Common Relationship Challenges and How to Work Through Them

Growing up, we consume a lot of images of what relationships “should” look like. Women should receive flowers every day, men should receive a home cooked meal every night, and both should be completely aware of the other person’s needs without them saying a word.

Healthy relationships today look nothing like this. Romantic partners vary in gender and number for some people, throwing a wrench in the whole “women do this” and “men do that” training manual we were taught as kids.

While the perfect relationship may not exist, many different kinds of healthy relationships do. Let’s talk about the most common relationship challenges and how you can work through them.

1. Letting Resentment Build

Not every disagreement is a sign that the relationship is falling apart or not “meant to be”.

If you tend to hold back honest feelings out of fear of breaking up, you might need to adjust how you see conflict in relationships.

Every relationship has conflict. You may cook differently, prefer different bedtimes, or enjoy different TV shows. Disagreeing with each other or struggling to find a compromise is a part of learning how to live together and love each other. Just make sure you’re communicating in healthy, productive ways.

Be specific about your needs and stay away from all-or-nothing statements like, “You always leave the cabinet doors open.” Instead try, “I’m sure you don’t mean to, but could you remember to close the cabinet doors? It stresses me out when the kitchen isn’t orderly.”

2. Putting Up Emotional Walls

Vulnerability is scary. However, having one person in life who you are vulnerable with can make you feel safer overall, not exposed.

Some people even require emotional intimacy to tap into their sexuality. If you struggle to enjoy sex with your partner, try to open up to them more.

The goal is to feel deeply understood by your partner. If talking about your inner thoughts and feelings makes you anxious, start by spending more time together. Go on walks, play games, or attend an event.

Doing physical activities together can help you feel more in sync with your partner, allowing you to trust them more with personal, sensitive information.

3. People-Pleasing

While it’s important to support your partner emotionally, the burden should not be on you to meet all of their emotional needs. There’s a fine line between showing you care and trying to control their feelings.

Allow your partner to feel the full scope of their emotions—if they’re frustrated, let them vent! If they’re upset, let them know it’s okay to cry. Try not to make everything better before they’ve explored what they need to, as this can cause distance between you and delay emotional growth.

If they seem to be coming to you with every problem they have, try suggesting ways they can cope by themselves. Instead of offering advice, simply suggest, “Do you want to listen to your favorite album together?”

This will help them learn to cope without relying on you “fixing” them.

4. Assigning Blame

We all fall victim to perfectionism from time to time, but in relationships, it only distracts from all that is good. It can also lead to feelings of worthlessness as a partner.

Make the goal be about getting your partner to open up. Avoid pointing fingers or making assumptions like, “You obviously don’t care about me because you didn’t say anything to me all night.”

Instead, communicate with compassion. Try something like, “You seemed quieter than normal tonight. I really wanted to talk to you at the party. Is something going on?”

With practice, you and your partner can overcome common conflicts like these and achieve true, deep feelings of intimacy. To learn more about where room for improvement exists in your relationship, reach out to one of our expert counselors today for individual or couples therapy.

Children of Divorce: Preparing for Changes

Divorce and separation is difficult for children. Everything they know to be true about the world can change in an instant. They no longer get to see both their parents at the same time. They may have to move to a new home or meet new caretakers. In some instances children have to spend more time away from one of their parents than they ever have before. 

Topic: Transitioning To and From Houses

Because routine is so important to kids, this break in their routine often brings up strong and difficult emotions. Children might become overwhelmed when they have to transition from one home to the other. They may even refuse to go to the new home or become flooded with emotions, have more outbursts or be defiant on transition days. To help prepare your child(ren) for this day, I suggest reading a book like Two Hug Day.

Two-Hug Day

This book is written for 0-6year olds and can be found for free online. It was created by the makers of Sesame Street as part of their “Sesame Street In Communities” initiative. The book is hosted on their “Dealing with Divorce” page. What I love about this book is it’s heartfelt way of viewing the transition day 

from one house to the other. The authors give it an affectionate label, “Two-Hug Day”, a day when children of divorce get to hug both parents. The one whose home they are leaving and the one whose home they are going to. The other great thing about this book is that in reading it, you and your child(ren) can come up with some ideas to ease the struggle of switching between homes. Since it is part of the Sesame Street family, there are also endless resources available for free to be used alongside this terrific book. Read this book with your child(ren) often, as you begin to discuss divorce, especially in the time leading up to the first “Two-Hug Day” and those to follow.

Suggested activity: The Two-Hug Day Ritual

As you plan for the first “Two-Hug Day”, read this book with your child(ren) and create your own “Two-Hug Day” ritual. Make sure it is something that can be repeated every “Two-Hug Day”. This can be as simple as picking out a toy or stuffed animal that goes with them every time. It could also be more complex, including food, books, dancing or music. The book offers some suggestions as well. The key is to involve your kids. Extra points for making it fun and creative.

If your child is struggling to work through a recent divorce or separation, it is also important to know when to get help. You do not have to support them alone. Counseling can be a great way to help your child cope with big feelings that divorce and separation bring up. I am here to help. Contact Ellie Today!

Children of Divorce and Separation: Blame

When two parents decide to separate it can be earth-shattering for the kids involved. As a result, kids might feel angry, sad, lonely, or confused. As parents, it can be hard to help kids understand what is going on and why. One strategy I find helpful as a therapist is to use books to help young and elementary-aged children talk about the difficult topics surrounding divorce. 

Topic: It’s Not Your Fault

Many kids blame themselves for their parent’s divorce. As a result, they might feel more on edge and struggle to enjoy time with one or both parents. To tackle this misperception, consider reading a book like, “Was It The Chocolate Pudding?”

Was it the Chocolate Pudding?

Written for kids ages 3-7, this book can support or help you and your partner initiate conversations with your child(ren) about divorce. The young boy in this book thinks his parents divorced because of the mess he and his brother made with chocolate pudding. As he begins to understand his feelings and some of the changes that happened when his parents divorced, the reader is clued into words and emotions that come up when divorce happens. Another wonderful feature of this book is a “Note to Parents” from  Dr. Jane Annunziata, a psychotherapist specialized in supporting parents in divorce situations. In her note, she speaks about the emotions of small children when divorce happens including, Explaining Separation and Divorce to Children, Helping Your Child Cope, and On Healing and Recovery. 

Suggested activity: I Love you Snacks

After reading this book with your kids, make an “I love you snack” together. 

I Love You Chocolate Pudding Flower Cups 

1 package of instant pudding.

2 cups milk or milk alternative

1 cup cookie or graham cracker crumbs

4 flowers on stems or lollipops or other stemmed item

Green Sprinkles


  1. Make pudding according to instructions on box using the 2 cups
    of milk. 
  2. Divide pudding into 4 small dishes. 
  3. Layer each pot with additional ingredients in order. As you and your child(ren)add each new ingredient name how it adds love to your pudding flower cup. For example, you might say, “We are going to make an I Love You Pudding Cup Today. Each time we add a new ingredient, let’s name the love you need in your pudding cup today.” You might start the process by labeling the pudding itself as a big pudding hug. The crumbs might be kisses crumbs, the flower might be a playful flower and the sprinkles could be laughter sprinkles. 

Of course sometimes love looks a little different and it requires us to witness crashing crumbs, prickly flowers and sprinkles of tears, just so we can get them out in the open and talk about them. No matter what type of love goes into your flower pots, provide space for your kid(s) talk and ask any questions they have about your divorce/separation while you eat your yummy snack together. 

If your child is struggling to work through a recent divorce or separation, it is also important to know when to get help. You do not have to support them alone. Counseling can be a great way to help your child cope with big feelings that divorce and separation bring up. We are here to help. Contact Ellie Today!

How to Help Your Child Transition into a 2-Home Scenario After Divorce

Going through a divorce can be a tumultuous time for any adult, and for children, it can feel like their world is falling apart. It can be confusing for children to have two homes, particularly in the early stages of divorce. But there are ways to bring positivity and excitement to this change while reducing your child’s stress significantly.

Provide Stability

Help your child adjust to the changes in your family by providing as much stability as possible. Having established routines and continuity between their two homes will help your son or daughter feel safe and secure. You don’t need to have a strict schedule, just routines that your child can expect when they wake up before they go to bed and when they come home. For example, there’s always a bath or a story before bedtime, and a healthy snack when they get home. Resist the temptation to overcompensate by lavishing your child with gifts, or letting them get away with things they normally would not. Structure in your home will help your children feel calm and stable.

Ease The Transition

Help ease the transition for your children by having a neutral pickup and drop off spot, such as your child’s school. You can drop your son or daughter off at school in the morning, and your ex can pick them at the end of the school day. This also eliminates stress for the child and sad goodbyes. Children are very perceptive and will be keenly aware of any sadness, anger, or frustration you may be feeling if you drop them off at your ex’s new place.

Give Kids Choices

Allowing your child to have a say will help them feel empowered, lessening any feelings they may have about things being out of their control. Have them pick out a new bedspread or pillows to decorate their space, or ask them to decide on a special dinner over the weekend. You can make them their favorite meal, try something new, or they can choose a restaurant they’d like to go to.

Reduce Stress on Arrivals

You can help your child adjust to the changes between two homes by making their arrival from your ex’s house as positive and structured as possible. Come up with a special but simple routine for when they come home. Something pleasant and comforting, such as sharing a snack or playing a game. Resist the temptation to bombard them with questions; let them unwind and process the change in their own time.


Your child has two parents living in two separate homes, but they only have one childhood. By remaining a positive force in your child’s life and maintaining stability, you can help them transition into their new normal.

Are you struggling with divorce, and need the support and guidance of a licensed professional? I can help. Please give my office a call today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

7 Tips for Getting Through a Breakup

No breakup is ever easy, but some breakups can make you feel like you’ve been sucker-punched. And during those times, it can become sincerely difficult to see a way forward. Maybe your friends and family don’t seem to understand why you’re struggling so much, but you have every right to your feelings and your personal journey of mourning. (Because yes, you are allowed to mourn over a relationship!)

I know that things may feel dark right now, but I’ve got two great pieces of news for you. One, you’re not alone – your struggle and experience is valid and difficult, but you can take strength knowing that many other men and women like you find a way to fight through similar tough experiences all the time. And you can too.

The second piece of good news is that you have the power to make yourself feel better. Now, I’m not trying to say you can snap your fingers or simply make a mental decision, and suddenly you’ll feel better. However, you are strong and capable, and there are many things you can do to help yourself climb out of this hole and back towards your personal “normal.”

Let’s get you started with a handful of solid first steps you can take.

1. Practice self-care.Instead of wallowing in your misery, distract yourself by indulging in something you truly enjoy after all self-love is the most important love! Do something you’ve always wanted to do, take yourself on dates, or buy yourself a present. It will definitely help you feel better.

2. Use social media smartly. You might want to stay off social media during this period. Seeing pictures of happy couples on your Facebook or Instagram feed might unnecessarily trigger you. Remember that nobody’s life is as perfect as it appears to be on social media.

3. Rely on your support system. Nobody should have to go through a breakup alone. Calling your BFF and crying it out on the phone can be extremely cathartic, plus you get to hear someone you love to remind you of how awesome you are. Allow your friends and family to be there for you.

4. Find a good therapist. Talk therapy can help you with some much-needed evaluation. It can help you see what went wrong in the relationship, what you really need in a relationship, and who you really are.

5. Seek your passion. Find something that you’re really happy doing, and spend a lot of time doing it. That way, you have something positive to channel your emotions to, and you’d be too busy having fun to think about your ex.

6. Practice gratitude. Think about all the other people in your life who love you completely, and be thankful for them.

7. Focus on becoming a better person for YOU. Now is a great time to do those things you’ve always wanted to do. Start exercising, eat healthily, learn a new skill, and travel somewhere new. Grow in as many ways as possible and watch yourself flourish.

Remember, grieving the loss of a relationship is completely normal. Give yourself the time and space you need to get through the breakup. Seeing a professional therapist is a great step towards healing. If you need someone to help you through your breakup, please reach out to book a session with me.

Co-Parenting Strategies for Divorced Parents

Going through a divorce can bring the worst out of a couple that once promised each other forever. Your world might feel like it’s falling apart, and trying to co-parent when you’re struggling to simply keep going can be overwhelming. Learning to co-parent won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. Use the five strategies below to start co-parenting with your ex.

1. Focus on the Children

By maintaining the focus on what’s best for your children, you can work toward providing as peaceful a home as possible for them. Providing them loving stability and structure will help ease them through this time of transition.

2. Communication is Essential

As you go through your divorce, your communication with your ex will inevitably suffer. It may be difficult to communicate with them; you may not want to talk to, or hear from, your ex. However, it’s important that communication regarding the children is maintained, and that your children are not used as messengers (i.e., “Tell your father you have a recital on Friday.”) Communicate directly with your spouse, finding creative ways to communicate to avoid conflict if necessary (text, email, letters, etc.)

3. Just the Facts

If you’re harboring resentment or have unfinished emotional business with your ex, the desire to express your emotional needs can feel overwhelming. Make a commitment to yourself that for the sake of your children’s well being, you’ll keep conversations focused on the issues.

4. Embrace Change

As you go through your divorce, there will be a great deal of change for yourself, your ex, and your children. By expecting and embracing change, you’ll reduce the stress you feel when the unexpected presents itself.

5. Prioritize Your Health

Maintaining your health is important not only for you but for your children as well. As they learn to cope with the changes in their family, having a healthy, happy, rested parent will help them adjust. Your children depend on you, and you owe it to them to give them your absolute best as a parent. Additionally, taking time to exercise and eat healthily will help you take the focus off of your divorce, and shift the focus back on to you moving forward, and making positive changes in your life.

As we go through a divorce, we mourn the relationship lost, and the dreams we had of the future. Although your ex is no longer your partner, your ex is still your child’s parent, and you will always be co-parents of the children you have together. Learning to get along and communicate will bring comfort to your children as they learn to cope with their parents’ divorce.

If you’re going through a divorce and struggling to co-parent effectively, call me today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.