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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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Im pregnant, I am feeling down, my husband is very distant,

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Im pregnant, I am feeling down, my husband is very distant, I don't have much friends to confide in. Could this be a factor why I am feeling alone? is this normal? how do i adapt?

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

First, let me say that reading your narrative is so very evocative. The loneliness and sadness is very real. It is a common phenomenon during pregnancy as there are many hormonal changes happening. But is your feeling due to the hormonal changes of pregnancy? Is it due to who you are as a person? Is it because of your husband's behavior or who he is as a person?

We don't know. And you might at some point find that you need to go to counseling with a psychotherapist to help you better deal with your emotions and to understand better. But before that, let's see if the most common factor is operating here: social isolation.

Women who start families sometimes find themselves very alone. Socially without a lot of friends and without a lot of interests to keep their spirits up. So let's work first on expanding your circle of friends and acquaintances. Being pregnant is actually an advantage in this as it gives you something common with a lot of women your age to make friendships around. Let's get started:

I want you to work on goals, strategies, and plans. I want you to take a sheet of paper or on the computer if you prefer and on that paper write your Healthy Social Relationship Goals. Examples: make 1 close friend in the next 2-3 months; meet 3 activity partners (casual friends) that you can do activities with in the next 1-2 months, etc.

Next, I need you to take another sheet or underneath the goals in the same sheet write Strategies for my Healthy Relationship Goals. For each of the Goals, I want you to write strategies. For example, if your goal is to make a close friend in 3 months, strategies might be: I want to identify the type of interests this friend would have. Then I want to ask myself where would she go to fulfill those interests. For example, if Ms. Close Friend needs to be someone who is into fitness, then she would be a member of a fitness club. If she needs to like art, then she would be a member of the Art Museum and go to gallery openings.

Then, you need to write on a separate piece of paper or underneath each Goal: Plans for how to succeed with your strategies. So to continue the example above, you might write: my plan is to go to the 4 most popular fitness studios and check them out to see what their membership looks like and what kind of activities for pregnant women are there. Or for art, I plan to join the Art Museum and to go to an art opening at a gallery at least twice per month and maybe 3 times. Or if she needs to be interested in nutrition for her baby or family, then go to the big health food stores and see when they have classes and speakers and attend.

See the idea? The same strategies will work for the goal of meeting people who can be acquaintances, activity buddies. People you might go out for coffee with once in a while. Or shopping. And in fact, shopping at the baby stores is another way to meet people if you let yourself be outgoing and ask questions about the other expecting mother's classes and interests.

So remember:

The mood you are in may be just loneliness. We are trying that first. If not, then you always have the option of going to counseling to get to deeper reasons.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
how about my relationship with my husband is it okay that he isn't home much because of work, and when he does come home there is no communication whatsoever, just a look and a good nite..should I be okay with this behavior?

This is not good. I want to talk to you about communication now that you've clarified what's going on.

Communication is the muscular system of love. And love is the circulatory system. Let me repeat that because it's so important: it's not sex; it's not beauty or looking good; it's not being smart or clever. Communication between the two people is the love muscle; it's the muscular system of love. The desire to give to the other person, to make the other person happy is the heart of love, the circulatory system.

From what you write, the sense you give is that what is happening is not yet atrophy. Atrophy is what happens to muscles when they are not exercised and used regularly. They lose tone and eventually lose ability to activate. And love can atrophy. It slowly wears out until you can't find how to access it any more.

So, we'll try to see if we can get him to be willing to put his "heart" back into this, to reactivate his giving circulatory system. I want you to print out my answer and take it and him to a Starbucks or other quiet place and discuss it and commit to the program to try to make your marriage a success. You're going to start with a book. You'll get 2 copies, one for each of you. Each night you're both going to read a few pages or a chapter and do the exercise there if there is one in those pages. Every other night, or at most, every third night sometimes, you will get together, either at home or at the Starbucks and talk about what you read. What you think of it, what it inspired in you. Make notes in the margins. And each one talk about the subject of the pages and what you think. That's your assignment and dates. He's busy, but this is your marriage. To him: If your spouse had a life threatening illness, you'd find the time. Your marriage has a life threatening illness.

The book: It's by the foremost researcher into relationships in our day, John Gottman. He's famous for being interviewed on TV and being able to tell when a couple will get divorced within 5 minutes and having 90% accuracy. I've studied his therapy and use his therapy in my practice and that's why I'm concerned that you two do this. So the book is the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. You can get it cheaply online or see if you can get it locally to save time.

Now, a secret: the magic is not in the book. The exercises and Gottman's insights will be very useful and important for the two of you. But the magic is in the act of working together on your marriage! The two of you paying attention every single day to your marriage and making effort every single day: that's the magic ingredient in great marriages that GROW in love as the years pile up. I want to make sure you both understand this. Because that's the key to our work here. Okay?

If this work gets you two to first base but not all the way, if it isn't a home run, then consider therapy: the two of you MUST work on how emotional connections are made and maintained. The two of you together need help in learning how to make your marriage more emotionally intimate and positive.

One type of therapy is called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Why this type for you? Because it focuses on how there have been created emotional barriers and how to get through those barriers. Here is the web address for their therapist finder:

On the website you'll also find excellent books by the founders, Sue Johnson and Leslie Greenberg.

There are not that many therapist who work in these therapies and so I recommended EFT couples therapy knowing that often it's a way to orient you on the type of work you want the therapist you do choose to focus on.

Here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (they show you a photo of the therapist!) look at the listing and see if they list couples therapy in their orientations. Interview the therapist and make sure he/she shares your values and you each feel confident in him or her.

I wish you the very best in this and in the future!

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