Resolving Conflict in Marriage

(You should know at the onset this is a completely fictionalized story based on an actual case. This article represents an abridgment of my early impressions of the case. This will be the first in short series of articles addressing this issue)<

“Our marriage is on the rocks.” What a way to begin a conversation! They went on to say, “Please help us resolve conflicts in our marriage.” I have heard these words more times than I can count. I have heard many couples tell me that “we fight all the time.”

Is this your first marriage I asked? I was curious as to whether the conflict patterns in this marriage are similar to their earlier relationships. They were! The problem was their current conflicts center around the same issues and the same conflict resolution patterns. Like so many others, this couple has failed to learn from their previous mistakes. Someone once said that “insanity is doing everything the same way and expecting different results.” That seems to hold true in many failing relationships, including this one.

An article published by the American Psychology Association states,
“. . .40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce.

The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” article “Marriage and Divorce.”

The painful truth is that changing long-held attitudes and behavior practices take personal attitudinal and behavioral insight, commitment, hard work, and perseverance. You both must ask yourselves, what problem attitudes and behaviors do I bring to this marriage?

Remember what you said to me? “Please help us resolve conflicts in our marriage.” You should know that your problem is certainly solvable. But the question is, are the two of you willing to learn how to resolve conflict? More importantly, are you both willing to change your attitudes and behaviors enough to allow conflict resolution processes to work? I must warn you it will take you and your partner’s best effort. Long-held and practiced attitudes and behavior patterns are deeply engrained. And, as painful as it sounds, developing an effective conflict solving strategy in your marriage will likely not happen without those two problems being addressed and corrected.

Please understand that developing a healthier conflict resolution strategy means you must commit to the arduous task of avoiding destructive tendencies. You especially need to shed any tendency to practice ‘tit for tat’ behavior. It will be important that you individually commit to making the necessary changes regardless of what your partner does. If your marriage fails, you need to look back knowing that you personally worked hard to make the changes necessary to save your marriage. Too many couples play a tit for tat game. “You are not changing so why should I?” One of our earliest childhood complaints is wrapped up in this statement. “It’s not fair.” It’s not fair that I am working on this and my partner isn’t. Avoiding an emotional or actual divorce requires a best-effort by both of you.

Author Bio & Contact Information

My name is Richard Alberts and I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) located in Appleton, WI. I have a Masters Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from The University of Wisconsin-Stout. I am also a Clinical Fellow with The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

I have been practicing individual, marital, and other relationship counseling for over 40 years. I have professional training and life experiences that will help me connect with your experiences. Consider reaching out to me for an in-office session. Or, if you prefer to meet online, I’m also an online therapist at the Virtual Therapist Network.

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Benefits of Online Therapy

A while back there was a very funny television show starring Lisa Kudrow (ditzy Phoebe from Friends) called Web Therapy. It was an improvised show and Lisa played a therapist who treated her patients over the Internet. Hence the title of the show.

Well, back when the show was on, the idea of treating mental health patients via a webcam seemed ludicrous. And the show did a great job at poking fun of Lisa character and her wacky idea of web therapy.

Fast forward 12 years after the show’s debut, and web therapy is now a thing thanks to telehealth technology. Yes, psychotherapy appointments can be held between therapist and patient while one is in one building, state, or country and the other is somewhere else entirely.

Why was web therapy a joke 12 years ago but telehealth is now gaining in popularity? The shift is most likely due to the growing popularity of tech solutions among younger generations. There also something very attractive about the ease of telehealth; of not having to leave your house or office to get the help you need.

As younger generations have become accustomed to using apps to have food, beer and groceries delivered right to their door, they expect these same conveniences from their health providers. While it may take a few more years before telehealth becomes truly mainstream, indicators suggest that push is more than likely to happen.

Benefits of Telehealth

We have already discussed the most obvious benefit of telehealth to consumers, and that is ease. But what about the benefits to the therapists?

To start, telehealth means those people who would otherwise feel too uncomfortable seeking therapy in person will now be open to seeing a therapist privately. This means a therapist has a larger number of people to deliver their services to.

Also, since these services can be delivered from a home office, a therapist can easily reduce their practice operating costs and overhead expenses.

Many therapists are saying the adoption of telehealth should have come sooner, but support and guidance on telehealth are finally coming from the American Psychological Association (APA) and other psychological organizations.

Therapist Need to Get Ready for the Switch

You can’t expect a therapist who has been treating patients face-to-face for x number of years to suddenly do well sitting in front of their computer camera. There are some subtle but important differences in working with patients over electronic connections.

For instance, in person, when a therapist breaks eye contact with a patient to take down a few notes, there is still a connection there because they are still in the same physical space. But over the Internet, when a therapist looks away to take notes, it may seem to the patient that the client is distracted. Providers interested in offering telehealth services to their patients will have to keep things like this in mind and always assure they are paying attention.

No one is laughing any longer at the idea of web therapy. Instead, both consumers and therapists are embracing technology to bring about positive change and outcomes. I offeronline therapyfor clients as well as in-person sessions, please reach out to find out more about iftelehealth is right for you. I am licensed both in Colorado and North Carolina, which allows me to offer remote therapy in both of those states.


Pride is Destroying our Marriage!

I can still hear the tear-filled words on the other end of the phone, “Pride is Destroying our Marriage!” I can’t take it anymore!

When I heard this, I thought of the words of Solomon, the King of Israel: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)

Country music legend, Roger Miller even sung about it, “Pride is the chief cause and the decline the number of husband and wives.”

“Two broken hearts, lonely, looking like houses where nobody lives. Two people, each having so much pride inside, neither side forgives. The angry words spoken in haste such a waste of two lives. It’s my belief, pride is the chief cause and the decline in the number of husband and wives” (Roger Miller “Husband and Wives” 1966)

The deleterious effect of pride on marital success cannot be overstated. Our ego-driven pride brings out the worst in us.

This results in a paucity of healthy marital collaboration. Communication attempts quickly deteriorate into a monolog or a fight. You will likely fight or withdraw. It’s likely the one who withdraws will internalize their anger or frustration resulting in an emotionally weakened connection. This decline eventually deteriorates to the point where your words become prophetic and “pride is destroying our marriage” will prove to be the case.

How does destructive pride develop you ask? To be sure, not all pride is bad. Feeling proud because I got an “A” on the exam is not a problem but boastfully bragging about it is.

While there are many causes of boastful pride, a compensatory cover-up for low self-esteem is certainly key. These individuals have frequently been on the receiving end of an abundance of toxic shame. They have received a plethora of “not good enough” messages. This, combined with a generous ego strength, sets the person on the course of disproving their “not good enough self-talk. The result?

As you said, “Pride is destroying our marriage.”

So, what does this pride based behavior look like?

Here’s an incomplete list of ways pride rears its destructive ugly head:

  1. Pride insists on being right.
  2. Pride generates an unwillingness to own hurtful behavior.
  3. Pride and defensiveness are kissing cousins.
  4. Pride and opinionated people are joined at the hip.
  5. Prideful people find it hard to genuinely apologize.
  6. Prideful people hold on to anger.
  7. Prideful people demonstrate little need for forgiveness.
  8. Prideful people lecture or pontificate.
  9. Prideful people know it all

What’s it like to be in a relationship with such a person?

Think about how hurt you feel by being constantly invalidated? You will need to learn how to honestly share your thoughts, opinions, and feelings when discussing an issue. This will most likely produce some sort of negating comment or a “better way” statement. It’s also likely, to produce a well-reasoned explanation as to why it was an appropriate response. Remember, this “well-reasoned” explanation is just a sophisticated way of being defensive. If you remain incongruent you will become frustrated, angry, and withdraw even more. Developing a collaborative egalitarian relationship will not happen. You will either stay intimidated, stuck, and defeated or seek a way out. Pride is destroying your marriage but only if you let it.

I want to help you understand how to be congruent, but I want to issue this warning first. Be sure your congruent communication is not going to generate some kind of physical response. Protecting yourself is always a top priority. I am assuming that your relationship is physically safe.

First, you need to view every person as really two people or “selves.” There are four people in every two-person relationship. You have an inner self that is likely to be private or hidden, and a public self that everyone sees. Incongruent people are characterized by an inner or true self that is not saying what it’s thinking or feeling. Your public self, on the other hand, may look and act like everything is fine. Your partner may be obtuse and never realize that you’re seething inside. And, simply going along with an overbearing prideful person is not the answer. You need to learn how to have your inner person and your public person be on the “same page.” To do this, you will need to begin to take small courageous steps. There is no substitute for sharing your personal view of what happened, what you think about what happened, and how you feel about it all. Failure to be congruent over the long term will have significant consequences on your emotional and physical well-being, and it will contribute to an emotionally dying or dead marriage. Remember, couples tend to be emotionally divorced before they get divorced. When you become aware of and express how your thoughts, feelings, and desires affect your behavior, you are on your way to learning how to be congruent.

Pride is destroying your marriage. But, more importantly, unchallenged pride is destroying your
marriage. The sooner you begin to learn how to do this the healthier you will become. Confidence is a muscle. It will never get stronger if you never exercise it

Author Bio & Contact Information

My name is Richard Alberts and I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) located in Appleton, WI. I have a Masters Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from The University of Wisconsin-Stout. I am also a Clinical Fellow with The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

I have been practicing individual, marital, and other relationship counseling for over 40 years. I have professional training and life experiences that will help me connect with your experiences. Consider reaching out to me for an in-office session. Or, if you prefer to meet online, I’m also an online therapist at the Virtual Therapist Network.

What is the Florida Baker Act

This is the first article that links to my educational series about the Florida Baker Act Educational Series. In the series, I will provide information for navigating a Baker Act and advocating for yourself and/or on behalf of a family member or friend. The Florida Mental Health Act is also known as the Florida Baker Act.

In these videos, I will discuss:
Who, What, and How the Baker Act can be initiated,
The Discharge Process,
Patient Rights (VERY important),
Insight regarding the legal process,
as well as reveal some “secrets” and things to watch out for as the Baker Act process is becoming an increasing problem, especially where children are concerned.
Knowledge is Power!
Having a better understanding of the whole process decreases the chance of people (and their insurance companies) of being exploited.
#btgcoach #mentalhealthawareness #BakerAct

Why am I so stressed?

There has never been more help for people suffering from stress and anxiety. Today, we know how to help people with symptoms of stress and anxiety really effectively. Strangely enough, though, there has never been more stress about, and there have never been more stressed people!

For example, at any college counseling center (and among faculty, too) it is common place that anxiety and stress are soaring among students.U or RR -  Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

What about?!

Which seems strange to those of use born before 1990. This is the most prosperous society in the history of the world, and even in our lifetimes, we remember being much poorer as a society. My grandfather longed to go to college, and he had the brains to succeed, but there was no financial aid and he had to work for a living, so he didn’t go. Instead, he became an expert Continue reading

What is Christian Counseling?

There are as many theories of Christian Counseling as there are people who consider themselves to be Christian counselors, but here are some controversial points from one counselor’s point of view.Sri Lanka - Photo by Oliver Sjöström from Pexels

All counseling is spiritual, in a broad sense, because all human issues have meaning. And questions of meaning always lead to further questions of meaning. As humans, we cannot stop asking the questions until we get to one, final Answer To All the Questions (ATAQ!). Does ATAQ even exist? If it does, it must be God; and even if it doesn’t exist, you, as a human, cannot help wanting there to be ATAQ. Continue reading

When You’re No Longer Sexually Attracted to Your Partner or Spouse

Falling in love can be both exhilarating and intoxicating, it’s like free falling with no bottom in sight. New love, entering a committed relationship, or getting married to a person you perceive to be your perfect fit is one of the best feelings in the world. However, when intimacy diminishes, and we are no longer sexually attracted to our partner or spouse it can feel like a death.

Sex is essential for many reasons in any healthy, committed relationship. It is ultimately all about intimacy, the pleasure, and sexual expression. Understanding these benefits will help couples recognize that sex in their relationships will not only help themselves but help bond their relationship further and create a broader sense of intimacy in a loving relationship. Sex is important when it comes to any romantic relationship. Whether this is a long-term relationship or one that’s just starting, sex is an important thing to consider for your overall health.

Notably, there is much more to a healthy relationship than sex, developing and enhancing intimacy is a major factor in maintaining a healthy, long-term partnership, or marriage. Unfortunately, couples that have been in a relationship or married for a long period of time may experience challenges related to an inconsistent sex life, decreased/non-existent intimacy, or difficulty maintaining their couple bond. Although, changes in sexual frequency is a normal part of the evolution that occurs in a relationship, lack of sex and diminishing intimacy can lead to negative consequences for partners.

Partners that are sexually attracted to each other are more likely to have a regular and consistent sex life, are more committed to each other, have better communication, enhanced intimacy, and better relationship quality. However, when individuals are not sexually attracted to their partner or spouse intimacy is affected, communication diminishes, sex becomes a chore instead of bonding the couple, and frustration builds. Mounting frustration can interfere with a couples ability to stay connected, get to the root of their sexual issues, join to resolve their problems and  Partners that lack sexual connectedness and diminished intimacy are more likely to experience diminished relationship quality, have difficulty communicating with their partner, and are more likely to seek sexual connectedness outside of the relationship. Seeking sexual satisfaction and connectedness outside of one’s relationship often leads to additional relationship issues up to and including the end of a relationship or marriage. It is important that we understand why sex is important in a relationship, what sex brings to a relationship, how intimacy is strengthened by sexual connectedness, etc.  

Sex has several benefits in the context of a committed relationship or marriage, such as, it can improve the connection between you and your partner, decrease stress, and has been associated with a longer lifespan.

Benefits of a Healthy Sex life in the Context of a Committed Relationship or Marriage:

·       A healthy sexual enhances the bond between partners

·       Decreases stress and anxiety

·       Promotes better communication between partners

·       Partners with a healthier sex life have better outcomes for a longer life

·       When That Connection Builds Over Time, it Continually Strengthens the Relationship

·       Provides opportunities for better sleep

·       Improves overall happiness

·       Boosts self-esteem

Reasons Some People Are No Longer Sexually Attracted to Their Partner or Spouse Include:

·       Decrease in attention to hygiene or poor hygiene

·       Unrealistic expectations of what their sex life should include

·       Sex has become routine, it no longer contains excitement

·       Infidelity in the relationship

·       You are no longer “friends”

·       You have difficulty communicating

·       The trust is broken in the relationship

·       Significant changes in partner weight or other physical differences

If you find yourself no longer sexually attracted to your partner or spouse try reminding yourself why you fell in love with your partner or spouse, include more couple activities into your relationship (log walks together, snuggling up on the sofa, cooking a meal together, working out, communicating more, or sexual experimentation might help). Decreased or lack of sexual attractiveness does not have to be a deal breaker, you can fall in love again, enhance your relationship bond, and become sexually attracted to your partner again. However, you must be willing to commit both time and effort into strengthening your sexual relationship, rebuilding intimacy, and improving your communication.  

16 Signs You’re Married to a Narcissist

As a psychologist and marriage & family therapist, I have worked with many people diagnosed and undiagnosed that exhibited significant narcissistic characteristics. Narcissism falls under the category of personality disorder. The clinical name for those with pronounced symptoms of grandiosity is called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and other areas of their life.

People with NPD can present as arrogant, conceited, self-entitled, grandiose, boastful, etc. Those with narcissistic characteristics enjoy and indulge in being the center of attention, often dominating conversations, or steering the conversations back onto the topics perceived to be “more important” to the narcissist. Narcissists thrive in environments and relationships that appear to focus predominantly on them, fulfilling only their needs and interests.

A Narcissist Believes He/She is Truly Extraordinary

Narcissistic people have an inflated view of self, often erroneously believing no one can do things as well as they do, are as smart and clever as they are, or as engaging, etc. As mentioned previously, chronic narcissism is a personality disorder. Up to 30% of people who require mental health services have at least one personality disorder (PD) – characterized by abnormal and maladaptive inner experience and behavior. Personality disorders, also known as Axis II disorders, include obsessive-compulsive PD, avoidant PD, paranoid PD, narcissistic PD, and borderline PD, which can be very difficult and complicated to both identify and treat because its symptoms often overlap with other disorders. Personality disorders represent some of the most challenging and mysterious problems in the field of mental health.

Marriages and relationships can be a delicate balancing act for many couples as they try to juggle relationships, careers, and families. However, when you add a personality disorder and other mental health issues, relationship and marital issues can become further exacerbated.

16 Key Signs You May Be Married to or in a Relationship with a Narcissist

  1. Maintains feelings of entitlement
  2. Violates the persona boundaries of others
  3. Inflated view of self
  4. Conversation hoarder
  5. Charming or otherwise engaging
  6. Uses manipulation to get what they want even at the expense of others
  7. Often makes promises they do not keep
  8. Lacks true empathy
  9. Feigns concern or affection
  10. Overly concerned with both personal appearance and impressing others
  11. Embellishes stories or achievements
  12. Always giving advice even when they are not thoroughly versed on the topic of discussion
  13. Impatient
  14. Holds grudges
  15. It is never their fault, it is always someone else’s fault
  16. Manipulative or self-serving behaviors

Hard to Feel Loved or Safe in a Relationship with a Narcissist

Being in a relationship with someone who does not acknowledge or validate your needs can be very confusing. Narcissistic people often consistently ignore, dismiss, and explain away your feelings, wants, and needs, while complaining that you never do what he or she wants. It can also be very hard to feel safe, cared for, or even heard and considered in such a relationship. For partners married to or involved in a relationship with a narcissistic person, the pressure to live up to his or her “standards” and demands can be intense. Partners may feel under constant pressure to say and do just the right thing in just the right way to please her or him or just to keep the peace.

The pressure for perfection or to do the “right” things in the eye of one’s narcissistic partner can lead to feelings of depression, confusion, low self-esteem, anxiety, fear of making a mistake, low energy, and/or frustration, etc. Partners who base their self-esteem on the opinions of someone else are placing themselves in a very vulnerable proposition, but when you are married to a narcissist, it is devastating. A narcissist feels most secure when his/her partner looks really good but feels really needy and dependent. The narcissistic partner strives to keep their partner under wraps via constant criticism, impossible demands, withholding affection and love, insults, etc.

*This article originally appeared on

Parenting Tips: How to Handle Children with Anxiety

Parenting is tough enough without any additional stresses added to the mix. As a parent, you constantly worry about your child’s health and wellbeing. When you have a child that suffers from anxiety, it can add to your constant worry. You may find yourself feeling overwhelmed when having to deal with your child’s anxiety attacks. Aside from seeking therapy for children with anxiety, there are various ways you can handle the situation to ease the stress for both you and your child.

Signs of Anxiety

Perhaps you are unsure if your child suffers from anxiety. Fortunately, there are ways you can identify certain factors and behaviors. A child with anxiety will often display the following:

  • Tantrums, crying, clinging when separated from you (sign of separation anxiety)
  • Frequent worrying
  • Frequent or sudden onset of panic attacks
  • Constant complaints of a headache or stomachache
  • Overly shy
  • Avoids social interaction

If you notice your child displaying any of the behaviors mentioned above, it might indicate that your child suffers from anxiety. Fortunately, a knowledgeable child therapist such as myself can assist you in handling children with anxiety.

Managing Anxiety

Knowing how to help your child manage anxiety can make all the difference in the world. Do not seek to eliminate anxiety or you will become far too stressed. There is no way to remove everything that triggers your child’s anxiety completely. Therefore, your goal should focus on assisting your child with managing anxiety.

First, do not go out of your way to avoid situations or events that trigger your child’s anxiety. Although you will provide your child with immediate relief, all you are doing is solidifying the fact that your child has a reason to feel anxious. By protecting your child from situations that could trigger feelings of anxiety, you are allowing the cycle to continue.

Encourage your child in a positive, but realistic way. For instance, maybe your child suffers from test anxiety. Perhaps your child feels anxious right before facing the pressure of a test. Rather than leaving your child home from school to avoid the test and the anxiety, offer encouragement. Make sure you remain realistic. Do not promise your child a passing grade just to ease anxiety. Instead, encourage them to give it their best and let them know that it is okay to fail so long as they try.

Another way to assist your child in managing anxiety is to seek the help of a therapist. As a therapist, I see a lot of parents dealing with children with anxiety and I understand it is often stressful and frustrating. I work closely with the parents to help them cope with their child’s anxiety. I also work with the child to find ways to overcome triggers or fears that can lead to anxiety. Therapy can often prove quite useful for both parents and children in situations like this one.

Therapy for Anxiety

Children with anxiety want to lead normal lives like any other child. For that reason, I encourage you to get in touch with me. My therapy services provide you and your child a way to communicate your feelings and frustrations effectively. My goal is to ensure you and your child gain the benefit of learning how to handle anxiety in a way that is both healthy and productive.

If you have any questions about my services or you would like to learn more about the ways therapy can help you manage your child with anxiety, feel free to contact me at your convenience.