Huffington Post blogger Brittany Wong recently quoted Dr. Becky in an article focusing on the discussions couples need to have before getting married:


It may not be the sexiest way to spend a Saturday night, but discussing big-ticket relationship issues like family planning, money and monogamy could be the best way for couples to stave off a future split.

In fact, the ability to broach big, difficult conversations early on is one of the most important qualities in a new relationship, said Alicia H. Clark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.,

“You can’t know how you work through disagreements until you have them,” she told HuffPost. “Disagreeing, arguing and fighting about these things will reveal what’s really important to you both. And knowing how your partner will handle conflict is almost just as important.”

What thorny conversations are crucial? Below, marriage therapists and psychologists share their top 10 picks.

The talk about what you want to change about each other. (Be honest, you know you want to.)

“A lot of partners enter marriage with a secret hope that something will change about their partner: He’ll spend less time with his friends when we’re building a family, she’ll spend less money shopping when we’re in this together, I’ll get him to cut back on his drinking. Holding on to these silent hopes can be very destructive to the long-term health and happiness of your marriage. Disclosing them before marriage can actually foster the change you want in a more effective way.”― Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men

The money talk.

“You need to have a long, potentially difficult discussion about money. Go over a few things: Will one or both of you work? What will your general approach to money management be? Will you save every penny, adopt a spend-it-while-we-have-it attitude or have a more middling approach? Many people operate with a ‘we’ll figure it out together as we go’ approach and while that may work if the couple has similar thoughts on finances, if they don’t, it can lead to a relationship war. One party may feel like like their style is forever being cramped, while the other may feel that their partner is leading the family towards financial ruin.” ― Laurel Steinberg, a New York-based relationship therapist and professor of psychology at Columbia University

The sex talk.

“If you suspect your partner’s need for sexual intimacy doesn’t match yours, don’t overlook it. You might want to believe it’s an insignificant issue or once you get married it will work itself out, but sex should be easiest in the first couple years of any relationship. If you’re unsure of your sexual compatibility now, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have problems in the bedroom later on when kids and life enter the picture. Sex is the one thing that cannot be outsourced in marriage. Problem with division of labor? Hire out for help. Different needs for social relationships? One partner joins a club and the other stays home. Sexual frustration is unique because it can only be solved within the marriage. Resentment grows and the higher libido partner will eventually feel betrayed by their partner’s lack of interest. The end result? Festering resentment and, often, the belief that infidelity is justified.” ― Caroline Madden, a marriage and family therapist in Burbank, California

The personal space talk.

“Discuss your need for time alone, or apart from one another. People often overlook this topic initially but after the intense bonding of the early stages, one or both of them may want a bit of time to themselves, or time apart as they go out with friends. If this isn’t discussed beforehand, one partner may feel ditched or jealous, or one of them could begin to feel suffocated and start building resentments. A conversation early on about the normal desire to have some time alone could help distinguish individual needs for solitude from rejection, and allow partners to ask for alone time when they need it and enjoy the time they spend together even more.” ― Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California

The talk about kids.

“It’s so important for a couple to have a straightforward, candid conversation, not only about whether they in fact want to have children, but their beliefs and values about navigating the parenting journey. Do either or both have rigid ideas about waiting to start the process or plunging right in? Do either have strong beliefs about infertility treatments or adoption, should there be difficulty conceiving? Has there been a discussion about religious beliefs and expectations about the religious upbringing of the child? Go over it all.” ― Linda Lipshutz, a psychotherapist in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

The talk about how you’ll raise those kids.

“I see couples’ getting into power struggles a lot about raising kids ‘their way’ because they believe it’s the ‘right way’ with complete disregard for their partner’s preference and perspective. Having parents on the same team (knowing that it often takes work to get there) is imperative to the mental health and well being of children. Ask: Do you share the same core values? Do you agree on what qualities and behaviors from your own families you want to borrow and which you don’t?” ― Megan Fleming, a New York City-based psychologist and sex therapist

The monogamy talk.

“Most couples do want a monogamous marriage; however, monogamy can mean different things to different people, and without an honest conversation it is easy to imagine that your fiancé shares your views. Dig deeper, though: Are you comfortable with your soon-to-be spouse grabbing dinner with an ex who is in town on business? Are you comfortable with private or public friendships with an ex on social media? What about colleagues of the opposite sex? Will you be comfortable if you both have work that involves travel with attractive colleagues? And how might you want to navigate such situations if they arise? What if one of you develops a crush? It can be helpful to explore hypothetical challenges to monogamy through honest conversations before marriage.” ― Elisabeth J. LaMotte, a psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center

The talk about family traditions and rituals.

“Rituals are not only traditions around major holidays, but how you spend your weekends or how you should (or shouldn’t) eat together during dinnertime: Have you always sat at the table as a family or is it fine to eat separately or in front of the TV? By having these discussions before they happen, you can also stand as a united front if you get any push back from your parents about changes to family traditions. Having these discussions can help you recognize your similarities, make room for your differences and create your own culture as a married couple.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois

The talk about how you’ll handle future problems.

“You both need to know that your partner will do whatever is necessary to deal with future obstacles in the relationship, be it physical, emotional, mental or financial. For instance, if your partner gets depression or develops an anxiety disorder, many spouses would choose to not have it treated, or to ignore it or to mask it with medications or alcohol. Each person needs to know that the other will work to clear any obstacles that come along to the best of their ability. If the marriage falters, will you go to counseling with me and stick with it to work it out? We all need to know that our partner is action-oriented as opposed to being a person who sweeps things under the rug or just says, ‘This is me, deal with it.’” ― Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas

The “what’s your ideal marriage?” talk.

“Every premarital couple needs to clearly outline their expectations for themselves, their partner and the marriage they desire early on in the relationship and continue that conversation well into the marriage. Resentment creeps into relationships when you feel you are owed something, have been treated unfairly and is a mixture of disappointment, anger and fear. To that end, be vigilant: Set the bar high for your marriage and for yourself and stay in constant conversation about how you are staying the course. ― Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah

Original article posted on July 19, 2017 by Brittany Wong at Huffington Post.

Reblogged from Marriage Crisis Manager on February 22, 2017

Guest blogger Tim Backes of CustodyXchange.com specializes in assisting divorced and separated couples as well as legal professionals and making their lives a little less hectic when it comes to the painful process of separation and communication. In this article Tim shares some great advice on how to talk to your kids about the family’s future.

Divorce is an agonizing experience. It’s tough on many things — your emotions,
finances, and most of all, kids.
While you can shield your children from a lot of things, divorce is one of those things
that needs to be dealt with head-on. If a potential divorce is brewing in your
marriage, kids will probably pick up on it . They feel the energy of an impending
separation or divorce as something large and looming in their lives.
When the day comes for you to address the issue directly with your kids, there are
ways to do it that are much healthier than other ways, and if you get one thing right
in how you divorce, you have to make sure it happens when dealing with your children.

Delivering the News
Once you have decided to divorce, and you know the date your spouse will move
out, plan a meeting together approximately two weeks beforehand. Both spouses
should be present with the children if at all possible, and both should approach the
conversation in an adult-like way. You will focus on the facts and know that blame
and shame will not be a part of this conversation:

1. Remember, the truth will set you free. Children are often more in-tune
with what’s happening than many parents realize, so don’t try to mislead
them or minimize. Let them know the divorce is due to a problem between
you and your spouse and not in any way related to them. Be firm that you
will divorce, and will not be reconciling. Tell them truthful, general things
like, we just aren’t a good fit anymore and we grew apart. If they ask
questions, answer them honestly. Take responsibility when necessary.
2. Put the kids first and remember the Golden Rule. Divorces can fall within
the range of an amicable split to a knockdown-drag-out. If you have children
you owe it to them to put your heated feelings aside and act mature and
reasonable toward each other and them. Promise yourselves you will never
speak poorly of each other to your children.
3. Express your willingness to be available. This does not mean dropping
what you are doing to run to your child every time they need. It has to be
reasonable. When it is your turn to have the kids, they need to stay with you,
and when they are with your ex, you will not rescue them when they are
disgruntled. When your child is upset with your ex just support them by
saying life is tough, and that they need to work out parent issues with the
parent they are angry with. Refuse to be in the middle. At the same time, let
them know you are available by phone should they need or want to connect.
Ask them if they would like you to call on a regular basis and even at a
regular time. If your child reaches out, be there. Listen to what they have to
say, even if it’s something simple like a short story about something that they
learned in school that day. This helps them maintain some sort or normalcy
in their lives, which helps make them feel safe.

Just because you are getting a divorce does not mean you will no longer be a family.
You will always be a family, and families exist in all sorts of configurations. It is not
divorce that messes kids up so much as does the consternation and anger expressed
between the parents. To have the best result you can possible have, control your
behavior with your ex, and always be respectful. You can bet that your kids are
watching, and they need to see you treat their parent decently and fairly.

Tim for more information on CustodyXchange.com.

Think twice before marrying twice.

The divorce rate for second marriages is estimated to be around 65 percent – significantly higher than that of first marriages. There are numerous reasons why second-timers have a harder time, such as personal baggage carried in from other relationships, whether to have a pre-nuptial agreement, how and whether to meld long-established belongings like businesses, money, houses, furniture and pets, and heck, it’s easier to leave a second time once you’ve done it a first time.

Still, nothing ups the odds of divorce more than having children from another marriage added to the dynamic. There are a multitude of ways having kids can send a couple who otherwise might stay married, running to divorce court. This is the reason that I tell couples with kids still at home to think twice, three, four times before saying I do again. And if your kids are grown you should only have to think twice.

Here are the kid-related complicating factors that often break second marriages:

A spouse doesn’t bond with the other person’s kids. Sometimes a step mom or dad doesn’t feel the love for the new step kids and doesn’t appreciate spending time with them. It can create a situation where the parent feels torn between the new spouse and kids, and that’s a terrible feeling.
A spouse puts his or her kids before the new marriage. If you decide to marry, your spouse needs to come first. If you put the kids first, the chances you’ll divorce go even higher than the already high average. In any marriage, no matter if your first or fifth, marriage always comes before kids.
Preferential treatment of biological children. When the love, money, time and treatment blatantly favor a spouse’s own over the steps, it causes the new spouse to resent and lose respect. The kids see it, too, and it’s especially troublesome and dividing when one set of kids get to live a higher socio-economic lifestyle than the others.
The kids hate and refuse to accept the new step parent. Why? Because the relationship started as an affair, or the kids perceive them as an obstacle to their parent’s reuniting, or the kids want their parent all to themselves. Kids will be fiercely loyal to a parent who was left due to an affair, and a step parent who was the “other” woman or man will have a next-to-impossible job winning them over. Also, kids want their parents together, and if they can’t have that, they want their parent to themselves. A stepparent is difficult to tolerate, and that’s what many kids do, tolerate. Putting innocent children in such a position of discomfort is unconscionable.
One spouse is enmeshed with a child, creating jealousy from the new spouse. Sometimes a parent has a relationship with a child or children that is close in an unhealthy way. If a new spouse feels like a third or fourth wheel it’s not going to be good for the marriage.
Differences in disciplining the kids, or one spouse telling another how better to raise their child. If you judge and criticize there is an 85 percent chance you’ll be divorced in 5 years. If your spouse has kids, it’s best to step aside and allow them to raise them in their preferred way, and you raise yours your way, or if you don’t have kids, stay out of it. (That is why I think the role of stepparent is exceeding difficult. Doing it successfully requires a person to set their feelings aside for the higher good of the family.)
One spouse attempts to parent older children he or she didn’t raise. When you marry someone with a baby or toddler it is entirely appropriate to treat the child as any parent would. But when you come in late in the game, when a child has a history of two parents and is age 9 or over, you best defer to the biological parent to do the disciplining or face serious resentment from the child. For older children, your best bet is to stand by in a supportive friend role.
Older kids don’t feel comfortable with a new person in their world. Think about it … a new adult arrives in your house and you’re supposed to live with them all or half the time … it’s not comfortable, it’s weird, sort of like having a house guest that doesn’t leave. It makes me cringe when parents try to force their children to “love” the new intruder. For most kids it will take them years, often five or more, to adjust to it, if they ever do. Knowing the children are uncomfortable will weigh on many biological parents.

I am a hard-liner when it comes to second marriages when young children are involved because I deal with the damage of it most days of my professional life. If your marriage ended in divorce, I think the best thing a parent could do is hold off on serious relationships until the children are launched – at least until they’re in their teens or later. While I am a huge believe in adult self-care and being pro-active about getting your needs met, I think if you divorce, your focus must be on your children first and foremost. They didn’t choose divorce, you and or your former spouse did. What kids need after such a huge change and disruption in their lives is you. Bringing in a stepparent is usually unwanted and barely tolerated, except in rare cases.

This article was featured on Huffington Post on March 7, 2017.