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.

Many clients come in asking a common question: Am I having a mid-life crisis?

Interestingly, many of the clients who are asking this aren’t even mid-way through their lives—which has promoted a tongue-in-check trend of referring to a “quarter-life crisis” or even “third-life crisis.” What do these terms mean, and how can you tell when you need help? Read on to find out some answers from Dr. Steve Lazarus, a psychologist in Littleton.

What is a mid-life crisis?

A mid-life crisis is not a formal diagnosis—just like the “terrible twos” or “irresponsible twentysomething” phases that people tend to go through, a “mid-life crisis” is a pop psychology concept that has been embraced and promoted in the media, showing people in their 40s and 50s rejecting their “boring, adult lives” and engaging in activities such as buying new sports car, ditching the spouse for a younger paramour, or going on a months-long road trip—all while ignoring the daily routine of bills, healthcare, and responsibility. For some, a little fun now and then is normal. For others, big and reckless decisions might signify a deeper crisis. Further, many people who feel like they are having a mid-life crisis report that they are concerned about their own aging, mortality, health, and future. They may feel bored, restless, careless, or rushed to accomplish a “bucket list” of events.

So, am I in a crisis at all?

If you’ve carefully budgeted, expanded your garage, and pre-purchased insurance for your new sports car, you’re probably doing all right. However, if you feel like nothing matters, if you are spending beyond your earnings, or if your new activities in life are alienating friends and family, these are all signs that something is wrong. While it is okay, and even healthy to have fun, when your “fun” starts taking a toll on the other areas of your life, it’s time to re-evaluate.

How can a state of crisis affect my life and relationships?

Most often, by the time people show up in a therapist’s office, they are truly in a state of crisis. They might confess that their spouse no longer wants to engage in intimate activities, or that their kids are avoiding them. Some have even lost jobs. After the initial excitement, many people find themselves “crashing” and regretting their decisions, leaving them with feelings of depression, anxiety, and regret. Many seek counseling in Highlands Ranch, couples therapy, or other help from professionals.

What can I do to feel better?

The upside to a midlife (or quarter-life, or existential) crisis is that it lets you know that something is wrong. Maybe you never bothered to have fun as an adult, so you’ve made up for twenty years of unflinching responsibility with a month of irresponsible partying. Maybe you and your spouse have grown apart, and you finally had the motivation to make a change. Explore the reasons why you needed these drastic changes in your life to find insight into what you might want to change in the long-term. Of course, if you are feeling depressed, anxious, or just don’t understand what is going on, consider seeking help from a professional. Dr. Lazarus has helped many people navigate their or their spouse’s mid-life crisis, coming out stronger on the other side. To set up an appointment, call 303-267-2194.

Categories: Relationships and Marriage

What can you hear right now?

Take a moment to focus, perhaps close your eyes, and consider the sounds around you. Is there a fan in the background? Music playing? Do you hear the cars from the highway outside? Is it loud enough that you are distracted, or are you surprised by all the noise you can hear?

All living beings who are capable of hearing sound use these sounds to detect information about the environment, including cues for danger. While this has served an important role throughout human development, in today’s world, people are exposed to far too much noise. Chronic exposure to noise, especially at high levels, can greatly increase stress, making you more irritable and increasing the chance of a major fight with your family or friends. Many clients who seek couples therapy in Highlands Ranch admit that environmental stress and noise have an effect on their relationship. This stress can result in negative health outcomes including decreased sleep, increased risk of heart disease, and lower mental performance. Have you ever been driving a car, looking for an address, and turned down your radio? Talking GPS devices aside, people have been doing this instinctively for decades to help them “see” better—but it’s more accurate to say that it helps your brain than your eyes. That’s right, you really can think better when you turn down that noise!

Unfortunately, in many areas of our lives, we cannot “turn down” the noise. While you wish you could, you probably cannot “mute” your chatty coworkers, and your children cannot “mute” their classmates—no matter how much it could help you to focus and concentrate. People aren’t the only source of problem here; environmental noises have been compared to smog, “polluting” the air in the same way as a black factory smokestack can pollute a city. With the constant interruption of dinging cell phones, people living in increasingly close quarters, and tiny little Bluetooth devices delivering social media right into our ears, sound can be almost impossible to avoid!

Fortunately, you have some options. While a Littleton ADHD Counseling expert can help you learn tips to stay focused, that noise will still be there! One of the best is to simply assess your personal environment for noise level. If you always leave a TV or radio on by habit, consider trying a day without noise. You may find that your stress levels are lower, or that you can be more productive. At night, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs can be a lifesaver—those same tools can also help you get some peace and quiet at work. Reducing or removing noise, even on a temporary basis, can help promote mindfulness and relaxation. You can address noise through structure as well, such as placing carpet or rugs in your home, using doors or curtains to separate rooms and serve as noise barriers, or fixing or oiling squeaky doors, fans, and other appliances throughout your home. In a noisy world, few people appreciate silence, but it can be a positive addition to your life.

For many couples who commit their lives to each other, having children is often the next natural step in the relationship. And while some couples assume that having kids will automatically smooth over any rockiness in the relationship, the opposite is usually true. Raising a family can be just as stressful as it is wonderful, and often that stress can lead to even more problems. But having kids doesn’t have to mean the end of a couple, and it is possible for couples to strengthen their bond while still being parents, it just takes a little extra effort.

Have Alone Time Together

Finding time to spend alone together as a couple can be challenging when you have kids, especially for new and first-time parents. When a couple first gets together, the dating process is all about getting to know each other. After a couple has kids, this process begins anew, because people and relationships change when children come along.

 

Time alone with your spouse, therefore, is important for many reasons, including that it lets you relax together, allows you to enjoy each others company without the stresses of home getting in the way, and it keeps you connected as you grow as individuals and a couple on the new path of parenthood. On top of scheduling regular date nights, have a list of trusted babysitters on-hand in case you want to arrange an impromptu night together or if one sitter falls through on plans. Feel free to use grandparents if you are lucky enough to have them nearby.

Make Time for Intimacy

After having a child, intimacy can take a backseat for a while as you recover from the birth and adjust to the routine with a new baby in your life. But when it’s comfortable again, it’s very important for couples with children to make time for intimacy. A good rule is when on a date, don’t talk about the kids. Looking forward to time spent together keeps your connection strong and makes parenting easier. Many couples learn how to your marriage healthy and strong during a busy lifestyle with techniques addressed at Highland Ranch Couples therapy by Dr. Lazarus

 

Schedule a parent business meeting

Since you are planning dates where the rule is to not talk about the kids, you need to have a set time when you can talk about the kids. Leave the home if possible and meet for coffee or lunch. Plan on spending about 30 minutes a week going over schedules, appointments, kid activities, and any issues or concerns you are having with a child. Develop a plan together as partners for addressing these concerns and then regroup next week to discuss how things went.

Schedule a Daily Check-in

Life with kids can often be so busy that it seems you never have a moment to yourself. But when it comes to you and your partner, you need to make time. Even if you just have a quick chat each night before bed, a talk in the morning before the kids are up, or a lunchtime phone call to check in, it’s important that you talk to each other about your days, your goals, your feelings, and anything that might be bothering you. This will keep the lines of communication open and provide you both with a safe space to talk, open up, and ensure nothing is getting bottled up or ignored.

Stay Active Together

Raising kids often takes most of your time and energy as a parent, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect your own physical health. Staying active together is a great way for you and your partner to stay connected, and it can give you family time or alone time doing something fun and new together. You don’t always have to follow the same routine, either: you can go for a family walk one week, out dancing alone together the next, then for a family bike ride, followed by a couple’s hike the week later.

 

Dr. Lazarus’s Highlands Ranch couples therapy sessions focus on the need for parents to make an effort to spend more time together as a husband and wife and to separate out the parenting piece of the relationship. It can be difficult for parents to find time for these things, but connectedness, communication, and time spent together are crucial for couples who want to strengthen their bond, especially when children are involved.

To find out more about how you can make the most of your time together and learn to communicate more effectively,

call today to schedule an appointment or fill out the contact form.

 

Couples Therapy

Nothing is perfect. We accept this in everything we experience in our lives, including our relationships. But when it comes to the people that matter the most in our life, even though we shouldn’t seek perfection, we shouldn’t let problems and conflicts harm a relationship. There are small problems, which over time cause harm, and then there’s big problems which can really feel impossible to solve. Whether you are struggling with small issues, or big problems, it may be time to step back, assess the situation, and bring in a third party, such as a couples therapist

 

This is where an experienced Littleton couple’s therapist comes in, and if you’re considering getting some help, here are three ways that couples therapy can improve your relationship.

1 – Better Communication

Communication is the absolute bedrock of any successful relationship, and, unsurprisingly, can often be the biggest causes of problems. Depending on the personal situation, there can be any number of reasons for a breakdown or difficulty in communication. One partner may be naturally introverted and less prone to speaking up. Another partner may have simply never had an opportunity or vehicle to safely express their emotions, and subsequently doesn’t know how. Not feeling heard or understood can cause a person to shut down, or get very frustrated and angry.

 

By bringing a neutral mediator into a discussion, clear channels of communication can be established, and, through couple’s therapy, better techniques can lead to increased communication between couples to use in everyday life, not just in a therapeutic setting.

2 – New Coping Tools

For many, when an argument or disagreement occurs, unhealthy coping mechanisms are potentially unpleasant and often unproductive. Simply walking out of an argument, giving “the silent treatment,” or even separating and sleeping in separate rooms—or other locations entirely—are closer to retaliatory actions than a means of resolving a problem.

 

Couples therapy can introduce new tools to a couple to use when there’s a problem that needs to be resolved. Yelling, arguing and similar reactions don’t fix things. Working together with a sincere desire to make things better is easier to do when couples have better coping strategies to deal with life when things aren’t working out.

3 – Gain an Understanding of Each Other

One of the biggest obstacles to couples being in a harmonious relationship is often basic misunderstanding. Couples therapy gives a couple a safe, carefully controlled environment in which to explore the heart of certain issues. Understanding each other is critically important in being able to successfully resolve problems.

 

This is a chance for couples to say what matters, explore unrecognized feelings and honestly confront what they really want or don’t want. By being honest, loving, and patient, couples have a much greater chance of working together to develop win/ win solutions.

 

Littleton couples therapy doesn’t have to be just for troubled marriages. Any couple, whether it’s a new relationship wanting to start off on the right foot, or a couple simply wanting to improve what’s already there, can experience real, powerful, lifelong benefits by taking the time to strengthen a relationship through couples therapy.

 

Additional Article: Do we need to see a couples therapist?

Dr. Steven Lazarus can help you work through any couples therapy issues you may have.

  1. Plan in advance. Prepare as much of your meal ahead of time as you can. This way, you can relax on the big day.
  2. Kids love to help. Have your kids be your helpers. Maybe they can plan a side dish or help make the pumpkin pie. This idea is great with young kids but also get your Teen involved in this process as well. They are more likely to enjoy the event with you and feel proud of what they have contributed.
  3. The weekend before, go to a craft store. Create a fun centerpiece with your kids.
  4. Do a fun family event in the morning, such as the Turkey Trott.
  5. Have your kids set the table. Find a cool you tube video on how to fold those fancy napkins.
  6. Ask your guests to bring a dish or side. This takes some of the stress off of you to be just a host.
  7. Create some fun drinks for the kids. Maybe root beer floats, Shirley temples, etc.
  8. Have the family agree to NO cell phones, texting, or electronics, especially during the meal. This includes, YOU, the parents.
  9. Put the guys to work. Don’t just let them hide in the man cave and watch sports. Maybe they can help serve or cut the turkey. Maybe they can figure out how to do a turkey on the grill, smoker, or fryer. How about those dishes afterwards?
  10. At dinner, have each person say something they are thankful for.
  11. RELAX!!! Enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Dr. Steven Lazarus

(303) 267-2194

There are certain things that we do in arguments that virtually guarantee we have a bad outcome for a fight. Saying or doing these actions are like penalties in football. They stop forward progress. They create anger and hurt feelings and problems do not get resolved. Here are a few areas that you would address in relationship counseling and marriage counseling.

List of unfair fighting rules

Yelling

Swearing

Blaming

Not being able to take a break

Win/ Lose discussions

Interrupting

Power words: You, Never, Always, (sneaky I feel attack: “I feel like you…”)

Bad timing

Multiple Issues all at once

Counting the number of times that something has happened

Not listening

Never bringing something up again

The silent treatment

Bad timing

Arguing in front of the kids

I’m sure you have more that you could add to the list!!!

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

So using this logic, if we know what does not work, no matter what remains, no matter how improbable that it will work, must be what will work. In other words, we need to create:

List of fair fighting rules.

Treat each other with respect

Don’t make it a personal attack

Use the words: “I” and “we.”

Listen first, then speak,

Stick with one issue

Take a break if you need one

Regroup and try again

Have a way to discuss the issue, and then move toward an acceptable solution

Each person has an opinion about a topic and neither of you are right or wrong. You’re both adults and you have an opinion. If you take the time to listen to each other, you can come up with solutions that incorporate a bit of each person’s opinion. This creates a win-win!

You can use relationship counseling and marriage counseling to assist you in breaking the unfair fighting patterns. In marriage counseling, you have more accountability because you will have to discuss your successes and failures with the therapist weekly. This forces the couple to break out of their rut and develop success in dealing with conflict.

Animal assisted therapy can be more effective than traditional talk therapy because:

1) Animals can increase a person’s motivation and participation in therapy.

A person who is resistant to coming into traditional therapy may be more excited to come in and interact with the animal present.

2) Animals can help build trust with the therapist and can make the therapy room feel like a safe place

When a person learns about the therapists animal, if begins to develop a connection between the person and the therapist. This creates trust between them, allowing the person to feel safe and not threatened.

3) Animals can improve everyone’s social interactions

Animals are playful, funny, spontaneous, and sometimes even moody. Animal assisted therapy breaks down social barriers and enables easy communication.

4) Dogs offer unconditional acceptance

A dog is always happy to see you. He will not judge you, hold a grudge, and is happy to see you no matter who you are.

5) People may identify with certain animals or characteristics of animals

Did you ever play the animal game growing up? “If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?” People may use animals as metaphors for problems in their own life. They may identify with personality characteristics in animals and relate them to themselves or other people they know.

6) Animals can help people relax when anxious or upset

Research shows significant changes in peoples physiological arousal when in the presence of an animal. Clients can also focus on ways to relax, slow their breathing, and gain control of their feelings.

7) Animals can provide support for us socially and emotionally

They allow us to want to be social. Animals show their feelings directly, allowing us to learn how to be more free in expressing our own feelings. They allow us to learn different ways to communicate.

8) Some people have difficult connecting with others

Animals provide a unique way for people to learn how to develop strong and intimate bonds and break out of awkward or distant connections with others.

9) Animals make learning new things easier

Every opportunity with an animal can present opportunities to learn something about yourself or others around you. Their presence allows for people to learn quickly and easily what might take much longer in traditional therapy.

10) The presence of an animal in therapy allows for the focus to be on the animal instead of on the client

Feeling less pressure to open up or having to answer questions actually allows for people to open up more quickly and deeply as the animal disarms our normal defenses.

11) Animals may help children who have ADHD

Imagine asking an ADHD child to do three things and complete all of them. They probably will have a great deal of trouble doing this. However, asking these kids to take three steps in training a dog can often be completed. This teaches sequencing, follow through, and patience.

12) A person may see his or her own feelings and issues in the animal

Sometimes, it is easier for us to deal with a problem if we first see it in another person or animal. We develop strategies for how the animal could work out the problem. This then leads to us being more open to doing similar things for our own problem.

13) Dogs are funny and playful

Their playful nature and energy is contagious. Quickly, people are playing and relaxing during a session.

14) Animals promote empathy and nurturance

Animals can help us develop the ability to be empathic toward others. Caring for animals teaches us how to care for ourselves and others.

15) Animals can improve self-esteem

As a child interacts with an animal, they may learn something about themselves or others. For example, they may teach a dog a new trick. This allows a person to feel competent and develops self esteem.

 

Loosely taken from: Professional Therapy Dogs of Colorado: Handler’s Guide and Training Manual. (2012).

Couples therapy: Do we need to see someone?

Wondering if you need couples therapy? We all want healthy relationships with our spouse or significant other. When the relationship is good, we are happy, hopeful, feel like we are on the same page, and have shared goals and interest. But what happens when we begin to have stress or conflict. Often, we try to avoid arguing. Then things build up over time and suddenly we have a full blown terrible argument. Generally, this leads to what I call, “unfair fighting” in which the language and tactics we use make the fight worse. Couples therapy can help!

In their book, Fighting for your marriage, 3rd ed., 2010, the authors identify 4 patterns that are destructive in marriages and relationships and can cause more and more damage as they continue.

1) Escalation

2) Invalidation

3) Withdrawal and avoidance

4) Negative interpretations

Escalation is when a topic is brought up, perhaps in a positive or non-threatening way, and suddenly, things go very badly. Your partner may become very hurt or angry very quickly. Suddenly, your conversation has escalated into a huge argument, when that was certainly not your intention. The more this happens, the less you want to bring up topics.

The second pattern is invalidation. In this situation, when you bring up a topic, the other person says or does something that makes you feel like your opinion has no merit. It is not a valid point of view. Maybe only their point of view is right. This makes you feel terrible, unappreciated, and like you are not an equal partner in the relationship.

Negative interpretations occur when a topic is brought up, perhaps in a positive or non-threatening way; the other person takes it the wrong way. They may think you are attacking them in some way, or perhaps trying to bring up something old that they don’t want to talk about. In any case, the conversation does not go well and you feel like you have to back pedal. All of a sudden, you’re no longer talking about the topic, but about why you are so mean and disrespectful.

Escalation, invalidation, and negative interpretations lead to feelings that no matter how you bring up a topic, it’s not going to go well. We argue, we get angry, you feel terrible and blamed when you bring things up, and conversations are not productive and may be destructive.

The only strategy left then is one of avoidance and withdrawal. This may work initially. If we avoid talking with each other or spending much time near each other, we won’t argue. But then, problems are unresolved, build up, and there is an increased feeling of frustration and resentment. This then leads to escalation again but now you have a lot of issues that are all saved up and you are ready to explode.

Many couples in couples therapy have identified that they have all four destructive patterns and they think they are doomed. This is not the case.

If you begin to focus on creating fair fighting rules, communication skills, the ability to take a break when you are frustrated with your partner allowing you some space, you can have productive conversations. When you are no longer fearful that difficult conversations will result in big blow ups and hurtful conversations, you feel more trust and security. This can then lead to the ability for your relationship to grow and not stagnate. You will be able to work as partners through difficult life issues and come out on top.

Some people are structured enough to get a good couples book, schedule time to both read a chapter a week, and discuss with each other their marriage and how to improve it. They schedule a “business meeting” to work on their relationship.

However, most couples struggle to do this on their own. They don’t feel accountability or have a neutral third party (a couples therapist) to help them through the difficult issues.

Couples can benefit from a couples therapist in couples therapy when they have these destructive patterns present. A good couples therapist will provide a safe supportive environment in which both people can discuss and work through issues that are hurting their relationship.

There’s another group of people that also should consider couples counseling. This group is the couple that is considering moving the relationship toward a deeper commitment. Perhaps you are getting ready to move in together or get married. Although this group of couples may have little or few problems, research has shown developing these skills early in a relationship can serve as strength when there are problems. Couples who do this generally report happier healthier marriages and the ability to work out problems.

For those of you that have been in a relationship for a long time and now have those destructive patterns, don’t worry. Working with a couples therapist can truly strengthen for your relationship as well. People don’t want to argue and be in relationships that don’t feel good. You and your partner can create a strong and healthy marriage, partnership, parenting team, and friendship. You can break through destructive and unhealthy relationship patterns through couples therapy/ marital counseling. Couples counseling can help!

Reference:

Markman, Howard, Stanley, Scott, and Blumberg, Susan, John. (2010). Fighting for your marriage, 3rd ed. Wiley & Sons.