Trina Dolenz

Trina Dolenz
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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

6 Reasons Women Leave Their Marriages, According To Marriage Therapists

Women considering divorce often turn to therapy as a last-ditch effort to save their marriages. Many times, their husbands have remained painfully unaware of the marital problems until that point, said Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist in Easton, Pennsylvania
“That’s exactly why good communication skills are such a key ingredient in a healthy marriage,” she told The Huffington Post. “So many women don’t feel seen, heard or validated in the relationship.”
Below, Wilke and other marriage therapists share the most common reasons women file for divorce. (We also recently asked them to share the most common issues men bring up before initiating divorce. Read that here.)

1. They feel taken for granted and overly responsible for the relationship.

For a marriage to work, both spouses need to show up. It requires attention, effort, intention and strong communication. At the end of the day, many wives take stock of all they do for their families and wonder where their spouse has been, said Kristin Davin, a psychologist and meditator in New York City.
“These women feel they carry the weight of the relationship, do most of the emotional work and constantly have to find new and novel things to do to keep the relationship alive,” she said. “It gets frustrating when they don’t receive equal (or close to equal) care in return. After a while, they say, ‘why bother’?”

2. They keep having the same argument with their partner. 

Many couples in marriage therapy have had the same argument about the same issues for years. When their needs continue to go unmet, mutual resentment grows ― a factor that is lethal to a relationship, said Olga Bloch, a marriage and family therapist in Rockville, Maryland.
“When women feel like they’re unable impact change, you start hearing statements like ‘You never listen to me’ or ‘your apologies are hollow and mean nothing,’” Bloch said. “This is particularly difficult if there is an addiction involved. Eventually women give up on the relationship and begin to look for a way out because staying no longer is an option.”

3. They’re not satisfied with their sex lives. 

For most couples, sex is a good barometer for the general health of the marriage. When women complain about their sex lives, there’s usually greater problems outside the bedroom, Davin said.
“Wives in sexually frustrating marriages feel exhausted and emotionally starved,” she said. “Or sometimes the issue is: can the couple be affectionate with one another without it always leading to sex? Sexual intimacy can easily become an issue that drives a wedge in a marriage.”

4. They don’t talk and emotionally connect with their husband like they used to.

Many long-married women are driven to divorce because they no longer feel emotionally tied to their partners, Wilke said.
“In fact, I’d say it’s the number one reason women leave their marriages,” she said. “This issue in particular makes an unhappy spouse so much more vulnerable to having an affair and looking for that connection elsewhere.”

5. They’ve outgrown their partners.

It’s inevitable that people will grow as individuals throughout the course of their relationship. It only becomes a real issue when they grow apart and one partner is resistant to reconnecting, said Anne Crowley, an Austin, Texas-based psychologist.
“As a marriage changes and evolves, it’s not uncommon to hear a wife tell her husband ‘I feel like I’ve outgrown you’ ― especially if they’ve had kids,” Crowley said. “Often the wife has invited and encouraged her spouse to go to therapy, to bridge that gap. If he’s resistant, it creates an impasse for the couple: The wife does not want to continue to repeat the same unhealthy patterns and he wants to maintain the status quo.”

6. They get to the point where divorce is the only way to put themselves first again. 

Often, longstanding issues like addiction or uncontrolled anger will simply push women over the edge, said Winifred Reilly, a marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, California.
“What I hear again and again is that they would rather end their marriage than face another day, week or year with their spouse and troubling issues that never get better.”
After enduring the behavior for so long, many wives realize they don’t deserve to live with tension and disappointment day in and day out. 
“Sometimes, despite their love, commitment and best roll-up-their-sleeves efforts to stay married, people just reach a point of no return and choose to split up,” Reilly said.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Relationship challenges can come from all kinds of places. 
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You may have to deal with the challenge of feeling your partner has let you down in some way. Or the challenge of resolving a big difference of opinion. Or more practical challenges – like making sure you spend enough time together or learning to budget together effectively.
Being able to traverse these challenges is an essential part of maintaining your partnership and making sure you’re able to deal with all the stuff life throws at you. If you aren’t, you may find your relationship begins to be a challenge in itself – one that can cause anxiety, stress and upset.
Relate has designed a new quiz to help you figure out how well you cope with relationship challenges – and whether there are any things you could be doing differently.
Click below to give it a go!
Take the quiz

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Relationship support and children’s life chances: why parenting isn’t a private matter

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to, but they do / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.”

So begins Philip Larkin’s famous poem, This be the Verse. Larkin’s representation of familial inheritance here is clearly overly pessimistic and cold in the extreme, yet it alludes to a kernel of truth now supported by a wealth of evidence from neuroscience: family relationships have a significant impact on children’s outcomes.
This makes relationships a clear social justice issue: the sheer contingency of our birth determines so much of what makes us who we are in a completely arbitrary way, long before we are even able to even know who we wish to be or what we want to do.
Parenting, we have come to realize, cannot therefore be a purely private matter. And parenting support was a key theme in the Prime Minister’s recent speech on life chances, in which he announced a new focus on the ‘Troubled Families’ programme on parenting skills and child development, as well as an expansion of universal parenting support as part of the forthcoming ‘life chances strategy’.
However, what has yet to be grasped fully by policy makers is the enormous influence of inter-parental relationships on children’s outcomes. The evidence is clear that:
  • Children growing up with parents who have good relationships and low parental conflict enjoy better physical and mental health [i], better emotional wellbeing [ii], higher academic attainment [iii] and a lower likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors [iv].
  • Children whose parents have poorer relationship quality exhibit more ‘externalizing’ behavior problems (e.g. hyperactivity, aggression).[v]
  • Inter-parental conflict which is frequent, intense and poorly-resolved is detrimental to children’s development, [vi] and can result in increased anxiety, withdrawal and depression, and behavioral problems including aggression, hostility, antisocial behavior, and even criminality.[vii]
And the evidence also shows that parents’ own relationship quality affects their relationships with their children, and hence parenting:
  • Almost every study examining parental relationships and parenting has found the quality of the relationship between parent and child to be linked to the quality of the relationship between the parents [viii].
  • Parents who report greater intimacy and better communication in their relationship tend to be more attuned to and affectionate toward their children [ix].
  • Parents whose relationship is troubled are less likely to have a more effective, authoritative parenting style with their children [x].
  • Parental conflict can lead to a reduced capacity to parent effectively, which results in impaired parent-child relationships and a higher likelihood of anxiety, behavior problems or withdrawal in children [xi].
And there is also good evidence that parenting support which focuses on the inter-parental relationships rather than simply parents’ skill and behaviors are effective – resulting in parents’ parenting styles being more responsive, appropriately structured, and less harsh; parents enjoying better relationship quality; and their children also showing fewer academic, social and emotional behavior problems over the next 10 years [xii].
What’s more, there is even some evidence from several longitudinal, randomized controlled studies indicating that parenting approaches that incorporate a focus on the quality of the parental couple relationship are more effective than those that maintain an exclusive focus on individual parent-child relationships and behaviors at maintaining couple relationship quality, reducing harsh parenting, reducing academic, social and emotional behavior problems in children, and reducing parenting stress [xiii].
However, parenting support tends to predominantly focus on parental behaviors, skills and techniques, rather than on the quality of parents’ relationships and their effects on children’s wellbeing and outcomes. Yet since evidence indicates that interventions that simultaneously aim to improve parenting skills and relationships within families, rather than focusing on parenting skills alone, are likely to have the most positive impact on families and children [xiv], we need to see a focus on the inter-parental relationships become a central focus of parenting support.
[i] Meltzer , H. Gatward, R., Goodman, R., & Ford, T. (2000) Mental health of children and adolescents in Great Britain. London: TSO
[ii] Harold, G. T., Rice, F., Hay, D. F., Boivin, J., Van Den Bree, M., & Thapar, A. (2011) Familial transmission of depression and antisocial behavior symptoms: disentangling the contribution of inherited and environmental factors and testing the mediating role of parenting. Psychological Medicine, 41(6), 1175-85; Cowan, C. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaption. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20 (3), 275-288
[iii] Harold, G. T., Aitken, J. J. & Shelton, K. H. (2007) Inter-parental conflict and children’s academic attainment: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48
[iv] Coleman, L. & Glenn, F. (2009) When Couples Part: Understanding the consequences for adults and children. London: One Plus One
[v] Garriga, A. & Kiernan, K. (2013) Parents’ relationship quality, mother-child relations and children’s behaviour problems: evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Working Paper
[vi] Harold, G.T., Aitken, J.J. & Shelton, K.H. (2007) Inter-parental conflict and children’s academic attainment: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(12), 1223–1232
[vii] Harold, G.T. & Leve, L.D. (2012) Parents and Partners: How the Parental Relationship affects Children’s Psychological Development. In Balfour, A., Morgan, M., & Vincent, C. (Eds.) How Couple Relationships Shape Our World: Clinical Practice, Research and Policy Perspectives. London: Karnac; Grych, J. & Fincham, F. (1990) Marital conflict and children’s adjustment: a cognitive contextual framework, Psychological Bulletin, 2, 267-290
[viii] Lindahl, K.M., Clements, M. & Markman, H. (1997) Predicting marital and parent functioning in dyads and triads: A longitudinal investigation of marital processes. Journal of Family Psychology, 11(2), 139 – 151
[ix] Grych, J. H. (2002) Marital Relationships and Parenting in Handbook of Parenting, Volume 4, Social Conditions and Applied Parenting. Ed. Bornstein. M. H. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
[x] Cowan, C., P. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaptation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20(3)
[xi] Grych, J.H. and Fincham, F.D. (1990) Marital conflict and children’s adjustment: a cognitive contextual framework, Psychological Bulletin, 2, 267-290
[xii] Cowan, C., P. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaptation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20(3)
[xiii] Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2000) When partners become parents : the big life change for couples. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Cowan, C., P. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaptation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy. 20(3)
[xiv] Cowan, P., & Cowan, C.P. (2008) Diverging family policies to promote children’s well-being in the UK and US: Some relevant data from family research and intervention studies. Journal of Children’s Services, 3, 4–16

Friday, February 5, 2016

5 top tips to enjoy great sex this Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day and all the expectations that come with it can make you feel like you should be having all kinds of passionate and adventurous sex with your partner. But the reality is it can be pretty difficult to keep things fizzing, especially if you both have busy lives.
Instead of worrying about reaching some unrealistic ideal in the bedroom, why not try making a few simple changes? You may be surprised by how developing a few positive habits in your relationship can really put the spark back into things.
As a Sex Therapist I help lots of couples who say they feel like they’ve got stuck in the same routine and need help reconnecting. So here are my top tips to a better sex life:
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  • Let’s get… verbal. Sometimes, communicating about our sexual needs is as important as the act itself. Try talking about sex at a time completely separate to actually having it. Discuss what you like, what you don’t and what you’d like to try. That way, you can experiment when it’s time to get down to business.
  • Don’t always go ‘all the way’. People sometimes avoid kissing or touching because they’re worried it’ll mean their partner will want to have sex and they won’t quite feel up to it. Don’t worry about having to go ‘all the way’ every time. Get into the habit of being casually physical. Try kissing passionately before going to work, massaging on a Friday night or just generally being playful and tactile. Building sensuality into your day to day life will help you to maintain a strong and loving physical connection.
  • Initiate sex in new and different ways. How you initiate sex can make the difference between a new and exciting sensual experience and, well, business as usual. Get things off to an interesting start by trying out something new. Surprise your partner with spontaneous sex (within limits of course!), try starting with a massage or read an erotic novel together and act out the parts. You might find that initiating things in an unexpected or interesting way means you discover all new ways of enjoying each other.
  • Relocation, Relocation, Relocation. It’s an old classic – but for a reason! Many couples find that having sex somewhere different is a simple change that can make a big difference. If you’ve fallen into a routine with your partner, try switching the setting. It doesn’t have to be anywhere particularly crazy – after all, it’s a little chilly to be getting frisky in the garden shed at the moment. Maybe try bringing a duvet into the living room or booking a weekend at a hotel.
  • Anticipation, enjoyment, recollection. Sex isn’t just about the act itself. It can be about the anticipation and the recollection too. So build up tension beforehand by talking about what you’d like to do – and chat afterwards about what you enjoyed and what you’d like to do again. You don't even have to be in the same room: try sending sexy texts throughout the day or leaving notes around the house.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Year Resolutions

How are you doing with your New Year resolutions? Are they working out well for you, or have the January blues been sapping your energy levels?
Maybe one of your resolutions was to sort out those niggling problems in your relationships or to do more to bring you and your partner closer. I've been thinking about these kinds of 'relationship resolutions' and what happens if your resolution has been to work on your relationship, but when you asked your partner to go to therapy, they said no?
It can seem so painful and discouraging to feel that your partner is not on board with your idea, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t still forge ahead with your mission without them and attend counseling on your own.
It can be an alien concept for many people to even think about talking to a relationship counselor and it’s very common for some partners to act reluctantly or ambivalently towards it; so don’t feel that you are alone in your predicament.

Stuck in a rut

Often we don’t realize we each know our moves so well that it doesn’t even feel as though we have the option to do anything differently. When you get stuck in a relationship rut, it’s like Groundhog Day over and over again, so round and around you go on a merry-go-round of frustration.
Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I understand it can be so hard to break your patterns if you’ve been stuck in a rut for a long time. You keep repeating the same steps, getting the same maddening results and end up feeling more and more disheartened and disconnected from each other.

Learning new moves

Well the good news is that although your partner may not want to come to counseling with you, you can still work with a therapist on your own to become more aware of your feelings and behavior and learn how to do something differently. If you can learn some new approaches, you can work on developing your relationship and in turn generate a different outcome.
It is very hard, if not impossible to change your partner’s behavior and reactions, but what you can control is what you choose to do. You will find when you start to make changes, this will automatically affect the dynamic of your relationship.

Lead the way

You might feel that your partner is the one who needs to change, but it could be that you have to be the one to take the lead in facilitating changes to your relationship if your partner is unwilling. Take heart in that by coming to counseling you are already doing something differently.
For example, it might be that you have been trying to talk to your partner for a long time and they respond by shutting down or walking away, which makes you more frustrated and then you pursue harder.
By coming to therapy and talking to someone else about how to work things out, you are already creating a different dynamic. As you step away from them, you may give your partner the space to be the one to come to you to talk and connect. In turn you can relax and not worry so much, which might then help your partner relax and feel less nervous when you need to talk about things.

Converting the skeptic

I have seen it happen many times that someone comes in on their own for counseling, because their partner was unwilling to come. However, as their unwilling partner starts to sense and see changes in their partner as a result of therapy and feel the relationship shift, they become curious as to what has been happening in the counseling room without them.
When there are tangible results, it can encourage the skeptical or reluctant partner to be more interested and open to the process, even asking if they can come along next time!

Abusive relationships

If there is violence and abuse in your relationship, relationship counseling may not always be suitable as it can sometimes make things worse as we work towards change. In this case we will discuss how to find the safest way forward, which may mean working with you both individually or referring you to other specialist organizations.

Take the first step

If you're thinking about making changes in your relationship but you're not sure where to start, why not talk things through with a  Couples Counselor? Call 202 657 6919

Monday, November 30, 2015

Why is Sex so Important?

Our sex lives can be wonderfully reassuring when they go well, but we all have times when we don’t feel so close to our partner and sex isn’t working the way we’d like it to.

That’s why Relate has published The Relate Guide to Sex and Intimacy with Vermillion.
The book aims  aims to help people turn things around and recapture their passion for sex. It looks at why sex and intimacy are so important to our relationships, what it is that stops us from enjoying sex and also covers topics such as sexual secrets, what it means to be ‘good’ in bed, and how to communicate effectively about what we want.

It’s also full of practical exercises and recommendations to help you take control, develop your relationship intimacy and revitalize your sex life.

In this video interview, author and sex therapist Cate Campbell talks a bit about the book – as well some of the most common problems that people face when it comes to sex and intimacy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

10 Tips for a Happy Relationship

1. Talk constructively

How you say things is as important as what you’re saying. If you and your partner are having a disagreement, don’t just attack them or go all-out criticizing. Why not try using ‘I’ statements? By saying  ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You always…’ you’re taking responsibility for your emotions and your partner won’t feel like they’re being blamed for everything.

2. Listen to each other

Listening is such an important tool in relationships. Sometimes, we find it hard to hear what our partner is saying because we’re so wrapped up in our own emotions. Remember that  communication works two ways. Listening to your partner is the only way to know what’s really going on with them.

3. Don’t bottle things up

If something has upset you, you’re not doing yourself or your partner any favors by keeping it to yourself. This is only likely to cause resentment to build up that will come out in other ways. If it’s something that really matters to you, talk about it.

4. Keep things fresh

It’s a cliché, but making the effort to keep things fun and interesting in your relationship can really make a big difference. It’s easy to get complacent about having someone in your life, but this kind of attitude can also lead to boredom and dissatisfaction. Let your partner know you appreciate having them around  by surprising them occasionally.

5. Let go of the little stuff

Although it’s good to talk when you’ve got something on your mind, your relationship is going to be like a battleground if you can’t ever let things slide. If it’s something that, all things considered, doesn’t actually matter that much, why not just forget about it? Nobody’s perfect – and you probably do stuff that your partner finds annoying too!

6. Appreciate what you have

Many people end up looking outside their relationship because they think there’s someone out there who is ‘better’ for them. Relationships aren’t about finding the ‘perfect partner’ – whatever that means. They’re about allowing the connection you do have to develop and grow. The strongest relationships are usually the ones that have been given the time to flourish.

7. Give each other space

Although it’s great spending quality time together, don’t forget you both need to nurture your interests and friendships. Couples who spend every moment in each other’s pockets can easily begin to feel unfulfilled when they realize that their personal interests have started to slip. Allow each other to spend time on the things you enjoy separately. When you reconvene as a couple you’ll be pleased to see each other and have lots to talk about.

8. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

It’s easy to worry about whether your relationship is as good as it ‘should’ be. Just as we can get wrapped up in having the best clothes or latest gadgets, we can worry about having relationships that are as exciting and passionate as the ones we see depicted in movies or hear about in songs. Relationships aren’t about constantly feeling butterflies – we all have our own unique ways of experiencing them and you’ll know what’s right for you. Enjoy yours for what it is – and be grateful that it’s there!

9. Avoid jealousy and build trust

Jealousy can destroy relationships, and nothing is less attractive than the green eyed monster. If you’re worried your partner isn’t giving you enough attention, try the open, honest approach rather than acting out or accusing them of looking elsewhere. Building mutual trust is the key to banishing unhealthy emotions and remaining strong together.

10. Work on it

It’s not always the most popular way of thinking about them, but relationships can be work. They need to be nurtured and given the space and attention they deserve. Communication isn’t something to do only occasionally – it should be a constant. It’s only by not taking your relationship for granted that your connection will stay strong. But the rewards, as anyone in a happy relationship knows, are more than worth the effort.images-4