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Think about therapy as a chance to figure out "your usual". Meaning, how you usually approach your romantic, personal and professional relationships. Parts of "your ...
During the almost twenty years since I began training as a therapist, it has been an incredible privilege to work with so many people during important, vulnerable, critical times in their lives. Being an individual, couples and group therapist is the most rewarding, interesting, challenging work I could imagine. Through my book, "Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce," I have been able to reach more people and help those who struggle with the impact of their parents divorce to have healthy, happy romantic relationships.
In 2012, I founded the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center where I work with two wonderful associates. Our specialities include getting through difficult break ups, improving romantic relationships, adjusting to divorce, and pre-marital counseling. The longer I work as a therapist, the more convinced I am that what matters most is NOT how we respond to life's successes, it is how we respond to our disappointments. Every disappointment -- a painful break-up, the end of a marriage, the loss of a job -- carries with it the potential for increased self-knowledge and personal growth. My therapy practice emphasizes strategies for accessing that self-knowledge and and fostering personal growth in the face of adversity.
If you are reading this, you may be struggling with depression, sadness, or anxiety. You may be in the middle of a difficult break-up, or the discovery of infidelity. Perhaps you are planning to marry, looking to improve your marriage, or trying to decide whether or not to remain in your current romantic relationship. We have had the privilege of helping many people work through these and other challenges in order to build happier, healthier lives.
It was exciting to learn that my book was a finalist in the 2008 Best Book Awards in the relationship category. It was thrilling to make it as a third round finalist in Good Morning America's 2011 Guru Search. It is exciting to have the chance to be interviewed on the radio and to blog about relationship and psychotherapy oriented issues. But nothing is more professionally rewarding than when a client ends therapy reviews the ways that our work has helped them to build a happier life.
The Reason I Became A Helping Professional
I have always been inspired by others who grow from their adversity. I knew that social work would be a field where I could help others build and draw strength from life's disappointments, and I look forward to my work each and every day!
"Working with Elisabeth in individual and group therapy has afforded me a priceless opportunity to bring negative themes into awareness, to put them into words, and see them in action. Elisabeth’s professionalism, compassion, and dedication to the process have been integral to my personal growth and the perseverance I now have to shape my life in positive and rewarding ways."
“Elisabeth has provided us with a collaborative and supportive environment in which to explore the conflicts in our marriage. Her approach to couples therapy has helped us improve our communication, our understanding of ourselves, and our ability to articulate shared goals for our partnership and how to reach them. Elisabeth challenges us without pitting us against one another and without being confrontational. She is gracious, patient, kind, thoughtful and compassionate and her guidance has been invaluable to us.”
“The best gift that I have ever given to myself is individual counseling and group therapy with Elisabeth. I will admit that I was apprehensive at first, because I come from a culture that doesn't value therapy. Talking about family issues outside the family is frowned upon. Nevertheless, working with Elisabeth and the group has given me a way to set goals, have confidential conversations...with a sense of accountability. I feel comfortable expressing my feelings. Listening to others share has a way of reminding me of personal challenges and forces me to acknowledge and deal with them. Elisabeth has taught me how to talk about my feelings in a constructive way. This experience has helped me find my voice and taught me how to be more authentic and true to myself. I am learning how to respect the egos of others through positive self-expression. I am learning how to let my light shine and be the best person that I can be.”
“For many years, I muddled through emotional stresses on my own, until a marital and personal crisis forced me to admit that I needed assistance. Before I started working with Elisabeth, I had no idea how or if therapy worked. With her professional, experienced, and compassionate guidance, I have learned to embrace the therapeutic process. In individual therapy sessions with Elisabeth, and as part of a group therapy she facilitated, I have confronted painful emotions, addressed self-destructive behaviors, and nurtured self-growth. Her approach to therapy is thoughtful, practical, and engaging. With her assistance, which has proved invaluable to me, I am learning how to do the hard work necessary for mental health and emotional well-being. I recommend her without reservation.”
“With Elisabeth's compassionate guidance, I have deepened my understanding of self, learned to abandon behaviors and thought patterns that do not serve me well, and pursue the things I want from life.”
Back in the nineties, my clients generally discovered their partner's infidelity when they opened a bill for their partner's cell phone. The story was pretty much the same for all of these clients: they would find countless calls to the same number, they would dial it up, and find themselves speaking with (or listening to the outgoing message of the object of their partner’s indiscretions.
(In the pre-historic pre-cell phone universe of the 1970s, "call forwarding" was the technological vehicle of choice when it came to infidelity. Cheaters would say they were working late and then forward their office calls to their lover’s home. This obviously backfired from time to time, and many a cheater eventually got caught when they forgot to un-forward. But that was before my time.)
Then came email, the second wave of technology-assisted infidelity. These stories began to emerge in the late nineties. Suspicious partners would log on to their partner's email account and find plentiful evidence of extra-relational relations. These relations typically involved some form of physical infidelity.
The third wave began to break in late 2007/ early 2008, when Facebook broke out beyond its origins on college campuses. Facebook as a technology to facilitate infidelity shares some of the same characteristics as its predecessors. For example, it is new, fun, easy, and exists as a social corridor of peoples’ lives that is meant to be private. However, with all of these technologies, this intended “privacy” is easily disrupted if someone sharing close quarters becomes suspicious.
Yet in many ways Facebook's profile is entirely different. Why? Facebook infidelity is insidious, because it begins in apparent innocence. Indeed, Facebook serves as a platform for communication that can lead, almost accidentally, to infidelity. For the most part, Facebook relationship rifts are NOT about clear-cut physical affairs. Instead, they are about lingering on fidelity’s edge. Facebook infidelity begins when the technology, and a relationship that it enables, take too much of someone’s emotional energy.
Recently, one of my clients complained,
“My husband is on Facebook all day! He has more than five hundred friends! Who are these people anyway? At this point it's official, I'm a full-fledged Facebook Widow. Help!”
I have heard this term now -- “Facebook Widow” (or, less frequently “Facebook Widower”) -- more times than I can count. In fact, it is fast becoming one of the most common issues to surface among my therapy clients.
In most relationships, it seems that one partner Facebooks and the other doesn't. Or, if both partners are on Facebook, one has hundreds of friends and spends a good deal of time Facebooking, while the other never gets around to changing their blue-background, bald and masculine, alien-head photo and simply does not understand what the Facebook rage is all about.
Facebook relationship troubles tend to start out innocently. The Facebooker may join for professional reasons, or because they have received numerous invitations from friends. Before long, however, couples are fighting about who has more ex-lovers as friends, who friended whom ("I forget" being the most common answer to this all-important question), and why people mention certain tidbits on their status updates that they don't bother to mention to their partner.
Facebook obviously has endless appeal to young adults and those in middle-aged relationships. It helps them keep in touch with old friends and lets them connect with new friends. It also helps users feel in the technological loop by allowing them to scale back their email and communicate in a fashion that resembles those cool, tech-savvy college students. And who doesn't get an ego boost by having an impressive roster of friends?
The same thing that makes Facebook appealing is also what makes it dangerous from an infidelity standpoint: it is easy, AND it involves a degree of distance. Chatting via Facebook is so much more innocent than, say, calling up the cute new guy at the office or, for that matter, your ex. As a result, it seems that Facebook is causing conflict for many adult couples.
The most common Facebooking infidelity phenomenon involves the escalation of communication with either professional colleagues of the opposite sex or with an ex-lover. This usually starts out innocently enough, but quickly evolves into situations ranging from simply too much time and energy going to someone outside of the romantic relationship or into full-on flirtations or emotional affairs.
How much emotional energy is going into our cyber relationships? One of my clients – a self-proclaimed “recovering Facebook junkie” – said it best:
"Facebooking is great for those who are never, ever, under any circumstances, going to cheat on their partner. It's also great for cheaters who are going to cheat either way -- Facebook just makes it easier. Facebook represents a serious problem for folks like me-- the teeterers. By that I mean those of us who are not one hundred percent likely to cheat, but who might, unintentionally, teeter on fidelity's edge. Facebook is to teeterers what a bar is to recovering alcoholics. Don't go there!"
In short, Facebook seems to be opening all kinds of doors that can compromise a relationship’s intimacy.
If Facebook frustrations bring a client into therapy, my job is to help them figure out why they are a “teeterer” or why it is so hard to tear themselves away from their iphone and connect with their partner. Therapists tend to delve deep. But for those who are simply concerned about potential Facebook widowhood issues, some basic parameters may suffice.
What do you do when you are in a relationship where one person feels like a Facebook widow (widower)?
My best advice to both partners is to agree to try logging off for a whole weekend. Even if you are NOT the one incessantly Facebooking, you need to log off and convince your partner to do the same. No Facebook AND NO email! If you must email for work, set specific times that you will do so (no more than two times per day) and stick to those parameters.
What do you do if you are the Facebook widowmaker?
Try reallocating your Facebook time toward your partner. Every time you have the urge to update your status or check your homepage, try asking your partner a question. OR giving your partner a status update. Try putting the same effort, flair and energy into your real life relationship as you do with your cyber ones. In all likelihood, this will not be easy and will take a little getting used to over the course of the weekend, but stick with it and a happier, more connected relationship can be the result.
What do you do if you are the Facebook widow[er]?
You may, understandably, want to either throw your computer out the window OR, alternately, log onto your partner’s wall. However, neither approach is productive:
a) your computer is expensive and you probably need it; and
b) logging onto your partner’s wall keeps your connections in the cyber arena which will not generate the level of intimacy that will fix the problem.
So many frustrated non-Facebookers take the approach “if you can’t beat em, join em”. They join up and try to friend their way to revenge. In is not surprising that they do not tend to enjoy Facebook at all, as they are simply doing it out of spite. Also, spiteful Facebooking typically results in a relationship with two partners over-emphasizing their cyber life instead of one.
Instead, convince your partner to follow the parameters above for one weekend. During the weekend, be sure to be encouraging, available and engaged with your partners’ efforts to reconnect. Be positive and be sure to ask your partner just as many questions as they are asking you. If you are enjoying your technology-free weekend, be sure to say so! A little positive reinforcement can go a long way.
It is likely that both partners can find great satisfaction from making the joint effort to go of-line. If so, seriously consider cutting back on Facebook time and expanding real-life relationship face time.
If you don't feel satisfied by taking this advice -- OR if you find yourself unable to tear yourself away from Facebook, even for one weekend, you may want to ask yourself how much you may have in common with the recovering Facebook junkie quoted above. If your partner is unable to stick with the parameters above, you may want to re-evaluate your current relationship.
|Main Specialty||Communication Problems|
Dating/Being Single Support
|Credentials||LICSW, MFT, MSW|
|Time in Practice||10 years +|
|I practice in||My state/province only|
|I offer my services||At my office|
|I am fluent in||English|
|Licence information||Expiration 7/31/15|