires and enjoy the emotional and physical benefits of sex. Women will get to the physical intimacy if everything else is check off their “to-do” list.
To think like a man try putting sex at the top of your priority list one day each week. Plan for it, think about it, and initiate physical intimacy. Broaden how you view yourself to include “lover”, in addition to wife, or mother, or daughter, or employee. Prioritizing physical intimacy will help your husband feel more loved, adored, and attractive. In addition to the relational benefits of intimacy, there are personal health benefits to prioritizing and engaging in lovemaking — a stronger immune system, reduced stress, increased self-esteem, improved heart health, and burning additional calories.
A few years ago, I met with a couple struggling sexually. The husband was broken hearted and felt rejected by his wife sexually. He felt insecure, unattractive, and disconnected in his marriage because she seemed indifferent about their sexual intimacy. I helped his wife hear and understand his feelings of sadness and fear, and helped him understand what she needed from him in order to awaken her desire. I helped his wife prioritizing lovemaking relationship by scheduling one night weekly where she was “in charge” of initiating lovemaking. Additionally, we worked on ways to increase the number of times she thought about her husband sexually each day, and worked toward resolving some emotional blocks she had due to her early family history of sexual shame. I’m happy to say that they are now enjoying a fulfilling marriage.
4) Worry Less About Other’s Feelings
Men seem to have an easier time asking directly for what they want without guilt because they are generally less “in tune” about other’s feelings. They are unapologetically taking time off for self-care and recreation — a game of golf or watching sports, while women tend to spend time figuring out what they want, if they deserve it, and how their desires or choices will impact others.
To think like a man try asking unapologetically for what you want and need in order to feel rejuvenated and allowing others to have their emotional response without taking responsibility for their feelings. It’s OK is your kids are occasionally disappointed or your husband is irritated or inconvenienced.
Recently, a friend of mine, a high level health professional, was negotiating her employment contract at work. She shared with me how difficult it was for her to think of it as a business deal and not a relationship. In that situation, she had to practice asking strongly for what she wanted.
5) Take Things at Face Value
Men tend to believe what people say without over analyzing or digging for hidden emotional messages. They generally say what they mean and assume you’ll do the same. For example, if your husband asks you if it’s ok if he goes golfing and you say “Yes. That’s fine honey. I don’t mind.” He may hear “yes” even if you delivered the yes with sarcasm.
To think like a man try sticking to the facts of a social interaction, focusing on the actual words that were said. You may feel a sense relief as you give up trying to decipher other’s hidden messages. An added benefit is that you’ll send the message to others that you expect them to say what they really mean.
One of my personal pet peeves: women who don’t believe what I’m saying, or who try to second guess, or apologize incessantly. An example of this scenario is when a friend asks if I can babysit their children. Here’s how the conversations goes.
“Yes, I’d love to have your kids come over today,” I say.
“Are you sure? Are you sure it’s OK? It’s not too inconvenient?” she asks reluctantly.
I respond, “If I weren’t OK with your kids coming over I would have told you â€˜no’. Trust me to mean what I say.”
Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.
Q: I have a 6 1/2 year old daughter. My husband was married and divorced before and has 2 children. We
haven’t told her any lies about anything but we haven’t told her the “whole” story about everything.
I didn’t really think she was old enough to need to know or understand. I also want to preserve her innocence as well as foundation about her parent’s marriage. She is getting older now though, and obviously seeing more; her brothers are rarely with us so she knows they have another mom and things like that. I don’t know what or how to tell her; I am just terrified that it will shatter her reality of what her life is and should be to know her Dad was married to someone else before. I know she doesn’t need any details, but she will be asking more questions, and I really don’t know what to say. I know this was a very long question but any help or advice you could give me would be so appreciated. I wish I could come see you for counseling but I do not have the means to do that. Thank you for your emails and advice that you give out to me and others who are in the same situation.
A:Â She may not be as traumatized as you think by knowing that her dad was married before, as long as you and your husband have made peace with his past.
Was there some kind of behavior on her dad’s part that led to the divorce like a affair or addiction or abuse in her dad’s past that you’re trying to shield her from? More important than saying the right things to your daughter is to examine your own feelings about the situation. I wonder if you’re projecting your own fears or insecurities about your husband’s previous marriage and children with another woman onto your daughter. Your daughter will take the emotional cues from you on how to think and feel about this situation. The more you can accept your husband’s past, the better your daughter will be able to accept it and integrate it into her life story in a healthy way.
My advice is for you and your husband to talk to your daughter about his past marriage in an honest, straightforward, and simple way. It might sound something like this, “Dad and I love each other very much and we love you. Before we got married, your Dad was married to ____ and they had your brothers. Their marriage ended. Dad and I found each other and fell in love and had you – one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It might be kind of hard to understand this grown up stuff but if you have any questions about it, you can always come to me and Dad.”
Thanks for your email and feel free to drop me a note and let me know how the conversations go! Take good care of you and yours.
Have a question for me? Send me your family relationship and emotional health questions here!