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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch’

Rabbi Reveals ‘Relationship Theory,’ his Secret to a Happy Marriage

Friday, September 7th, 2012
Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

Are you looking for emotional first aid for your marriage? If you are, you’re not alone. Today, engaged couples, newlyweds and couples who have been married for years are feeling insecure about their relationships and looking for advice on how to make their marriages work better or simply to heal their relationship wounds.

It’s no surprise that people are feeling unsure about the state of marriage in America. Take the latest studies on divorce. A 1999 study called The Effects of Divorce In America showed a significant increase in divorce over the last seven decades. The report found that:

“In 1935, there were 16 divorces for each 100 marriages. By 1998, the number had risen to 51 divorces per 100 marriages.” In addition, “over a twenty year period the number of divorced Americans rose from 4.3 million in 1970 to 18.3 million in 1996.”

The statistics speak for themselves: relationships in America are in trouble and, as a society we are experiencing more divorce and dysfunction than ever before.

The good news is that I believe that most marriages can work. Often, all they need is a little guidance and direction, and when necessary, a bit of first aid.

It is true that the Torah community does not share these same statistics; our marriages tend to last longer and the viability of Jewish marriage is one of the great examples of the power and the wisdom of the Torah. However, over the last few years, we are beginning to see a new trend. Not a month will pass by when we don’t hear about a young couple getting divorced. The fact is, thirty years ago, “divorce” was an almost unspoken word in the Torah community. Today, divorce is becoming more common and we may be viewing the beginning of a new and dangerous trend. As a case in point, a colleague of mine recently mentioned to me that he stopped giving engagement gifts and preferred to wait until the couple took the final steps to the chuppah! These are signs that relationships are becoming harder to solidify and more difficult to maintain.

In today’s turbulent times, the entire notion of relationships is at risk, and the current tidal wave of divorce is causing a significant amount of anxiety. Worse, as skepticism about relationships grows, couples are becoming wary of promises that, “things will just work out” and “love will conquer all.” Many are willing to try just about anything to know for certain whether their marriage will succeed. In fact, some are so desperate for iron-clad assurances about their relationships, that they are willing to spend hours searching online for articles on marriage, participating in forums, and even taking illusive five minutes quizzes that promise to see if they have found their “true love.”

Here’s an ad I saw for one such dubious website: “Doubting if the person you are with is a right one for you? These tests and quizzes will help you to disclose his or her true essence.”

And that was just one site. There are so many others online that promise answers about romantic compatibility, how to know if you have found your soul mates, how much you have in common, and whether your love will last forever. It’s easy to get sucked into the appealing veneer of these quick and easy answers that aren’t based on fact or sound judgment.

Take Yossi, 25, and Deborah, 22, a young couple that came to talk with me about their fears of marriage and their inability to build a meaningful relationship. When they first walked into my office I was struck by how well they appeared – at least on the outside. They were in the prime of their lives, well dressed, soft spoken and well educated. Yossi was a systems analyst for a software company, and Deborah was a graduate student who had just started her first year in a master’s degree program in psychology.

Yossi, it turned out, was having difficulty deciding to get married. Deborah was scared that Yossi couldn’t make up his mind and that he was unable to commit to a stable relationship.

Yossi had other concerns about marrying Deborah. He was uneasy about the negative vibes he was receiving from what he described as Deborah’s “well-to-do” family. He was sensing that they would be unwilling to support them while Deborah was still in graduate school, and he was worried that he couldn’t carry the financial burden alone.

The Secret To A Happy Marriage

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Are you looking for emotional first aid for your marriage? If you are, you’re not alone. Today, engaged couples, newlyweds and couples who have been married for years are feeling insecure about their relationships and looking for advice on how to make their marriages work better or simply to heal their relationship wounds.

It’s no surprise that people are feeling unsure about the state of marriage in America. Take the latest studies on divorce. A 1999 study called The Effects of Divorce In America showed a significant increase in divorce over the last seven decades. The report found that:

“In 1935, there were 16 divorces for each 100 marriages. By 1998, the number had risen to 51 divorces per 100 marriages.” In addition, “over a twenty year period the number of divorced Americans rose from 4.3 million in 1970 to 18.3 million in 1996.”

The statistics speak for themselves: relationships in America are in trouble and, as a society we are experiencing more divorce and dysfunction than ever before.

The good news is that I believe that most marriages can work. Often, all they need is a little guidance and direction, and when necessary, a bit of first aid.

It is true that the Torah community does not share these same statistics; our marriages tend to last longer and the viability of Jewish marriage is one of the great examples of the power and the wisdom of the Torah. However, over the last few years, we are beginning to see a new trend. Not a month will pass by when we don’t hear about a young couple getting divorced. The fact is, thirty years ago, “divorce” was an almost unspoken word in the Torah community. Today, divorce is becoming more common and we may be viewing the beginning of a new and dangerous trend. As a case in point, a colleague of mine recently mentioned to me that he stopped giving engagement gifts and preferred to wait until the couple took the final steps to the chuppah! These are signs that relationships are becoming harder to solidify and more difficult to maintain.

In today’s turbulent times, the entire notion of relationships is at risk, and the current tidal wave of divorce is causing a significant amount of anxiety. Worse, as skepticism about relationships grows, couples are becoming wary of promises that, “things will just work out” and “love will conquer all.” Many are willing to try just about anything to know for certain whether their marriage will succeed. In fact, some are so desperate for iron-clad assurances about their relationships, that they are willing to spend hours searching online for articles on marriage, participating in forums, and even taking illusive five minutes quizzes that promise to see if they have found their “true love.”

Here’s an ad I saw for one such dubious website: “Doubting if the person you are with is a right one for you? These tests and quizzes will help you to disclose his or her true essence.”

And that was just one site. There are so many others online that promise answers about romantic compatibility, how to know if you have found your soul mates, how much you have in common, and whether your love will last forever. It’s easy to get sucked into the appealing veneer of these quick and easy answers that aren’t based on fact or sound judgment.

Take Yossi, 25, and Deborah, 22, a young couple that came to talk with me about their fears of marriage and their inability to build a meaningful relationship. When they first walked into my office I was struck by how well they appeared – at least on the outside. They were in the prime of their lives, well dressed, soft spoken and well educated. Yossi was a systems analyst for a software company, and Deborah was a graduate student who had just started her first year in a master’s degree program in psychology.

Yossi, it turned out, was having difficulty deciding to get married. Deborah was scared that Yossi couldn’t make up his mind and that he was unable to commit to a stable relationship.

Yossi had other concerns about marrying Deborah. He was uneasy about the negative vibes he was receiving from what he described as Deborah’s “well-to-do” family. He was sensing that they would be unwilling to support them while Deborah was still in graduate school, and he was worried that he couldn’t carry the financial burden alone.

The Art Of Good Communication

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Whenever I speak at a shul or event I’m usually asked what I think are the vital aspects of good communication, and by implication, what makes for bad communication. When asked, I include five components of good communication.

Good communication in marriage is respectful.

In a healthy marriage couples avoid what I call “disrespectful judgments.” Sarcasm, ridicule, judgmental statements and accusations, and put downs fit into this category. Good communication avoids all such disrespect. This is another way of saying that good communication is qualitative. Just listen to couples talking to each other. Do you hear condescension or sarcastic responses to honest statements and questions? Do you hear one partner make fun of the other’s mispronunciations or poor grammar? Do you hear a spouse berating or criticizing the other’s choices or decisions? Do you hear one spouse trying to intimidate the other into submission? Do you observe eye-rolling in responses to honest thoughts from the other? Now, analyze the way you talk to your spouse? Is your communication respectful, or does it show grave disrespect?

Good communication in marriage is quantitative.

Most couples engage in meaningful conversation less than 15 minutes per week. Two-income families trying to enable the children to participate in every available recreational activity only makes a viable solution more difficult to discover. The problem is not insurmountable, however, as long as we take advantage of multi-tasking.

Good conversation can occur while participating in other activities. Talk while taking a walk, when working around the house together, when conducting family meetings, and while driving together to shul, the grocery store, or a shiur. Couples intent on quantitative as well as qualitative communication seize every possible moment to talk respectfully with one another.

Good communication in marriage is a two-way street.

While effective, respectful talking is essential to good communication, respectful listening is also vital. Bad communication begins with one spouse dominating the conversation, but the listener can also ensure bad communication. A lack of eye contact, negative facial gestures, or disengaged body language also stymies good communication.

Watch a couple at the airport or in the food court at a shopping mall talk to one another. Does one spouse dominate the conversation? Does he interrupt his spouse when she tries to get in a few words of self-defense or alternate viewpoint? Does the dominant voice refuse to really listen? If so, this conversation is not a two-way street and is doomed to be at best, poor communication.

Good communication in marriage probes for more insight.

No matter how well conceived and how well stated, most listeners fail to grasp the full meaning of the speaker, especially the subtle nuances. The only way to overcome the unnecessary miscues in conversation is to ask questions. To maintain good communication, however, the questions must be asked respectfully and courteously.

Responses like, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard; don’t you mean to say…?” probe but are incredibly disrespectful. On the other hand, an introductory statement to a question like “Please forgive my inability to keep up with you, but I need to ask a question about what you just said” is both probing and respectful.

Good communication in marriage is honest.

Any spouse who learns that his spouse lied about something wonders from then on if the truth is on the table when any issue arises. Tragically, lying brings long-term consequences that most spouses fail to consider before twisting the truth. Honesty, however, is not merely avoiding falsehood. Honesty also means that we refuse to avoid sharing information that our spouse has the right to know and would want to know. Why would we avoid sharing such information? Usually, we either fear judgment from our spouse if we admit our failings, or we fear hurting our spouse’s feelings.

Good communication in marriage does not hide, distort, or evade the truth from the other. But honest communication doesn’t necessitate cruelty just for the sake of honesty. Respectful honesty is the key phrase.

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is an expert in marriage, pre-marriage education, and working with teenagers at risk. He is the executive director of Shalom Task Force and maintains a private practice in Brooklyn. For an appointment or to watch his free video series on marriage and parenting, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com call 646-428-4723 or email: rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

How Does Marriage Counseling Help?

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

If you are in a difficult marriage and are considering seeking help, you’re probably wondering: what would the counselor make us do during the session? Would my counselor know the appropriate technique to use for our specific case? Is our counselor’s style suited to our problem?

These are all valid questions, and you have the right to ask them.

The good news is that there are many marriage-counseling techniques available, with most verified by research and experience. The use of these techniques is not limited to counseling sessions; couples can borrow these techniques and/or the rationale behind them, and use them to either enrich or heal their marriage.

The following are three of the most commonly used techniques in marriage counseling:

Analysis of communication patterns

It may be cliché, but it’s still fact: the majority of marital issues can be traced to poor communication.

Conflicts are normal in relationships. After all, no two people are alike; it’s inevitable that a husband and wife will differ on at least one issue. But while you can’t avoid disagreements, you can transform them into constructive discussions. The key to successfully navigating conflicts is to be able to communicate your position well.

What many couples aren’t aware of is that communication is a skill. It requires deliberate effort. We can’t always go with what feels natural, and assume it will make us understood.

Consider this example:

Wife: He’s so insensitive. I’ve been moping around all week, and he doesn’t even sense that something is wrong.

Husband: Oh, did you want me to comfort you? You were so surly; I thought you wanted me to stay away!

Was the husband really insensitive? He did notice his wife’s discontent, and sincerely wanted to respond to it. However, because the needs weren’t communicated directly, the husband received the wrong message. And you can imagine how this simple miscommunication can escalate to a bigger fight!

What a marriage counselor can do is mirror unhelpful communication patterns to the couple, and help couples express and receive messages better. At first, new communication styles may feel unnatural, and the counselor may even have to act as a translator to decipher what couples really want to say to one another. But once functional communication is learned, it can be a powerful tool, not just in addressing conflicts, but in providing support and nurturance.

Surfacing Unconscious Roots of Relationship Problems

Some counselors adapt a psychodynamic approach to counseling. In this approach, the unconscious roots of one or both spouse’s behavior are surfaced. This approach is most applicable when an irrational pattern of reacting exists in the relationship. Psychodynamic counselors believe that much of our behavioral tendencies are shaped by either childhood experiences or significant events in our lives. Our experiences can create a need to be fulfilled, or a skewed perception of reality. When it comes to dysfunctional tendencies, it is always helpful to gain awareness of how they were formed, so that a couple can begin changing them into functional patterns.

There is a reason why the psychodynamic approach works in marriage counseling: unfortunately, marriage can be a catch-basin of personal issues. This means that it’s easy to see your relationship with your spouse as a solution to what your childhood lacked. While there’s nothing wrong with looking to your partner to fulfill your needs, — indeed, the impact of a neglectful or abusive parent can be healed by a spouse’s love — a lack of awareness about this dynamic can lead to unreasonable expectations.

Consider this example:

Rachel came to counseling because of her husband David’s “extreme jealousy.” David is unreasonably suspicious, and demands that he be informed of his wife’s whereabouts 24/7. He also has a tendency to “overreact” whenever Rachel is in conversation with another man. Rachel feels stifled by David’s behavior, so much so that she can’t enjoy her social relationships anymore.

Upon exploration, the counselor found that David’s parents separated when he was a child. When David had been eight, his mother left him with his father. David blamed the separation on his father’s complacency; he felt that had his dad just been more vigilant, he could have curbed his mother’s affairs before they progressed into something serious.

David wasn’t aware of it, but his jealousy is a direct result of his childhood. He was trying to be “vigilant” — the way his father never was — to protect his family. Unfortunately, he couldn’t see that his reactions are uncalled for by the situation, and is actually harming rather than protecting his marriage.

In cases like David’s and Rachel’s, a marriage counselor can help by uncovering these unconscious roots of irrational behavior, and bringing it to the couple’s awareness. Then David can start to control his jealousy, while Rachel can be more compassionate when it does occur. The counselor can even teach Rachel how to assure David that history will not repeat itself, helping David to gain greater security in their relationship.

Recession And Domestic Violence

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

The country’s economic indicators may be falling, but incidents of domestic violence are rising.

Hotline calls, shelter visits, and domestic violence-related crimes are all up significantly, according to recent reports. Many of NYC shelters, to list just one example, are fully occupied and having to turn women away.

Job loss and declines in income add even more strain on violent relationships. A study on recent domestic-violence homicides in Massachusetts found that “limited access to services for victims and unemployment for batterers” were key risk factors of abuse.

And women often feel trapped in abusive relationships during tough economic times. They’re likely to feel they’d be unable to financially support themselves. Plus, if an abuser is out of work, there is more opportunity for them to be present at home.  It’s also not uncommon for abusers to keep victims economically enslaved, seizing paychecks and denying all access to money. When that income shrinks during hard times, the victim becomes even easier to control.

A sign that things may be getting worse is a government booklet offering advice to women on how to deal with recession-related domestic violence and discrimination from employers released last week, reflecting concern that women are to be worst hit by the economic crisis.

The 30 page document is based on the premise that “women, especially those who are pregnant or work part-time, can feel particularly vulnerable during economic downturns.” The document provides a summary of benefits already available and details support groups women can call on if they feel their job or personal safety is threatened as a result of the recession.

Figures from the police issued in January suggested that there has been a slight increase in domestic violence in the past year, and police were looking at how stress in terms of lost jobs might create tension in families. The government booklet devotes a section to the impact of the recession on divorce, violence and family tensions.

“Economic downturns can be difficult times for family relationships. Worries about finances can create additional tension and in some cases, where couples have already decided to part, problems over selling the family home can deepen tensions,” the booklet states.

The government booklet lists advice for women who have lost their jobs, saying “it is unlawful for your employer to treat you less favorably because of your pregnancy or because you take maternity leave.”

If you are a victim of domestic violence in our community you can turn to the Shalom Task Force hotline (1-888-883-2323). Our confidential national domestic abuse toll-free Hotline is the backbone of all our efforts. It was established in 1995 to provide a listening ear and to offer a wide range of referrals to our callers.

The Hotline is staffed by over 80 volunteer advocates, many of whom are professional women who work in law, social work, education and psychology. They take part in an intensive training program in addition to an internship. Besides English, we have advocates who speak Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Spanish and Hungarian.

Our volunteers understand the impact the economy is having on people’s lives and they are ready to speak with you when you pick up the phone and call.

 

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force. For more information visit www.shalomtaskforce.org or call the hotline at 1-888-883-2323.

When Should A Couple Go For Marriage Therapy?

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Q: My husband and I are having trouble in our marriage. We tend to fight about the same issues every day and he’s so emotionally distant. At what point should I consider seeing a marriage therapist?

 

A: A professional practicing marriage therapist can act as a mediator when it comes to disagreements and personality differences. These differences can cause any number of arguments. Most of the rifts a couple experience have the potential to end in a peaceful way, but then there are those rough and tumble situations where there seems to be no hope in sight. When the stability of your relationship is in question, marital therapy can provide you with the best relationship advice and guidance.

Seeking out marriage therapy to get unbiased guidance from a mediator who is professionally trained in such matters is a good start to getting back what was lost between the two of you. The marriage family therapist will offer you his or her expertise and qualified suggestions as your professional negotiator. It’s sometimes nice to have that cushion when you and your spouse can’t seem to get past your problems and communication has stalled.

Family counselors are certified professionals who have experience in all types of situations. Marriage therapy advice is a just a small portion of what they offer to couples from all walks of life. They also instruct couples on techniques of how to strengthen their bond, improve their listening skills to better understand each other, and increase their conversational and interpersonal skills.

A marriage therapist will never place blame on a guilty party, if there is one. They only try to help you work through the misconceptions, accusations and ego trips that may bring negative feelings into the relationship. You’ll find that marriage and family therapy will have a significant impact on your relationship and your lives. When communication becomes stagnant and it no longer exists between loved ones, family therapists can guide and teach you to share your feelings once again. They give a person permission to share their deepest fears and desires without feeling guilty or ridiculed by their partner. Egos are checked at the door when a mediator is present, for there is no room for them in a successful relationship.

Boredom, emotional neglect, lack of communication or attachment issues from childhood are just a few reasons why marriage problems may occur. The problems can be compounded or it may be just a single issue, but it is enough to shake the foundations of a relationship. When the couple fails to identify the causes of their difficulties, confusion and separation from the relationship can soon follow.

Sometimes, the advice helps reveal issues that were once hidden due to anger, misunderstandings, and a breach of trust. Using your marriage counselor’s advice can aid you through the process of working it out for yourselves.

There is the belief, or opinion, that family therapy should only be undertaken when a situation is too dire for repair. This is a false conviction. Marriage family therapy can be beneficial to any couple that is having issues, and at any stage in a relationship.

In many instances, troubled couples thought they were destined for divorce, and had actually started the proceedings, before they engaged in any type of family therapy. They soon realized their mistake once they began participating in regularly schedule appointments with their family therapist. The family therapy sessions saved their marriages from failing and taught them how to relate to each other in a more efficient manner.

It is best to begin family and marriage therapy when marital problems are still in the early stages. The sooner a couple engages in family and marriage therapy, the quicker and easier it will be to eliminate any misconceptions, anger, frustrations, and trust issues they may have.

Now, there are always those stubborn partners who refuse to participate in any marriage and family counseling. This should not stop the one individual who wishes to seek help. The marriage therapist can help the individual work through their own personal issues, and maybe once their partner sees the remarkable effects that the marriage therapist is having on their spouse, they may want to join in on the sessions.

Don’t be surprised when the marriage counselor digs deep into your private life. No judgment will be placed upon you; it just gives the therapist an understanding plateau of what makes you tick. It’s common to feel uncomfortable with disclosing so much personal information, but as your sessions progress, that queasy feeling will dissipate. The more open you become, the easier it will be to accept truths and understandings.

Seeking out professional guidance when your relationship appears to be bleak and unsalvageable is the wisest thing you could ever do. Regardless of the price you pay for family therapy, it can never be as expensive as losing a family.

Responding To Smoking, Rude Behavior, Drug And Alcohol Abuse

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Smoking

Scenario: your teenager starts smoking and you detect it by smelling it on his or her breath or by finding packs of cigarettes in his or her bedroom.

Possible inner issues: control, self-esteem, lack of relationships.

The attractiveness of cigarette smoking is more than just the high teenagers receive through inhaling nicotine. When teenagers smoke, they are often trying to accomplish three objectives:

To gain control by making their own decisions, To gain the social status of adults, To gain acceptance into a popular group of teenagers who smoke.

Teenagers who smoke often believe that smoking will make them look older and that they will be treated in an adult-like way. Smoking, therefore, is a statement by teenagers that they can take control of their own lives and be independent from their parents.

Teenagers also use smoking as a means of achieving social acceptance. By smoking, a teenager can gain entry to a selective club of teens who are willing to take chances and make their own choices independent of what their parents want from them.

Possible relationship-based strategies include:

Empowering your teenager with healthy levels of control.

Working to build your teenager’s self-esteem.

Highlighting and nurturing your teenager’s unique qualities and talents.

Arranging a meeting with a mental health professional to discuss ways of quitting smoking that may include group therapy and/or pharmaceutical drugs to help wean your teenager off cigarettes.

Rude Behavior

Scenario: Your teenager is rude and insulting.

Possible inner issues: control, self-esteem.

One of the most common issues facing parents with teenagers at risk is the teenager’s use of rude and offensive language. Unfortunately parents tend to fight fire with fire and respond by yelling back. According to Relationship Theory, parents need to avoid power struggles and instead work to understand the inner issues motivating their teenager’s behavior.

Most of the time, rude behavior is a symptom of extreme frustration. Teenagers who haven’t learned how to express their needs tend to bottle up their emotions and let them loose on their parents and teachers.

Other possible causes of rude behavior include feelings of loss of control and poor self-esteem. When teenagers feel bad about their self-image, they sometimes project their feelings onto their parents by blaming them for their frustration and feelings of anger and resentment.

Instead of confronting their teenagers’ behavior, it’s best for parents to tell their teenagers that they are unable to speak with them under the current circumstances. Rather, parents should wait for an appropriate occasion when their teenager will be more open to discuss their inner issues in a calm and respectful manner.

Relationship-based strategies include:

Actively listening to your teenager’s inner messages,

Empowering your teenager with healthy levels of control,

Investing in your relationship with your teenager,

Highlighting and nurturing your teenager’s unique qualities and talents.

Drug and Alcohol Use and Abuse

Scenario: you suspect that your teenager is drinking alcohol or using drugs.

Possible inner issues: control, self-esteem.

Alcoholism and drug abuse are clearly rough challenges to deal with. Yet nobody is too young (or too old) to have trouble with alcohol or drugs. That’s because alcoholism and drug abuse are illnesses. They can effect anyone – including orthodox teenagers.

What causes certain teenagers to experiment with alcohol and drugs? As a certified alcohol and substance abuse professional, I have found that lack of parental support, monitoring and communication and low self-esteem are significantly related to frequency of drinking, heavy drinking and drunkenness among teenagers. Harsh, inconsistent discipline and hostility or a parent’s rejection have also been found to significantly predict adolescent drinking and alcohol-related problems.

If you suspect alcohol or drug abuse, several relationship-based strategies include:

Working to improve your relationship with your teenager.

Empowering your teenager with healthy levels of control.

Working on building your teenager’s sense of self-esteem.

Seeking counseling (individual and/or group) and behavioral therapies that are critical components of effective treatment. In therapy, teenagers look at issues of motivation, build skills to resist drug use, replace drug-using activities with constructive and rewarding behaviors, and improve problem-solving skills.

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force. He is the author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach” and “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For an appointment call 646-428-4723 or email rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/responding-to-smoking-rude-behavior-drug-and-alcohol-abuse/2011/04/13/

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