Category: Blog

are you my mother

Keeping the love alive (when you have a new baby!)

Hello from Scottsdale, Arizona

Lately, I’ve been surrounded by many new first time parents, and today, I address a question from my patient Zorian, 41:

“My partner and I have a 6-month old boy. The past few months have been a whirlwind. I’m starting to find my place within our new little family, but our sex life hasn’t yet recovered. What do I need to be thinking about to make this transition better for us?”


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Top Conflict Points In Marriage

The typical argument a couple has greatly depends on the length of time married. For example a newly married couple will argue about different things than a couple who’s been married 20 years. I’ve listed the top five issues couples normally argue about below, based on a survey completed before they start marriage counseling. However as a counselor, I know that the information written on the survey form is the “politically correct” version of their relationship issues.  Most people are not skilled in expressing what they want, they fight about other “important” issues.

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Handling Your Partner’s Anger

How can you cope with an anger partner?

Important relationship advice during affair recovery.

  1. Stay calm – Don’t get into a screaming match. If your partner gets ‘overheated,’ explain that you will be willing to talk with him/her. But, right now, tempers are too high for things to settle. Promise to discuss the issue at a later time when you are both in a calmer state. Pick a specific time to ‘check in’ with each other. Say something like “How about talking tonight when we are both in a calmer space?” or “…when you feel you are ready to talk about it.” I call this withdrawing with reassurance.

Be sure to follow up on your promise. If the other person is still upset when you check in, set up another time to check in. If this keeps happening, then it is clear that you need a third party to help you communicate properly again.

  1. Don’t argue with your partner about his/her feelings.
  2. Listen to what the other person has to say.
  3. Establish what you can legitimately agree with.
  4. Don’t try to justify your action.
  5. Listen. People feel better if they get things off of their chest and feel that someone is listening and acknowledging their feelings.
  6. Really listen to what is making your partner angry and try to identify anger themes.
  7. Don’t patronize your partner.
  8. If the anger is repeated, try to be patient and stay calm. If this behavior constantly repeats itself, then it’s time for a counselor to step in. Family and friends are very important for support, but using them as a referee can have disastrous results. Because handling intense anger in these circumstances can be difficult, you may need to rely on the knowledge and objectivity of an experienced professional.

The way in which two people handle anger and conflict significantly impacts their relationship. Often, they do not know how to successfully argue, or even disagree, and the end result is disastrous.

I hope that the above information has increased your understanding of anger and has given you some tools to start examining your own and your partner’s anger themes.





Savannah EllisDBA, MBA, BBSc, MPsych (Clin)

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Licensed Online Therapy and Counseling

how to help you child when you are going through a divorce

How to help your child when you are going through a divorce

What you can do to help your child deal with divorce

Different kids deal with divorce differently. Some kids saw the divorce coming for years and feel relief when it finally happens. Other kids feel confused by the divorce and hold out hope that their parents will eventually get back together. Other kids have strong feelings of grief and sadness followed by emotional outbursts and acting-out behaviors. Although you may feel like there’s nothing you can do (you certainly can’t change your spouse’s behaviors or undo the divorce), there’s a lot you can do to help your child cope with your divorce.

Don’t use your child as a confidant

You may not have realized it at the time, but you relied on your spouse a lot as someone you could share secrets, vent, and discuss your problems with. Everyone needs someone that they can share their thoughts and feelings with, and when that someone is gone, their is a void. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for divorced parents to then turn to one of their children as a new confidant. Your child may seem like they enjoy this new role and the special relationship they now have with you, but it is damaging. The child confidant tends to suffer from more depression and low self esteem. Children aren’t as well equipped as adults to listen to other people’s problems and have a tendency to feel responsible for these problems as well. These children are also much less likely to go to their parent when they themselves are experiencing problems. When you talk with your kids, who is the conversation for? Is it for your benefit or your child’s? When you use your child as a confidant, the message you are really giving is that you care more about your own feelings than their’s.

You might not be purposefully using your child as a confidant or be confused about what’s “too much information”. Something I’ve heard parent’s say to me is “I tell them about it because it affects them” or “they have a right to know”. My answer to this is that it is affecting them because you told them about it, and children have a right to be protected from harm and this includes the harm of being exposed to their parent’s stresses. If you are confused about what you shouldn’t be sharing with your child, the general rule of thumb is anything they can’t do anything about. This includes your finances, divorce settlement, new boyfriend/girlfriend, your feelings towards your ex, your health problems, or your sex life. If you’re still not sure, you can ask yourself “who is this conversation for?”. If it’s for your benefit, save that conversation for when you are alone with other adults.

Don’t bad-mouth the other parent

Remember when you were a kid how mad you would get when another kid would make fun of your mother? Just because you were married to her for ten years doesn’t make it okay for you to do the same thing. When you insult a child’s parent, you insult the child. Even if you believe that what you are saying about the other parent is true and the child already knows it to be, refrain from saying anything negative whatsoever about the other parent. And if you can’t think of anything positive to say, don’t say anything at all. Maybe your child doesn’t seem to mind when you do this and may even join in the bad-mouthing or bring it up on their own, but this still doesn’t make it okay. As I wrote earlier, the child may be engaging in these behaviors because they like having that one-on-one relationship, and you may be inadvertently reinforcing these behaviors by responding positively to it. However, I am yet to have a child tell me in private that they like it that their parents trash each other, and overwhelmingly my experience has been that children are secretly (or not so secretly) deeply hurt by it. This person, whom they are supposed to look up to and use as a role model, is being called a “dead beat”, “awful parent”, and “&^#*$@”. Even if what you are saying is true, your child’s parent is still their parent and it hurts to hear them being spoken about like that.

Aside from the psychological damage it causes children, at it’s very core, it sets a bad example. Parents should be models of restraint and respectful behavior. Do you want your child to call another kid a “&^*$@” at school? Or to grow up to have a relationship style where they yell and call their partner names? Your child deserves to one day be in a happy marriage.

Don’t elicit information from your kids about your ex-spouse

As stated before, when you are using your kids as informants or confidants, it puts them under stress. They may seem to be willing participants, but that is probably due to the special attention they get from you when they participate. When kids are visiting the other parent, they should be able to feel at ease and relax. The other parent also has a right to set rules and discipline them while in their custody. Maybe you didn’t agree with their parenting style while you were living together, but so long as the other parent isn’t abusive or breaking the law, they have a right to parent in the manner they see fit. The partner also has a right to date or remarry whomever they choose. If you do have an issue with what’s going on while visiting the other parent, you should share your concerns with your ex in a controlled respectful manner. This is a great example for your children and is a much more effective mode of communication than by using your child as the go-between.

Kids should also be encouraged to stop sharing information about what goes on at the other parent’s house unless it is serious. We all love a juicy piece of gossip and you might enjoy hearing how dysfunction your ex has become now that you’re not there to keep tabs, but this is also harmful to your kids in the same manner as discussed above. You also don’t know how accurate the information is. Because we are human beings and not machines, we miss-perceive things and don’t remember things very well. Kids often perceive speaking firmly or assertively as yelling, and naturally you become very upset to hear that “dad yelled at me all weekend”. Meanwhile they omitted their own misbehavior that prompted the “yelling” in the first place. Unfortunately, because you weren’t there, you don’t know the context or severity of what actually took place. And although no one wants to think that their child would ever lie to them, I have also had children admit to me numerous times that they purposefully play their parents against each other.

Encourage them to spend more time with the absent parent

Despite how you may feel about your ex, it is in your child’s best interest to spend quality time with both parents. Be positive and show enthusiasm when your kids have an upcoming visit. Do what you can to help your child have a positive experience. Make suggestions like “Billy really enjoys going fishing” or “If you’re too busy to have them over-night this weekend, maybe you can just take them out for a couple of hours?”. You may feel that you shouldn’t have to make the extra effort, but remember that this is for your child’s well-being. A 2008 study revealed that children that spent more quality time with their fathers had higher IQs and were more socially well-adjusted. The effects were found to be unrelated to the father’s own IQ or social skills, but rather to the individual relationship between father and child. Likewise, spending quality time with the mother has been shown to protect children from depression and mood disorders as adults. Don’t we all want our children to be smarter, healthier, and happier?

Hold family meetings

Provide opportunities for at home to allow the children to express their feelings about the divorce and subsequent changes to the family. Also, reassure them that their behaviors did not contribute to the divorce. They may have questions about the divorce. Provide answers for the ones you can and be careful to not give “too much information”. Also, don’t give answers for the other parent. Ideally your ex would be at the family meeting, but if not, it’s okay to say you can’t answer for them.

Don’t let your guilt keep you from parenting

You may blame yourself for the divorce and feel guilty for your kids, but you are still their parent and they need you to provide structure. Sometimes children react to divorces by having increases in negative behaviors such as tantrums, yelling, fighting with siblings, and breaking rules. However, they still need to be responsible for their own behavior. One of the best things you can do, is to show your children that life goes on. They still need to clean their room, do their homework, and treat others with respect.

I hope that you found this article informative and helpful to your family. As I offer e-therapy and coaching, I can help you no matter where you are located.


Flirting IS bad for a relationship, and deadly for a marriage


What’s a little innocent flirting?

Many married people think that a little harmless flirting with people outside of the marriage can actually be good for the marriage. Do you think it’s ok?

Flirting: Good, Bad… or just Plain Ugly?

Flirting, on its surface, seems harmless enough, right?

There’s no harm because there’s no intention behind it, you or your spouse may reason. It’s just meant to be playful, taken lightly, nothing serious.

It also puts a toe up there on the slippery slope. Here’s why:

1: Innocent Flirting Can Quickly Change

What starts out in “innocent good fun” can lead to situations that are much more serious—and damaging—to a marriage. After all, isn’t flirting used as a ‘come on’ between two people at the very start of a relationship?

So, if you’re flirting, the recipient is potentially being given a signal that says “I’m available” or “I am looking to play.” Is this the message you want to send?

2: It Can Become Ego-Addictive

For some people, they require the positive feelings received through flirting to feel better about themselves. This behavior can become addictive: you wink at the wait staff, they laugh, pat your arm and flatter you, and you feel great about yourself.

But at what point does it really fill you up? If self-esteem is an issue, is there a way to feel good about yourself without resorting to sending this type of signal out, as we just went over under #1?

3:  Flirting is a Form of Infidelity

It may surprise you to think of flirting as being a form of cheating, but it is: emotionally.

When you flirt outside of the marriage, you’ve given away your emotional energy to someone other than your spouse. And, you and your spouse deserve that energy, as well as the opportunity to be each other’s champion.

That energy you expend in a quest to feel good would be better spent in your marriage. Emotional infidelity can be just as damaging as sex outside of marriage

Here’s how to take flirting energy and infuse it into your own relationship:

Tip #1: Get Real with Yourself

If you flirt, ask yourself why. And don’t just give a surface answer. If you think “because it feels good,” dig deeper: why does it feel good? What about flirting makes you feel good, fulfilled, validated?

Then, go another level. Why do you need to feel validated, or good through flirting with strangers, etc.?

Tip #2: Low Self-Esteem? Fix It.

Everyone wants to feel attractive, admired, appealing. But spending your energy seeking constant reassurance outside of your marriage is wasting your marriage’s precious energy. If you are suffering from low self-esteem, what can you do—besides flirting—to boost it?

Better yet, what can you do—with your spouse—to feel better about yourself?

Tip #3: Save that Energy, Spend It Spicing Things Up

If you’re the consummate flirt, refrain from flirting and looking for that outside validation for a week. Then, take that energy you would have used outside of the marriage, and charm your spouse with it.

Spice up your relationship by flirting with your spouse. Think of it as excellent foreplay.

Maybe it has been a while since you flirted with your spouse, and their reaction may be a little off, because they’re not sure what you’re trying to do. Tell your spouse: “I’m trying to flirt with the most gorgeous creature I’ve ever beheld…” – or whatever it is a flirt might say!

My best to you as you infuse a little passionate energy into your marriage.

What’s your take on flirting—both within a marriage, and going outside of the marriage?

Are you – or is your spouse – a flirt?

Can you remember the last time you flirted with your spouse? 

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.


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Schizophrenia effects a young newly wed couple

Schizophrenia is truly one of the cruelest mental illnesses in existence. The illness does not discriminate, and lies dormant for almost 2 decades before surprising both the individual and their loved ones.

This week, I had a chance to work with a couple that I had seen for premarital counseling only two years ago. Chris & Rose were planning their wedding celebrations at the time, and had family flying in from all over the USA. The Las Vegas M Resort had been booked and paid for by Rose’s father, as a gift to the couple for their wedding, and their academic success. They had both completed law degrees at UNLV, and had huge goals. Both had full time employment. They both desired to have their first child by age 30.

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My cheating wife has caused me to be sexually inappropriate

Today in our group, a new member was concerned on why they were becoming sexually inappropriate, after their WIFE CHEATED.
I am posting some of my answer here to help many of you who ask the same question, and feel guilty and ashamed for mirroring similar behavior as your unfaithful partner.

“………..My view on your situation – first, I don’t know your history, however, your wife cheated on you and now and forever more, YOU are MORE likely to be open to cheating on a future partner, UNLESS you recognize your behavioral changes – in which you have (PHEW!).
How can this be (I know many betrayed spouses will be upset to read this), but think about cases such as the school bullie, who is/was beaten and abused at home, or the rapist who was sexually abused by a relative in their childhood. Once you are conditioned or predisposed to a behavior or situation, you can become the “wrong doer.” The simple reason – its protection.
Also, groups(online & offline) by nature bring together a group of people who are going through a similar situation, and through sharing of personal experiences, you can form relationships + you become vulnerable. People are sharing deep and very personal information (and in our group, it’s around infidelity/cheating/sex) – topics that are intense.
For people who have not processed mistakes from the old relationship, and learned new skills for new relationships (such as boundary setting), new “relationships” are formed with the same issues as the old relationship……..”

Have you experienced this situation in group – either you or by someone else? Let me know your opinion below.


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