Functional Family Roles.

By David Joel Miller.

The varieties of family roles.

Family Roles.

Family Roles.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

In a previous post, and we talked about the way dysfunctional families may create roles which take the focus off the dysfunction.

Well-functioning families create functional roles, which change over time.

Adult roles.

Healthy families require their members to be healthy individuals. Certainly, two people who have mental health issues or disabilities can come together to create healthy families. What those two people need to do is each work on themselves. Two sick people do not result in a healthy couple.

In well-functioning families, the adults need to assume the adult’s role and allow the children to be children. When the children take on too many adult duties, the structure of the family becomes unbalanced. In dysfunctional families, it is common to see young children rushing home from school to care for their preschool siblings because parents are incapacitated due to addictions.

Children who act like adults too early in life are at increased risk to have children themselves at young ages. Never having the opportunity to play as children, they are prone to engaging in excess adult play. Their idea of how to play as adults often centers around drugs, alcohol, or multiple sexual partners. Children who become adults too soon may have difficulty parenting their own children and the cycle repeats itself.

Functional families teach children adult roles by letting them babysit or performing chores but do not deprive children of their opportunity to be children.

The Partner role – Couplehood.

In healthy families, the adults need to have adult relationships. Partners need to maintain the partner relationship. Adults need time to do things with other adults. Parents need to take care to not talk to children about problems they have with their partner. For a well-functioning family, don’t make one of the children your best friend and confidant. Reserve your closest relationship for your partner.

Plan throughout your relationship for life after children. Children need to grow up and live their own lives. Couples who fail to nurture their partner relationship may find they have no reason to stay together once the children leave home.

The Parent Role.

In functional families, parents don’t try to become their children’s best friend. It’s wonderful to foster a close relationship, but sometimes parents need to tell their children no.

The Child Role.

In a well-functioning family, children need the emotion space to play and develop. Play is not a waste of time. Play allows children to try new behaviors. Pushing children too much to grow up and stop playing can result in children whose emotional growth has been stunted. Functional families do not expect children to be able to do things they are not yet mature enough to do.

Few families are always completely functional. But, Functional families encourage their members to fill appropriate roles rather than dysfunctional family roles.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life is now available in both Kindle and paperback format.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Bumps on the Road of Life.
By David Joel Miller

Your cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch.

Sometimes you get your life going again quickly. Other times you may stay off track and in the ditch for a considerable time. If you have gone through a divorce, break up or lost a job you may have found your life off track. Professionals call those problems caused by life-altering events “Adjustment Disorders.” Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of Adjustment Disorders, how they get people off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Bumps on the Road of Life

Please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Casino Robbery.

Photo of Casino Robbery book

Casino Robbery.

 

The robbers wanted more than money; they planned to kill Arthur’s fiancé and her boss.

Arthur Mitchell was trying to start his life over with a fiancé and a new job. That all ends when the casino robbers shoot Arthur, kill his fiancée, and her boss. Arthur would like to forget that horrible day, but the traumatic nightmares and constant reminders won’t let him, and someone is still out to get him. When he tries to start over by running a rural thrift store, someone knocks him unconscious, vandalize the store, and finally tries to kill him. His only chance to find peace is to figure out what the killers want from him and why.

Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who has to cope with his symptoms to solve the mystery and create a new life.

Casino Robbery is available now in both Kindle and paperback editions.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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Dysfunctional family roles.

By David Joel Miller.

Were you the good kid or the bad kid?

Family Roles.

Family Roles.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

It’s common in dysfunctional families for people to be assigned roles. It’s almost as if the family had a closet full of hats and when you were born you were given one of those hats. Just like every person may become depressed sometimes, every family will have a little bit of dysfunction. The more dysfunction the family, the more rigid the roles are likely to become.

Discussion of dysfunctional family roles is common, in substance use disorder treatment, but these roles may occur in any family with noticeable dysfunction. Various authors have used alternative names for these roles. In large families, additional roles may be created, and in small families, one person may have to play several roles.

Having these defined roles takes the attention off the family dysfunction. Do you recognize some or all of these roles from the family you grew up in? Which role did you play?

The black sheep – the bad child.

Dysfunctional families often select one person to be the scapegoat. That might be, the oldest child, the one whose conception forced the couple into a relationship. Other times it was a younger child who came along as the dysfunction became apparent. The black sheep could have been sickly, overactive, or had difficulty in school. Ever after this child is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family.

Hero – the good child.

Were you the hero in your family? The one who was expected to get all A’s, be a star athlete, and still help around the house. The hero child may have worked a part-time job to help with the family expenses.

The clown – comic relief.

Some families had a resident comedian. The clown makes funny noises, tells jokes, and acts crazy, anything for a laugh. Some families combine the clown job with the black sheep role.

The lost child – missing in action.

The lost child never got noticed. They may have been a great student. Or the lost child may have spent their childhood anxious and depressed, hold up in their room. When the lost child turns eighteen, they may pack their bags and move to France. They will be gone for months before anyone notices they are missing.

Junior mom.

Junior mom, or Junior dad, might be eight years old, and in the third grade, but they rushed home to change their baby brothers diaper and feed their younger siblings, because, by the time school let out mom would be too drunk or high to function.

The over functioning person – codependent or enabler.

Some families had one person, usually a parent, who tried to do everything. Mom may have worked, managed the finances, took care of the children, and still found time to provide care for dad, whose drinking prevented him from functioning at all.

The under-functioning person – alcoholic, addict, or the compulsive gambler.

At the heart of every dysfunctional family is the under-functioning person. That may have been the mother, the father, a grandparent or any other family member. These dysfunctional family roles, like hats, could have been handed out to any family member, regardless of their age.

How about you?

Did you play one of these roles? Did you come to believe the role was who you are? For some people, over time, they played several of these roles. You may have been the black sheep who later became the alcoholic. The hero may grow up to marry an addict, and they become the codependent. Dysfunction families have a way of repeating these roles, generation after generation.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life is now available in both Kindle and paperback format.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Bumps on the Road of Life.
By David Joel Miller

Your cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch.

Sometimes you get your life going again quickly. Other times you may stay off track and in the ditch for a considerable time. If you have gone through a divorce, break up or lost a job you may have found your life off track. Professionals call those problems caused by life-altering events “Adjustment Disorders.” Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of Adjustment Disorders, how they get people off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Bumps on the Road of Life

Please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Casino Robbery.

Photo of Casino Robbery book

Casino Robbery.

The robbers wanted more than money; they planned to kill Arthur’s fiancé and her boss.

Arthur Mitchell was trying to start his life over with a fiancé and a new job. That all ends when the casino robbers shoot Arthur, kill his fiancée, and her boss. Arthur would like to forget that horrible day, but the traumatic nightmares and constant reminders won’t let him, and someone is still out to get him. When he tries to start over by running a rural thrift store, someone knocks him unconscious, vandalize the store, and finally tries to kill him. His only chance to find peace is to figure out what the killers want from him and why.

Casino Robbery is a novel that explores the world of a man with PTSD who has to cope with his symptoms to solve the mystery and create a new life.

Casino Robbery is available now in both Kindle and paperback editions.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Ending family feuds.

By David Joel Miller.

Don’t let family disagreements damage your mental health.

Family fighting.

Family Feuds.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Families can be a great support, or they can be a great problem.  Don’t let family feuds and disagreements be something that damages your mental health.  Regardless of what someone else may have done, there are ways that you can stop participating in the problems. While you can’t change other people most of the time, you can change the way you handled the situation. Here are some ways to reduce the impact family feuds may have on you.

Accept them for who they are.

Lots of family conflicts are about trying to get someone to be something there not.  There are going to be lots of people in your life who will never be exactly the way you wish they would be.  One way to preserve your mental health around other people is to simply accept them the way they are.

You may not like where they live or who they are in a relationship with. If you don’t like their partner or their house, remember that it’s not you that has to live in that situation. Sometimes family members have some very unhealthy friends. We may wish they didn’t have those friends but constantly arguing about it drives them away and back to those friends. Sometimes we just have to be patient until people in our lives are ready to change. Sometimes, as we get older, we find that it’s us that is changing.

They don’t owe it to you to do what you want them to.

Having expectations for family members and friends sets you up for disappointment.  What may seem clear and reasonable to you may be something they don’t want to do.  Keep in mind that just because you want it does not mean that they owe it to you.

Lots of families have been torn apart because parents had expectations of what their children should become or do with their lives. You may think they would make a great lawyer but if they have no interest in the law pushing them there will make both of you unhappy. Some people have great talent but what’s important to them is their hobbies and their leisure. You need to allow others to have the space to live the life they choose.

Remember it hurts more because they are family.

When a family member hurts you, it is likely to be a lot more painful than if a stranger did the same thing.  We may not expect much from someone outside our family.  Because of the higher expectations, we have for family when they let us down is even more painful.

Be very careful that you don’t fall into the trap the because they made one mistake or did one thing you didn’t agree with you cut them off forever. Sometimes improving your self-esteem begins by cutting others some slack.

Don’t expect them to change because you insist on it.

A lot of family disagreements are because one person wants another person to change in a particular way.  Just because you want it, doesn’t mean they owe it to you. Sometimes you must set boundaries. If your family member does drugs, you may need to keep them out of your house or avoid lending the money.

What you shouldn’t do is hold that period when they used drugs, against them for the light rest of their lives. Don’t hold onto the resentment because someone had to try a different path than the one you would’ve picked for them.

Accept them for who they are.

If you want them to accept you the way you are, then you should offer them that same acceptance. People shouldn’t have to say, do, or be any particular way for you to accept them. Learn the difference between accepting people and insisting that they think can be the way you want them to.

They are typical of other difficult people you will have to deal with.

The world is full of difficult people.  Sometimes we have difficult family members.  Keep in mind that you will have to deal with difficult people in your life.  Some of those difficult people will be relatives.

Sometimes the thing that makes others so difficult to deal with is our insistence on arguing with them about things. Give yourself and them the gift of allowing others to sometimes be wrong without you needing to point it out to them.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Creating stronger relationships.

By David Joel Miller.

Steps you can take to deepen your relationships.

Relationships

Relationships –
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Life Mental Health)

Do you feel that most of your relationships are superficial?  Do you wish that you could have deeper and more meaningful relationships?  Improving relationships take some work.  Whether your relationship is a romantic one or a friendship one, make an effort to strengthen that relationship.  The strongest romantic relationships have a foundation of deep friendship. Here’s a list of some things that you can do to create deeper, stronger, relationships.

Make others your priority.

Good relationships cannot be all about you.  You are responsible for your own self-care.  If you go into your relationships expecting that others will meet your needs you are likely to be disappointed.  To deepen and strengthen relationships make others your top priority.  Going halfway is not going far enough.  Marriage counselors know that 50/50 relationships rarely work.  In successful relationships, both people expect to put in more effort than the other.

Be a good listener.

Communication is far more about listening than it is about talking.  Good listening is not about planning what you are going to say in response.  To be a good listener try accurately understand what the other person is saying.  It is especially important to look for the feelings behind the words.

Let them know you care about them.

Deep relationships form between people who care about each other.  It’s not enough to sort of care about them some of that time.  Make it a point to express to them how much you care for them.

Be interested in their interests.

In strong relationships, the parties are interested in the things that interest their friend.  Make an effort to learn about the things that interest your friend.  Invest some time thinking about and talking about the things that interest them.

Share your feelings.

Strong, deep relationships involve feelings as well as facts.  Take a chance and share with them how you feel about things.  Sometimes sharing feelings can be scary.  Take the risk, invest in strengthening the emotional bond between you.  If you don’t feel you can share your feelings in a relationship, you ought to be questioning how healthy that relationship is.

Share your thoughts.

Deep relationships require getting to know each other well.  A key way to strengthen your relationship is to share what’s on your mind.  Healthy relationships are ones in which people feel safe to share what they think and believe.  Strong relationships are ones in which people can disagree and still maintains a relationship.  It needs to be OK to disagree.

Celebrate their successes.

Make it a point to notice and to celebrate successes with others.  Quality friendships are not built on jealousy.  Others successes do not diminish you.  Make it a point to notice when someone close to you has successes.  Go out of your way to celebrate their accomplishments with them.

Share your happiness and theirs.

Happiness is not reduced by sharing it.  When others are happy, share it with them.  When you are happy, let others around you know.  The more you share happiness, the more you both have.  Deep relationships have a lot of common memories.

Keep up the communication.

Invest some time and some effort in communicating.  Don’t ever stop communicate.  Strong relationships don’t always need words to communicate.  Your failure to communicate can say more than words you might have said.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Recovery, Resiliency and Healing from Pain.

By David Joel Miller.

How do you get through hard times?

Ball recovery

Recovery and Resiliency. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Some people just have the uncanny ability to come through the hardest of times and bounce back.  Other people come from apparently wonderful backgrounds and still, they struggle.  How do those resilient people do that?  Most of us can think of people who have come through really trying times and it’s easy to understand how they can struggle with their life.  It takes a lot of effort to think of someone who has come from those difficult situations and still has been able to accomplish wonderful things.

Risk factors are about causes of problems.

Stress is a major risk factor.  But not everyone who experiences stress ends up succumbing to problems.  Early life problems can put you at risk for adult difficulties.  Risk factors for mental health problems are just like risk factors for physical illness.  Just because and you have your risk factor for cancer does not mean that you will get it.  Having had a lot of risk factors in your past is not the whole story.

Strength or protective factors are about what causes things to go right.

Protective factors can be either internal or external.  Sometimes it’s about the strength that a person finds inside themselves.  Other times it is about the resources that are available to them in the environment.

One major protective factor is the presence of one caring adults in a child’s life.  But an equally important protective factor is your locus of control.  Are you mainly taking in the opinions of others?  Or do you have the personal strength to do what you believe you should do and want to do?  Highly resilient people believe that what they do matters.  They believe that their results are based on their own efforts.  They think of themselves as capable and not victims.

Resilient people have the belief that what they do affects the outcome.

There’s a thing called learned helplessness in which people have been told or felt that they couldn’t do things so many times they give up trying.  Resilient people develop the belief that what they do matters that if they try hard enough they can do things.

Resiliency like willpower is a finite resource.

Resiliency is not infinite.  It’s hard to measure just how many times someone can be knocked down and still be able to get back that.  People seem to be able to get back up from one severe problem, but if that same person is knocked down repeatedly it becomes more difficult each time to get back up.

Resiliency is not something you’re just born with.

Resiliency is a skill that develops over time.  Having small life problems and learning how to successfully get past them helps to build resilience.  Having good life skills makes you more resilient.

Some people become more resilient as they grow older.

People who had little resiliency when they were children often learn and become more resilient as they grow older.  Learn all you can about resiliency and make it a point to learn from each setback or failure you encounter.

Not every difficulty needs to be traumatic.

Not every physically strenuous activity results in injury.  Many emotional events can be growth opportunities rather than causes of traumatic conditions.  People with more resources, emotional skills, support systems or financial resources may be a better position to deal with life’s up’s and downs.

Not every bad event is caused by you. Attribution.

Resilient people do not attribute every difficulty in life to a personal failing.  Be careful of your attributions.  Not everything that happens is about you.  Sometimes you can be the best person on earth and still bad things can happen to you.

Rumination can reduce resiliency.

Rumination, that common human characteristic of turning life’s difficulties over and over in your mind, increases the risk that you will become anxious or depressed.  Having an emotional problem such as anxiety or depression lower your ability to cope with other difficulties.

Take another look at where you are in life.  Look for ways that you may be able to increase your resilience.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Is Marriage or couples counseling expensive?

By David Joel Miller

How much does Marriage or couples counseling cost?

Will Marriage Counseling Help

Will Marriage Counseling Help?

Lots of people know that they need couples counseling. They have heard about and thought about the things relationship counseling can do for them. They are considering it for all sorts of reasons. What they want to know when they ask about the price tag is often, can they afford it and then will it be worth the price.

It is unfortunate that this question comes in as often as it does. Couples counseling can help. Sometimes it helps a lot. Couples therapy can even help if you have both decided it is over and you want out. This is extra true if there are children involved.

Sometimes couples counseling can help you repair a damaged relationship. Other times it can help you both work through the decision to separate. Remember that if there are children, family, and friends or even pets to consider, the more you can agree on, the less the trauma and cost of taking this to the lawyers.

More than one couple has come in thinking it was all over and they needed to work out the details of the divorce and by the time the relationship counseling was completed they had rediscovered the things they liked about the other person and the relationship was off life support and on the mend.

Couples, married or not, should get the help they need to keep their relationship healthy and growing and the price of seeing therapist shouldn’t be the deciding factor. If there are children involved they need the help in working out the ways to make this less traumatic on the kids.

Let’s look at what is involved and then what it may cost you in time and money.

A good couples therapist can help interrupt the conflict and give you a chance to try on some new behaviors. Sometimes just finding out that what you are going through is typical for a relationship at the stage you are at can be helpful.

The counselor can give you a different way of looking at your issues and can help you develop and practice new skills. The things that brought two people together are often the things that are pushing them apart. The skills you need to start a relationship are not the skills you need to maintain one.

Once your relationship begins to change the common tendency is to blame the partner.  You think they need to change or that you need to get out of this relationship and find someone else. It is rarely that simple. Pick a partner and you get a set of problems. Change partners and you change problems, often for the worse rather than the better.

Most couples end up going to very few couple’s sessions.

The average couple, according to one study, attends couples counseling about 6 times. A few couples may opt for more sessions than that, say twelve or more. Beyond that, you are probably not working on conflicts. You will have transitioned to more of a relationship coaching situation where you are working on growing the strength of your relationship rather than trying to save it.

Some of the how long or how many sessions partially depends on the nature and seriousness of the issues. If there has been an affair the non-affair partner may need time to work on their own pain and issues separate from the couple’s issues.

We often discover that there are personal issues that one or both of the parties are working through. Hidden underneath the “couples issues” and “lack of communication” there are often long-standing serious substance use or childhood issues.

Just the dollars and cents, please.

Divorce

Divorce
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Price for couples counseling varies from area to area. In major cities, the prices can be higher but then so is the office rents and everything else. In my area, the “usual and customary” rate is on the order of $100.00 to $150.00 an hour. A few very new counselors may be lower and some old timer’s with very busy practices charge more.

Relationship issues are not considered a mental illness, even if your spouse is driving you crazy. Most medical insurance or public funding will not cover relationship issues or the coverage will be limited. There are cost cutting things you can do. Some Employee Assistance Plans cover relationship issues. There are low-cost clinics and some counselors offer sliding fee scales for low-income people.

Relationship counseling may turn out to be a bargain.

Even if none of those options work for you and you are looking at paying out-of-pocket consider this:

How much will the divorce lawyer want for a retainer? Do the math. Six sessions at the average price that works out to six hundred to nine hundred dollars. Less than a lawyer. Less than deposits and rent for a second place. Way less than the cost of a custody dispute.

How much time and effort have you put into this relationship? There must have been some reason you two got together and stayed together besides the booze that first night.

If there is any chance of fixing this don’t you owe it to yourself to invest a few bucks in trying to make this relationship work?

One thing I have noticed also. Those people who divorce, they often end up quickly getting into a second or third relationship. A bit later those repeat relationship’s end up in therapy to work on the reasons their past relationships did not work.

My hope is that this post helps put the costs, financial and emotional, of relationship counseling into the larger perspective of the cost of abandoning a potentially good relationship, the effects on the children, family, and friends of not trying to learn how to have a good relationship.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Staying together for the children?

By David Joel Miller.

Staying together for the kids isn’t enough.

Unhappy Family

Unhappy Family

In relationship counseling we run into a fair number of couples that have been together a long time, often 20 years or so, and now they find that they just can’t hold it together anymore. The most common cause of this issues is that they have spent the last twenty years “staying together for the kids” instead of staying together because they want to be together.

Most people who have worked with children will tell you that your children are not being fooled by this behavior. Kids know when mom and dad are distant and don’t like each other even when there is no outright fighting going on.

Growing up in a home where the parent’s wish they were not together is not much fun. If you are in that situation consider letting go of your resentments and working on the relationship. If you have to live there you might as well find a way to make the relationship better.

Relationships can self-destruct without children.

It is not unusual for relationships to go through a period of severe distress just about the time the oldest child is graduating from high school. Couples look at each other and ask “why did we stay together all these years?” If it was for the kids now what? Do you two still want to be together?

Relationships like cars or houses need maintenance. If you have just used your relationship to focus on the kids and have not kept the connection with your partner healthy then after the kids are gone there is not much left.

Some couples split up and try to start their lives over. Most of the time they end up in new relationships, now wanting a relationship for themselves instead of for the kids. Often both people get new partners. Who wants to be alone once the kids are gone?

Guess what? This complicates things. You are not a twenty-something anymore. Your new partner comes with an ex and some kids. So you, your ex, your new partner, your ex’s new partner and the kids and all their partners keep crossing paths. You think you put your needs on hold for the kids before? Looks like it has just gotten worse. Do you get to enjoy life while you are still alive?

You can distract yourself from being where you are.

Lots of people stay in bad relationships and suffer. They think that the suffering they will go through by staying is less that what they and the kids would go through if they end this relationship.

Plenty of people go through these young-children-years by trying to stay busy and distract themselves from a relationship that is not meeting their needs.

Dads tend to work a lot. The old idea was that dad worked and paid the bills so that the rest of the family could have a good childhood. The result of this model was that dad got robbed of being a part of the family he was paying for and the rest of the family gets to resent dad for never being there.

Lots of expensive toys do not make up for a lack of loving relationships.

Moms also get caught up in this. Mom usually has two or more choices of ways to stay busy and avoid looking at what is lacking in her life. Mom can become a fanatical “soccer mom.” Spend all day and all night not just taking kids to places but also volunteering to help the activity take place. Mom can get so caught up in the school and the soccer league and the clubs that she does not have time to talk with her own kids let alone dad. Or mom can insist the kids need more things and expensive activates and she can go to work and stay busy that way.

What will mom do if the kids escape? Some chase the grandkids down and try to stay busy and others drop into a deep depression because their life has no meaning without someone else to make happy.

Staying and suffering and going and suffering should not be your only choices.

Smart couples develop other choices. If you are having difficulties you work on the issues. Couples counseling can help, so can making sure that you allocate some time and resources to maintain your relationship. Couples that enjoy being together and doing things together survive the kid’s exodus.

Think this over. You have a lot of time invested in your family. Are you waiting to do your time so you can escape after the kids leave or are you willing to work on this relationship so that the two of you will have reasons to be a couple after the kids have moved out and on and started their own families?

There is life after children. You can have a good relationship after your kids start their own lives if you two can get through the process without hurting each other so much there are just no good feelings left in the relationship account.

If your relationship feels like doing time, consider getting help from a professional relationship counselor.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books