Therapy That Works...

Women & Divorce Trauma - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia discuss this on CBS 11 by clicking here.

Kennedy heir and award winning journalist, Maria Shriver’s headline breaking divorce from former California governor and megastar, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has dominated the summer celebrity news. The pending divorce settlement will leave Maria with millions of dollars but it may also leave some psychological trauma.

So, how does infidelity trauma affect most women?

Most of the time it is devastating and there are few resources for women to turn to that explain what they are going through.

Marital Crime: Infidelity is a marital “crime” and systematic concealment and falsification characterizes every affair. If you don’t lie, you can’t cheat. When you are the recipient of lying and infidelity, you have to go back and rewrite all of your past and present experiences. You begin to doubt your own perceptions since reality has now been redefined by these discoveries.

Trauma is Lack of Power: Trauma is a condition of powerlessness and when it is inflicted within a marriage, it is especially devastating psychologically for women. Trauma is magnified exponentially when it inflicted by the husband since that is supposed to be the one person she can count on.

Life Rearranged: Infidelity “rearranges” life for the woman who has been betrayed. When you are reeling from infidelity, previous formulas about life no longer apply. Trust is shot, the past and present are redefined and the future is an uncertain road that stretches on into oblivion. Your husband becomes someone “you no longer know.”

Isolated and Alone: Infidelity trauma is especially difficult especially when a celebrity is involved. The couple usually decides to withdraw into silence, as the affair is played out on the public stage.

But do all women endure long standing trauma after infidelity?

I think that most women go through some phase of trauma as they regroup and regain their emotional strength. Because women identify so fully with their relationships, their entire life is fundamentally affected. Happily, most women do move past it and are wiser for it. However, they have to be mindful of how damaging infidelity is on their self-confidence and sense of order and control in the world.

Here are the can make infidelity and divorce trauma better or worse:

There is a simple and direct correlation between the severity of the trauma and the effect on the woman.

  • How Long the Affair Lasted
  • The Number of People Involved (number of partners or the birth of a child as in this case)
  • Who was Involved (Best Friends versus Strangers)
  • The Level of Falsification and Concealment
  • How Long It Took to Discover - Affairs that involve incremental disclosure are much harder to handle. Such disclosures affect the basic feelings of control, safety and predictability in the offended woman. Overwhelming anxiety increases as the progressive discoveries are made.

Without a doubt, the betrayed woman is more likely to ultimately leave the marriage.

According to the research, Maria leaving Arnold is very predictable. A profound discontent seems to disrupt her faith and allegiance to her husband and over time, she may become disillusioned. Although the woman may often agree to stay in the marriage initially, she usually does not get the right treatment for trauma which sets her up to gradually detach from the marriage. However, sometimes the betrayal is so hurtful, as in this case, that the woman cannot stay in a marriage she now finds intolerable. Remember, that the erosion of affection is a progression, not an event, and many people—including the spouse who has cheated-- are shocked when the betrayed woman finally calls it quits.

Here's what women can do to cope with betrayal in their relationships:

First of all, we need to be compassionate with ourselves. Women are incredibly compassionate with others but often are hard on them. We often do not acknowledge our pain and do not process where we are. Infidelity is something that we survive but that we do not ignore.

Here are the three steps:

Kinder To Ourselves: Stop beating ourselves up all the time but don’t ignore the pain. Recognize that being sad and confused is a normal part of recovery and that things will get better. This doesn’t last forever.

Recognizing our common humanity with other women

Mindfulness: focusing on the blessings we have right now and not indulging in catastrophic views of the future.

We need to remember that after trauma there is always the potential of growth. In fact a substantial number of women show depression and anxiety but they move on and become wiser and better people. They have more self-confidence, are more aware of their personal strengths and they are more insightful with others.

For More Information:

"Flourish" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Trauma and Recovery" by Judith Herman M.D.

"Self-Compassion" by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

Mom-Zillas - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss "Mom-Zillas" on CBS 11 by clicking here.

The Mother in Law Wars and What to Do About Them

There seems to be a new term in the wedding world—“Mom-Zilla.” Last week, a 29-year-old British bride- to-be received a scathing email from her prospective mother in law. The email criticized her table manners, sleeping habits and even her parents’ financial status. Someone popped the email on the Internet and the story has stirred a controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.

So, what's up with a mother in law who would attack like this?

Narcissistic Mother in Law: Obviously, this woman is emotionally challenged and behaved ridiculously. All emotional attacks seem logical when we dream them up. She felt entitled to speak her mind without regard to the effect it would have, which was incredibly short sighted.

Right Back at You: In this case, as in so many, the contempt toward this young bride has now boomeranged around and become an emotional grenade in this family. Somewhere along the way, this woman convinced herself that she was perfectly justified in reprimanding the young bride to be. She couldn’t have been more foolish.

Where are Her Good Manners?: Anything that she had to say could have been said with class and good humor, if she had a right to say it at all. However, the cardinal rule of in-laws needs to always be, “less is more.” The less you say, the more peace in the family.

Here's why this story created such a media sensation:

What woman cannot identify with the bride’s position? Most women who marry must navigate the politics of a new family and the mother in law is central in making us feel either welcome or rejected. If your mother in law doesn’t like you, you will feel it either directly as in this case or indirectly when you are excluded or ignored by the female family coalition. The story really struck a chord with two camps—those of us who have suffered from Mom-Zillas rampaging through our lives and people who resonated with the mother in law’s right to criticize.

Can this young woman ever reconcile with her mother in law after this attack?

Never say never but good money wouldn’t bet on it. The mother in law acted savagely and she hasn’t shown one moment of regret. She has vowed to attend the wedding in “dignified silence.” The bottom line is that if she did it once, she’ll do it again. The real tragedy is that the couple now has a huge emotional explosion to deal with—an issue that would tax even veteran couples. How the groom responds will be central to whether they actually marry and stay married happily.

So, why are mother in law issues so hard for young couples? Usually because the son refuses to say anything. There are a couple of reasons why:

Mom is Right: Research shows that men are often reluctant to “buck” their mothers even if their wife demands it. They see the wife as stronger and younger and the one who must make concessions to the older woman.

Empathy is Needed: Men have more difficulty talking about emotional matters than women. We initiate eighty five percent of relationship- focused conversations. A man becomes overwhelmed by conflict faster and he shuts down to prevent his discomfort from rising. When there’s a problem between the women in his life, he wants to escape into silence.

Closed to Reassessment: Many men refuse to look at things from their wives’ perspective. “She didn’t mean it like that” or “you’re too sensitive” are common excuses. Sometimes mother in laws do mean exactly what their daughter in law thinks they mean. On the other hand, some women can be oversensitive and inaccurate in how they’re interpreting their mother in law. Their husband needs to at least hear her out and help her reach a solution in her own mind.

Here's how mothers-in-law and their daughters-in-law can get along better today:

For Mothers-In-Law:

As I said earlier, “less is more.” Young brides are notoriously insecure and uncertain so anything and everything you say and do, good and bad, will be amplified.

Respect her relationship with your son but also request in a cordial way that your son includes you in his new family.

Don’t criticize her even if you disagree with her

Don’t criticize your grandchildren to her

Please do not compete with her mother

Keep your boundaries and focus on your special place as your son’s mother and the grandmother.

For Daughters-in-law:

Your mother in law is your husband’s mother and holds a sacred place forever in his life. Do not deliberately exclude her and become Wife-Zilla.

Hold your boundaries with grace. Please try to diffuse conflict by being overly gracious.

Lose that idealism about how things should be and focus on making things better as they are.

Most of the time, if you take the high road, he’ll figure out what his mother is up to.

Remember that you will be a mother in law someday and that you are teaching your children how to navigate differences in a family. Be kind because we always reap what we sow!

The Allure of Bad Boys - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You can watch Dr. Sylvia's story on CBS 11 by clicking here.

A new study reports that women find happy guys significantly less attractive than those silent, swaggering types of men.

So, why do women find those bad boys so attractive?

Their lack of availability is intoxicating for women. Men who are a bit arrogant, mysterious and brooding invite our interest. These guys tend to be more impulsive and adventuresome. They love danger and are a bit edgy and rebellious. Because of these traits, we have more fun with them and that fun increases our dopamine, that wonderful brain hormone of infatuation. We find them attractive until they’ve broken our hearts or left us in the dust.

Here's what bad boys look like:

Personality of Extremes: These guys have a lot of great personality characteristics that make them even more enticing. They are often very handsome, self confident, creative, high energy and adorable. The down side is that they can be self-obsessed and self-interested.

Vigilant Observers: They are often very adept at reading women and pick up on those nuances and micro-expressions that make us feel so understood.

Dark Triad: The down side is that these men can be extremely emotionally dangerous for women. They can be narcissistic, thrill seeking and deceitful.

Cannot Commit: Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of the bad boys is their inability to settle down. Women love to prove how special they are by reforming men who don’t want to be reformed. My advice is not to get involved with someone so deeply self-centered.

So, why do women keep going after them even when they’ve had bad experiences?

There is a basic failure to learn. There are four types of women who prefer bad boys:

Insecure Women who doubt their attractiveness and are looking for emotional shelter.

Thrill Seeking Women Who are “bad girls.”

Women who have problems with emotional intimacy and would find the stable relationship suffocating, if not terrifying.

Naïve Women: Most of us have endured the roller coaster of the bad boys during our dating life. They just make us appreciate the nice guys we end up marrying.

So, why don’t women find nice guys more interesting?

Nice guys may finish last in the first date department but they definitely tend to win the marriage race. When women are dating, the characteristics that make the nice guy so wonderful—smiling, empathic conversations, loyalty, calling when he says he will, etc—don’t seem as exciting as the guy on the motorcycle who ignores you. However, once you’ve been hurt, and hurt badly, you are more likely to seek out nicer guys who have staying power.

Now here's what you can do to break the cycle of being attracted to men who are bad for you (or someone you know):

You have to consider how you want your life to go. Do you want to be in a relationship with someone who cannot be in the relationship with you since he is so self-centered or do you want a partner who will take a bullet for you?

Work on appreciating the nice guy you are with by focusing on these characteristics:

Good Sense of Humor: Focus on his sense of humor. Men like women who laugh at their jokes while women prefer men who make them laugh. Laughing together is rapport building and one of the ways to increase attraction.

Differentiate Between Self Confidence and Conceit: A guy who knows what he is doing, is commanding with others, is poised and decisive are incredible attributes for attraction. But he shouldn’t cross the line into cockiness. Self-confidence is different since it doesn’t include achieving the goal at other people’s expense.

Character and Emotional Intelligence: The presence of integrity, loyalty and honesty are unbeatable combinations in a man. We love to be understood and having an emotionally self-aware guy is a huge allure. Knowing that he has our back is a great way of going to sleep every night.

Relationship Stress Can Affect Health - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Watch the story on CBS by clicking here.


The health benefits of a good marriage are undeniable with married people making more money, enjoying better health and living longer. But new research reports that some marriages can be bad for your health, especially over the long haul.

This study reveals something entirely new about how marriage can affect our health. Here's what they found:

One of the strongest findings in psychology is the link between our relationships and our mental and physical health. The bottom line is that conflict with your partner can affect your physical and emotional well being over time. It’s not just a “today” thing since your mental and emotional health can be severely impacted by a challenging relationship. Your mood the day after a fight will fall especially if you are already uncomfortable with being emotionally close with your partner. The more anxious the relationship makes you, the more emotionally expensive it becomes. The real take away from this study is that being in a stressful relationship leads to longer-term health risks.

But what about the age old question -- are women affected more than men by a bad relationship?

They absolutely are and there are several reasons why this occurs:

More Sensitive: Women’s minds and bodies are more sensitive to hostile comments and behaviors from a male partner. Especially when men are verbally contemptuous, the female partner not only internalizes the label, but her body remains anxious for up to 24 hours longer while he is just fine.

Emotional Memory: We have unpleasant capacity for remembering every detail of a fight and we dwell on it over time. Women just have a hard time letting things go.

Women Are Highly Observant: We are also excellent at picking up those little meta messages in nonverbal behavior—how he looks at us, whether he seemed interested, did he look at her—and if the relationship is framed in negativity, we tend to assemble the worst case interpretation.

Quietly Suffering: Women are excellent assessors of the relationship and are more willing to face it when things aren’t going well. The downside is that women are more willing to adapt to a failing marriage than men are. We tend to become quietly miserable.

So, what happens when one partner becomes more negative about the relationship than the other partner?

Negative Emotions are Contagious: First of all we know that just like a virus, emotions are contagious. Negative emotions can penetrate a relationship and undermine the basic regard we have for one another. We share a home, bills and feelings on a daily basis. The good thing is that positive emotions are much more powerful than negative emotions.

Negative Perspective: Disappointment can become habitual and the entire relationship is framed within disappointment.

Emotional Disengagement: A dying relationship descends into emotional disengagement. The silent killer of marriages, it is often invisible even to the person experiencing it. They are aware that they are withdrawing and that they feel more helpless to effect real change. But their hearts often close up before they really understand how powerful a change this can be. They withdraw to protect themselves from further hurt and pain.

Here's what you can do today to stop negativity from harming your relationship:

Communication breakdowns are a part of loving someone else. But when arguments become gridlocked, the relationship over time will falter.

Stay Present and Remain Calm: As the conflict escalates, remind yourself that you are going into a negative downward spiral and that you have a choice to stay present and calm. Use these tips:

  • Be Concise (don’t whine)
  • Complain but Don’t Blame
  • Start with the Positives
  • Start your Sentences with “I”, not with “you.”
  • Describe what is happening respectfully
  • Talk clearly about what you need and hope for
  • Don’t Store things up—remain focused on a specific item or items
  • Be Vulnerable—express your pain and disappointment
  • Work for Compromise
  • Remain polite and appreciative

Sources:

The Marriage Clinic by John Gottman, Ph.D.

Score Keeping In Relationships - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scorekeeping is common in even the best of marriages. Is there any value to keeping track of what your partner has done in the past or can scorekeeping become destructive over the long haul?

Why do couples like to keep score in marriage?

Scorekeeping is a symptom of a marriage in distress. When you begin to debate the “who did what last” things can get heated and you can find yourself squaring off regularly with the person you pledged to love for “better or worse.” An atmosphere of division and contempt replaces marital collaboration.

Here's how scorekeeping begins:

Too Exhausted: Most of us are too tired and too emotionally stretched to be objective about the words and actions of each partner.

Magnify Our Contributions: We begin to magnify everything we do in the relationship and discount what he or she does.

Blaming Gives Us Control: Blaming the other person gives us a momentary feeling of control over our stress. However, chronically assigning blame and expressing disappointment can mortally wound a marriage over time.

Marital Accountant: Destructive scorekeeping draws the marital battle lines and each partner becomes a marital “accountant.”

So, how does scorekeeping affect a marriage over time?

Anger is Normal: We know that negative emotions in marriage are normal. If you feel criticized, you’ll respond in anger and visa versa. Score keeping gets a foothold in the marriage when couples remain resentful and fail to truly patch things up after conflict. Telling your partner they need to do better all the time is a contemptuous thing to do.

Partner is the Problem: When there is tension in a marriage, we tend to perceive our partner’s personality as the problem. Scorekeeping begins when you are tense and angry with a partner who is perceived as either taking advantage or neglecting the marriage.

Are there times in the marriage when couples are more likely to score keep?

Dramatic Change: Usually there is a huge change that has taken place in the marriage, like a new job, a new baby, or a relocation. Change that reshuffles schedules is especially likely to lead to score keeping. Time and energy become resources that are fought over.

Baby Makes Three: Prior to children, most couples seem to divide things up pretty easily and without a lot of conflict. If they have huge conflict over the division of labor early in the marriage, the relationship often ends by the five-year mark. However, two thirds of new parents experience a significant drop in marital satisfaction within the first year. Most of the conflict is around score keeping.

Women and Housework: With eighty percent of women now working full-time, the pace of work is relentless! But fifty eight percent of American women are convinced that the division of labor at home is unfair to them. Only eleven percent of men feel similarly. This is when score keeping becomes really prominent. Exhausted, overworked, financially stressed partners love to keep score and point the finger at her spouse.

Here's what you can do to stop score keeping today.

Ask for a Truce: Approach your partner by saying, “we can do better as a team.” Ask him to join with you in solving a problem and avoid blaming.

Be Accountable: Recognize you’re scorekeeping. Avoid sarcasm, labels and contemptuous body language.

Talk it Out: Share What You are Seeing as Objectively as you can. Air your complaints without criticizing or making your spouse the problem.

Set Reasonable Expectations and Plan: Scorekeeping will disappear when we begin to work as a team. Prioritize the tasks, follow through, and remember that changing a bad habit takes at least thirty days!

Regretting Lost Loves - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ever wish you could have a “do over?” Many of us wish we had made better decisions in life but a new study reveals that Americans have the greatest number of regrets about romance.

So, what exactly is regret and why do we have so many regrets about our love life?

Regrets are those beliefs that we could and should have done better in a certain situation. We torture ourselves endlessly with recalling, reviewing and criticizing ourselves for not making a better play. We beat ourselves up for not getting it right the first time.

I’m not surprised that most Americans cite their love life as the biggest area of regret since relationships often only seem clear when we are out of them! That twenty twenty hindsight is often hard won and without it, we often make disastrous mistakes in love that costs us in profound ways—time, money, sleep, our dignity and shear suffering when we’re with the wrong person. Most of us make decisions about partners with our emotional brains and not with our analytical minds leaving us vulnerable to the partner who is adorable but terrible for us. Once the charm wears off, it is easy to see our bad choices.

Do men and women regret different things?

They both flag relationships as their top area of regret but I do believe that women are more likely to ruminate about their lives then men are. We love picking ourselves to death over our bad choices. Forty four percent of us regret a past relationship decision with only 19% of men sharing the same sentiment. A woman has twice the emotional memory in her brain as a man and she remembers every detail of the relationship or encounter. Women are built for relating, remembering and regretting!

On the other hand, a man is more likely to define himself through status and power. Work is where most men direct their regret with thirty four percent of men regretting their career decisions. Twenty seven percent of women reported similar regrets.

Are we more likely to regret things we’ve done or haven’t done?

We tend to regret both the things we’ve done and the things we didn’t do. But our missed opportunities are the ones that stay with us. We are haunted for many years by what might have been, whom we might have loved and what kindnesses we might have extended to another person.

When people regret their past relationship decisions, they are often haunted by the relationship that never completely came together or that ended prematurely—for whatever reason. Especially when there is lost potential, many people, especially men, seem to hold on to the dreams of what might have been. In fact, they may have gained a new appreciation for that person and how they felt when they were with them. That silent regret may never be shared with another person but they often feel that they should have fought harder to keep the relationship or to tell her how he felt.

Here's how you can avoid feeling regret?

In every decision, you need to consider what you will regret in the long run. I call it the ten-year rule.

Here are three points to keep in mind:

Years from Now: Will you be proud of the decision you made ten years from now or will you regard your decision as immature, ill advised or even self-indulgent?

Value Based Decisions: Decisions we make reflect our goals. Make sure that you keep your goals in mind when you make a major decision. For example, is being a great dad more important than that promotion?

Avoid Temporary Temptations: Yielding to short-term temptations that are bad for you can lead to a lifetime of regret. The bottom line is to make the best choice at the time and to make each experience count.

What can we do if we have a regret we can’t get over?

Practice Self-Compassion: Remember to practice self-compassion when you review your life’s decisions. Part of being effective is remembering that the right decision is often unclear at the time we are making it. All you can do is to make the best decision with what you know to be true or accurate at the time. Everyone falls short and everyone makes an occasional bad call. But the true measure of a life is how you handle your failures, not how you handle the applause when you win at life.

Forgive Yourself: Forgiving yourself is the key to overcoming regret. Seventy percent of us walk around with guilt and regret our entire lives. Be honest with yourself, learn from your misfires, forgive yourself for your shortcomings and move on. Life is to be lived in the moment, not in the thousand regrets that rob us of today.

Why Women Commit Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 18, 2011

How To Prevent Female Committed Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is There Really A Seven Year Itch? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 04, 2011

Why People Lose Interest After Getting Married - By Chris Gearing

Friday, April 01, 2011

Recent Posts


Tags


Archive