family issues causing stress

Family Issues: Tension Between Your Parents and Your Spouse

Should You Choose Your Family or Your Relationship? How to Resolve Family Issues Between Your Parents and Your Spouse Let me start with a story about a good guy trying to do right by the people he loved… “Tony” came from a great family and was happily married. Tony loved his parents and his siblings; he loved his wife and his kids. He was a lucky guy. So it drove him nuts that whenever he and his wife spent time with his family, they ended up fighting the entire drive home—she didn’t like their comments about the kids or the gifts they gave or the unhealthy food. Whatever happened during the visit, his wife would find a way to be unhappy about it. Tony felt the pressure of what felt like family issues. He remembers finally yelling at her, overcome with rage. “It’s so unfair— you actually make me dread spending time with them.” He just wanted everyone to be happy. And more often than not, we’re just like Tony. We want the best for the people we love. So why does his dilemma seem so impossible to resolve? The issue wasn’t that Tony didn’t love his parents or his wife enough. The issue wasn’t that his wife was unreasonable. The problem wasn’t even that his parents were at fault. The issue was that Tony wasn’t prioritizing his marriage over his relationship with his family, which in return, was causing the family issues. I see the same conflict play out every week in my practice. Regardless of the specifics of a situation, I tell my patients that to resolve this conflict; we must remember two truths: 1. If we want to keep our marriage, our marriage must always come first. 2. We don’t owe our parents anything. My patients can’t help but argue with me. They say, “But Dr. Dabney … “ … my parents did so much for me. I don’t want to seem ungrateful.” “ … my parents are getting older. They need my help.” “ … I don’t want to be mean.” “ … I don’t want them to think I don’t love them.” “ … they’ll make me feel guilty.” “ … it’s expected of me.” “ … that’s just how things are in our family.” “ … they don’t mean the things they say.” “ … my wife just misinterprets everything.” “ … she just …

How to Build Intimacy

Three forms of intimacy and how to build intimacy Intimacy outside the bedroom- It’s a whole new frontier for some people. That is kind of sad and important because intimacy outside the bedroom is what makes intimacy in the bedroom better, or there at all. Some people come in, and they complain that they aren’t having intimacy in the bedroom, but there isn’t any intimacy in their relationship, period. I’m going to share with you three forms of intimacy and how to build intimacy.   1. Do things together. This may sound obvious. It’s all over social media, movies, etc…- you see a happy couple, and they’re doing something together. People get busy. You work and your significant other works, you come home, and someone is making dinner and someone watching TV or with the kids. He’s on his phone; she’s watching a movie. And then they wonder where the intimacy is, or they think it’s okay because they’re going to have a date night. Then something happens, the babysitter can’t watch the kids, you’re too tired to go out, so the date night gets canceled.  Doing something together doesn’t have to be sex, or it doesn’t even have to be talking, it can be anything. If you think about things that you do that you can invite your significant other to join you or can you join your significant other. Something as simple as getting ready in the morning, can you go to the bathroom and get ready at the same time? It doesn’t have to be an in-depth conversation to be intimate. It can be just hanging out together. What if your significant other is cooking, and you go in there and offer to be the taste tester or to chop up some vegetables, or sit and have a glass of wine together while she’s cooking.  There’s a lot of different ways you can hang out together to increase intimacy. It doesn’t have to be a big production; it doesn’t have to involve a babysitter — just time hanging out together. You’ll be amazed at how much that can help out, one little change. 2. Are you an avoider of confrontation? Most people divide themselves up into avoiders of confrontation or ones who dive head-on into a confrontation. No one likes confrontation. I’ve never had anyone come to me and say, “I like confrontation.”  If you’re the action avoider …

surviving the holidays with family

3 Fact-based Strategies for Surviving the Holidays

Right around this time, every year, my clients’ lives begin to churn with guilt and stress, and they wonder how surviving the holidays is possible. My clients’ tell me about all the extra stuff they “have to” do to get ready for the holidays. They tell me about the family traditions they’ve already begun to dread. They say they wish they could enjoy the holidays more. Then they chastise themselves as being “bad” people for feeling that way. Let me say here the same thing I say to each of them: The only way to enjoy the holidays is to do what fulfills you. When you start with a sense of obligation (a “have to”), that leads to guilt, which, in turn, leads directly to resentment. The way to beat what I call this Obligation-Guilt-Resentment cycle is by adapting three crucial strategies: 1. Take care of yourself first. There’s a reason the airlines tell us to put on our oxygen masks before helping others. When we’re tired or fed up or angry or emotionally exhausted, it becomes difficult (if not impossible) to show care to those around us. Sure, I’ve had plenty of clients who think they do an excellent job of hiding their feelings about the holidays, but in nearly every case, they’ve discovered that their loved ones did know they were unhappy. Kids say, “Dad’s always a grump at Christmas,” or their spouse says, “We have a major fight just after Thanksgiving every year, without fail.” If you don’t want to ruin the holidays for those around you, you’re going to have to get good at making sure you take the time to do the stuff that you enjoy, this is the first key to surviving the holidays. 2. Accept that there are no “bad” feelings. It’s okay to dislike going to your mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving every year. Hate the meatballs that have been a family tradition since before you were born? That’s okay. It’s even okay not to enjoy playing host to people you love. The only way to discover happiness is first to identify and acknowledge your other, sometimes uncomfortable feelings. The truth is, emotions don’t make us bad; actions do. Feeling so angry at someone that you want to punch them doesn’t make you a violent person; punching them makes you violent. So, accept the fact that you hate spending $2500 to fly your …

couple holding on to each other

Marriage Therapy Success Story

From Rocky Shores to Smooth Sailing: Hannah and Joe’s Story in Marriage Therapy “Joe” and “Hannah” knew their marriage was in serious trouble. “We were at the end of our rope,” Joe said. “It was either go to counseling or separate.” Hannah agreed. “Neither one of us wanted to give up. So we decided that if we weren’t going to give up, we needed to find someone to help us fix whatever we could.” Marriage therapy wasn’t a choice that came quickly for either one of them. Joe had an open aversion to therapy and believed it carried a stigma — asking for help wasn’t a good thing. As for Hannah, she’d been to therapy when she was younger, and it hadn’t proven to be a positive experience. “It made me feel singled out, like the only one with problems,” she said. And yet, they knew neither one of them was happy with the state of the relationship. They described their marriage as disconnected and confusing. “We didn’t know what to do,” said Hannah. “We just weren’t happy with each other.” What they did know was they’d committed themselves to find expert help. So Joe went online, and that’s how he found Dr. Dabney. They both agreed she fit the idea of what they were looking for in a therapist, plus, added Joe, “I liked that she had so many testimonials and so much information available on her website.” Their experiences in Dr. Dabney’s office was almost entirely different than what they expected. “For starters,” said Joe, “you do almost all the talking.” Hannah agreed and added, “It’s great that she’s able to listen to you and pinpoint the things you need to learn about yourself. She asks the right  questions and gets right to the heart of the issue.” Said Joe, “She’s not going to ask you to change. She may ask you to adopt a different perspective, but not change who you are. We never walked out of there confused or feeling like one of us was at fault.” Dr. Dabney was so effective. Hannah and Joe estimated that their counseling lasted only about three months, start to finish. One of the best takeaways for both of them is that they aren’t responsible for each other’s happiness. And they learned to adjust their communication accordingly. As Hannah put it, “We used to feel guilty if we made each …

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3 Porn Myths You’ll be Glad Aren’t True

3 Porn Myths that Aren’t True- From A Doctors Perspective (Pssst: The Doctor Says it Can Actually be Good For You) If only I had a dollar for every time I got to tell someone that there was nothing wrong with what they were doing—or wanted to do—in the bedroom. Most common worry: porn. I’ve chosen to bust 5 of the most common myths about porn and why it’s anything but bad for you. I’ll bust three porn myths now, and two later; stay tuned! Porn Myth #1: Porn is bad for you. Not so fast. Historically, anti-porn arguments have primarily been moral in nature and have little basis in medical science. While porn can lead to addiction (like hundreds of other behaviors), it more often supports and reinforces acceptable sexual behavior. In a healthy, adult relationship, porn can be wonderfully useful. Not only do many couples find it fun, but they often use it to spice up or reignite their sex lives. Many watch it together for new ideas, and some occasionally watch it to help get themselves in the mood when necessary. Like many other things in life, the secret to porn use is moderation, and it is not damaging to a relationship unless one partner regularly chooses it instead of sex with their “real” partner. Porn Myth #2: Porn is a sign that something is “wrong” with you. Let’s be clear: porn doesn’t make you a pervert. It can, however, be a sign that you’re avoiding dealing with uncomfortable feelings or experiences. If you find yourself turning to porn instead of your real partner, or if you find it interfering in your ability to function in daily life or fulfill your responsibilities, please seek professional help to deal with your compulsive behaviors. If you use it in moderation, however—enjoy. Porn Myth #3: Porn is the same as cheating. Many women feel betrayed when faced with the realization that a husband or boyfriend is looking at porn—some as profoundly betrayed as if they’d been cheated on. Often, their immediate reaction is, “What’s wrong with me? Am I not enough?” Some relationships even end over porn. When my patients face this issue, I help them understand that porn and cheating are not the same things. What is the same, however, is the feeling of betrayal. It’s legitimate for a woman to feel betrayed by a man who secretly goes …