Research shows that 67% of couples report lower marital satisfaction after kids. Generally marital satisfaction will stay at the same reduced level until the children turn 4 years-old. As a Psychologist and new mom of twin boys, here is what I have learned so far on how to stay happy and in love.
- Have a scheduled date night. Keep things interesting by taking turns choosing the date. Some of my favourite date ideas include: Trying a new restaurant, a double date with friends, comedy show, cooking class and wine tasting. It takes extra effort to plan since raising new babies is exhausting however it’s quality time to look forward to in the midst of the chaos.
- Invest in your relationship. Don’t get caught up in over-thinking the expenses of a date night or hiring a babysitter. It will be worth the investment. You can also find cheaper alternatives such as ice-skating and hikes. If you’re investing all your time into your baby and expecting your relationship to be fine it’s highly likely you will be disappointed.
- Be affectionate. When we touch our partner we release the biochemicals endorphins and oxytocin. These are feel-good chemicals that can help us feel close and attached to our partner. I have even had client’s tell me that if they cuddle before bed they find that they sleep better. I commonly hear from new moms that they cuddle so much with their new baby that they find they cuddle less with their partner. Knowing this, try your best to be affectionate with your partner, even during the busy day. It can be simple things, like greeting them at the door with a quick hug, a hug and kiss before bed and in the morning. These small things will sustain the relationship.
- Cherish these moments as a family. Enjoy this precious time. With your growing baby. Try your best to be present to this little miracle and how they develop and learn everyday. Watch them with wonderment. It is truly a beautiful time to be present to their little personalities unfolding. Do this with your partner, you are creating life long memories.
- See a Therapist.. Having a baby is such a life-changing event and can be a difficult transition for both your life and your relationship. Seeing a therapist, even when your relationship is good, can help you sustain what good you have and learn tools to make it even better. Often couples come into my office when their relationship is already in crisis. Instead try to see a therapist early and be preventative.
Life can be hectic and when you add a baby or two to the mix it can feel overwhelming. To avoid reaching the point of a relationship breakdown be sure you are scheduling time out with your partner and reconnecting everyday as often as you can. Most importantly, cherish the time with your baby together since before you know it they’ll be all grown up!
A recent study by the University of Toronto revealed that 2 in 5 (almost 40%) formerly depressed adults are happy and achieve complete mental health. This research provides a hopeful message on Mental Illness Awareness Week. These adults reported that they are happy almost everyday and report good life satisfaction. The study found that the following 3 factors were common in those who overcame depression.
- The importance of sleep. How much sleep are you getting? It’s worth talking to your doctor if you feel you aren’t getting enough or aren’t waking up rested. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep study to rule out a sleep disorder. The good news is sleep disorders can be treated. You can also try smaller changes like going to bed at the same time every night and having a calming bedtime routine. Click here for more sleep tips.
- Social support. Having even one good friend to talk to can make a big difference in overcoming depression. If you’ve been feeling down for some time, ask yourself when the last time was that you spoke to your good friend. If you don’t have any good friends at this time you might want to try reaching out to a coworker or even use social media to catch up with an old friend. Feeling depressed makes it really hard to get motivated, especially as we approach the winter months. Just feeling supported by one person can help you feel less alone. There are also depression support groups you can join to meet new people.
- Good Physical health. People with good physical health are more likely to overcome depression. This means going to the doctor when you notice aches and pains or even going to the dentist when you need to. Use your work benefits as much as you can. Exercise and diet is another key factor in good physical health. It can be hard to change these habits overnight but start with something small like going from a large to a small can make a big difference in how you feel.
It’s important to remember that these are all things that are within your control. When depression hits it can be easy to fall into feeling hopeless and helpless. Try to remember that 40% of formerly depressed people get better.
Moving in together is a significant step in your relationship. It is definitely an exciting time for you both. You will learn a lot more about each other, some good and some bad. Here are things to keep in mind when moving in together.
- Make quality time for each other. When you move in it’s possible that your routines may clash leaving little time together. It’s important to make your partner a priority. This may look like waiting an hour longer before eating so you can eat together or one partner going to the gym before work instead of afterwards. The important difference here is you’re making quality time together as opposed to just passing each other in between your routines.
- Take time to be alone. This is just as important as making quality time together. Taking time for yourself is very important as a way to reboot your system. It allows you time to think through things and clear your mind. Different people need a different amount of alone time so be sure to check in with yourself and communicate this to your partner.
- Communication is key. Communication is always a really important part of any relationship. Once you move in together it’s more important than ever to communicate your needs and frustrations. This includes how clean you like to keep things, how late it’s okay to be making loud noise and what eating and sleeping habits you keep. If you aren’t communicating these things but just expect your partner to do them you are setting yourself up for future resentment.
- Have realistic expectations. Moving in and sharing your space can be a difficult transition. In the beginning it will take some time to adjust. This is normal. It’s likely you will find yourself arguing over little things. During these moments be sure to keep this in mind. It takes time but soon you will both find your rhythm. Also remember that arguing in a relationship is perfectly normal, what matters is how you argue.
Moving in together is a big step for any relationship. It’s an exciting time where you get to know even more about this person you love so much. There will be some frustrating parts in learning each others preferences and routine but with good communication this can be the start of a great adventure!
I had a client ask me recently about the old adage “opposites attract.” She told me that she is in a relationship and it’s so much work because they are both so different. She expressed that she thought the relationship should be able to work because everyone always says that opposites attract. The truth is that opposites do attract… sometimes. In order for opposites to attract and successfully work it’s important that the opposites in question be complimentary.
As an example of opposites attracting but not being complimentary think of vacation destinations. If you’re adventurous but your partner is more laidback, you may want to backpack through Europe while your partner wants to go to an all-inclusive resort in Turks and Caicos. Another example is if you prefer to budget your money and save up for bigger expenses but your partner wants to splurge on things whenever they can: This can lead to fights. It could also be as simple as you like to go out several nights a week and try new restaurants but your partner likes to stay in and make dinner. These opposites will all result in some clashing in your relationship.
However there are opposites that do attract and do so successfully. For example if you tend to be a more serious person and you meet someone who is more of a jokester who brings out your playful, goofy side that would be good thing! Or if you’re super organized and your partner is more go with the flow then you can be the who pays the bills but you don’t mind because you know you’re better at it and you may even like doing these detailed tasks. It could even be as simple as you hate to cook but your partner loves being in the kitchen.
So next time you are on a date and you find this person in front of you who is so different from who you, ask yourself if this person’s opposite is complimentary to you and your lifestyle or if your differences will likely lead to stress.
This week’s blog is targeted specifically towards men going through a break up. Whether it’s the dissolution of a relationship or a marriage it’s always tough. Most women in these situations are heartbroken but may still hold a glimmer of hope in their heart for you. In these cases, women still want to be fought for. To show her she is worth the fight, follow these steps.
- Tell her you’re sorry and tell her that you’ll do whatever it takes to get her back. Give her a specific list of all the things you are willing to do such as going to individual or couples counselling or reading self-help books. This will show her that you have put some thought into your plan. She will feel special as a result.
- Share with her what you have learned from this break up and why you think the break up happened. Then reflect on and tell her how it will be different when you get back together. From her perspective she may be afraid to get back in a relationship with you because she thinks that the exact same thing will happen again. You have to show her that you are willing to change and not repeat the same behaviour.
- Show empathy. Tell her that you understand that she must have felt so betrayed, hurt or lonely in the relationship. Tell her that you understand she doesn’t trust that you will actually change. Explain to her that you will be taking baby steps in the right direction and ask her to trust the possibility that you will change and that trust will grow.
- Give her the time that she needs to heal. If she tells you that she needs space to heal, it’s very important to give it to her. By continuing to call her and text her you are making it about yourself and your anxiety. She expressed her need for space and by reaching out to her you are actually disrespecting this expressed need and her stated boundaries. No matter how sweet the gesture is – if it’s a love letter or flowers – it’s still showing her that you are putting your own needs above hers.
The most important thing is the follow through. If you are saying all of these things, make sure you mean it and are committed to taking action. While she takes the time to heal be sure you are working on yourself in the meantime and working on growing and making positive changes in your life.
While I was pregnant with twins I noticed that I had started clenching my jaw a lot and especially at night. I would go throughout my day and feel happy leading my busy life but when I went to bed my stress seemed to come out and that’s when I would catch myself clenching and grinding my teeth.
The truth is that I knew what I needed to do in order to not clench my jaw at night. Drinking hot tea, taking magnesium before bed, meditating and doing yoga daily and even taking a warm bath are all ways that could help me relax and unwind. This got me thinking and I realized that really everyone knows what helps them unwind and relax, but often are not applying all of these things in their lives.
Take a moment now to list a few things that you love to do, that make you happy. Why aren’t you doing more of these? What stops you? Do you tell yourself that you are too busy? Too tired? When it comes to making larger change in our lives, such as leaving that dead-end job to start a business, or ending that toxic relationship, it is usually fear that stops us. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? How would your life be different if you trusted that everything would work out for you? Would your choices be different?
Starting with small change first can help you build confidence. Starting in the morning, do that thing that you love. Take time to go for a walk, play your favourite music. Slow down enough to take some deep breaths before the whirlwind of the day starts.
Fuel your soul first. Make your happiness a priority first. It’s not selfish but self-care to take time for you. You will actually be a better parent, employee and friend if you start putting your happiness at the top of your list.
Being pregnant with twins (and having a c-section in 4 days!) there are a lot of thoughts running through my mind. I keep having conversations with friends and family about how much more work two babies are compared to just one. I am mentally preparing for it to be hard, especially at the beginning. With two babies my husband and I will be an equal number of parents and children right away and we will be unable to “trade them off” to one another so one of us can get a break, clean up, or even prepare a sandwich. In addition, the sleep deprivation and our needs not mattering as much anymore as we attend to two little people, will all be a big adjustment.
Thinking about this also got me reflecting on my past and everything “hard” I had gone through. I reminded myself that I’ve overcome a lot and gotten through some really tough times. I thought to myself “If I persevered through hard times before, won’t I be able to do this? This is gonna be hard…but I’ve done hard, and came out the other side.” This thought was followed by a sense of confidence and trust that everything always works out. There was now room to enjoy this big life transition called new mom… of two.
I noticed that when I’m feeling nervous I start to see myself as small. The reality is that I’m not small and in fact I’ve proven my strength on many occasions in the past. Here is what I want you to do the next time you start to feel the same. As soon as you start to feel anxious think of all the things you have overcome in the past. Look for your strengths. You will begin to realize how strong you actually are. Sometimes it just takes slowing down for a minute to remember.
I also want you to make a list of the resources available to you, as a new mom. This could be a list of friends, family, community services, or books you want to read. Be specific and write them down. Then write down a list of your own strengths such as hardworking, resilient, resourceful or positive.
Keep in mind that it’s normal to be nervous since this is new territory for you. Keep the list on your phone or somewhere easy for you to access when you need it. This way any time you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious you can review the list and remember all that you’ve done and all that you have available to you.
When your job is stressful it can be easy to spend your entire Sunday worrying about what you have to do on Monday. Some people have a hard time sleeping on Sunday night, and some spend their entire Sunday dreading the upcoming work week.
Try these 6 ways to stop worrying about Mondays:
- Remind yourself that what you are dreading is not actually here yet. Notice if what you are worrying about is in your control or not. If it is not something you can control, try your best to let it go. Focus instead on things that you can control, such as taking care of yourself before the work-week begins. Relish in your weekend, go to bed early, and take time to relax so you are fuelled up for the week ahead.
- Next think back to past Mondays and try to recall a Monday that wasn’t as bad as you expected it to be. Oftentimes we think that the start of the workweek will be stressful but the truth is most of what we worried about will either not happen or happen much more smoothly than you had anticipated.
- Try catching yourself when you’re worrying about Monday. When you’re worrying about work you’re giving yourself a false sense of control that you will somehow be more prepared for it. However, worrying only robs you of enjoying the moment.
- If you really cannot stop thinking about work, take 20 minutes out of your day and write down everything that is worrying you in a journal. When you are done writing it down close your journal and go enjoy your day.
- If nothing else works then try to distract yourself. Instead of sitting and watching TV, where your mind can still wander, go out and meet someone for lunch or even go shopping. You will notice once you change your environment it will be easier to think of other things, other than work.
- Become more aware of your body and your anxiousness. Try to notice where in your body you hold your stress: Is your chest tight? Is your stomach in knots? Next time you feel stress in that part of your body, take a deep breath and try to change your focus on something else.
There will be many upcoming Mondays in life, I hope these tools help you trust that whatever comes your way, you will be able to handle it.
You may have close friends who are divorced. The current divorce rate is about 50%. Some
of my female clients have told me over the years that on their wedding day they had a gut feeling that he wasn’t the one. Often what these women say is that either they thought he would change once they were married, or they had already invested so much into the relationship and didn’t want to be judged by friends and family. I also often hear that she knew he was bad news but thought she could save him, in some way. Can you relate to any of these?
Oftentimes our intuition may be screaming at us to not do something but our thoughts and fears tell us to do it anyways. It takes a lot of practice to learn to listen to our gut and often takes making mistakes before we realize the intuitive nudges.
You may find that you’re with a man who doesn’t treat you right and isn’t the best partner but you feel like you’ll be able to help him be better. He may even tell you that he’s bad news and that he’s hurt women before you.
I believe that we attract people to us who match our view of ourselves. If there is a part of you that feels that you are worthless, you will likely find that you attract people to you that treat you that way. I have noticed some people, deep down, don’t feel that they are good enough so they subconsciously seek out partners who are dysfunctional.
There are a few things you can do to break this cycle. I suggest seeking counselling to really get to the root of this behaviour and avoid falling into the same pattern again. If you aren’t able to afford counselling right now, try journaling your thoughts and behaviours in your relationships. Take the time to notice patterns in your love life and how you could break them. You can also try talking to close friends. Speak to someone who will be honest with you and will point out patterns you may not have noticed yourself. They could even help point out red flags at the beginning of a new relationship. Change takes time, be patient with yourself. The love you deserve is coming your way. Trust the process.
I’ve noticed recently that so many of our conversations with friends, coworkers and even our partners are centered around what we need to do in the future. Even at the end of the day when you’re talking to your spouse you’re reminding each other of your to-do list. The dinner party you have planned, the laundry you have to do, the cleaning you want to get done this weekend, and on and on.
We also do it with ourselves while we drive home after a long work day – we go over in our heads the endless tasks we have to do. Instead, try to live in the fleeting moment more. Let go of fear and anxiety that everything won’t get done. It will. Next time you think of a “to do” be sure to write it down and then let it go.
Challenge yourself; with practice it gets easier. By worrying about what you need to do you are robbing yourself of this moment and filling moments of your life with clutter. Research has shown that only living in the moment can bring you true happiness. Start with a deep inhale and an even deeper exhale. Look around the room, see what you see and hear what you hear. Feel your feet on the floor. Welcome to the moment!
Let your partner know that you are doing this challenge and have them do it with you. This way you can hold each other accountable. After a few days, notice how you feel. You’re likely to feel more grounded, feel more at peace and even be more playful in your life.