Archive for the ‘hardships’ Category

Facebook Infidelity

April 16, 2011

In my training as a therapist, I have noticed that almost all of our couples have one thing in common: Facebook.  Yes, these couples have issues outside of Facebook and their Facebook use is more likely a symptom of the problem than the problem itself. Yet, time and time again, couples come to therapy and talk about Facebook.  Maybe the wife found her husband’s chat conversation in which he tells another woman she’s beautiful, or a husband found out his wife has reconnected with her high school sweetheart. Maybe this “connection” occurred once, maybe it occurs often, and maybe it has even surpassed Facebook and now occurs on the phone or in person.  Sometimes it is friendly, sometimes it is sexual, and sometimes it is both.  The only thing I know for sure is that there is no one sure way to interpret these connections.  Researchers have found that a lot of confusion occurs around whether online relationships are considered infidelity, but cyber-affairs can have real impact on real life relationships.  While rules for face-to-face relationships are clear, rules for online relationships have not been established for many couples(Whitty and Carr, 2005).  Here are some tips for protecting your relationship from online infidelity.

–       Communicate— talk to your significant other about what “online infidelity” looks like to you. Defining what you consider cheating could help you both know what pitfalls to avoid.

–       Set clear boundaries—innocent friendship can unintentionally turn inappropriate. Know how much time, energy, and flirtation you can put into a relationship with another person before it crosses the line of emotional infidelity that you and your significant other have set.

–       Be open— keeping relationships public with wall posts instead of private messages helps keep you accountable to your spouse and social network. Some spouses even share an account or know each other’s passwords, increasing the transparency in their relationship.

Some couples may think that transparency means a lack of trust.  Be careful not to become obsessed with transparency because this can come off as controlling.  Rather, transparency should be a source of closeness.  It doesn’t mean you have to check in on your partner’s behaviors regularly.  Transparency means that you trust each other enough to share these things, while safeguarding your own vulnerabilities as an imperfect human being.  While you should not have to share with your spouse every time you talk with a friend, feeling as if you should hide your communication could be a personal sign that you’ve crossed a line in your relationship by which your spouse would be hurt.  If you have already experienced a Facebook related issue, consider seeking counseling by licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. As online communication becomes more prevalent, make sure you keep your Facebook fidelity strong!



Whitty and Carr, 2005 M.T. Whitty and A.N. Carr, Taking the good with the bad: Applying Klein’s work to further our understandings of cyber-cheating, Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy 4 (2/3) (2005), pp. 103–115.

Marriage Takes More Than 2

November 18, 2010

Sitting on a plane last weekend, my friend Mallory leaned over to me and said “I just love my husband. Marriage is pretty amazing, isn’t it?” Amid the overpowering hum of the jet engines and the flight attendant’s explanation of oxygen masks, Mallory and I began an in-depth conversation about how stabilizing marriage feels. I told her about my first year and a half of marriage and described to her how comforting and secure it feels to have someone who is “my person.” He is always on my team; Jacob and I are in it together! I’m not going to lie—we can get pretty heated in our arguments at times, all my insecurities come up and I’ll jump down his throat! But even through misunderstandings, hurt feelings, anger, and disappointment in each other, I know he’s beside me. As we talked and I realized how much I’d missed my husband over our 4-day trip to Minneapolis for a Family Relations conference, it dawned on me how helpful it is to feel understood and supported by another married woman.

My three college roommates and their husbands have remained some of our closest friends over the last few years. We’ve been like a “family” to each other through all kinds of challenges: one couple moving overseas, one couple dealing seriously with infertility challenges, another couple facing financial hardships, births of children, deaths of family members, and not least of all challenges to our marriages. Life brings many hardships and stresses. It is difficult to prevent these challenges from damaging our relationships. We can’t face them alone!

Our individualistic society makes it very easy to busy ourselves with career, personal/family issues, and private stressors. This gradual isolation of our marriage/family can be harmful! Research shows that the less outside support a couple has, the more destructive the effects of normal life challenges are on their relationship. When you feel secluded, you may become lonely, feel misunderstood, and distance from your partner. It is also easier to engage in secretive, hurtful behaviors when partners don’t have external accountability and support systems. Other couples/families can help ground your relationship and remind you again of why you chose each other and how important your commitment is.

Many community services and churches offer marriage mentors for interested couples. This is a fantastic way to connect with people, genuinely open up about real-life challenges, and feel supported. How have you found ways to keep your relationship healthy and to avoid isolating yourselves? Who has become your “family” or your support system?

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

-Kim Gregson, M.S., LMFT

Man’s Best Friend… Literally

November 10, 2010

I have the craziest of all dogs. Her name is Ziggy Stardust, and she is a chocolate lab and almost two years old. When I say she’s crazy, I mean that Marley (Marley and Me) has NOTHING on Ziggy. I have made countless trips to the Emergency Vet office at 3:00 am, spent a crazy amount of money on vet bills, new shoes, books, pillows, and whatever else she could get her paws on, and experienced a level of anger I didn’t know existed when she ate the head off of my stuffed animal that I have had since I was one year old. HOWEVER, even with all of the craziness, I wouldn’t trade her for the world.

Ziggy is one of those dogs who you just can’t help but laugh at when you look at her. She’s a special dog – really. When she was 9 weeks old, another dog popped her on the snout and broke through Ziggy’s sinus cavity. After that, the vet just started referring to her as special. Special and crazy, Ziggy is the best dog ever.

She gives me so much joy and comforts me when times are hard. We all experience hard times, and over the past year my family has experienced many.  Even at times when I was really down, I could always count on Ziggy to make me smile. She is always there to listen (and yes, I am one of those weirdos who talks to my dog) and always there to snuggle up and let me know that things will be okay. In my opinion, pets are the perfect cure for lonely or sad days. Interestingly, research seems to agree with me.

In 2009, Lawrence Kurdek examined people’s attachment to their pet dogs. Using Ainsworth’s (1991) four-feature model, attachment figures were deemed as someone who is adored for physical nearness and accessibility; missed when absent; a dependable source of comfort; and is turned to in times of distress. The last aspect is of particular interest to me. The study found that on average, participants were more likely to turn to their dogs in times of emotional distress than to mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, best friends, and children. In fact, only romantic partners were rated more highly than dogs. So… if you are single, in a long-distance relationship, or your spouse is stationed far away, man’s best friend might be just what you need!

Visit your local animal shelter to find out how to adopt a pet in your area. You won’t regret it : )

Kate Taylor Harcourt


Kurdek, L. (2009). Pet dogs as attachment figures for adult owners. Journal of Family Psychology , 23 (4), 439-446. DOI: 10.1037/a0014979

How’d She Turn Out So Well: Success Despite Hardships

September 29, 2009

Have you ever wondered how a person achieves success despite growing up in rough conditions?  This idea has completely astounded me for about 8 years now.  You run across someone who may have been abused, not had a mother, had a bad home life, had addiction in their family, dropped out of high school or even had a child at a very young age…and yet despite those stressful things – they have overcome them and achieved a very successful life.  Now, some people define success differently, but I say success is getting to where you want to be in life.  It doesn’t have to mean you’re filthy rich – maybe it  means you’ve gotten an education, raised a great family or gotten that cool job you always wanted.  More than just success, it seems like these people are even comfortable with sharing their hard times with others.  The point is that somehow, despite bad circumstances and stressors in their childhood and adolescence, they made good choices that brought them where they are.

Some research tells us that intelligence, attractiveness, personality and personal qualities can lead to success and better outcomes despite a rough upbringing.  Other research suggests that it’s your environment, your parents, grandparents and other role models that provide the outlet for successful development in light of difficult stressors.  Even further, and perhaps the most interesting research tells us that our relationships – both friendships and love relationships can help us cope with our hardships.  Best friendships and long term supportive partnerships provide the comfort and outlet for sharing that has been shown to help people become more adjusted despite their past or current circumstances.

So what do you say it is?  Is it inner strength?  Relationships? Intelligence?  What gets people to the point that they can overcome rough life circumstances?

I’ll leave you with a great example…but before I tell her name – I’ll describe her upbringing so you can make your own premature judgment of what she became:  This girl was born in small town Mississippi…with a weird name.  She was sexually molested as a child, her parents divorced before she was 6, she lived with her grandmother for 5 years, lived with  her mom only for 2 and later moved in with her very overbearing Dad.  She did drugs as a teenager and gave birth to a baby prematurely.

I know…you’re thinking – dang…this girl must be screwed up?  Who is she…did she live?  Or, if she did live…she’s still on drugs.  People, I’m talking about the only Billionaire woman in America – Oprah Winfrey?!

So how did she do it….how do “they” do it…how do you do it?  I’ll contest that Oprah’s key relationships – both with her best friend Gayle King…and her life partnership with Stedman have helped her to get to where she is.  Don’t get me wrong – those aren’t the only things that got her to where she is…certainly hard work, determination and personality helped, but those relationships most likely supported her in being able to see past the adversity to what she could become.

Charlsey Mahle

Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative