Posts Tagged ‘healthy relationships’

Marriage: The Stages and How to Cope

    My husband and I have an anniversary coming up soon. It will be our 27th! My parent’s celebrated their 61st anniversary this year, wow. In our local newspaper they list anniversaries under the celebrations category including those couples who have celebrated 25th, 50th, 60th and more. It is a time of celebration to mark those milestones in ones relationship with their partner. Many couples married this year for the 1st time. It is a very exciting event for the couple. All the planning and expectations of sharing their lives together. Although all marital unions are not created equal-they all go through some predictable stages. According to, Rita DeMaria, PhD, a marriage and family therapist and author of The 7 Stages of Marriage, the timing may differ, and the way a couple manages the phase they’re in varies widely but understanding the stages gives you the tools you need to move through with your loving union intact. Below are the list of the stages and some of the challenges that go with that stage:

  • HONEYMOON STAGE:   The first year or two is a passion-filled period that all about the two of you and your intense focus on the excitement and romance of the relationship. Differences seem relatively unimportant as the focus is on discovering each other and sharing life together. Usually you cannot get enough of each other sexually. At this stage, we love the way our partner makes us feel as much as we love him or her. 
  •  Challenges At This Stage: Learning to live as a couple and share decision making together. Many times this is the first time that decisions affect  someone other than yourself. Should you invest in a home, car, or travel? What are the expectations concerning your careers or educations? How will you handle financial matters? What about extended family (parents and in-laws)? Many couples feel that their love for each other will automatically determine the answers to these questions and many are “caught” off guard when discussions turn into arguments in hearing the other’s viewpoint. 


  • REALITY STAGE:  In this stage couples are learning more about themselves and each other in situations they haven’t faced together before. You may learn things that you might not have known about your spouse’s strengths, weaknesses and personal habits. Power struggles can arise as the two of you work towards both shared and separate goals. Working together as a team should be the focus of this stage. In this stage couples may discuss having children. Many couples feel that the “Spark” has left their marriage and interpret this to mean that one of the partners has fallen “out of love”. They may decide that bringing children into the marriage at this time, may help reignite that spark. In actuality, euphoria is replaced by more solid emotions like trust, respect, empathy and admiration. The highs aren’t as high and the lows aren’t as low; the relationship becomes more stable, predictable and dependable.    
  •   Challenges At This Stage:  There may be feelings of disappointment, aloneness along with a “let down” as reality sets in. This is marriage’s                 vulnerable stage. It’s a time when a woman can go from feeling cherished to being taken for granted and when a man can go from feeling admired to     be belittled. Reality and a wide range of roles and responsibilities start to impose upon the lust and love. This is the stage that you need to establish open communication. Set time aside each day, either in the mornings or evenings, where you just check in with each other and talk about your day. If regular open communication is not established during this stage, years later you may wake up lying next to a stranger in bed wondering how you grew so far apart. It is also in this stage that marriage counseling can have the most benefit for the couple instead of trying to ignore the problems and differences until they reach a point that some of the damage is irreversible.


  •  FAMILY CENTRAL:  This stage is often referred to as “the meat of marriage”. Most of the years spent in this stage consist of raising their families, buying a home, building and/or changing careers and trying to hold together a crazy, busy, modern life. This period of time is also another danger zone, due to the shifting of demands and responsibilities. The stress level is usually the highest in this stage. It’s very difficult to keep sufficient focus on the marriage relationship with the attention that kids demand and other stressors in the relationship, but it is important to do so. This is also the time period that many couples become disappointed and disillusioned to the “Ground Hog Day” type of routine. Partners may begin having an affair, or worse yet, asking for a divorce due to the lack of focus on the marriage. 
  •  Challenges at This Stage: Not losing sight of your partnership in the swirl of demands on your time and energy. Now is the time to pay close                 attention to your marriage. Give yourselves time to communicate without distractions. Plan a regular date night when just the two of you share regular   time together. Plan a getaway weekend to reconnect without all the stresses of the outside world. Open, honest and sensitive communication is the         key to surviving this stage of the marriage. If the same issues continue to arise and one or both of you are feeling frustrated, couples counseling can be   very helpful in this stage to help you get unstuck.


  • STILL IN LOVE;  This is the stage when you now have adult children and there is more time to focus on the two of you. During this stage there is a reconnecting with getting to know each other all over again. There are still disagreements but rather than hold onto the anger, partners choose to forgive and trust. We easily learn to live the lesson of mature and lasting love.
  •  Challenges at This Stage: Focusing on the two of you and having time to spend together may be a struggle for some couples. Focusing their energies  on the children, careers, and other life stressors for so many years may be a huge adjustment for many couples. Without consistent, open                            communication throughout the marriage, your partner may feel like a stranger. It is during this time that couples need to focus their time on doing          things together, such as a new activity or travel, as well as spending time apart, pursuing individual goals and dreams. You can rescue a marriage            that’s been ignored for a long time, but it will take work, so seek out professional counseling. 


  • “TILL DEATH DO YOU PART.”:  This stage is also referred to as the completion stage. You have enjoyed the lust, lived the love and come through the chaos of family life- without splitting up in the face of troubles. You still enjoy being together and are committed to each other for the rest of your lives. 
  •  Challenges at This Stage:  Many couples in this stage are totally committed to each other. Health issues may be a primary concern at this stage.           You may have dreamed of the freedom to travel and do what you want, but one or the other partner is unable to do so because of health concerns.               There may be added financial stress due to living on a fixed income and the current recession. Changes in lifestyle such as living arraignments may         be a source of stress and adjustments. 

At any time during you marriage you may experience unexpected life stressors that can interrupt the forward motion of your life together, such as fertility issues, a death in the family, a major illness or the loss of a job that leads to serious financial strains. Seeking support  during those times is very important. You may seek advice from friends, family members, religious counselors or professional therapist.

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC is a professional counselor in private practice in Shippensburg, PA. She sees client’s in her office but is also able to provide counseling by distance means such as email, chat, and Skype.

Naugle Counseling: Tips to Lower Back to School Stress

You can feel it all around you. The tv commercials play into it and the flyers received in the mail by large chain stores announce it in bold letters. Yes, its back to school time across the country!

With it brings a feeling of saddness that the summer months are now just memories. Whether you have school aged children, college age children, work in a school or college, or are a student yourself there is a change in the air. For many the start of the school year increases stress and anxiety levels within the household. 

The school year presents an opportunity for a fresh start, getting together with old and new friends, new accomplishments and exciting activities. Its an opportunity for a new beginning, a change in perspective. It can also be a measurement for growth.

Where I live in Pennsylvania, we have a definite change in the seasons. Each season brings with it new vibrations. In the fall the days become shorter and the air becomes “crisp”, the leaves change colors, and fall mums are in full bloom. Routines are changed and adjusted. There are new opportunities to watch fall sports. I live in a college town so the start of the University’s football season is always exciting as well as the high school sports season.

Here are some tips to help you and your child ease into the new school year:

  • Start now to readjust bedtimes. Children need to get their sleep. The easiest way to adjust bedtime schedules is to have the children go to bed a 1/2 hour earlier each evening until the desired bedtime is reached. Studies have shown that all children need at least 8 hours or more of sleep to perform at their best.
  • Decide on clothing the night before. This time saver helps reduce morning stress.
  • Establish a set time each day to do homework. This should be a quiet time in the household without the distractions of a tv, ipod, or cell phone. I always preferred this time to be 6:30 to 7:30 for my own children.
  • Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast. Children who eat a healthy breakfast control their weight better and perform better at school. Breakfast does not have to be labor intensive, healthy wholegrain cereals are good options as well as “instant breakfast” drinks for older children. My daughter often had macroni and cheese for breakfast along with milk or apple juice. It was something that she enjoyed eating and was healthy compared to some sugary breakfast cereals.
  • Prepare packed lunches the night before. There is enough going on in the mornings without having to pack lunches for everyone too.
  • Don’t over-schedule your children with extracurricular, or after school activities. This stresses you out as much as them driving them from place to place and they start to feel overwhelmed trying to fit everything into their day. One rule of thumb is to allow each child one activity each season. This should allow for free time to help the child unwind and destress.
  • Try to eat at least 3 dinners a week together as a family. This allows each child a chance to talk about their day and feel a part of the family. Research has shown that bonding over the dinner table is an excellent opportunity for open discussions.
  • Remember live well, love much, and laugh often. Your kids are only young once.

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC is in private practice and provides counseling to children through adults in her office in Shippensburg, PA or by Distance Means such as Skype, secure email, and by phone. Please contact her if you or your child are experiencing difficulties in life.

Parenting your Teen – Tips to Help you Cope Through this Trying Time

Parenting a teenager is one of the most difficult challenges a parent will face. A Yiddish proverb states, Small children disturb your sleep, big children your life. All parents face this time in their children’s life and wonder what has happened to the child they used to know. Volumes of books have been written about the subject. In looking back over my own experience of raising teenagers I feel lucky that I survived. I’m very proud of my young adults and who they are becoming.  My daughter and I clashed a lot. I was her target of blame for almost anything at times. I had to learn to pick my battles carefully and then be firm and follow through with the consequences. I was not her friend I was her mother. Below are some tips to follow as you navigate parenting a teen.

  • Set Limits and Follow Through on the Consequences – Your teenager still needs your guidance and even though they will never admit it at the time, they need you to say no. By setting and enforcing rules, parents give teens predictabiltiy and structure, as well as a way to combat peer pressure. Without your caring oversight, teens are left feeling isolated and alone. One of the most common reaction from teens in regards to this, I need limits. I’m going to yell at you and react to them, but when you don’t give me any, it makes me feel like I’m in charge. I may say that’s what I want, but it really scares me.
  • Always Listen – You may know what it’s like to be a teenager, but your child know what it’s like to be a teenager today. Teens today are dealing with a whole new set of stressors. Your teen may not want to talk about things when you want to talk but letting your teen know that you are available when they want to talk is important. Many  times we would have conversations in our household with our teens at the oddest times. No they weren’t always convient but looking back they were very powerful. Try to find a common interest with them in regards to a movie, sport, or other activity and talk about it without being critical. I love having conversations with my daughter about the Twilight saga. It’s interesting to find out which character they identify with and why. The teens response to this is, Sometimes I actually do want to talk to you. I just don’t know how. Find creative ways to make me talk to you. It’ll take the pressure off. 
  • Keep your Anger focused on Their Actions Not on Them as a Person- Teenagers can become very angry people. They continue to fight for their independence and less control by their parents. Teens can and do get overloaded with stress. They have poor coping skills, and getting angry is the only way they know how to avoid feeling sad, hurt, or afraid. Some of the most common teen responses to this include: I don’t always know why I’m angry, irritable, sad, or worried. Sometimes I may need you to help me figure it out. But sometimes, I may want to figure it out alone. And I’m not as in control as I am trying to look. Sometimes my hormones make me feel crazy. I haven’t learned how to regulate myself yet. One phrase I used quite often with my teens was that I really loved them, I just didn’t like their behavior at the moment. 
  • Give Your Teen Honest Compliments- Yes, I totally understand how hard this can be at times. But as parents it is easy to see all the things that they are doing wrong and not give notice to the things they are doing right. This is extremely important at this age. Teens do care what their parents think! You may give compliments as to how they handled a difficult situation, or in regards to their grades in school, or particular friends they are choosing to hang around with. I remember giving my daughter compliments on how she did her hair and makeup and trying something new (going out for a sports team). Because I was a professional counselor, she often asked advice on how to handle some of her friend’s problems, and I would be amazed as to how she thought she should handle them. Teenagers especially love to hear their parents give positive feedback about them to others. People would often ask me about raising a teenage daughter and I would say, ” I love the person she is becoming”.  Teens want their parents to be proud of them and accept them for who they are. This means resisting the urge to compare your child to others. Teens already spend their days assessing how they measure up and feeling badly about themselves – they are relying on you to be their biggest supporter. 
  • Try to Find a Compromise that Both Parties Can Accept - Teens consistently push their boundaries. When incorporating open communication as best you can, let your teen know that you are willing to trust them more but along with that trust comes more responsibility on their part. Compromises are and will always be a part of any type of relationship. Talk openly so both parties can accept what was agreed upon. 

If you continue to have conflicts with your teen, it is especially helpful to seek counseling with a professional. Not only does this give  your teen a chance to express themselves but also to talk to someone other than a parent or friend. Most professional counselors will also work with the parent on communication and parenting skills along with support for all parties involved.

“I am every emotion times ten, I conform yet I’m rebellious, always obeying but somehow still an outlaw, always talking but never heard, I am a teenager”. Author Unknown

Until Next Time,


If you like this article, please let me know and share it with family and friends. Thanks and have a great holiday weekend.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships for Young Adults

Relationships are a central factor in all of our lives. They give life meaning and purpose. To be loved by another person is an essential need and want. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines relationship in the following ways:

1. The quality or state of being related; connection

2. Connection by blood, marriage, etc; kinship

3. A particular instance of being related

4. A continued attachment or association between person, firms, etc.; specifically one between lovers.

For the purpose of this post, I am going to focus on the last definition. A continued attachment or association between person, firms, etc. Yes, relationships are an essential part of our lives. During your teen years and early 20′s you will have relationships with a lot of people. They will include friendships as well as dating relationships. A healthy relationship features mutual respect, trust, honesty, equality, good communication, and they make us feel good about ourselves. In a healthy relationship each partner helps the other to become “the best they can be”. They don’t try to change, fix or control the other. There is mutual respect on all fronts and a balance of oneness (closeness) and separation from each other. Above all else personal growth, change and exploration is encouraged. A healthy relationship involves give and take at all times. Many teens and young adults may find themselves in healthy relationships and continue to make plans for their future together. That is awesome. I have been married for 26 years to my husband. It has been quite a journey.

So what are some of the factors to distinguish between a healthy and unhealthy relationship? A real easy measurement is that in an unhealthy relationship you feel the exact opposite of how you feel in a healthy relationship. There is not mutual trust, respect, or open communication. There is not “room to grow” or the person wants to try to change you into something you are not. If you are experiencing any type of abuse or violence such as verbal, physical, emotional or sexual that is an unhealthy relationship! This can involve both people being violent or abusive towards each other or can involve only one person doing this to the other. Many times a relationship is not abusive in the beginning but over time abusive behavior might show. Usually the abuser will have an excuse and swear that it will never happen again. The abuse usually continues to happen despite promises and can intensify in both the abuse itself and it’s frequency. 

Common warning signs of an Abusive or Unhealthy Relationship (RED FLAGS) include:

* becomes jealous or possessive of you- gets angry when you talk or hang out with other friends or people of the opposite sex

* bosses you around, makes all the decisions, tells you what to do.

* tells you what to wear, who to talk to , where you can go

*is violent to other people, gets in fights a lot, loses his/her temper a lot.

*pressures you to have sex or to do something sexual that you don’t want to do.

*blames you for his or her problems, tells you that it is your fault that he or she hurt you.

*insults you or tries to embarrass you in front of other people

*has physically hurt you

*make you feel scared of their reactions to things.

*calls or texts all the time and wants to always know where you are going and who you are with.

If you have experienced any of these signs in your dating relationship please heed this advice. YOU NEED TO END THE RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS PERSON! Talk to a trusted adult such as: a parent, teacher, doctor, nurse, close friends,pastor, or professional counselor about the reality of the relationship. Have a strong support system in place. If the first person you talk to does not take your situation seriously, keep trying until you find someone who will listen to you. 

Unhealthy relationship are toxic. They will continue to get worse over time. Even though the person promises to change, statistics show that most don’t. Please read again the characteristics of a healthy relationship. You deserve the best. 

Until Next Time,


July 2016
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