Prepare For Marriage

PremaritalThe commitment to build a life together that is signified by a formal engagement is a very significant step up from dating. You may each have expectations for this new phase of your relationship that you haven’t shared with your partner or haven’t even acknowledged to yourself. Each partner may bring into this commitment not just his/her adult personality but also everything that was learned (consciously or subconsciously) in the family of origin. 
Do you need premarital counseling? Engaged couples are generally happy with their current relationship. However, it helps to identify any weaknesses that could grow into bigger problems in the future if they are not addressed. Here are some examples of how premarital counseling can equip you for a lasting, successful partnership: Identify current strength and growth areas in each of the partners; Strengthen communication skills so that you can talk to each other in the future without resorting to blaming, defensiveness, or stonewalling; Determine how you are different and alike as individuals and how this can work to your advantage as a couple; Facilitate a discussion of important issues such as finances and goals you each have as a couple and for yourselves as individuals. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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Enhance Your Relationship

EnhancementMarried couples who come in for counseling tend to fall into two broad categories: the ones who come in primarily for relationship enhancement and to further enrich their marriage, and the ones who come in to try and resolve serious problems and issues that are disrupting or jeopardizing their relationship. Both types share a desire to stay married and to remove the obstacles that stand in the way to greater happiness. Enhancement or repair? In marriage enhancement or marriage repair, Dr. Z utilizes one of two frequently-updated online assessments with excellent reliability: the Prepare Enrich Assessment or the Gottman Relationship Checkup. These assessment tools help identify and analyze each spouse’s attitudes and beliefs on an extensive range of topics, including communication patterns, conflict resolution skills, partner styles and habits, personality traits, and many more. The assessment results, which Dr. Z shares with the couple, help establish a baseline for the following sessions in working through the deeper issues and the individual differences that need both partners’ attention. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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Repair Your Relationship

RepairMarried couples who come in for counseling tend to fall into two broad categories: the ones who come in primarily for relationship enhancement and to further enrich their marriage, and the ones who come in to try and resolve serious problems and issues that are disrupting or jeopardizing their relationship. Both types share a desire to stay married and to remove the obstacles that stand in the way to greater happiness. Enhancement or repair? In marriage enhancement or marriage repair, Dr. Z utilizes one of two frequently-updated online assessments with excellent reliability: the Prepare Enrich Assessment or the Gottman Relationship Checkup. These assessment tools help identify and analyze each spouse’s attitudes and beliefs on an extensive range of topics, including communication patterns, conflict resolution skills, partner styles and habits, personality traits, and many more. The assessment results, which Dr. Z shares with the couple, help establish a baseline for the following sessions in working through the deeper issues and the individual differences that need both partners’ attention. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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Discern the Future of Your Relationship

DiscernmentIn working with couples who are separated or are seriously contemplating divorce, working on repairing the relationship is often no longer possible. What is needed is a joint decision as to how to proceed. This process of decision-making is called discernment counseling.  In coaching the couple through the process of discernment, I maintain the following set of assumptions and beliefs: This type of couples counseling is better described as discernment counseling, because it is aimed at helping the couple decide whether to end or continue their marriage, with all options on the table. Very often, one spouse is “leaning in” while the other is “leaning out” of the marriage.
There are three major “deal breakers” in a marriage, each of which can spell the end of it: adultery, addiction, and abuse; when one or more of these is present or ongoing, discernment counseling can help the couple decide the best path forward. As a marriage and family therapist, I am for marriage and I believe that everything possible should be done to avoid an unnecessary divorce, but... Realistically, not all marriages can be saved: in these cases, it is better to work on a divorce process that is collaborative and gets the job done with the least possible amount and intensity of conflict, acrimony, and recrimination. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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Navigate Separation and Divorce

DivorceThe end of a marriage or significant relationship often is the worst event in a person’s life. Even under the best of circumstances, the end of a marriage relationship can be characterized by hurt, regret, anger, depression, guilty relief and a difficult period of re-adjustment to single life. When children are present, the ending of the relationship between their parents marks a profound transformation in family life, with significant disruptions and a huge loss of emotional safety and, often, financial security.  Even the most peaceful of divorces has an impact on all individuals connected to the couple (extended families, friends, co-workers, neighbors), on the spouses themselves and on their children and their families. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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Understand the Impact on Children

ChildrenChildren react in different ways to their parents’ impending or ongoing divorce. Their specific reaction depends on temperament and personality. Among siblings, one child may react more strongly than the other, and another may appear to come through unscathed. Regardless of their visible reaction, all children are negatively impacted by the breakup of their family. Age is a factor, too. Children younger than five may be somewhat protected by their lack of understanding of what’s going on in their family. Children over the age of eighteen may be somewhat protected by what’s going on in their own lives (school, friends, relationship, job, etc.). Children between the ages of six and seventeen have been shown to be the most affected. How To Tell If a Child Is Impacted More Than Another? The best gauges are the child’s school and social performances. If you notice an acting out in social situations with other children (more frequent in boys) or a withdrawal from friends (more frequent in girls), it’s time to get the children evaluated by a therapist. Ditto for a sudden fall in grades. An unexplained change in the child’s health status is also a give-away that the divorce is impacting not just the mind and the spirit, but also the body. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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Negotiate Blended Family Issues

Blended FamAccording to Help Guide experts, a blended family or stepfamily forms when you and your partner make a life together with the children from one or both of your previous relationships. The process of forming a new, blended family can be both a rewarding and challenging experience. While you as parents are likely to approach remarriage and a new family with great joy and expectation, your kids or your new spouse’s kids may not be nearly as excited. They’ll likely feel uncertain about the upcoming changes and how they will affect relationships with their natural parents. They’ll also be worried about living with new stepsiblings, whom they may not know well, or worse, ones they may not even like. Some children may resist changes, while you as a parent can become frustrated when your new family doesn’t function in the same way as your previous one. While blending families is rarely easy, these tips can help your new family work through the growing pains. No matter how strained or difficult things seem at first, with open communication, mutual respect, and plenty of love and patience, you can develop a close bond with your new stepchildren and form an affectionate and successful blended family. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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Consider Dating and Remarriage

RemarriageAbout 75% of divorced women and 85% of divorced men get remarried. Half are remarried within three years (some get a "head start"). As a result, only 4 out of 10 adults in America are married to their first spouse. The remaining 6 out of 10 are remarried, cohabiting, or single. Second marriages have an even higher divorce rate--perhaps 60%. Second (and later) marriages however, can be much stronger, happier, more beneficial, and richer than the myths about remarriage imply. People remarry for the same complex reasons they marry. It is a second chance for happiness. We have more life experience and tend to select better partners the second time. Yet, less than half of remarried make it through the early years and find lasting happiness there; they may need a third or a fourth marriage, which seems to work out better. Many second marriages are highly stressful during the first couple of years in which parents' love has to be shared and new relationships are being worked out: the new spouse's family of origin, the step-children and step-parents, the step-siblings, etc. Moreover, financial problems are common, especially if there are step-children and/or biological children with a former spouse to support. Remarriage may also involve relocating and dealing with one or two troublesome ex-spouses. Equally important, it may involve losing contact with your own children and intense, bewildering animosity from your new stepchildren, particularly if the step-parent attempts to discipline. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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Deal Breakers and Best Practices

Best PracticesWith married couples that have hit a plateau, or with those who are encountering serious difficulties while remaining committed to their relationship, I follow a specific counseling structure which is designed to: (1) help me help the couple stay on track, (2) identify the unique underlying reasons of their issues, and (3) ensure maximum achievable change. This structure unfolds over several sessions and is informed by the following set of beliefs:
Neither party is completely innocent or completely guilty of disrupting the relationship.
If the relationship is dysfunctional, both spouses are contributing by action or by omission to co-creating this dysfunction. Since the spouses are both the authors and main actors in their interplay, they can re-author the script and decide to play it differently. Often a marriage needs to be refreshed by agreeing to a new set of rules, a new contract between the spouses which takes into consideration their changed circumstances and the changes that have taken place in each of them since they first got together. Not all marriages can be saved, but the most serious of attempts should be made to clearly identify why it cannot. When a marriage is worth saving, no stone should be left unturned in trying to identify and address the deeper causes of the dysfunction. Relationship skills can be learned and refined at any age and by both spouses, if the will is there. Problems in the marriage often have to do with external factors, but most of the times the external factors simply serve as a catalyst to reveal internal factors that exclusively concern the two spouses. Lack of time, children, jobs, finances are problems that may not have easy or immediate solutions, however a stronger couple relationship can make these problems much easier to address or much lighter to bear. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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Other Couple Issues

Other IssuesOf course, as always, every couple has their very own issues that are made unique by the uniqueness of the partners. Interracial couples, multi-cultural couples, missionary couple, couples who own and operate a business together, for example, have unique issues and challenges they must face. There are many other unique situations you and your partner may face that are impossible to cover or anticipate. I'll be glad to discuss and analyze your particular situation and give you my best counsel. Give me a call at (678) 554-5632 to set an appointment (either at my office location or online via telehealth) or send me the appointment request form, which you will find here on my website.

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