23 Nov 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Communication / Conflict / Culture / Family / Holiday / relationship counseling / traditions

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Strengthening Relationships During the Holidays

For many people, the holiday season truly is ?the most wonderful time of the year,? and for many others, this is an ideal they struggle to achieve. ?Whether you grew up with great holiday memories, struggling to recreate those experiences as an adult, or you grew up with terrible memories, now attempting to give your new family the opposite, it is not an easy task to achieve family unity and joy during the holiday season.? Let?s examine some common obstacles and how to work to overcome them.

Unresolved Issues

relationship | couple | intimacy

It is a common tendency in relationships to resolve issues by ignoring them.? Doing so results in the buildup of pain and irritation.? This is similar to an untreated infection in the body.? Let?s say you fall and scrape your knee, and many unsavory particles make their way deep into your tissue, and instead of cleaning it out, you simply put a bandage over it and ignore it.? Over time, infection sets in, and touch becomes sensitive.? Eventually, activities as simple as walking will become very difficult, if not impossible.? In relationships, the unresolved issues are the infection.? Any attempt to discuss those issues brings pain, and any attempt to draw closer together becomes difficult, and perhaps even impossible while the infection in the relationship remains.? In these cases, it is recommended to seek relationship counseling.? A qualified relationship counselor is skilled in healing conflict, just as a qualified physician in skilled in treating an infection.? Resolving the issues removes the barriers to unity and joy in the relationship.

Family Culture

Thanksgiving and Christmas are so deeply loved by many people that any change to these holidays are often seen as wrong, or even heretical.? Instead of bickering about which family tradition is correct and which is a mockery, it is better to understand that with the creation of a new family must come the creation of new and unique traditions.? Any attempts to recreate past traditions will ultimately end in frustration since there are different people involved, and it is a different generation.? Creating a new culture, your family?s culture, the culture your children will forever remember, is a wonderful and rewarding endeavor that has the power to unify the family in a lasting way.? This takes time, patience, and the consideration of new ideas.? Many families can accomplish this on their own, but if those attempts fail, relationship counseling can be a wonderful tool to help build a strong, unified family culture.

Time

Time is currency in the world today, and anything we desire requires a payment.? People have named our age the ?information age.?? It is called this because we can now access nearly any information we desire within seconds on a small rectangular device we carry everywhere we go.? More than anytime in recorded history, we can manage most of our affairs without getting out of bed.? We can pay bills, shop, connect with people, go to school, make money, watch movies, file a lawsuit, renew a prescription, all without even standing up.? There is one thing, however, that we cannot do from this small rectangular device, and that is to build strong, healthy relationships.? This requires time, time spent engaged with people, time not spent staring at a screen.? We can?t approach a relationship the way we monitor social media.? The time required to build strong, healthy relationships is not small; it is substantial.? Time is currency, and if we don?t pay the full price, the result is like the cheap shirt we buy at the discount store that shows its first tear two weeks after buying it.? On the other hand, if we spend substantial time together as a family, and that time is quality, it will be an investment that will pay us back with love and joy for years to come.? In summary, the holiday season can be a wonderful time to build strong, healthy relationships if we resolve buried issues, if we create new traditions together, and if we spend large amounts of quality time together.? If these attempts fail for any reason, seek a qualified relationship counselor who can help you and your family succeed.

?Click here to contact Armstrong Family Counseling.?Let us help you strengthen your relationship today.

Hand over water | symbol of freedom 06 Sep 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

philosophy / Trauma / Uncategorized

Comments: 1 Comment

Freedom From the Past?

Living With the Past?and Freedom From It?

Our past is host to many memories and stories.? Past moments of our lives can bring about a plethora of thoughts and feelings.? Some of my most favorite memories are of the many adventures my wife and me have done together.? Although I’m grateful that I have a lot of fond memories from my past, I have?other memories that are difficult to look at.? These memories serve as reminders of my bad choices, disappointments, my sin, and failure.? I’m sure that if you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you too have struggled with past moments and situations in your life.?

A guy with sunglasses on smiling?People put on a front and cover up those less than pleasing things when interacting with others.? I see these personas when I am at church or out eating and in front of others.? We put on our best clothes and our biggest smiles acting like we have it all together.?? Sometimes we overcompensate by being overly joyful or talking too much.? Most people can see right through it, yet we continue the charade of keeping the mask on that tells the world that everything is ok in our life.

I see it when I meet with clients.? But a few sessions in, that?s when the mask starts to drop and they begin to reveal that on the inside, they don?t have it all together.? Most of their feelings of insecurity, sadness, guilt or shame were rooted in the past.? Past behavior, past hurts, and pain.? They struggle to live in the present because they are stuck, living in the history of their life.? It could be about anything.? Perhaps they were fired from a job for making a mistake.? Maybe they hid a family secret or even a secret of their own like an addiction or bad relationship.

person holding a sad face sign over their face

I recall when I was in college; I attended a support group called Adult Children of Alcoholics.? There were people in attendance that were 60 years or older.? For the first time in their life, they were dealing with things that impacted them from 30-40 years before.? ?Some of them had been carrying their past on their backs like a heavy bag of boulders that represented their most painful and difficult memories.? They became prisoners of those things that preceded their present.? There was no freedom to live in the here and now and look forward to the future as long as they were shackled to their heavy load.? I had my own heavy bag of memories but when I observed the struggle those people went through, I knew I had to let go of that heavy bag before it became heavier or buried me under the weight.? The chains had to drop and I had to find my freedom.

The question then becomes how?? How do we let it go?? Sometimes we don?t even know what bothers us.? Often, the answer is buried under years of repressing and concealment. ??All we know is that ?something? is causing us pain or emotional insanity.? We get to the point of being sick and tired of what we are going through.? That might lead us in seeking out extra help like a counselor or a support group. ??Counseling often stirs things up and one of the consequences of that is that we may feel pain.? That?s difficult for most of us.? We don?t like to feel pain.

However, it is through the pain that we begin to find a way out.? Finding that freedom from our past comes from 2 essential building blocks: Acceptance and forgiveness.? We?ll tackle these one at a time.acceptance displayed through 2 girls laughing together

Acceptance

One the biggest stumbling blocks to moving forward are denial.? We deny the reality to what occurred.? We make excuses or we self-medicate to avoid acknowledging the truth.? Once we can find acceptance, then there is a measure of peace that gives us strength in saying, ?this happened.? Or ?I did this.? There can be no moving forward without this.? I have worked with clients that struggled with addiction, PTSD, and were perpetrators to abuse or were victims of someone else?s violence.?? The first step to their healing began with bravely confronting the past and saying, ?I will face this, no matter what!? ?What things in your past do you need courage to face?

Michael J. Fox is best known for his role as Alex Keaton on the ?80s sitcom ?Family Ties? and the Back to The Future trilogy however in his personal life, he has battled with Parkinson?s disease.? He was diagnosed in 1991 and he had to face that his life would never be the same.?? He had this great thought on acceptance.? ?Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.?? For many of us, after acceptance, the way through to finding freedom from the past points to forgiveness.

Forgiveness:

There are two kinds of forgiveness:?Self-forgiveness and forgiving others.?? In acceptance, we face reality and what happened.? In self-forgiveness, we own the responsibility of what the flaw or mistake was that we committed.? I was fired from my first counseling job because I made a mistake.? After about 6 weeks of struggling with guilt, self-condemnation and?the shame over my actions, I was at my lowest.? I had to be broken.? In my brokenness, I found some scripture that allowed to me work through that difficult time.? They gave me hope for the future.? God wasn?t done with me.? Perhaps they can help you.

Jeremiah 8:4: ?Jeremiah, say this to the people of Judah: This is what the Lord says: You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back.?

Philippians 3:13-14:??Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead, I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.?

Self-forgiveness and accepting Gods forgiveness didn?t take away the action or the consequence.? But it allowed me to live with what happened.? Now when I look back, it is merely an event in my life.? I no longer have feelings of guilt and failure.? I?ve learned and moved on from it.? It no longer holds me as a prisoner.

Johnny Cash once said this about our failures of the past:? ?You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.?

We have talked about self-forgiveness but what about forgiving others.? When someone has wronged us, forgiveness can be one of the most difficult things we do.? For some, it seems impossible and creates a paralysis in even thinking about it and for others; they have tasted a freedom and release of bitterness and hate.

Carolyn Holderread Heggen wrote the book Sexual Abuse: in Christian Homes and Churches.? While the book focuses on abuse in the church and home, you can apply her words to your own journey of forgiving others.?? She writes that offering the offenders forgiveness is not forgetting and it’s not about letting them off the hook.? She said that ?while extending forgiveness is a profoundly spiritual act and can bring spiritual growth, it is not a way of avoiding the pain. It is not done quickly or flippantly to avoid the terror of woundedness.”

So if you’re struggling to come to the point of forgiveness, there is no timetable when such a thing should occur.? Talking to a counselor can help to begin this.?? The author notes that forgiveness “is a process that allows the victim to let go of the intense emotional pain associated with the abuse/offense and replace it with inner resolution and peace.”? She indicates that sometimes the abuser may not be repentant and then forgiveness becomes the process of letting go of the pain and bitterness to God?s care.

We must choose forgiveness–either live with it as it begins to burn bitterness and resentment onto our heart or be willing to give our burden over to a higher power. That requires actively exercising our faith by asking God to help us to work through that struggle to forgive.??? Al-Anon has a saying, “Let go and let God.”? When we let go of this burden and place it into Gods care, the transformation begins and like spring bringing new life to the land, so too does God brings us a new life and peace to our heart.

If you are struggling to find freedom and relief from where you are currently at in life or from your past, I can help.? Perhaps you are struggling to forgive or maybe you have been in denial on certain things.? Contact Armstrong Family Counseling and let us help you begin the road to recovery and independence.

Photo of Michael French M.A., PLPC | Armstrong Family Counseling
Michael French M.A., PLPC
24 Jun 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Anxiety / Depression / Faith / Family / Marriage / Relationship / Therapy / Trauma

Comments: 1 Comment

Melody Anderson | Play Therapy | Trauma Specialist | Neurofeedback Provider

I am a therapist because I believe therapy is a tool that God created to heal the broken-hearted. I believe that this is a broken world and sin often leaves trauma in its wake. As a therapist, my goal is to work with families to break the family cycle of trauma. Trauma impacts people of every age, race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status. Too often, I?ve seen people minimize their own trauma or the trauma of others. Minimizing the travesty of trauma does not help the healing process and can lead trauma victims have low self-esteem due to belief that they have little or no worth.Melody Anderson | MSW | Armstrong Family Counseling | Teen and Young Adult Trauma And Depression Expert

I love this quote that I came across on twitter last year, ?Someone who drowns in 7 feet of water is just as dead as someone who drowns in 20 feet of water. Stop comparing traumas, stop belittling yours or anyone else?s traumas just because it wasn?t ?as bad? as someone else?s. This isn?t a competition. We all deserve support & recovery? @jesssxb

My goal as a therapist is to provide support and recovery to victims of trauma so that they can learn to know their own worth and view themselves as worthy of growth, positive change, and a healthy life.

I cater my approach to individual client needs. I find that depending on the therapy approach that is most appropriate to the client, there are often pre-existing exercises/worksheets that are evidence based. I naturally have a DBT therapy style, but am eager to continue to grow in the use of models which come less naturally to me as no therapy approach fits every client?s needs. I have had training in Motivational Interviewing which is based in the Transtheoretical Model of Change. Motivational interviewing is incredibly helpful for helping individuals make difficult changes and stick with those changes.

As an adolescent I struggled with a lot of insecurity and depression. I was raised in a legalistic Christian home where I learned all about God?s wrath, and nothing about his mercy and love. I felt trapped in my own imperfection and was certain that perfection was the only acceptable lifestyle due to my family culture. This caused a lot of feelings of worthlessness and led to deep depression. I was blessed to be part of a great youth group at my church where I had a mentor and healthy mother figure who poured a lot of prayer, time, and love into me. God used her in my life to show me that the perfection I was striving toward was crippling me and keeping me from genuine growth.

As I began to believe that I have value and worth, I found myself wanting to empower other women to break free from their own insecurity and low self-esteem. When I was working toward my bachelor of social work degree, I worked in a restaurant. I recommended to a coworker that she should go home after work and write down ten things she likes about herself because she I observed that she had little to no sense of self-worth. I learned years later that she actually did so and it began her own journey of increasing her self-esteem. I have met very few women that do not experience shame/guilt for not meeting societal expectations. I have also seen the ripple effect that occurs when women empower other women to improve their core beliefs about themselves and the world.

Contact me today and let’s start the journey towards becoming who you were created to become!

 

Girl at peace around flowers

22 Jun 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Divorce / Family / Mediation / Parenting

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Father’s Day, Divorce, & Mediation

As we’ve recently celebrated Father?s Day, I was reminded that the purpose of Father?s Day is to acknowledge all fathers and celebrate their special day. However, if your family has been impacted by divorce, it may not seem like a celebration. If this sounds like your situation, it may feel extremely stressful for you, your ex, and your children. If you are a mother, please remember you are normally the first person your child bonds with. Therefore, you can assume a positive role of modeling how to respect their father, no matter how you may feel about him (unless he was abusive and safety is a concern.) I would ask the same type of respect from him on Mother?s Day.

By having an open dialogue with your ex, your communication models how you have set aside any negative feelings toward the father(s) of your children because you know that is best for your child or children. Depending on the ages of your child/children, volunteer to take them to a card store so they can choose a Father?s Day card. Or, if that isn?t in your budget, suggest that they make a card.

If your child/children express an interest in giving dad a gift, again, follow through with their idea. If finances are an issue, once again, encourage them to make something for dad. Even if you have negative feelings toward their father, by helping them with these tasks, you are modeling for them how to ?care? for another human being.

Allow your children to spend Father?s Day with their dad on his special day. Try to do this no matter what is outlined in your parenting plan (if you don?t have a parenting plan or need to revise it and don?t want to pay for an attorney or the cost of going to court, consider contacting a mediator to help you resolve any conflicts or to assist you in making changes to the plan.) Flexibility and mutual consideration as co-parents makes your children much healthier emotionally and mentally.

If geography or travel logistics are an issue in bringing together your children and their father, suggest using social media so they can ?see each other.? Depression, loneliness and isolation are common in divorced or estranged parent(s.) If you experience these things frequently, please contact a therapist and /or seek help. I can help you. Your children need you in their lives.

Fathers, you need to ask your ex-spouse and/or the mother of your children for what you need. Maybe you (father) would really like your child/children to spend Father?s Day and an additional day since school is out for the summer. If you and your ex can communicate and practice being flexible, you are less likely to feel resentful.

For both parents, even though you are divorced, remember to stay focused on the needs and well-being of your child/children. It is crucial to plan ahead for holidays or other ?special? days so your child/children see that even though you are divorced, both of you are co-parenting in healthy ways.

If you are struggling with co-parenting, or other issues, mediation may be something to consider. Mediation is a more peaceful, economical resolution to resolve conflict. Please contact me. I am a therapist and a?Kansas State Supreme Court Approved Mediator.? Let’s start rebuilding your relationships today!

06 Jun 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Fatherhood / Parenting / Relationship

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A Key to Connecting with Your Kids

Just Get Out of the Comfort Zone. Just Be DAD.

Remember the song ?Danger Zone? from the movie Top Gun? I loved that movie, and the Kenny Loggins song is a must for any retro fan. In the movie, the song was the perfect soundtrack for those flying scenes, as the pilots pushed their aircraft to the limits and beyond?into the danger zone, where the engines could stall or worse. It was a perilous place to be.

Serious mountain climbers know about the ?death zone.? On Mount Everest and some of the other highest peaks in the world, once a climber reaches about 26,000 feet, the amount of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life. Many climbers have died because they weren?t properly prepared or didn?t have enough oxygen with them.

Most of us will probably never climb into a fighter jet cockpit or attempt to summit the world?s tallest mountain, but there is another danger zone where we dads often find ourselves with our families: the comfort zone. I like being in the comfort zone. It?s free of stress and the craziness of life that is so often around me at home. Some might call this my ?happy place.? There are times that we need an oasis where we can drown out life around us and find peace and serenity. But if we want what?s best for our families, the comfort zone is a place we are never meant to stay for very long.

When I first got married, I married not only my wife but also her family, which included two boys in their mid to late teens. For a while I had a hard time building a relationship with them. I?d get home from work in the evening and they?d usually be in the living room, watching a television show I didn?t get or couldn?t care less about. It was much easier for me to get my dinner and retreat into the more comfortable sanctuary of my bedroom. I could read a book or watch TV and I didn?t have to engage with them unless it was on my terms.

At the time, I thought: What was the point? I couldn?t relate to them and they certainly couldn?t relate to me, at least on the surface. Clearly, I was missing the point. I was off in my comfort zone, and I wasn?t going to be intentional about being a dad to them.

My wife LeeAnn was so patient with me, and every now and then she would enter my serene hideaway and remind me that I didn?t marry just her, but also two boys she loved deeply. If I wanted to develop a better relationship with them, I had to leave the Comfort Zone. I had to engage them.

That word ?engage? has transformed who I am as a father. This didn?t happen overnight, and there were starts and stops as I kept fighting off selfishness and the desire to go back to the Comfort Zone. But then one day my father-in-law gave me advice on how to be intentional as a dad. He said that if I wanted to become closer to the children, I had to drop the labels?quit thinking of them as my stepsons and foster daughters but rather as my sons and daughters. I had to stop labeling myself as a step dad and foster dad, and just be dad. He said the labels that we use often create distance and give those of us that are not biological dads an excuse to keep that separation.

I had to stop labeling myself as a step dad and foster dad, and just be dad.

He was right. While an attorney might say that, from a legal perspective, step and foster kids are the correct wording, I have grown past that and see them as my children, for as long as God allows them in my life. Several months ago, we decided after 5 years of fostering, to take a break. It was good for our marriage, and last year, I discovered a whole new zone: The Grandparent Zone. Our youngest son and his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Now I get to learn to just be grand-dad!

Being an engaged dad means being hands-on and enthusiastically involved in your children?s lives. It?s getting to know them on their level and being consistent in letting them know you are there. It also means that as they get older you are coaching them and modeling how to live by your actions and how you live. An example of this is how they see you handle conflict or adversity and perhaps more important, how you treat your spouse or their mother. Believe me, your young ones are watching.

You can?t do these things by being in your comfort zone. That sends a whole other message that says ?Leave me alone,? or ?You?re not worth my time.?

That sounds cruel, doesn?t it? Yet our country is full of disengaged fathers. I see it in the neighborhood we live in, and as a foster dad, I see it in the families of the girls we work with. Many dads are physically absent, others are present but emotionally distant, and some have hurt their kids so much that they aren?t allowed to be around and in their life.

Engaged fathers and father figures really do make a difference. Since I have left my Comfort Zone as a dad, my relationships with both of my stepsons are vastly improved. Things are far from easy, but they can see that I?m more interested in them and many more activities and conversations have had positive results.

Do your relationships with your children need a transformation? Be an intentional, hands-on dad. You will make mistakes here and there, but you will also learn from them. Embrace your role as a father and make a difference in the lives of other kids. Close up shop on the Comfort Zone.

Even now, I have days when the comfort zone is awfully tempting. But I rely on my faith, my patient and loving wife, and other dads who encourage me.

Just Get Out of the Comfort Zone. Just Be DAD.

**Original article published by the National Center For Fathering written by Michael French

***Michael French is a father in Kansas City, a Christian Relationship expert at Armstrong Family Counseling, and was a top 5 finalist in the National Center for Fathering 2014 Kansas City?Father of the Year Contest. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor & has been blogging about his experiences at his website?Dads Unite. Mike has been married to LeeAnn for 10 years and has two grown stepsons and one adopted daughters.?

28 May 2018

BY: Gabe Fry | LPC | Relationship, Depression, & Anxiety Expert

Couples therapy / Divorce / Life Coaching / Marriage / Relationship

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Is It Time To Separate?

“Is choosing to separate the best option for me?” Choosing to separate in a marriage is never an easy decision to make. ?It is my hope that by reading this article you can gain some perspective on the topic of separation. ?A separation is different from a divorce in that you and your spouse will still legally share all parental and financial responsibilities. ?Also separations tend to have many different flavors. Here are the 3 most common types.?

The Working Separation

In a working separation the couple separates in order to spend time improving themselves. ?Maybe a spouse has a mental health issue they are working on, or perhaps one spouse has an addiction they need to focus on. ?Working separations are best when there is an informal agreement between the two partners. This agreement will ideally have an explanation as to what issue needs to be worked on, who will take care of the kids and other responsibilities, what limits or boundaries are placed on communication (we?ll only communicate through text or email, or no communication for 2 months, etc.) and on what grounds will reconciliation take place. Working separations have the highest chance of resulting in reconciliation. If you think this is the type of separation you are looking for please contact a therapist or counselor–like myself--and draw up this contract with their input and guidance.

The Trial Separation

A trial separation is when one or more persons in the marriage express a desire to try what being single feels like. ?The idea is that the person is given time to ?clear their head.? Afterwards they will then decide on whether or not to pursue reconciliation. One person generally will move out, either to another part of the house or to another place all together. ?Trial separations most commonly occur in families without young children.

These separations have a high rate of ending in divorce because most people leave a marriage when the pain and frustration are so high that staying seems impossible. ?Then,when they leave they find that being single has less pain and frustration then being married and make the jump to divorce.

The Legal Separation

This option is pursued most often when a marriage has become stale and anemic; there is little good in the marriage but also little frustration also. ?The couple may stay together for the sake of the children or because they both feel that becoming single is not attractive.

Whatever type of separation you are considering please understand that separation is a matter of last resort. ?Typically, divorce is the result of separation far, far more often than reconciliation. That being said if you separate when your pain and frustration haven?t yet caused you to give up there is a better chance of reconciliation afterward compared to waiting until you have one foot out the door.

If you or someone you know are going through a situation and you are contemplating separation or divorce, contact me today. I can help you work through your issues and come up with a plan that is best for your unique situation and relationship.

26 May 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Couples therapy / Infidelity / Marriage / Relationship

Comments: 2 Comments

Where Do We Begin? : Staying Together After an Affair

Should I stay, or should I leave?? After an affair, an injured partner?faces this question.? It?s never easy, and there is no one size fits all solution.

Experiencing the infidelity of a partner can be so painful.? It can make you believe you are losing your mind, and your life, as you have known it.? Infidelity creates a sudden upheaval in everything you believed?about your spouse, about yourself, and about your future.? Several couples are unable to remain intact, and will move to end the relationship.? But what if you aren?t yet sure, or want a different outcome?

Many areas in your relationship will need to be addressed, and it can be difficult to know where to start.? If you are choosing to stay in your relationship, here are a few suggestions to help you and your partner repair, rebuild and reconnect.

Repair

Staying in a relationship, following an affair, requires addressing all of the changes that have occurred because of it.? Changes, especially those we didn?t personally want or choose, can come with very strong negative feelings.? Its important these feelings are acknowledged, and by both partners.

There is usually no shortage of hurt and anger, and you may find conflict has become your main method of communicating.?? Hurt can manifest itself in several ways.? Anger tends to be one that is most commonly used, however, anger rarely comes alone.

Betrayed, sad, lost, scared, alone, confused, resentful, and vulnerable are just a few likely to surface.? Each relationship is unique, however, and so are the feelings that come with it.? Identify the feelings, as well as the underlying fears, insecurities, and loss the affair has created.? This helps focus your communication and creates a deeper understanding of the hurt and anger.?Emotional woman

Repair focuses on understanding our individual reaction to the affair, as well as recognizing that trust and friendship have now been called into question.? To address the loss of trust and friendship, it?s crucial to actively practice being a better friend.? This may seem obvious, but can often be overlooked in our everyday routine.

Learn what circumstances currently trigger negative feelings and/or conflict. Take action to correct these situations, and practice generating positive feelings instead.? Be mindful of your daily exchanges and build an atmosphere of comfort, kindness and consideration.? This creates a more neutral environment, and a neutral environment naturally reduces extra day-to-day conflict.? I?m sure you will agree that any way you can reduce conflict, will be of great benefit to you.

Consider actions such listening without interruption.? It sounds simple, but isn?t always so easy.? You can also defuse your environment by helping out with routines and daily activities, being considerate in your living space, giving genuine compliments, paying attention, and checking in with your partner about how they are doing. If you aren?t already taking these actions, then this is a great opportunity to demonstrate care for your partner.? With repetition and consistency, over time you share connections, and develop a sense of security.? This helps to repair the trust, and sets the course for?you to rebuild your friendship.

Friendship | holding hands

Rebuild

The level of friendship between partners is a significant indicator for success in a relationship.? The stronger your friendship connection, the higher your relationship success.

When your relationship began, together you created a vision of hopes, dreams and goals you planned to work towards.? This includes houses,?children, careers, vacations, lifestyle goals, and the timeline for achieving them.?? An affair is not typically part of this vision, and can lead the injured partner to question: Have we really been working toward the same goal all along?

This question can lead to uncertainty about your future, and in need of confirmation about what the future holds.? Address this uncertainty?by communicating your intent to stay together, as frequently as?needed.? Be honest and clear about what you want going forward, and?encourage your spouse to do the same.

Communicate your boundaries and expectations going forward.? As you?make these adjustments, you establish a clear vision of the future?while also reassuring your partner of your intent to stay together.?You are mending a friendship.? By consistently addressing the?uncertainty you demonstrate caring for your partner.? By sharing and re-negotiating expectations and goals, you establish a plan for being?together. Both are needed to encourage your friend to remain your?friend.

couple falling In love by lake

Reconnect

As we have all heard, time heals.?? But while you allow time to work,?this is the time to take active steps to build more closeness with?your partner.? Even if you and your partner are managing to get along,?life can manage to shake things up at any time.

Acknowledge Landmines.? Reminders of the affair, or that affairs exist?are similar to landmines.? You never know when or where they may be?hiding, but when you find them they blow up your whole day, week or?even longer.? A song on the radio, a scene in a movie or TV show.?Maybe a news article, mention of a city, or specific location connected to the infidelity.? These and many more not only can, but?unavoidably will also pop up.

When landmines show up the emotional response can feel just as strong?as the day the affair was discovered.? These experiences are, to say?the least, uncomfortable, and the straying partner may feel that?talking about them would be poking the emotional bear.

You or your partner may want to avoid, minimize, or even ignore them,?but don?t.? As awkward or uncomfortable as these situations may be,?they are actually opportunities for partners to share and understand?the ongoing impact of the infidelity, and then work through the hurt?together.? Emphasis on together.

landmine warning

The injured partner will be faced with landmines on sometimes a daily?basis.? Dealing with them alone can make your partner feel alone, not?understood, and uncared for.? These feelings will no doubt defeat your?goal of coming closer together, and will only create further distance?between you.? Working through these feelings together allows you the?opportunity to heal together rather than separate and alone.? It can?prove comforting when your partner is considerate of this, and is?willing to consistently demonstrate caring and support.

Working together through an affair takes time and a great deal of?patience.? The challenge of addressing the damage when our hurt and?defensiveness is high can be overwhelming, and at times seem?impossible to overcome.? Finding ways to reconnect with your partner?can be difficult or at times may not be well received.?man kissing his lovers hand

Practice patience, with yourself and with your partner.? Unfortunately?there is no timeline or rule book for exactly how you will find your?way back to each other.? At times you may want to speed up the?process, only to find a new bump in the road.?Rest assured this is truly a situation where persistence and?consistency pay off.? Stick with it, and you can get the results you?are looking for.

If you have dealt with this or are dealing with this, reach out to me. I can help you. I specialize in relationships. Don’t wait another day to start healing!

Unhappy couple on bench 16 May 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Faith / Infidelity / Marriage / Relationship / Trauma

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How To Handle Infidelity

Marriage is a time when vows are taken.? Vows become a covenant.? Covenant is a word you may not hear a lot of unless you read a spiritual book like the Bible.? It is sacred word. Nowadays, there are people who don?t view marriage as sacred. When people in a relationship commit to each other and exchange vows, ideally, that event should be set apart.? What happens when that commitment is not looked after? If a marriage is left unattended or neglected by either spouse, then ugly will occur. What happens to the marriage if the husband or wife decides to seek comfort in the arms of another?

Infidelity, like adultery, is an ugly word.? Yet when spouses engage in an affair, ugly is the last thing they think about.? It?s a time of excitement and adventure for them.? The nagging guilt of breaking vows is often pushed back. Like an addict, the adulterer is very good at rationalizing their behavior.? It?s only when the person is caught or decides to finally come clean that the repercussions and consequences begin to unfold.? For the person being betrayed?? Other emotions are displayed.? Anger, hurt, betrayal, and sadness come screaming to the forefront.? Overnight, trust is shattered.? They ask questions and no answer seems good enough.

What happens next?? For some, infidelity is a deal breaker and to them there is no option but divorce. Lives are irrevocably changed.? Families are broken up and kids are left to wonder, “what happens now?”? There are a plethora of reasons why the Bible speaks so forcibly on the subject of adultery.? ?Do not commit adultery? is one of the 10 Commandments. God has warned us of the devastation that infidelity can bring.? It doesn?t get much plainer than those 4 words.? It?s Gods way of putting up flashing neon lights, road blocks, and danger signs just to get our attention.? Yet the sexual revolution has made it easier to go around these warnings signs and plow right into the ugly and pain.

There are some couples that fight for their marriage.? It is a difficult and emotionally draining time for both spouses. ?Offending spouses should come to a point of brokenness, not because they got caught, but because it is in that space of brokenness that remorsefulness is authentic that spouses can own up to their trespass. If the repentance is genuine, is there a chance for forgiveness and reconciliation?? For those that seek reconciliation, counseling can be a place where healing begins to take place.? My goal is that when clients meet with me or any therapist at Armstrong Family Counseling that they enter into a safe space that?s nonjudgmental and a place that fosters hope.

Both spouses have to face certain truths about the state of their relationship.? They will have to individually and together decide if their marriage is worth fighting for.? They will have to be willing to listen to each other. They should come to a point where they are willing to walk through the many different emotions and actions that a counseling session might bring up.?

Perhaps for the first time they will learn to be on the same page.? But as I am sure you know, nothing worth while ever comes easy.? Rebuilding a marriage will take time.? There are no easy fixes. ?If you are spiritual, then God or your higher power can play a giant role in bringing about new life to the marriage.? With honest hard work from both spouses, and lots of prayer, there is hope for a new beginning.? One woman wrote on the website The Unveiled Wife about her experience and what occurred when she trusted God to rebuild her marriage into something better.

?There is a reason for EVERYTHING ? every tear, every heartache, and every lonely night. Our marriage is already significantly more intimate, physically AND spiritually, than it ever was in the previous five years. Our God can heal? Our God can renew? It is all possible with our God. Believe!?

If you need help moving foward, I am a relationship expert. I can help you. Don’t wait, contact me today!happy couple

12 Mar 2018

BY: Gabe Fry | LPC | Relationship, Depression, & Anxiety Expert

Abuse / Couples therapy / Marriage / Relationship

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Am I Married To A Narcissist?

I get asked this question a lot in my counseling sessions. So, I thought I would take some time to address it here.? Most of the time I am asked by one member of a marriage or relationship if their partner is narcissistic.? Usually this is a question that they ask because they are genuinely confused as to why their spouse always seems to control the conversation, belittle or dismiss their opinions, or seem to have a sense of entitlement.

The first thing I check is if anyone else outside of the relationship sees this pattern?? Do other family members, friends, or co-workers see these behaviors or is it just around you that he or she acts this way?? If your spouse is treating other people this way and/or they have a history of doing this in their past, then it?s more likely that are narcissistic.?However, what if you are the only one that they seem to act this way around.? Does that make them a narcissist?? Honestly, it makes it less likely.? If a certain behavior only shows up in one setting, then there is something about that setting that is causing the behavior.? In other words, if you are the only one who thinks your spouse is a narcissist then you might what to consider other possibilities.? One possibility is that your marriage has reached gridlock.

A marriage that is in gridlock tends to look like this:

  1. There has been a long period of mutual pain, frustration or disappointment.
  2. It has been a long time since you each genuinely enjoyed being in each other company.
  3. When you fight neither you nor your spouse view it as productive.
  4. When you fight neither you nor your spouse feel ?heard?.

Marriages in gridlock get that way because one or both spouses feel hurt.? Because they have been hurt repeatedly by their partner they stop seeking the other partners well-being.? Instead the hurt spouse begins to focus on ?damage control?.? Their goal becomes just getting through each day with their head down and hoping that they don?t piss of the other spouse.

This type of mentality causes a person to mimic many of the signs of narcissism. The person starts to control the conversation instead of listening because they are trying to prevent you from hurting them with your words or tone of voice.? They begin to focus predominantly on their own opinion and will often stop trying to convince you they are right and will just tell you they are right.? This happens because they haven?t felt ?heard? in a long time. And when you don?t feel heard you shout your opinion even louder.

Furthermore, a gridlocked marriage can lead to a spouse developing a sense a sense of entitlement.? This happens because both partners feel as though they have already given up a lot for this marriage and now their partner is asking for more.

Maybe they feel like they already do spend enough time with the kids, but you want more.

Or maybe they feel that they are already having sex more often they want, but you want more.

Often times their spouse doesn?t seem to appreciate how much they have given up to make this marriage work, so why give more up?

Finally, narcissism and gridlock both look very similar because pain causes all of us to be self-focused and narcissistic.? Have you ever known someone who is sick or in pain to not be narcissistic?? So, if you think your spouse is a narcist get a second opinion.

Cover of Healing From Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas

Maybe you’re right and you are married to an unhealthy individual but what if is just a symptom that your marriage is near the point of no return?? Are you willing to end a marriage without trying everything you could to save it?? Seek a second opinion either from a trusted therapist or read a book on the subject.

For more information about being married to a narcissist I would recommend Shannon Thomas? book ?Healing from Hidden Abuse?.? She outlines what narcissistic personality disorder looks like and how those people tend to behave.

If you are having troubles or unresolved issues in your marriage or relationship, I can help you. Reach out to me today and schedule your initial appointment.

 

09 Jan 2018

BY: Gabe Fry | LPC | Relationship, Depression, & Anxiety Expert

Anxiety / Couples therapy / Personal Development

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Can I Have A Life?

Many times,?I have sat with couples?who have told me that they?ve lost their romantic spark. They say that attraction that drew them together is gone. When I ask them to describe their marriage as it currently is, I often find that one of them?or both?lacks personal friends and hobbies.

Having a life outside of your marriage is vital to the health and attractiveness of your marriage. Don?t believe me? Think about this, when you were first dating your spouse, they had a life without you. They had fun, made friends, and spent their time and money without consulting you, yet despite all of that, you still were attracted to them.

boyfriend and girlfriend
Remember??

How often did you love to hear them talking about one of their cherished memories? Or cheering with them as you watched their favorite sports team together? Remember when they took you to their favorite?and quite personal?spot?

It?s interesting how those same couples who found the other?s strength and independence SO attractive have lost the fire in their relationship. Now the individuals see themselves married to a partner with whom they have shared almost all the same experiences together. They live in the same house, they go to the same shows and restaurants, they attend the same church and hang out with the same people, and then they wonder why the other person seems so dull: familiarity breeds contempt!

bored couple
Does this look exciting?

Breathing by yourself is okay! Having a life outside your marriage allows you to grow as a person. Spending time with yourself is good for your health. You then take that healthy individual back and share it with your spouse. Then, you get to share new memories and experiences with them that they don?t know about?that makes you attractive. They get to see your skill-sets grow in hobbies from an amateur level to an expert. They get to share your highs and lows; this too makes you more interesting.

Here?s the million-dollar question: what if your spouse doesn?t like your hobby? This can be tricky, but it?s essential to learn to communicate with each other about your interests and the things you don?t like.

What if he doesn?t like to dance?

What if she doesn?t like to play video games?

What if he doesn?t like to drink?

What if she doesn?t like to go to sports games?

It may be beneficial to?seek a counselor?s assistance?to help with communicating with each other.

When it comes to recreation, it is the person who is left out?or at home by choice?that can develop resentment or a poor attitude about ?the hobby.? However, this can often be rectified with improved communication.

Ask yourself, ?why is it an issue that your spouse has a friend/ or a hobby that you can?t participate in?? The answer may involve jealousy?? I don?t get ?me? time, why should you???or it might involve fear/worry??You aren?t spending enough time with the kids or me.? These are valid concerns that are not problems but are opportunities to grow the marriage even stronger.

**Original article was written on November 15th, 2017

 

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