Struggling to Find Connection

Making connections through family therapy

We can’t find the ultimate causes for the ‘wrong’ things we do or say. We can try to understand the many experiences that lead us to do those things that we avoid doing when we are operating more closely to our true self. Often we focus on the stresses of the here and now. These are the obvious factors/people and we don’t consider enough, the less conscious, internalized motivations from our developmental years.

In my therapeutic experience I encounter clients who have learned, from their childhood, to get on with it; take care of the other person all the time; not show any weak/vulnerable feelings; always work hard and not play; that not winning is not acceptable; that you only get attention if you are emotionally loud; that you are more acceptable when you smile/laugh; etc. These people end up struggling for connection with that person they did once connect with, in courtship. The initial attraction for a long term committed relationship, felt like total acceptance and connection. When we have that experience our defenses are lowered and we open and connect. The world seems different. However, as the relationship matures we realize difference and experience some conflicts that can lead to the resurrection of the defenses and the reduction of connection.

The lack of this connection, which most humans desperately seek and desire, leads to behaviors that further hurt their relationship. If we are not mindful of the damages to our ‘selves’ from the past and it’s motivations to our habitual actions of the present, then we act unconsciously. We ask ourselves, ‘How could I do/say that?’. With these unconscious/habitual actions we feel more misunderstood, alone and disconnected.

Good therapy helps to develop more congruence between who we are and what we do and so we are more able to connect. This is especially true in Couples and Family Therapy where the dynamic can be observed and assisted in live time. Changes are observable/measureable.

Tony Fryer

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Unlocking the Potential in Blended Families

Blended families
I prefer to think of it as a…

Stew-Pot Family

Marriage has tremendous potential for many good things! Also, marriage and raising children has many challenges. It’s not easy to create all your heart desires as a spouse and parent.

Having said that, I would say that those who marry and try to form a Blended Family, will find that there is even more potential for challenge. Even the term Blended can conjure up the wrong idea. Too often we think that all of us should be the same and just like any other family, where the children have all experienced each other from birth and there are no ‘other parents’ involved. The Blended Family is not worse or better, just different.

I’m just going to list a couple of things that are good to keep in mind:

  • Even if an ex-spouse is acting in a problematic way, the other parent needs to try provide stability and comfort to the children. Take personal responsibility. Both parents being problematic make things worse. Do not bad mouth other parent.
  • Some people think it is best to tell the children ‘The Truth’ about why the marriage ended. I would suggest that parents don’t always tell their kids the truth about their relationship issues, especially when the children are young. It is good to ask yourself, ‘how will this information be good for my child and what pains might it cause them?’ The truth is also very subjective.
  • If we have ‘Your, Mine and Our Children’ then it is important to accept that each of those relationships will have differences. It is good to be fair and loving and yet the context for each relationship and the history will differ. No child should be made to feel second class or less than and yet there is difference. Over time the step-child relationship can become stronger. A lot will depend on the age of the children. The child will often have fears that they will be seen as disloyal by their absent parent, if they get too close to the Step-Parent. They need to be assured that no one can ever replace the biological parent relationship.
  • Divorce is a transition that brings change. Children need to be helped to move through that change well. Divorce will be hard for the children to understand and deal with but the parents and step-parents behavior is what can make the transition and life of the child tougher to cope with.
  • When the children are moving between houses the adults involved should do all in their power to make the movement as hassle free as possible. Try to make the time hopeful for the kids. Be careful about your language and body language when the change is occurring. When the children are with you then try to listen to them carefully and allow them to share positive things with you about the other parent. Try to help them with all practical matters in the movement between homes.
  • There should be good structures of communication set up between both parent’s homes. Never use the children to deliver messages to the absent parent. Try to set up healthy means of communication. Kids still need to feel a solid parenting relationship. Remember, you divorced as a husband and wife but not from parenting the children. The evening before a change of house is a good time to communicate about the children. Depending on your relationship with your ex-spouse, this can be telephone, personal, text, etc. You might find it useful to have an agreed list of topics to share.
  • Step-PARENTS are involved in parenting. I would suggest that they assist the biological parent and try not to become the main disciplinarian. This will depend on the age of the children and the relationship with the ex-spouse. Even if all the adults involved have a good relationship I would suggest it is better to let the biological parent be the main disciplinarian.

The above statements are generic and not meant to apply to every situation. It is good to find an experienced Marriage and Family Therapist to assist the family when issues don’t seem to get resolved. It can also be useful to be proactive when you are remarrying with children.

Tony Fryer

Perception is not the Whole Truth!

The way I see things‘, is a good way to talk about my viewpoint. Too often we tend to think that we have the whole truth.

I find that I need to help clients accept that their perception is understandable and yet it usually is not the truth about another person or situation. It is the ‘way’ they see. Often when people are in the middle of an experience they find it very hard to realize that their perception is very limited. We tell teenagers this, when they feel so sure about how they see things, but we don’t often enough, question our own feelings and views. It’s always useful to try step back, pause, reflect, take another’s opinion into account.

Perception in marriage and family counseling

The mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain! Is a very useful phrase to keep in mind. When we have problems we are like the climber who is limited due to his/her proximity to the mountain. Good therapy is one way to expand our view. We need to talk about how we see things and feel about things and we also need to keep ourselves open to different observations.

I have experienced people traumatized by events in their lives and struggling to believe that their view of life and experiences will change. It could be death, illness, extreme conflict with family, an affair, divorce, or one of the other many things that happen in life. At those times I have witnessed how perception can get fixed and stress and pain continue or increase. As people start to work through these experiences in therapy their perceptions are modified and their behaviors too. It’s often hard to estimate how long it will take but when it does begin to occur the change alleviates some of the suffering and stress. The initial problem has not been altered but the perception has. Truth is rarely, if ever, a given but is an evolving thing or process. In that sense, the truth can set us free.

Tony Fryer

The Child Within!

Tony Fryer, MFT can help heal emotional damages experienced in childhood

Some of the Pop Psychology literature that abounds in our modern world irritates me. One of the terms that is too often bandied around is ‘The Inner Child’ and yet it is my experience that the child within us needs to be seen and healed. The damage done to our development in childhood is very real and often leads to pain in our relationships and marriages. Some book writers will spend forever on the subject and act as though there is some magical cure to deal with this pain. Some other writers will suggest that we need to ignore this pain and move on. I would say it is of great help to look at the pain and try understand its possible impacts on our present life so that we can better move on.

What is the message you got from the eyes of your primary care givers? What did you come to accept as your role in life? Do you often sense there is more to you than others seem to realize? I’m thinking of a client who found it hard to be vulnerable with her husband because her parents constantly attacked her; A woman who finds her sexuality suffocated because she was always expected to be the ‘good girl’; A couple who cannot come to resolution of their differences because they idolized their parents non-conflict relationship; A woman who had an affair because she had always been encouraged to keep her feelings to herself. Where did you learn how to express intimacy? Do you ever blow up or shut down and do you still tend to say the other person ‘made’ you?

It is good for us, in relationship or marriage, if we can start to explain that some of our problems with the other person have a lot to do with our childhood experiences. We will then be more inclined to take responsibility for our emotions and actions. The over-reaction to our partner can then be seen as coming from experiences in our family of origin that accentuate our feelings in the present. Our awareness will not necessarily stop the behavior but will reduce the frequency or intensity of the problematic action. We can learn to better deal with our emotions, rather than letting our emotions take us to places we’d rather not go.

For more information about getting healing from damage done during childhood, please visit tonyfryer.com.

Tony Fryer

Infidelity in Marriage

Tony Fryer, MFT can help counsel families through infidelity in marriage

“Why did you do it? How could you do this to me and the kids? What were you thinking? Do you love me? Can I ever trust you again? Was our relationship a lie?”

I have listened to so many couples coming for marriage advice and relationship counseling after infidelity and the questions are many. No couple is ever the same as another and yet there are some similar situations around the experience of infidelity in marriage. Often we are lead to believe that it is only bad people who have affairs and yet I can say that my experience has been quite the contrary. I think most people can accept that the action of having an affair is bad, as it violates the bonds and contract of marriage.

Marriage is a relationship with huge expectations and when the expectation of fidelity is broken the pain is immense. Many people will decide to divorce and others will move on with the marriage and never really deal with or try to understand the trauma that has occurred. Most of my work has been with couples who want to try to understand what has happened, forgive and see if they can find a way to save their relationship. These are the couples that I am talking about here. They usually come in with very intense emotions and wonder if they can turn things around. Often the person who had the affair is guilt-ridden and wants to leave the whole thing behind and move on. They can be frustrated that their partner is unable to do likewise. The partner is often deeply wounded and angry and unsure whether they can ever again trust their spouse. They doubt every aspect of the relationship and the affair seems to block out or call into question any positive relationship attributes.

As time moves on I find that the vast bulk of couples come to understand their life and relationship differently. I see them leave with a relationship that is more communicative than it has ever been. They don’t forget, nor should they. They learn more about what they want from a relationship. The person who had the affair accepts full responsibility for the terrible choice they made, that could have destroyed the marriage they want. The couple both put more effort into how they relate and develop more openness with their feelings, needs and desires. My experience has been that this couple ends up with a relationship that, ironically, is deeper than it has ever been.

Traumas are never desirable (including an affair) but when they are worked through healthily, can often immensely increase our understanding. It requires both partners being prepared to work hard in couples therapy.

Tony Fryer

Getting the Love You Want

Cincinnati marriage and family therapy by Tony Fryer

Isn’t this what most humans need? Why is it so elusive, and what can we do to be more successful in achieving the love we want?

In this past week I have been struck by the strong desire that we have to really connect, to love and be loved. I hear and see clients struggling to understand why their lovers just don’t seem to ‘get it’. That love relationship carries so many strong expectations and when they are not met, or are violated, the resulting emotions can be immense.

Most of the people I work with are ‘normal’ and good. Maybe these are the types who seek out counseling and are prepared to do the work necessary to try bring about change. These are the people I am reflecting on and about. They want the relationship to work and are frustrated that it is not providing the love they need. There are no easy answers, although some ‘Doctors’ in our media try to tell us there are. The love relationship is complex and needs continual work if it is to stay alive and grow healthier. I would just like to make a couple of observations from the week past that might help you to think some more and get more of what you want:

  • Be true with what you feel and careful about how you word it. Try removing blame.
  • Prioritize your marriage and don’t allow your other relationships to take precedence.
  • Realize that you brought perceptions from your Family of Origin that you will judge your partner with. So your perception, of him/her, is not the absolute truth.
  • You need to learn a new way to make your needs known if you have not been successful in getting them met.
  • Being ‘too kind’ can often lead to problems in your relationship.
  • If you don’t look after your feelings, in relationship, they will often motivate you to do things that are not for the good of you or the relationship.
  • What is reality/the truth?? Don’t be so sure that it is what you think. There are many ways to get a more objective view and one way is going to see a good Marriage and Family Therapist.
  • Read my other reflections and learn more about me at www.tonyfryer.com

Tony Fryer

Marriage and Relationship Advice

I’d like to invite any viewer to come look at my web site, www.tonyfryer.com, to read some articles that I have written on some marriage issues. The site also gives other information about me and the work that I do. Feel free to ask questions for further clarification.

Tony Fryer