Dr. Steven Lazarus is a psychologist in Littleton, CO. He specializes in helping couples in premarital counseling, relationship counseling, and marriage counseling. This blog is dedicated to providing couples with resources to have healthy relationships.

About half of marriages end in divorce, which should be keeping couple’s counselors in Highlands Ranch busier than ever. But a surprising number of people don’t bother with this step, or wonder if it can help at all. Should you work with a couple’s therapist before officially separating or divorcing your partner? Keep reading to see why professional marital or couple’s counseling can benefit your family in most situations.

Couple’s Therapy Before Deciding to Divorce

If you and your partner aren’t seeing eye to eye, or if the same issues keep arising, you may benefit from working with a couple’s therapist. This is especially true if one or both partners aren’t sure what to do—have you looked at your partner and wondered “Should we get a divorce? Would I be happier separating from my partner? Would it be better for the kids if we split up?” When you have these questions, starting with marital therapy is a good idea. This helps both partners to communicate their needs and feelings, solve problems, and determine if they really want to separate, or if they just need tools to make their relationship work better.

If We’ve Decided to Separate, Why Should We Work With A Couples or Family Therapist

For some couples, the decision to separate has already been made. So why bother with a couples or family therapist? For those without children, working with a therapist through your divorce can help you to process your own feelings, understand your partner, and make the process more smooth. Some people stay amicable after divorce, especially when there are shared family and friends. For those with young children living at home, working with a family therapist is even more important. While you may not be “together” any longer, you’re stuck as co-parents—at least until your child is 18, but more likely, throughout their life. Set the stage now for cooperative parent-teacher conferences, friendly graduation parties, and one day, happy family gatherings with the next generation. A psychologist in Highlands Ranch can help you navigate these multiple roles with divorce recovery therapy.

Are There Any Times When We Should Skip Therapy Before Divorce?

Like most things in life, there are exceptions to every rule. Some relationships cannot and should not be saved—if you and your partner are abusive to one another or your shared children, it is of utmost importance for everyone to stay safe. Prolonging the separation or hoping for a “miracle” is not the role of marital therapy. Likewise, if one person has effectively “left” the relationship already, such as with repeated infidelity, destructive substance abuse, or physical distance (i.e., moving out of state), it is often better for parties to separate and focus on their mental health. Finally, if you and your partner get along well, communicate effectively, and have a plan for the future and shared children, but just really don’t want to be married, you can likely handle the separation on your own. However, if you need help throughout the process, keep in mind that skilled professionals are available.

Don’t make divorce or separation harder than it has to be—work with an experienced couple’s therapist in Highlands Ranch to improve your marriage, understand each other’s needs, or plan for a successful divorce.


Do other people stomp all over your boundaries? Couples therapists in Highlands Ranch help lots of couples and individuals in their relationships, and the issue of “setting boundaries” comes up frequently. Are you setting boundaries effectively? Here’s a hint: they need to start on your side. Keep reading to see how to set—and maintain—the best boundaries.

Psychologists in Highlands Ranch Advise: Boundaries Go Both Ways

When you close your curtains, you are setting a boundary. The neighbors can no longer peek in, and the sunlight no longer makes that annoying glare on the TV screen. But there is another boundary as well—you can no longer peek out, and you might miss the beautiful sunset if you don’t pay attention. Relationship boundaries work the same way, and also involve some give and take. Many people find that they “can’t keep boundaries” because they don’t like those downsides! When considering your personal boundaries, don’t forget to think about the drawbacks. For example, if you set a boundary that you just want to be left alone and never interrupted in the shower, you may miss spontaneous, romantic advances that you used to enjoy.

Couple’s Counselors in Highlands Ranch Help You Identify Your Need for Boundaries

Do you ever feel taken advantage of, walked all over, unheard, or just so annoyed at everyone around you for reasons you can’t quite understand? Often, these are signs that you are not setting or enforcing boundaries correctly. For example, if you find yourself frustrated that your partner is constantly unloading work stress on you, but never seems to listen to your work rants, you may need to set a boundary around this interaction—something as simple as realizing “I need as much time to vent about my job as you do.” You need to have self-awareness to set boundaries so you know what’s really bothering you and how to make it stop.

Clear Communication Predicts Effective Boundaries

Once you’ve worked with a therapist in Highlands Ranch to identify the boundaries you’d like to set, it’s time to bring them to life and share them with your partner. How you communicate these needs is just as important as setting them! Ideally, you communicate your boundaries in advance, when everyone is calm and in a good mood. Shouting “get out of my bathroom now!” or “stop talking about your miserable job right now!” isn’t going to get you very far—in fact, that will likely cause more conflict. Instead, find a calm, quiet place, and use the classic “I feel” statements to help your partner understand your needs.

Finally, keep in mind that boundaries can change from person to person, from situation to situation, and as you and your partner age, mature, and change. If you need help identifying, maintaining, or communicating boundaries in your relationship, call a couple’s counselor in Highlands Ranch for help!

What problem is so common that up to a third of couples cite it as a stressor on their relationship? Couples therapists in Littleton know that financial disputes and money management can destroy marriages. Here’s how to avoid this potential destroyer of your relationship!

Clear Communication Is A Must

One of the most common goals for couples who visit a therapist in Littleton for couples therapy is to learn how to communicate better or more effectively. This is especially true when planning or managing finances—and even more so when the finances are tight! From the moment you take your relationship to a serious level, you should be open about your expectations and goals with regard to finances. Do you and your partner share everything, or do you keep separate accounts, plus one for shared expenses? Is one person happy to turn over financial planning to the other, who manages it with finesse? What’s most important to both of you, and each of you? Communicating about these needs in advance can help you avoid conflict later down the line.

When Finances Become a Metaphor

For many couples, financial challenges are a metaphor for underlying issues in the relationship. Are you really angry that your spouse spent all the household funds on a new car… or are you more angry that your spouse is out driving that car all the time instead of spending time with the family? Unmet needs, family history, and past financial mishaps can make even “simple” financial decisions seem loaded. By discussing and understanding your motivations, you can figure out if it’s really the money that’s bothering you, or if there is something more underneath.

Don’t Wait to Call A Couples Therapist in Littleton

If you and your partner are having frequent disputes about finances, cannot see eye to eye on spending, or are starting to “stash away” funds for other purposes, you may benefit from working with a couple’s therapist in Littleton. Your accountant can advise on things like spending limits and budgeting, but your therapist can help you figure out how to balance both people’s priorities, needs, and wants, and facilitate helpful conversation about these difficult topics.

Most couples wait way too long to see a couple’s therapist. If you want a strong return on investment, choosing to invest wisely in your relationship is a good start. Scheduling couples therapy in Littleton could be your first step to a stronger relationship, including handling financial disagreements in a way that works for everyone.



More and more psychologists in Littleton are getting calls from clients who want help with their “narcissist,” “toxic,” or “gaslighting” partner. These are just a sample of the terms that are being tossed around in-office and online, and not all of them are very accurate. Keep reading to see how today’s online discourse makes these words commonplace and why they can be hurtful!

Only Psychologists Should Diagnose Personality Disorders

Many people throw around descriptive names for behaviors that sound an awful lot like personality disorders. Narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder are all serious, lifelong mental health conditions that should be left to the best psychiatrists and psychologists in Littleton. That’s why your couple’s therapist may ask “Who diagnosed this?” Remember, just because someone you love shows negative patterns of behavior, or even symptoms of mental health disorders, they may not fully meet criteria. Making these technical terms mainstream does a disservice to those living with these conditions.

Real Therapists in Highlands Ranch Don’t Name-Call

Everything that someone doesn’t like these days is “toxic.” Unless you’re talking about asbestos or rat poison, you should try to use more helpful and descriptive language, especially while talking to or about your partner. Is your partner “toxic” because she didn’t pick up the dry cleaning? Try a more accurate word, like “forgetful,” or express your feelings clearly by stating “I feel really disappointed when you don’t help out with household chores.” Is your partner really “crazy,” or would a more accurate statement be “I don’t understand why you made that choice.” When you use diluted, negative words instead of expressing your real feelings, you’re just calling names. Marriage counseling in Highlands Ranch can help you express yourself more accurately.

Couples Counselors in CO Know That Disagreement Isn’t Gaslighting

Everyone on the internet is gaslighting or being gaslit today—or are they? When couples visit their therapist in Colorado, many instances of “gaslighting” are really better explained as “disagreements” or “pure stubbornness!” If you’ve ever seen the movie Gaslight (which is where the term came from—know your memes!), you’ll know that the gaslighter in the film didn’t just disagree with the other person’s account, or have a different experience—they were purposely engaging in “crazymaking” and trying to convince the other person that their thoughts and reality were inaccurate. Denial can be strong, so keep in mind that your partner may actually be clueless, aloof, checked out, avoidant, or disengaged before assuming gaslighting.

Today’s digital culture makes it very easy to hashtag a hot term and use it without knowing exactly what it means. Leave that sort of communication for celebrity gossip and put more effort into your marriage communication. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to a couples counselor in Littleton.



After you and your partner have decided to divorce, you have a long way to go. Couples
therapists in Highlands Ranch work with many individuals and couples who have gone through a
divorce to help them get back on track and feel settled about what has happened. For those who
have children, it is even more important to work toward divorce recovery, as your kids need both
parents to be at their best. Here are three tips from couple’s therapists in Highlands Ranch that
can help you and your children recover after divorce.
Embrace and Express Feelings Related to the Divorce
Divorce creates a lot of feelings, and not always feelings that either party likes. As psychologists
in Littleton often remind our clients, there is no such thing as a bad feeling. Healthy people can
feel and express a full range of feelings, including uncomfortable ones like sadness, regret, guilt,
and anger. In fact, coming to terms with these feelings and expressing them appropriately is one
of the best ways you can recover after divorce. The same is also true for your children, so open
doors for them to talk about their feelings, worries, and thoughts related to the divorce.
Go Slow When Recovering From Divorce
After making a major life decision, give yourself a break. This isn’t the time to change careers,
start a new routine for self-improvement, or pick up a new project. When your health takes a hit,
you spend time recovering; similarly, when your relationship health is in peril, you need time to
recover emotionally. Jumping into a new relationship is ill-advised, and worse if you have
children. Couples therapists in Highlands Ranch advise you to go slow. In fact, you probably
have so much to focus on, including co-parenting, consistency between homes, dividing assets,
and planning for the future, that a break is advised!
Consider Working With A Professional in Divorce Recovery
If you find that you cannot concentrate at work, that your health is mysteriously taking a turn for
the worst, or your kids seem to be coming apart, it’s time to work with a professional in divorce
recovery. Your skilled psychologist can help you process your emotions, help you and your ex
see eye-to-eye on co-parenting issues, and can provide expert advice on how to navigate the
stages of divorce. If you’re fortunate enough to work with an animal assisted therapist, even
better—a four-legged professional can often make difficult discussions easier.
Divorce doesn’t have to be conflictual, messy, or destructive. Even if your relationship is moving
in this direction, you can still seek help for yourself, your children, and your family unit.
Working with a psychologist or seeking couples therapy in Littleton can help you and your loved
ones express feelings appropriately, community constructively, and build a separate life for the
future. Call or email today to start couple’s therapy with Dr. Steve and his therapy dog, Zeke!

The holiday season is a stressful time—ironically, it’s also a time when couples therapists in Highlands Ranch see far fewer clients! Why do so many people skip out on marriage therapy during the holidays, and why is it the worst time ever? Keep reading to find out!

“Not Enough Time” for Couples Counseling

The main reason why people report that they stop seeing their couples counselor during the holidays is that they just do not have enough time! Between planning and coordinating family events, cooking meals, traveling, and managing childcare when the kids are off school, busy people just don’t have free time, and therapy is one of the things that tends to be trimmed away.

The Holiday Season Increases Stress

Not only are you likely more busy during the holiday season, you are likely to be under more stress. For most people, the holidays are a time for a lot of activity, which can be stressful, even when it is good. Even more, this time of year tends to be associated with emotionally-charged memories, and you may be seeing people you haven’t seen in years. This can bring up a lot of emotional and relationship issues that can impact your marriage. This is a time when you could use the problem-solving skills of a skilled couples therapist in Highlands Ranch more than ever!

Couple’s Therapy Can Make Life Easier

While taking an hour or two out of your day to attend couples counseling in Highlands Ranch may seem like another bite out of your already overbooked schedule, you may actually make your life easier by participating in couples therapy. Think about all the time you spend arguing, miscommunicating, or not seeing eye-to-eye. Could you imagine how much you and your partner could get done if you were on the same page throughout all of those activities? Do your holiday plans ever get waylaid by relationship issues—or is it the in-laws who are ruining your special events? You can work together in couples counseling to develop action plans to handle these more easily, or to set clear and effective boundaries. Making life smoother is often better than just getting an extra hour or so of free time.

If your relationship is important to you, you can keep it even stronger by continuing your couples counseling during the holidays. Dr. Steve and his trained couples therapy dog Zeke are waiting to help. Schedule now to get the best times that work with your busy schedule!



Psychology thought experiment: What’s stronger? An empty egg carton, or an empty cereal box? Which holds up better to pressure, like stacking weight?

If you answered “egg carton,” you’re correct! But what do kitchen recyclables have to do with relationships, and why would a psychologist in Littleton ask such a weird question? Keep reading to find out how boundaries make your relationships stronger!

Strong Relationships During Calm

If you lay the empty boxes next to each other, they’ll look about the same height. Without any pressure, the cereal box will hold its shape, and nobody looking from the outside will know any difference. However, you know that the egg carton is stronger because it has all those little egg-shaped compartments inside—with strong, sturdy boundaries in between each one. If the wind blows or the another box is placed on top, the egg carton will still hold it shape, but the cereal box will start to flop. This is a great way to think about your boundaries with others, because it works the same way! A relationship with strong, sturdy boundaries prevents enmeshment and resentment, problems that couple’s therapists in Littleton tackle regularly. Putting a little distance between the two “sides” of your relationship helps it to maintain its integrity without letting the sides get too close.

Build Your Relationship Stronger During Stress

As more weight gets put on the cereal box and the egg carton, the winner is clear—the cereal box has no chance! Similarly, if you let your relationships grow bigger and bigger without building strong boundaries in between, those relationships are far more likely to crumble under pressure. This is especially true for setting boundaries during the holidays! So how can you reinforce those boundaries? First, you need to define the shape of your egg—or, your own needs. Like an egg, your emotional needs, support requirements, and needs for alone time and time to recharge are completely unique and can be a little fragile. Is your “egg” shaped like the need for alone time after work? Does it “fit” perfectly into a “no discussing politics with the in-laws” rule? Once you have carefully considered your needs or worked through them with your trusted psychologist in Highlands Ranch, build a structure that supports this, just like the carton supports the egg. It can’t be too rigid—there’s a reason we don’t store eggs in glass containers—but it must be strong enough to withstand pressure.



Does your partner ever seem a little… sensitive? Can you hear yourself pausing and hesitating before delivering anything that might be construed as criticism? Or do you just keep it to yourself, letting “little things slide” and also some big things? Couples therapists in Highlands Ranch know how much of a toll this can take on both partners. Today, we’ll discuss the best ways to communicate effectively with your sensitive partner.

Step 1: Understand how and why you see them as sensitive.

Unlike clothing at a retail store, people don’t come with labels. Before you try to change your communication, get a better understanding of yourself and your partner—what do you see or experience that makes you categorize your partner as sensitive (or touchy, crabby, high-strung, or whatever other label you choose)? Are they like this with everyone, or just you? Is everyone like this with you, or just your partner? Be willing to recognize your part in the problem—people in relationships tend to fall into cycles, escalating each other’s behaviors. Working with a psychologist in Littleton can help you and your partner understand the reasons behind these behaviors.

Step 2: Focus on your behavior and emotions

You can’t control other people, and you certainly can’t control their emotions. You also don’t have to. There is no need for you to feel responsible for how someone else feels—as long as you are doing what you know is right. If you politely ask your partner “what time is your appointment today?” and they snap at you, that is not your problem. Whatever set them off is not because of you. Instead of getting defensive, think of your behavior—were you asking politely? Using a proper tone? If you are confident that you were behaving appropriately, let your partner have their feelings. At the same time, recognize when your behavior or emotions is triggering the sensitivity—if you ask “what kind of idiot would have done something like this?” you can see why your partner could be upset! Keep your own reactions in check for the best communication, and make sure to avoid passive aggressive comments.

Step 3: End the “Blame Game”

When problems arise in your relationship (and they will!), whose fault is it? Hopefully, if you read the header, you skip assigning blame and move right onto solving the problem. To do this in real life, try to eliminate names and personal pronouns from your communications for a moment. Simply describe the problem, and the solution, if there is one. Instead of “YOU left the laundry in the washer overnight again so it stinks and you need to re-wash it,” try changing your statement to “the laundry was left in the washer overnight and stinks, so it needs to be re-washed.” Your partner knows what they have and haven’t done, so don’t rub it in their face. Likewise, try changing a statement like “between your whining and my yelling, we’re never going to get any of this work done!” to something more neutral, such as “there is a lot of work to do today, we’re going to have to stay very focused.” Remember, it doesn’t matter who caused what, or why the problem happened—what matters is that you, as a couple, must work together to find the solution.

Are you ready to communicate more effectively? These tips are a great place to start, but sometimes, a third-party is the most helpful tool in evaluating your relationship. If you live in Highlands Ranch, couples therapists and skilled psychologists help people strengthen their relationships and see eye to eye every day. Whether you are the “sensitive” one in the relationship, or you want to communicate better with your “sensitive” partner, you can learn valuable tools to improve. Dr. Steve Lazarus and his trusty therapy dog, Zeke, have helped hundreds of couples communicate better and strengthen their marriage!



Love them or hate them, masks are becoming ubiquitous during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite conflicting messages put out by public health officials earlier in 2020, leaders and individuals are quickly recognizing the utility of masks, and more cities, states, and businesses are requiring that masks or other facial coverings be worn. For many, things introduces a huge challenge: the feeling that you can’t breathe. Fortunately, your trusted psychologist in Littleton has some tips to help you breathe easier with tools we use in our everyday practice.

Balance Acceptance and Control

In any situation, we can choose to accept the challenges or try to change them. However, we can only change what we are in control of. What are you in control of when you wear a mask? While it may seem like this choice is “forced” upon you, keep in mind that you still have control of when you go out for recreation and what style of mask or facial covering you wear. Remind yourself that you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. Explore different types of materials and fastening styles (for example, behind the ears, around the head, wrapped into a creative hair style) and see what feels the least uncomfortable. Increase your feeling of control by choosing a facial covering that suits you.

Practice Deep Breathing

It sounds cliché, but your breathing affects your mood significantly! Just like professional divers train to reduce their oxygen intake by remaining calm, you can learn to feel less out of breath in your mask. Healthy people do not experience significant changes in blood oxygen levels, even while wearing dozens of layers of surgical masks—what most people experience is a perceived change in oxygen, or shortness of breath. A racing heart uses even more oxygen, worsening this feeling! For those who battle panic attacks or anxiety, this can feel similar to the shortness of breath that occurs with anxiety triggers. Familiarize yourself with deep breathing tools, or talk with your couples therapist or psychologist in Littleton to learn breathing techniques to help you stay calm. Practice breathing slowly and deeply when you are relaxed, trying to exhale for twice as long as you inhale, and notice how different your body and brain feel when you take deep, relaxed breaths. This trains your body to fully expand and relax your lungs, bringing more oxygen to your brain.

Increase Exposure

People who are required to go to work or school in face masks are reporting that they adjust more quickly—some even share stories about forgetting they are wearing a mask! However, if you are staying safer at home and not going out as much, you may only have a facial covering on to visit the pharmacy, or when you come to your couple’s therapist office in Highlands Ranch. Exposing yourself to triggers of stress or anxiety is a time-tested way of reducing those unpleasant feelings. It seems counter-intuitive, but slowly increasing your exposure can help you to feel less uncomfortable. Can you tolerate wearing a mask while sitting in front of a fan at home? (hint: strong airflow gets that “stale” air moving around and cools you off.) What about while reading a book without a fan on? Work your way up to wearing the mask occasionally while performing household chores, or while going out to check the mail. This is also a great time to adjust, fix, or modify your mask, since you are not in contact with anyone else.

As we all adjust to new requirements and recommendations, we need new skills and tools. Deep breathing and relaxation can help with the general sense of anxiety during these challenging times, as well as helping you to breathe easier. If you are struggling with these changes, or if the added stress is taking a toll on your marriage or children, don’t hesitate to contact Steven Lazarus, Psychologist in Littleton.

For many couples in Highlands Ranch, the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic is slowly ending. Businesses are opening, traffic is getting backed up, and everyday life is starting to become recognizable again. But have you and your partner come out of the quarantine a little less close? Many couples who seek couple’s therapy in Highlands Ranch report that the stress of working from home, homeschooling kids, not being able to meet with friends, and just being stuck together all the time has taken a major toll on their marriage. Fortunately, these tools can help you reset and reconnect!

Get Some Space—Alone

Now that you can leave the house… do! Certainly, you love your partner, but spending too much time together can make anyone wish they had more distance. If you’re comfortable, call up friends to reconnect, go for a jog, or enjoy an outdoor recreation activity. These not only get you away from home, but they give you time to relax and recover on your own. Plenty of people talk about how introverts need alone time, but the best relationship experts know that everybody needs alone time! This is a great time to meditate or reflect on your relationship.

Ditch the Kids

For couples with kids , the pandemic had an extra challenge: you’re now homeschooling, whether you like it or not! This means you’ve not only been spending more time with your partner, but a lot more time with the kids. While this has probably created some prime family bonding, you and your partner need time alone to be adults. As restrictions lift, consider having a close relative or friend over to babysit while you and your spouse spend adult time together—go for a walk, visit a restaurant if you feel comfortable, or find some private space to be intimate. Now that the kids aren’t out of the house for six hours a day automatically, you need to spend more time planning!

Seek Professional Help

If the typical advice isn’t touching your relationship problems, you should consider setting up an appointment to meet with a couples therapist in Highlands Ranch! When you work with a professional, you get an unbiased third-party to mediate disputes, and years of training and expertise in the best evidence-based methods to help you and your partner see eye-to-eye again. Animal-assisted couples therapy  is a great option for those who feel uncomfortable with talking, and Dr. Steve’s therapy dog, Zeke, loves to help couples express difficult feelings!

The pandemic has taken too much away from us already. Don’t let it ruin your marriage! If you and your partner are struggling, don’t wait. Visit in-person with facial coverings and enhanced sanitation, or participate in telehealth couples therapy. Get expert marriage counseling help today!