Delaware Relationship Counselor: How Parenting Styles Can Impact Your Marriage

June 17, 2015

Delaware Relationship Counselor: How Parenting Styles Can Impact Your MarriageWhen couples decide to have children, a lot of issues tend to come up. Is it the right time in your life and career for kids? Do you feel financially secure enough? And simply: are you ready?

These are all good questions to ask, but often people in long term relationships ignore a big one: how do each of you plan on raising your kids? This not only relates to the belief systems that you want to instill in them (religious or otherwise), but also the way you plan to interact with your children on a day-to-day basis. In other words, what will your parenting styles be?

Generally speaking, there are three main ones: hands-off, affirmative, and authoritarian.

If you were to create a visual chart of these three styles, hands-off parenting, where you avoid imposing structure on the kids and let them make their own decisions, is pretty much the polar opposite of authoritarian parenting, where your word is essentially law and the kids are expected to follow your rules or be punished. Affirmative parenting, in which kids are given choices and encouraged to think for themselves, but where the parents are still the ultimate authority, is somewhere in the middle.

Problems Caused by Different Parenting Styles

As you might imagine, if one of you takes an authoritarian approach while the other has a more hands-off style, it can be confusing and negatively impact your children’s relationship with both of you. But differing parenting styles can go beyond your relationship with your children to harm your marriage as well.

How so? Well, when parents have vastly different styles of interacting with their kids, they often end up feeling frustrated and even undermined by their spouse as their decisions are frequently called into question or even rescinded. Fights can happen more often, and it’s not uncommon to feel more of a distance from your partner.

The way to combat these issues is to talk about big picture issues so you can achieve a couple's answer. Naturally, this won’t solve every disagreement, but it can help with a lot of them. And for those times when you do find yourselves at odds, the best way to handle it is to step away together and come to an agreement in private so you can present a united front to your kids.

No one is saying that this is easy though, so if you find yourself in need of help, feel free to give the Delaware Relationship Counselor a call.

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Delaware Therapist – Spring Cleaning: Sharing Household Duties

April 20, 2015

Delaware Therapist - Spring Cleaning: Sharing Household DutiesAs spring comes to Delaware, the air grows warmer, flowers begin to bloom, and many families embark on spring cleaning projects.

Historically, spring was the best time for dusting because the weather was warm enough to open up windows and doors, and insects and wind were less of a concern. Today, families continue the time-honored tradition by cleaning their homes from top to bottom, getting rid of clutter, and making repairs.

Cleaning, maintenance, and household duties should be a shared responsibility between you and your spouse during spring and throughout the rest of the year. If one partner bears the burden of cleaning, cooking, and household chores, he or she may end up feeling bitter, frustrated, and underappreciated.

To prevent conflict and resentment, you and your partner should work together to devise a plan for sharing household responsibilities that you both feel is fair and feasible. Below are ideas and tips to keep in mind.

Discuss likes and dislikes. Talk about which household duties each of you particularly likes or dislikes, and then assign tasks accordingly. For instance, if your spouse hates doing the dishes and you hate taking out the trash, you could volunteer to take charge of the dishes if he or she promises to cover trash duties.

Keep an open mind. Remember that your partner might have a very different perspective on what needs to be done around the house and who is doing their fair share of the work. Listen to your spouse, keep calm, and be open to ideas and suggestions – even if you disagree.

Avoid accusations. If you accuse your partner of neglecting housework or make bossy demands, your partner may become defensive and resentful. Instead of trying to order your partner around, pose your needs in the form of requests and suggestions.

Praise the good. After finalizing your plan for sharing household responsibilities, make sure to show your appreciation when you notice your spouse following through. If you praise the good things your partner does rather than focusing on their shortfalls, you can make them feel valued and encourage them to continue to help.

Struggling with housework conflicts or other communication issues? Consider talking to a Delaware therapist who can help you “spring clean” your relationship with personalized advice and innovative techniques.

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Delaware Relationship Therapist – Creating a Relationship Budget for the New Year

January 15, 2015

Delaware Relationship Therapist - Creating a Relationship Budget for the New YearIt’s never fun to argue with your partner, but quarrels over money can be especially upsetting. For many couples, money doesn’t only represent finances—it represents power, responsibility, and security.

One possible solution? Create a budget. And the start of a New Year is a great time to do it.

By working together and openly communicating about your finances, you can plan a budget that saves you money, while avoiding future arguments. Creating a budget can be quick and easy—here’s how:

Step One: Determine income. Draw up a list of all your sources of income, including work paychecks, investments, and rental revenue.

Step Two: Calculate expenses. Start by budgeting for the necessary expenses first, such as rent, car payments, and utilities.

Step Three: Set a limit for luxuries. After determining how much you need for necessities, you can figure out how much you can afford to spend on luxuries, such as going out, entertainment, and vacations. This is usually an area where couples struggle. What’s important to you may not be to your partner, so keep an open mind and really listen to one another during the process.

Step Four: Create a rainy-day fund. You should set aside money in a special account for emergencies. Feeling prepared can help both of you relax when unexpected expenses come up during the year.

Step Five: Plan for retirement. It’s a good idea to start contributing to a retirement fund as early as you can – and discussing what that retirement will look like. You may find you have very different ideas about how to spend your golden years.

Step Six: Commit to the plan. Setting a budget will only help to prevent financial disagreements if you both stick to it. If you’re not happy with something, talk it out now rather than planning to ignore the budget or hide expenses. And if you make a mistake during the year, be honest with your partner, and work to be understanding if your partner does the same.

Creating a Time Budget
Money isn’t the only thing you can budget. You can apply this same principle to budgeting time as a couple – which is often just as hard to come by as responsibilities and routines take over.

Just as you would when creating a money budget, start by making a list of the amount of time you spend on tasks you must do—such as work, sleep, and eating. Calculate the amount of time that remains for personal tasks, such as spending time with each other, watching TV, and working out. If you have weekly commitments, such as volunteering, classes, or hobbies, account for these, too.

Does your schedule allot some time to connect with each other every day – even if it’s just 15 minutes in the morning or before bed? What about regular family time and date nights?

Your budget should help ensure that you have enough time to do the things that matter most to you. If that’s not the case, think about what kind of activities you can cut down on or commitments you can drop to make room in your schedule. Maybe instead of watching Netflix for a couple hours every week, you can spend this time to going out to a new restaurant, taking a cooking class, or visiting a Delaware relationship therapist.

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Delaware Marriage Counselor: Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome – Together

November 9, 2013

As a Delaware marriage counselor, I understand how tough it can be for couples after all their children grow up and leave home. For years, a large part of your identity was likely based on being a parent, and when your adult kids no longer need you on a daily basis, you’re left to reform your identity and revisit your relationship with your partner. This isn’t a bad thing, but some couples struggle to figure out their new relationship dynamic in the absence of their kids. Sound like you? See if this relationship advice helps.

How Couples Can Survive the Empty Nest: Tips from a Delaware Marriage Counselor

Stay curious about your partner. When your kids lived at home, you probably asked them how their day at school was or what they were planning on doing over the weekend. You should make an effort to be just as curious about your partner. You might think that you know everything there is to know about one another, but you may be surprised about the new things you can learn if you just keep asking questions.

Make time for dates. Setting aside time for dates may have been a challenge when you had young kids at home, but one of the benefits of having an empty nest is that you have more time to go out with your partner. Take this opportunity to reinvent your date night: go to new restaurants that you both want to try, take turns planning dates for one another, explore parts of your town or city that you haven’t spent much time in. Doing these types of activities together will help you get to know each other again.

Learn a new skill together. If you find yourself thinking about your kids a lot once they leave home, talk to your partner about learning a new skill together. You might try learning a language, taking up a sport, doing a craft project, or just about anything else the two of you can think of. Learning something together will give you more time to bond and also help keep you from missing your kids as much.

Help each other stay in touch with your kids. Remember that just because your kids are no longer living at home doesn’t mean you’ll never see or hear from them again. You and your partner can set up times when you can both call or Skype with your kids, or plan a trip to a child’s college campus for Parents’ Weekend.

Talk to a Delaware marriage counselor. If you and your partner are struggling with empty nest syndrome or wondering where your relationship is going after your children leave home, you should consider talking to a Delaware marriage counselor. Having an empty nest can be a tough transition, and you and your partner should feel like you have support as you transition to this new stage of your life.

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Delaware Marriage Therapist: Preparing Your Relationship for Your First Child

October 24, 2013

Seeing a Delaware marriage therapist might not be the first thing on your mind when you and your partner have your first child together, and that’s very understandable. Suddenly the new addition to your family is at the forefront of your thoughts, and you may feel like you don’t have any time or energy left to focus on your relationship.

However, even if you don’t want to see a marriage counselor, you should make an extra effort to focus on your relationship after your first child. Relationship issues can quickly escalate when partners are sleep deprived, trying to navigate parenthood, and attempting to figure out their new role in the family.

Delaware Marriage Therapist Offers Tips for Couples Expecting Their First Child

Figure out how to divide domestic duties. There’s no getting around it—there will be a lot more household duties once you welcome a baby into your family. Figuring out who’s going to do things like clean up the kitchen, change diapers, or get up with the baby in the middle of the night can be a huge source of contention, so head off this problem by sitting down with your partner ahead of time and discussing how you’ll divide tasks. It may work best for you to trade off tasks on a daily or weekly basis, so one person does not get stuck doing the same things all the time.

Discuss logistics. Sure, it’s not the most romantic activity, but you and your partner need to discuss the practical implications of having your first child rather than just playing it by ear. Discuss whether one parent is going to take some time off from work, how much time they will take off, and what that will mean for the family’s income. As a Delaware marriage therapist, I know that stressing out over money is a huge source of relationship issues, but having a plan in place can help ease anxieties.

Plan for date nights. Before you have your first child, you may take alone time with your partner for granted. However, once the new baby arrives, you may inadvertently neglect your significant other. This can lead to feelings of rejection, which can turn into bigger relationship issues, so you need to make an extra effort to spend time with your partner. Plan to get a babysitter every so often so that you can spend time together and remember what you love about one another.

Learn to be flexible. As much as I’ve advocated planning ahead, there’s only so much a Delaware marriage therapist—or anyone—can prepare you for. Having a child for the first time will be accompanied by plenty of surprises. You may find that the baby doesn’t want to nap on the schedule you’ve set up, or that there are new domestic duties that you never even anticipated. Be prepared to learn alongside your partner as you raise your child.

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Delaware Relationship Counselor: Practice the Skill of Mirroring

October 10, 2013

A lot of people seek out the help of a Delaware relationship counselor because they are experiencing a conflict with their partner and just can’t understand their partner’s perspective. They’ll claim that marriage issues are coming up because they feel like their partner has changed or has started picking fights out of the blue. The true reason behind most of these marriage issues, though, is that we go into a relationship with ideas of who a person is, and it’s only later that we begin to see all that person’s complexities. This causes us to realize that they’re not always going to do what we expect or want all of the time, and this can be an unpleasant surprise.

However, these differences between expectation and reality don’t have to spell the end of a long-term relationship.  It’s possible to work through conflicts with your partner and better understand where they’re coming from by practicing the skill of mirroring.

What is Mirroring? Delaware Relationship Counselor Explains

Mirroring in the context of a relationship involves repeating what your partner has said so that you can better understand their true meaning. This absolutely does not mean doing a sarcastic imitation of your partner or throwing their words back at them in a hurtful way. In fact, if you don’t think you can neutrally repeat your partner’s words in the heat of the moment, you should wait to calm down before practicing mirroring. If you do feel ready to practice mirroring, here is what you can do:

Listen first. Pay close attention to what your partner is saying; don’t interrupt. This is one of the hardest things to learn, but a Delaware relationship counselor can help.

Restate. Tell your partner that you want to make sure you understand what they’re saying, and that repeating what they’ve just said back to them will help. Ask them if you got the restatement right.

Give your partner a chance to elaborate. If your partner says that you got what they said wrong, give them a chance to re-explain. If they say you got it right, gently ask if there’s more they’d like to add.

Share your perspective. Once your partner feels they’ve said all they need to say, go ahead and explain how you feel about the conflict. Try to be as clear as possible, and don’t just cast blame onto your partner.

Mirroring requires a lot of patience, and it can take time to get good at it. If you and your partner practice this skill, though, you’ll be better prepared to confront marriage issues as they come up. And if you’d like more advice on how to incorporate mirroring into your relationship, consider visiting a Delaware relationship counselor. I know that I would be glad to talk to you and your partner about this form of dialoguing.

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Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803