Friday, April 13, 2018

The Elephant in the Room - Adolescents Can Be Wedges!

I have been focusing on couples counseling and marital support in the Los Angeles area for the past several years.  I absolutely love working with this population. When couples hang in there during the therapeutic process it is just a thrill to see results.  Couples and marriage therapy collaboration can be the most intrinsically tratifying feeling ever imaginable. Having a couple come to me and account their reconnection or report that they have found something new and meaningful is like ...
tasting the best dessert, seeing the Northern Lights or grasping a taste of subtle significant meaning.

Father, Son, Walk, Child, Boy, FamilyDespite couples having challenges or progress in session, there is an elephant in the room which I have often noticed but is seldom discussed. Children. One can grimly discuss such longitudinal evidenced based data indicating that, representing long termed unions, overall enjoyment and happiness presents (or is increased) in the golden years of marriage, well after children have left home. However, the hardest years of marriage? The childbearing years! The data shows that happiness and ease of marriage might soon dissolve in a young marriage only to be rekindled some 30 years after marriage. With that being said. there are effective ways to to raise happier children; which means cultivating a happier marriage during the childbearing years.  These 5 parental points of parenting are worth discussing at a later date.

But for now, direct statements about children and marital difficulties might often be minimized. “My teen is using drugs,” “she’s been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum,” “I caught him Sexting,”  “he is getting bad grades in school,” “she stole from my purse,” “she is always fighting,” “she argues with me about every little thing,” and this is the short list.  More often than not, if a child is born with a physical challenge; or if a child had a severe mental health issue (such as Conduct Disorder, Autism, Neurological or Learning Disability) it negatively impacts the marriage.  So we often see the serious issue of a DUI affecting the couple because of the dreaded 2:00 a.m. phone call; compounded, with court appearances, auto insurance hikes, time off from work, and mandated counseling (which you end up being the chauffeur).  Thus, you have the serious marital wedge of the child’s actions (medical, behavioral or mental health) that is a product of your union (or the stepchild which is the child of your partner) causing a vexational in your overall logistical functionality within your marriage.  What we have is the flippant, equally sharp marital wedge which my male friends jokingly, but crassly, reveal as cockblocking. The adolescent is symbolically planted in the middle of the bed between you and your spouse preventing any form of engaged communication (emotional AND physical).

Therefore, as earlier stated my engagement with couples is not an absolute. Working with adolescent mothers and pregnant teens represented some of the most memorable experiences of my career.  There is nothing like running into a young athletic adult who is well adjusted in life on a hike who was a former teen client.  For me to learn that they are the person I saw before they saw themselves it the bliss. There is a sense of peace seeing the former teen mom with yet another child in the streets of Downtown LA.  To learn that despite ongoing obstacles in her life you hear her resilience in her narrative and you learn that she is okay. Or the gang member who has become a mature young man graduating from a California University who is no longer angry and time limited. Again, bliss.

With this information of the challenging years of marriage you have the juxtaposition.  Children are a task but also a great joy. But the real jarring complex is this: Why are your best years of your young adulthood; which include your career expansion, career excitement, and finally getting what life is about filled with this offspring child or adolescent wedge?  Well that is the five session discussion for therapy.

The Elephant -- the beautiful creature.  Can the Adolescent and bring him to therapy to work on their self-growth be a benefit to your marriage! Yes!

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