Reboot Your Relationship

Joe Vim Whitcomb, MBA LMFT

~ CEO and founder of the Relationship Society, Joe Whitcomb is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Relationship Coach based in Santa Monica, California. He is the co-author of Reboot Your Relationship and has been coaching couples through relationship struggles for many years. He also conducts weekend retreats to equip couples with tools they need to go home and achieve more fulfilling relationships.

He is currently a doctoral candidate, furthering his studies into couples and relationships...

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Why Do We Need Relationship Experts?

What Joe does is so important. Anything someone can do to improve their relationship should be explored (Side note:  I would be remiss in not mentioning that when there is active domestic violence by one or both partners, or active substance abuse, relationship counseling or coaching is contraindicated. A professional can connect you to resources in your community in which each partner can work on those more pressing problems first before tackling underlying struggles around intimacy.)

Why, should we work on our relationships you ask? Well, although divorce rates for 1st marriages are not what they used to be (upwards of 67% in the 1990’s), but the rates are hovering around 40-50%. The rates are even higher for 2nd and 3rd marriages. That also is a switch. A decade ago, if a person married 3 times, they would at least have a chance of that marriage lasting, but today those marriages have a fail rate of about 75% (http://www.divorcestatistics.org/). I Know, I know, not everyone gets married.  Cohabiting couples tend to report lower rates of relationship satisfaction, increased rates of financial stress and emotional instability**.  Newer research into marital satisfaction appears to be linked more to age of commitment than does whether a couple marries or just chooses to live together.  (If you're curious, couples that paired up later, rather than earlier in life tend to last the longest***).  As a marriage therapist, I see couples in all stages of conflict. For as much as we are all very different individuals, the basic needs for an intimate relationship are similar across demographics. It looks like we live in a world in which the union of marriage is taken lightly, but what I’ve observed is throngs of people who don’t have the emotional equipment to fix what becomes broken.

In the interview Joe discusses:

• The “4 Types of Love” he says everyone needs in order to build a stable relationship.
• What it means to understand your Attachment Style
• How both men and women generally orient themselves around trust in a relationship
• The “Couple Bubble”
• What makes a great relationship
• Why it’s so important for both partners to “do the work” on themselves in order to be more emotionally healthy in the relationship
• He gives us at least 2 strategies for more effective communication (We all need a bit of that at times!)
• How to better understand miscommunications when one person’s intention is good, but the partner responds negatively.

Let Joe Help You

After listening to my interview with Joe, you may be happy to hear that even if you’re not near Los Angeles, you can still get Joe’s services. He provides online relationship coaching AND before you come to one of his full weekend retreats, you can attend his 1-day intensive, “Reboot Your Relationship” workshop. Joe’s next 1-Day Intensive workshop is on Sat. Oct. 24 (call Joe for more information on time and exact location).

You can contact Joe directly at (310) 560-0726 or find him on his Facebook page The Relationship Society.

 

Reference Notes

**Georgina Binstock and Arland Thornton, "Separations, Reconciliations, and Living Apart in Cohabiting and Marital Unions," Journal of Marriage and Family 65, No. 2 (May 2003): 432-443.

***https://contemporaryfamilies.org/cohabitation-divorce-brief-report/

"Reboot Your Relationship: Restoring Love through Communication in a Disconnected World", Joe Vim Whitcomb and Savannah Ellis, 2013.

Contact

Joe Whitcomb / The Relationship Society

twitter: @relationsoc
facebook: TheRelationshipSociety
linkedin: therelationshipsociety

phone: (310) 560-0726

The Hurricane and the Honeymoon: Love and Addiction

This is the story of hundreds of thousands of peoples’ relationships right now.
When you love someone with an addiction, life often feels like you cycle between a hurricane and a honeymoon.

I grew up on Long Island, about an hour outside New York City. It was usually a very pleasant and seasonably predictable place to live. That being said, some of my most memorable moments growing up are relative to the hurricanes that came through and wrecked our lives for a short time. Even though they were brief, they felt catastrophic when they happened. In particular, I can still remember the details of preparing and experiencing Hurricane Gloria in 1985.

Life was good. It was the time of year when summer transitions to fall on Long Island, leaves turn colors, we look forward to Halloween. But then, seemingly all of a sudden, we were taping our windows closed, filling up the cars with gas, buying up all the cereal and Spaghetti-Os we could to prepare for the turmoil ahead…
The storm hit! We braced ourselves and hoped for the best. Gloria was a terrible one – we were left without power for about 2 weeks and there was a tremendous amount of damage to areas of Long Island. In the end, we were fortunate. Our house was still standing and once the power came on our lives really just went back to normal. We went right back into our honeymoon experience where life was pleasant and relatively predictable. The damage from hurricanes varies from minimal to catastrophic. Certainly the range in between is vast, and relative to one’s previous storm experience.

That is exactly how it can feel to love someone with an addiction. I’ve been working as a therapist who specializes in addictions for most of my career. Loving someone with an addiction also hits close to home for me as I have a dear family member who continues to cycle through hurricanes herself. The countless stories I’ve heard from clients, either as the partners of the addicts or the person causing the storm, mirror the honeymoon-hurricane cycle.

People that love an addict will say there are times in the relationship that are “really nice” and their partner is “exactly as they were when we first got together”, but Hurricane and honeymoon - Coaching through chaos - when you liove an addictinevitably, the storm comes in. It may be in the form of them “just” being unreliable or flaking out on plans because they are already imbibing or otherwise using. Other times, and more frequently the longer the relationship lasts, the hurricane comes in like Gloria. It causes what we think of as more damaging consequences in the relationship. The storm can come in the form of not returning home, hooking up with someone else or losing a job (causing both financial and emotional consequences in the relationship). No matter how strong the person who loves them is and how much they say they want a fulfilling relationship, I often witness peoples’ struggle with the honeymoon-hurricane cycle. The partner’s tolerance level is usually directly relative to their past experience in life. If they grew up in a chaotic household, and even more so if they grew up with an addicted parent, their tolerance for the storm damage is high – just like people who have weathered many hurricanes.

The honeymoon period comes about after the storm. What usually happens is that the addict is so remorseful that, just like the 2–week post-Gloria blackout, the addict finds a way to seemingly restore the honeymoon period. Maybe they don’t drink “as much” or they hide their drug use, or just keep it at home . I should note that using at home is usually safer emotionally for the couple in that the non-using partner thinks “At least I know where they are and that they’re alive”. In extreme cases, the addict may make it to rehab or enter a 12-step program, saying all the things their partner needs to hear to decide to stay with them. Very often, the partner truly means the words when they say them, but their addicted brain may pull them back to using, often looking like they just said what they thought they needed to in order to keep their partner happy.

this is a couple on a honeymoon

To people who have not experienced many storms, these things still seem intolerable. If we don’t understand the addicted brain, we think – “This is unacceptable behavior!” and “I deserve better than this!” An outsider might say, “You should just leave since your partner keeps choosing the alcohol over you!” The partner of the addict may even think this themselves, but they learn along the way, that the addict does not have a choice and they are not “choosing” the substance over the relationship once they are addicted.

The thing is, choosing to end a relationship with an addict is not so simple.
Drugabuse.gov defines addiction as “ a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain”. Addiction is not an actual diagnosis.

In the addiction treatment field our latest diagnostic manual permits us to specify that a person has a “Substance Use Disorder”. We don’t leave our partners because they get diabetes, cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis, but we live in a society where others judge those that choose to stay in relationships with people who have the brain disease of addiction.

a house after a hurricane
pic orig on thrifyfun.com

We didn’t do a mass exodus from Long Island after Gloria. We removed the tape from the windows, picked up the branches from the yards and re-stocked our refrigerators to get ready for the honeymoon of normality to return. Couples with catastrophic relationships damaged caused by addictions may hole up for a few days at home, talk to each other about what happened, and make a prevention plan to try to stave off the next storm much in the same way. We all have weathered some storms in our day. For a couple with addiction, their life is just more prone to them.

One of the good ones – Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the men out there who have come to fulfill that role. I was born to a great one – he was kind, loving and supportive and he taught me about overcoming obstacles, pursuing my dreams and good leadership.

He’s no longer alive, but he sure lived a triumphant life. To honor him today, I’d like to share about him.  My father, Frank Mullen, Sr. was born in 1928. He caught polio at age 3 and was a paraplegic the remainder of his life. He was a March of Dimes poster child when he was about 8 years old. There’s a great picture of him in his leg braces and crutches that was always proudly displayed in my family’s home. For as much as I knew my father was “disabled”, he didn’t live that way, so the picture always reminded me that he really worked hard every day just to live like “the rest of us”.

Although he spent many early years in and out of hospitals, much of the time in body casts, he was still able to work as a professional musician as a teenager. He was one of 7 kids. His father was a coal miner in Scranton and his mother stayed home to raise the kids. There wasn’t much money. He was able to help his family out with the money he would make as a musician. He went on to college and law school as an adult. He told us stories of getting carried up and down the stairs at law school so he could get to class. If there’s a will, there’s a way was his unspoken motto.

After working his ways through college, he moved with his family to Long Island, NY in the 50’s after his father passed away. His eldest brother Jack was sort of the family leader. He opened a tire business there. Dad worked there for a bit before he started his career as a lawyer. He met my mother at the first firm he worked at – she was his secretary. Sometime around 1970, he partnered with another lawyer friend of his and they formed their own firm. This firm, along with his partner, is still going strong in Smithtown, NY.

So he raised 5 kids, ran a successful business, occasionally taught a class or spoke at a bar association meeting and traveled all without the use of his legs. Some of my best memories are of us playing catch in the front yard. Dad would be on the ride-around mower and he would throw the football to us while we would run or he’d use the mower to help him “run” to make the catch we threw back at him. There was nothing “disabled” about him. He always found time to take me to my piano recitals and was a great support when I was nervous before a competition. He supported whatever choices we made in life. He had opinions about them, but he trusted our judgment.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my life was not all Pollyanna love & great examples. There was actually a lot of chaos in my home life (which I’ll save for a later post), and I needed to leave home at 17. My father went with me to a wonderful therapist who helped advocate for me to be on my own. Although he wasn’t happy about that, he recognized it was best for everyone involved and some things could not be repaired just by thinking positively.

I ended up working for my father’s firm for most of my 20s. That is where I really saw him shine as a leader first-hand. Many of the clients we worked with did not know I was Frank’s daughter and it always amazed me that I never met one person who ever had something other than kind words to say about him. One of the qualities of a great leader is one in which the people under them feel cared for and supported – he was always able to foster that. Another great leadership trait I learned from him is that the ship gets to its destination not by the having someone point and steer the boat, but by the team it takes to keep the ship running. I eventually jumped ship to pursue my own dream of being a therapist and living in California. Getting him to accept that I was not going to become a lawyer was a tough pill for him to swallow– he so wanted me to follow in his footsteps. We hardly went more than a few days without talking once I moved to California. He was always in my corner with words of encouragement or wisdom.

The last 5-7 years of his life found him living in Florida after a costly divorce, with a retirement plan that didn’t go as he would have liked and with some serious health problems. One of my brothers died suddenly during that time period as well. Dad never really recovered from that – I don’t think anyone really does. He did, however, have a new wife who loved him dearly in her own special way. That relationship was the saving grace in his life at that time. I had some special moments with him after he moved to Florida. It was fun to see him living life on very relaxed terms and enjoying himself. He remained fiercely independent both physically and mentally.  Once he paired up with his wife, he didn’t travel alone anymore, but I remember a time right before that when he drove himself to Chicago to attend a conference. I would always worry about him traveling alone. For as strong as he was, because of his physical representation, he always appeared vulnerable. He would always laugh and tell me I should have more faith in him and his abilities. He ended up passing away in 2009 from multiple complicated medical issues. I still miss his Friday morning phone calls.

Now, his example lives on in me. I try to incorporate his kind nature, excitement for life, empathy for others and ambitious drive to overcome obstacles into my life. I keep a picture of he and I in my office so that memories of his support are never too far away. I can only hope to come close to what he accomplished in business and relationships.

These days, I have the privilege of being friends with some great fathers. I witness examples of deep love, protection, working to provide for their kids and conscious ways they set examples reflected in how the live, love and spend their free time.

Fatherhood is not easy, and some don’t, or can’t, step up to the task. I lucked out being born to my father and I hope many people reading this feel the same way about their fathers. For those that have stepped up where a bio-Dad couldn’t, thank you for that. Blood does not make the family tie, love and relationship does.

Wherever you may find yourself today, if you can relate to receiving the feelings of love and support from your father, or the man that filled that role, give them a hug or call today and send some love their way. For those whose father’s have passed, my thoughts are with you.

Happy Father’s Day dad