Why I Work With Neurodiverse Couples

Why I Work With Neurodiverse Couples.  High functioning Asperger’s is receiving a lot of attention.  Asperger’s is a developmental disorder affecting the ability to effectively socialize and communicate.  With access to online dating, individuals on the autism spectrum are able to connect with people developing relationships that could lead to developing families.  Asperger’s/Autism is inherited so the need to provide services for Neurodiverse Couples is imperative.

With my husband Phil

Not all Marriage Counselors have the expertise to work with Neurodiverse Couples so often times neurodiverse couples come to see me as their last resort.  When a neurotypical woman (NT) is married to a man who has behaviors associated with Asperger’s, (neurodiverse; ND or Aspie; AS) she will most likely experience gradual lose of her sense of self and feel invisible.  A lonely and hurt former self emerges that she can barely recognize.  She experiences Cassandra Syndrome as she starts to feel crazy and misunderstood.

As a Marriage Counselor working with women married to Asperger men this story by Sarah Swenson, LMHC says a lot about what life becomes:  https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/married-with-undiagnosed-autism-why-women-who-leave-lose-twice-0420164

This article hits home for me because I am a neurotypical woman married to an Aspie husband.  As a Marriage Counselor, certified to work with AS/NT couples, my role is to be an AS/NT translator, with the goal of helping both partners understand the world as seen through a Neurodiverse Lens.  Conventional marriage counseling is ineffective as there are specific tools to help neurodiverse couples understand one another.

Being married to someone on the spectrum is a life-long challenge.  For more information about Neurodiversity and being able to move forward in your relationship, please contact me at (858) 735-1139.  I know I can help.

Starting The New Year With A Breakup

Starting The New Year With A Breakup.  The beginning of a new year is typically the time when couples either become engaged or separate and divorce.  As a Marriage Counselor working with couples deciding whether to stay in their relationship or leave it, January 1st is an important deadline for ending relationships.  Breaking up, separation, and divorce can be devastating.  It can also provide the opportunity for self-examination and a New Beginning.

There’s nothing easy about ending a relationship. Breaking up is seldom the ideal resolution to problems within relationships, but all too often is the outcome, despite our best efforts to prevent it. The person who was once your best friend and your companion for life, the one who knew you better than anyone else, has now in some ways become your enemy. You cannot believe that this has happened. How could that love have been destroyed? The breakup of a relationship is one of life’s most emotionally painful experiences. The depth of pain depends on many factors – how sensitive you are to the meaning of your life experiences, how much you have idealized the relationship, and how much you depended on your partner to make your life worthwhile.

A broken relationship shatters much that we have known and dreamed about. Our relationships, especially intimate relationships, help us define who we are. Our values, our views of the world, and how we define our most intimate feelings are all embodied within our love relationships. When our relationship comes to an end, our lives enter a chaotic period for which we may be unprepared. We suddenly find ourselves dealing with a host of emotions and thoughts – grieving, despair, anger, revenge and retaliation, hoping for a miracle, negotiating, feeling out of control, hoping for happiness again and not knowing how to get there, fear, and loneliness – and little of it seems to make sense.  Most of us have never acquired the tools to deal with a loss of this magnitude. When we entered the relationship, we put our energies into building a life with our partner. We put little effort into learning to be alone again. A breakup forces us to jump into an overwhelming, and often dreaded world of new experiences.

There are stages of grief that we all go through whenever we experience a loss.  During a Break-Up individuals will undergo a Grieving Process.  These are predictable stages commonly experienced by those in the process of a breakup.  They include:

Denial – Denying the truth of the breakup actually helps us postpone the pain, so denial certainly has a place in the process, at least initially. A problem occurs when we experience so much denial that we are unable to come to terms with the reality of the task before us. There comes a day when “this is not happening to me” is no longer an effective way of coping. Ending the denial stage involves a major shift in our thinking about ourselves, what our partner means to us, and where we must go from here.

Fear – Most people experiencing a breakup are forced to come to terms with a number of fears. What will people say? Whom can I trust to talk to? How can I handle my partner’s anger toward me? How do I deal with my own anger? Am I a complete failure? How can I be a single parent? What about money? Can I do the banking and buy groceries and pay bills and fix the car? Can I handle my loneliness? Am I completely unlovable? Will I ever love anyone else again? Do I have the energy for this much change? When we are dominated by our fears and feel unable to do anything about them, we increase the likelihood that these will be the very areas where we experience trouble. The best way to handle fear is to accept it, with awareness, planning, and support.

Loneliness – The loneliness a person experiences at the time of a breakup may feel overwhelming. The finality of ending the relationship, uncertainty about the future, as well as the knowledge that your partner will no longer be there to comfort you or to spend time with you, all contribute to an empty feeling that seems as if it will never away. While you were in the relationship, you defined yourself as being partnered and you felt that you always had someone there to share your experiences. And now you don’t. The clue to dealing with this is to change the feeling of loneliness to “aloneness.”  Loneliness suggests a longing to be with another person. Aloneness can be a time to observe who you are – you have the opportunity to explore your independence and challenge yourself to do things on your own. It can be a valuable time of self-exploration and self-enhancement.  Because aloneness may not last very long, or not long enough, it can be seen as a valuable opportunity.

Friendship – The breakup is a true test of just who your real friends are. It is important to draw on the emotional support of friends during this time. Unfortunately, many of your friends were those who knew you as a couple and they may have to choose between you. Those who try to stay neutral may find it difficult. Some may feel that your breakup somehow threatens their own relationships, and some friends may now find it difficult to relate to you as a single person. Not only that, but you may find it difficult to trust others during a breakup. Getting out, feeling free, trusting wisely, and opening up to others become major goals of healthy adjustment.

Grieving – It’s normal and necessary to experience a period of grieving over the end of the relationship. You may feel depressed for some time and experience changes in your energy levels, as well as your sleeping and appetite patterns. You may dwell on negative thoughts for a period of time and find it difficult to find pleasure in everyday events. If your negative thinking turns into self-destructive thoughts, you should find a  therapist who can help you through this challenging time. As unpleasant as this period of grieving may feel, comfort yourself with the knowledge that this is a temporary phase and it is how you are saying goodbye so that you can move on to a healthier and happier future.

Anger – People ending their relationships usually say that they never knew they could have so much anger. The rage seems overwhelming at times. Think about it – you have just lost one of the most important things in your life and your partner may seem like your enemy. You have a lot to be angry about. Use this opportunity to look within – explore your anger and find out how it helps and hurts you. One rule: don’t engage in any behavior you will regret as in Acting Out Behavior. Because it may be difficult to contain your anger at this time, your partner is not the appropriate target for your anger. Instead, process your anger by talking about it with a trusted friend or Counselor. Anger is helpful in the sense that it helps us end the loyalty and trust we used to feel for our partner, and this allows us to move on.

In Marriage Counseling I help Couples and Individuals think of the ending of their relationship as a process, which is taken one step at a time. Some of these steps are challenging. Not only do we have to confront all of the stages listed above, but we must also deal with making the final break emotionally, understand what really went wrong, learn to feel comfortable with ourselves again, see ourselves as single people, make new friends, forge new purposes and goals, and learn about trust and love again.  There’s never pressure in rushing through any of these stages as everyone grieves losses differently.  As painful as this journey may seem at first, it can lead to a life which is more satisfying as being in a relationship that isn’t working isn’t healthy.

You don’t have to do this alone.  For more information on the process of breaking up please contact me at (858) 735-1139

Looking At Infidelity In A Different Light

Looking At Infidelity In A Different Light.  Rethinking Infidelity.  Is it cheating if you sleep with other people after having a discussion about opening up your marriage?  Is talking to people on the internet or dating sites considered a betrayal?  There are many reasons why men cheat and other reasons why women cheat.  Whatever the reason, affairs are less about physical sex than they are about desire and the need to feel desired.  As a Marriage Counselor and Affair Recovery Specialist, I hear compelling stories about why boundaries were crossed and why indiscretions were made.

In Affair Recovery, there are three options discussed with the couples I work with as I guide them through the crisis phase.

Option 1: Status Quo – Do nothing more than what they have been doing.  Internalizing thoughts and feelings and continue to inappropriately act them out through bad behavior.  Never getting the professional help needed to acquire moving forward skills and manage emotions.

Option 2:  Move Forward – With a therapist who specializes in working with couples in affair recovery.  My couples receive a Moving Forward Plan developed specifically for them as every couple has their own set of unique circumstances where they can understand and gain insight into why the affair happened and what is needed to be able to make an informed decision about whether or not they can stay together.

Option 3:  Move On – Separation or Divorce.  I believe you cannot make an informed decision whether to stay together or leave the relationship without undergoing the Affair Recovery process.  Thereby making moving on premature where you may have regrets if you do so.  Divorce makes no room for repair, resilience, and recovery.

In rethinking infidelity, affairs can be a form of self-discovery, a journey for a new or lost identity and a silverling where couples can develop a newfound relationship filled with content and happiness.  Infidelity is likely to be a symptom of a problem.  Exploring the underlying issues can be an experience for the “cheater” to grow, explore, and transform.

Call me at (858) 735-1139 if you want to talk about rethinking and reframing infidelity.  As awful as an affair can be there can be something positive that comes from it.