Tag Archives: Divorce

Rekindling the Bedroom Flame

Sex doesn’t just happen like it does in the movies.  People are not always swept away with fireworks and mutual orgasms.  Instead, human beings have to learn how to make love.  Unlike dogs, cats, birds, and other animals that have sex as an instinctive joining for procreation, for humans it’s a learned behavior.

When people look at porn or read romance novels (the female version of porn), they think that’s how sex is supposed to be.  However, it takes time to get to know each other’s bodies and communicate (which is usually the part people don’t do).  Oftentimes, couples feel embarrassed or think certain things are taboo.

This is where sex therapy comes in.  Most people believe that something has to be broken in order for them to go to sex therapy. However, the first thing you should know is that you don’t have to wait until there’s a sexual problem in your relationship before you get help.  After many years of habits forming and walls going up, certain feelings and behaviors get entrenched and often become hard to reverse.   A lot of divorces could be avoided if people dealt with these things sooner.

There are all kinds of events and experiences which get in the way of people feeling comfortable, relaxed, and open.  If there’s a medical issue (cancer treatment, surgical procedure, physical disability, etc.), a history of sexual abuse or rape, or perhaps lovemaking has simply slipped from your schedule, sex therapy can help with a number of areas.

The goal is to talk about your feelings, thoughts, and fantasies with your spouse and put them out there for the therapist to examine.  If a guy is too quick to the draw or a woman can’t seem to be able to reach an orgasm, these kinds of issues can be addressed openly and honestly. It’s all about sexual and emotional enhancement, and having some fun too!

Now let me dispel one fear right off the bat.  When you go to sex therapy, you don’t have sex in the office.  Some people think, “Oh my gosh, are we going to have to get naked and do stuff in front of the therapist?!”  No, you don’t.  And by the way, if you do go to somebody who tells you to get naked and do things, get out of there and report them.

If you’re not feeling satisfied, if you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, if you want to experiment but your spouse doesn’t (or vice versa), if painful issues from your past are interring, or if you feel like infidelity is the only answer, then you and your spouse should see a sex therapist.

That being said, not all sexual issues require therapy.  I have some tips for you and your spouse to try first:

In the beginning of a terrific relationship, most people are in the mood most of the time.  But with careers, kids, and the house, life becomes busy with demands and responsibilities.  People underestimate the importance of hugging, touching, and loving on a daily basis.  You need to make time for each other.  Be sure to talk about something more than what bills need to be paid or what has to happen tomorrow. 

When you’ve made time together, it’s important not to expect that you will both be aroused and filled with desire immediately.  In addition, don’t stick to a formula.  For example, “I do this same thing to turn him/her on and then we go to sleep” isn’t romantic.  Playful interaction is important.  Think about it as improvisational jazz or a dance: make it spontaneous and have some fun with it.

Moreover, don’t make the orgasm the be-all, end-all.  It’s been calculated that we spend eight hours of our lives in orgasm.  That’s not a lot of time.  Having an orgasm is great, but it’s not necessarily the point.  Your focus should be on the amount of time spent lovemaking or else you’ll miss out on a lot of fun.

Most importantly, communication is the best way to get positive feedback.  When you go to an expensive restaurant, you take time with the menu, you discuss the possibilities, you savor every bite, you share from each other’s plates, and you talk about the meal afterwards – the presentation, the flavors, the sauces, the ingredients, etc.  Do the same with sex (e.g. “I love it when you touch me exactly like that.”).  Talking about sex does not take the romance away, and in fact, giving feedback to your partner about what you find pleasurable is a wonderful gift because then he or she knows they’re not failing. 

Death by Suicide at an All-Time High

I recently read an article  which stated that suicide has now surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of injury-related death in the United States.  From 2000 to 2009, the suicide death rate went up 15 percent.  That blew my mind.  It’s scary to think that so many people are finding it necessary to deal with their pain in an irreversible way.

Interestingly enough, the literature shows that people are committing suicide for the standard reasons: substance abuse, mental illness, a family history of violence, depression, etc.  So why is suicide on the rise?

Suicide basically stems from a person’s lack of hope for the future.  They are convinced that things won’t change or get better, and they feel helpless, hopeless, and worthless.  They hate themselves, feel like a burden on others (especially when the person is older), and have an “everybody would be better off without me” kind of attitude.

What the person doesn’t realize is that they still have a lot to offer.  That’s probably one of the most important considerations in giving someone hope: they need to believe that they are valuable.

Where there is community, familiarity, bonding, and connections with community and family, you’re going to find a lower suicide death rate.  One of the problems we have in our society as it has evolved is that the morality of obligations and sacrifice has pretty much gone by the wayside.  People are up, out, and gone.  I think the dissolution of our families and community has a lot to do with the increased instances of suicide because people feel helpless, hopeless and isolated more than ever. 

Years ago, if someone’s barn burned down, everybody within 50 miles would come with wood, nails, paint, and food.  They would set up shop and rebuild that person’s property.  If there was a death in someone’s family, the community pulled together.  People lived close to each other and very few had to go it alone.  Kids were more surrounded by family and other kids in reasonable neighborhoods.  Yes, of course there were still jerks, but you were able to survive things much better because you felt like your back was always being watched.

Even though there have been many advances in medicine and technology, a lot of people today are feeling lonely, desperate, hopeless, and helpless.  Little kids are growing up in homes where their parents get divorced, bring other boyfriends and girlfriends into the picture, and shack up.  People make some babies here and other babies there, and they don’t even bother to give their kids a mother AND a father because they don’t feel like their kids need that.  As a result, a lot of kids are growing up without intact, supportive families.  It’s interesting that when a kid or teenager commits suicide, people often attribute it to bullying rather than looking at their family or community dynamics (abuse, hostile home environment, etc).  They are trying to pin the wrong tail on the donkey. 

It’s very sad that more and more of our fellow human beings are feeling so tragically lost.  I think kids these days don’t have a lot to look forward to.  When I was young, your future was, more often than not, clear and secure in your mind if you finished high school.  You either got a job or went to college.  After college, you either got a job or went to graduate school.  Somewhere along the line, you got married, had a family, and built ties with extended family and neighbors.  Sure, the future had some bifurcations and you needed to make choices, but for the most part, things were pretty clear.  You knew you were going to get a job and have a family.  

Nowadays, kids grow up not knowing if they are going to be able to have either one.

The teenage years are messy to begin with.  Teens have a lot of pressure to succeed, and they desperately want to fit in.  If a kid feels they have no support, especially at home, it’s tough for them to be hopeful. 

I think many articles about suicide leave out a large part of the truth because it is bound to offend somebody.  Truth is often excised from information today because as a society, we’ve made “not offending anybody” the highest priority.  However, I find it offensive that we don’t deal with things openly and honestly because people are paying a price for it.  For example, here are some common misconceptions about suicide.
 
Do I feel that suicide is ever justified?  Yes, I do.  If a person is terminal, not getting any better, and suffering from intolerable pain, I think it is cruel to keep them in that position.  Denying someone an alternative, peaceful way out when they are going out anyway doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  However, in any other situation, I do not think suicide is justified.  There’s a way out of everything, except death.   

If you have even a NOTION that someone is suicidal, call 911 and have them hauled off for a 72-hour hold with a psychiatric team to figure out what needs to be done.  Many times, the person doesn’t give much indication, or everyone is too busy to notice.  Sometimes it’s even a little bit of both.  But, if someone mentions suicide, you need to take it seriously.

In addition, if someone you know takes his or her own life, you have to remember that the person who kills themselves ultimately takes full responsibility for their death – not you or anyone else.  I’ve worked with so many parents and spouses who believe they should have known.   However, unless you’re psychic, you may not be able to know. 

The one thing you can do is reconsider the atmosphere you have at home and the support you give your family, friends, and people around you.  We’re losing that sense of connection and purposefulness that comes from forming bonds between each other, and we need to get it back.

Regretting the Divorce

Over the many, many years I’ve worked as a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice and on the air, I’ve done a lot of research on divorce, especially when it involves kids.  The scientific literature differs very much from popular literature in what the happiness quotient is after a divorce.  Scientific literature suggests that a good three quarters of people who divorce regret it.  Maybe not immediately, but 10 years later, they do.  “I should never have done it” is the kind of thing usually uttered privately after a divorce.  And after the papers have been signed, the property divided, the child custody settled, and the emotional pain still lingering, it’s usually too late to go back. 

Half of women and a third of men stay angry at their former spouse after a divorce.  They mentally just don’t move on.   They have to deal with a host of things: loneliness, painful memories, having to get new friends, uncomfortable changes, uncertainty about how they are going to pay their bills (people don’t usually go up in economic standing after their family is torn apart).

In my opinion, most marriages careening into divorce can be saved.  By saved, I’m talking about turning a troubled situation into a good one – not just coexisting.  A lot of times I nag people to just stay in a marriage in the hopes that if they just cut down on the rage and realize they have to endure and make the best of it, the tension calms and better things come out of it.  Generally, there are very simple things they can do to make themselves and their spouse happy.  

Of course, if your spouse is abusive, has had affairs, is an addict, suffers from a mental illness, or refuses to get help or follow through with therapy, then although it’s sad, a divorce is probably inevitable and you’re going to be happier to unload all of that pain.  But I think for the most part, especially after hearing from all the people on my program over the years, most divorces (most, not all) happen because someone says, “I’m unhappy and I don’t know what else to do.”  They figure, “OK, I’ll get a divorce and I’ll be happier because my marriage is the source of my unhappiness.”

There are a number of factors which can minimize your chances of getting a divorce.   If I were empress for a day, I would make it so that nobody could get married without premarital counseling.  It creates a much lower divorce rate because people work out their differences in a calm and neutral setting before the problems arise.  They have a trained professional helping them deal with the things most people avoid, which later come up and bite them. 

Additionally, as it turns out, people who actively practice one religion together and pray on a daily basis have a much lower divorce rate.  It doesn’t matter which religion.  These people are more centered.  Also, very religious people are givers.  They are not as concerned with taking.  When you have two people who are givers, the marriage works out really well.  Now, “so-called” religious couples – couples who share the same religion but are not active – do not have a lower divorce rate.   

Another divorce factor is how early you get married.  The reason?  Maturity.  The closer you are to 28 years old before you marry, the more realistic it is that you’ll stay with your spouse.  

We live in a society today where marriage and family are no longer seen as sacred, permanent and unconditional.  This lack of stability hurts the entire country.  The increasing number of second marriages, the resulting stepfamilies, and the even higher divorce rates occurring after the stepfamilies are created all contribute to the problem.  It’s not just the dissolution of the nuclear family that’s so destructive – it’s what happens afterwards.

Don’t Make These Marriage Mistakes

A marriage is a terrible thing to waste, especially when there are children involved.  People enter into marriages all the time with such optimism, but realize that perhaps they were overly optimistic.  Maybe you barely even knew the person, but you said you did because you had passion for them.  However, marriage is not about passion – that’s just part of it.  Marriage is about two healthy people learning to live together and take on struggles together.  They don’t turn on each other – they turn to each other. 

I want to talk about some of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to marriage:

1. Before you get married, the various things that make you “you” get exercised with a number of different people in your life.  For example, you’ve got a friend you play golf with, somebody else you go beading with, somebody you talk to about politics, and somebody you share your religion with.  Well, do you know what happens when you get married?  You have the expectation that your spouse is now supposed to be the whole package, having all the accessories in life.  Your spouse should definitely be your best friend – no question about that – but not your only friend.  Some other people might be better mentors, workout partners, antiquing buddies, etc.

2. Sabotaging trust.  Love brought you together, but lack of trust will terminate everything.  Trust is all about the small things – hiding store receipts, telling small lies, and casual flirting.  If your spouse sees that you’re dishonest with the small things, they make the assumption you’re a big risk for the big things.  Be open and honest about the small things, and that way, you won’t be doubted.

3. Breaching privacy.  How many times have you heard me yelling at people on my show because they told their mother/father/sister/uncle/cousin/friend or posted on Facebook about what their husband or wife did?  They humiliated their spouse in public, made others think less of them, and now they’re wondering why their relationship stinks.  Don’t put your spouse in the position of feeling exposed and betrayed.  Don’t talk to friends and family about private things.  Just don’t.

4. Throwing around the “divorce” word every time you get pissy.  In the beginning of people’s marriages, even little disappointments and slights can turn into big arguments.  It’s no wonder why so many people call my show saying, “We’ve only been married a short amount of time and we’re fighting all the time.”  It’s because they went into the marriage with certain expectations, and then reality hit.  Their illusions about “he’s perfect…she’s perfect…it’s perfect” get dented and bruised, and they become angry about feeling let down, trapped, frustrated, and betrayed.  However, you have to see this as just “real people time.”  Don’t be throwing around “divorce” every time you have a disagreement.  Emotions can run high if you’re not good at resolving conflicts together.  In your minds, you should both be saying, “Divorce is not an option.  We must work to find a way to work through this.”

5. Insisting on being right.  Some of you folks do this like you’re arguing about what’s the best Italian restaurant in town. Constantly insisting that you’re right, that your opinion is the correct one, or that your way is the best way is a quickie way to make your spouse feel undervalued and underestimated. If you find yourself in this situation, whether it’s during a heated argument or just a friendly debate, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right or happy?”

6. You don’t spend enough time slurping each other.  When I talk to people on the radio, I don’t ask them if they are their spouse’s husband or wife – I ask them if they are their “husband’s girlfriend” or their “wife’s boyfriend.”  What I’m implying is whether or not they do all the flirting, slurping, complementing touching, cuddling, tickling, and smiling people do when they’re somebody’s girlfriend or boyfriend.  These are things that people tend not to do with their wife or husband.  It’s probably the biggest thing people admit to after going through a divorce: they know they weren’t slurpy enough.

If you’re thinking about getting married or contemplating why the hell your marriage isn’t going well, read my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage, in addition to these tips.  Trust me, it’s really worth it. 

Standing Up and Speaking Out

This is about standing up and speaking out.  Not enough of you do it, and you don’t do it often enough.  There’s a good reason you don’t – because you get crap for it and most people want to avoid getting crap in their lives.  When you tickle something somebody is sensitive about (and they feel guilt about), they’ll attack to protect their ego.  So, standing up takes guts and a commitment to your beliefs.  But without being willing to do such, how can you possibly EVER have any pride in yourself? 

What sparked these thoughts is Catherine’s email:

Dr. Laura,

A few days ago, my car decided not to start. Luckily, my husband hadn’t left yet, so he drove me to work before going to his job. Then, since he had an appointment after work, he picked me up from my office and took me with him. I didn’t mind going, considering he did me a great favor of driving me to and from my job.

While sitting in the waiting room at his appointment, another couple came in. The secretary and the woman started to talk very flippantly about divorce. They commented on how they had already discussed with their husbands – before getting married – what they would receive, (as they would say), in their “inevitable divorce”. I was shocked and horrified they would say such things betweent themselves let alone in front of their husbands. I spoke up by saying “It is very sad you feel that way toward the person you promised to love, honor and cherish. Your husbands obviously chose very poorly in a wife and I hope your children have better examples of what love should be other than yourselves.”

I got up and walked away from astonished faces. And when my husband met me outside, all I could do was hug him and let him know that thank goodness we were nothing like the people in that office.

Wow!  Let that be an inspiration.  Don’t be wussy – it doesn’t make you have pride in yourself.  And I certainly never want you to call me and say, “This is what I heard… and what I wanted to say was….” It won’t be a pretty moment.

How To Tell If You’re A Terrible Spouse

How can you not know when your spouse is not happy?  You can go into a room, not know anybody in there, just look around and you can tell who’s happy.  It’s not hard – look at the body language and facial expressions.  But when you are living with somebody, how do you know if they’re happy or not?  So many times you hear women say:  “I had no clue; he never said anything.” 

He had to say something for you to know? 

So, here are a few things to consider and see if any of these describe your life:

* Your life centers around your kids, your job, and/or your hobbies.  Maybe that’s making him unhappy. 

* You burn your candles at all these ends with everything but love.  So you’re totally exhausted and there is no time for each other. 

* Your home and your life seem to move from one small crisis to another and that’s about it.  You figure, “Okay, we’re going to interact, and we’re going to romance each other, but we’ll save it for the weekends.  Then the weekends come, and “Oh my gosh, there are so many chores to do!”

* You do this thing in your head:  it’s either the kids or the spouse.  Well, you don’t love them both the same way.  Those are different loves.  Living a balanced life doesn’t require you choosing between them at all. 

* Your lives are very fragmented.  You spend your time running hither or thither and doing this and that and loving each other is just not a priority.  Even when you are together, you are in your own little world.  You are both easily irritated by the other.  Your disagreements and misunderstandings become more frequent. 

* Several months pass before you realize you haven’t even sat down and talked to each other nicely.  You haven’t made love; you haven’t done a fun thing together.  Sit down and look at the time you spend on things.  “I have no time.”  Yes, you do.  There is stuff you could trim, but instead, you are trimming him.

This is why I talk so much about being your kid’s mom, being your husband’s girlfriend, being your wife’s boyfriend — these are very important.  You need to focus on being each other as girlfriend and boyfriend.  That has to be a major focus of each day.  Aside from which, the kids need to see that.  It makes them feel secure and it gives them hope for their future.  I mean, do you spend any time connecting each day?

I had a call one time where this woman found out that for nine years, her husband left the house in the morning and spent 15 minutes, five days a week, in the back of a van with the same woman.  For nine years, they would have sex every morning, every day; that’s how they would get their work day started.  I said, well if that had been happening in your home, it wouldn’t have happened in a car with another woman.

So, when is the last time you schmoozed and tickled and rolled around and snuggled and kissed and hugged and were playful, huh?  Do you take care of yourself — your hygiene, your presentation, your health — so you have something to give?  Or, is it all about, “I just don’t have anything to give?”  You have to learn to say no to errands and chores and social activities and overtime and volunteer work and meetings, if it is interfering with your love.

 Don’t read the full newspaper everyday, don’t read Twitter or your emails — don’t read all that stuff.  They steal time from where you could be being cute and adorable with your spouse.  Send emails to each other, leave love notes around the house. Make the most of every moment you have together.  Make it an issue and a priority so I don’t get a call from you on my program where you’re saying , “I have no idea whatsoever why my husband and the father of my kids just said ‘I am out of here.’”  What an insult that is! Men don’t fare as well as women after a divorce emotionally, physically, medically.  Women handle this stuff a lot better, believe it or not.  So, for a guy to face going through the court system which is going to give her everything, for him to make a move like that, he had to be really unhappy.  And if you are truly willing to stand by the statement “I have no idea why he would be unhappy,” then you’re a terrible wife.