I have posted a new video discussing my use of Gottman Method in session when working with couples. You can view it here.
I see clients on Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 am until 7 pm and on Saturday from 9 am until 1 pm. I gladly offer reduced fee services if financial circumstances are prohibitive for potential clients.
(706) 534 – 8558
Aaron D. Kirkwood, LAMFT
I recently sent my first child off to college and my second will not be far behind. With the reality of becoming empty nesters looming, my husband and I have discussed moving from our home we have raised our children in for the past seventeen years. This has prompted me to begin the process of cleaning and purging clutter that has accumulated in our house over the past two decades. I am a sentimental person and have a hard time parting with items that feel special to me, but as I began emptying out closets and boxes I began to realize that I might actually be a bit of a hoarder! Books and papers from grad school, cards from my wedding [both of which took place over 20 years ago!], finally found their way to the dumpster. I carefully weighed the value of each item I came across as I asked myself… “do I really need to keep this”?? As I opened each box I felt like I was reliving a chapter in my life, it was like the story of my life was unfolding in front of me. I found items from first jobs, graduate school, mementos from dating my husband and our engagement, notes from planning my wedding, information from buying our first house, keepsakes from having my first then second child, reminders of my life as a stay at home mom, papers pertaining to reactivating my license once I made the decision to return to work years later, the list could go on and on.
I went through each box and cabinet revisiting the different phases of my life, carefully choosing the items that felt important enough to follow me to the next phase. I could not pitch everything. I did not throw away all of the priceless papers, mementos, or wrinkled drawings that my now grown children brought home from their early days of school. The numerous letters and stories from my children when they were young declaring how much they loved me, definite keepers! As anyone with teenagers knows, it is highly unlikely you will hear much of these sentiments as they enter middle and high school! I came across letters from my husband when we were dating, gentle reminders of the past and what brought us together so many years ago, things that are sometimes hard to recall when dealing with the struggles and changes that come with a marriage or long-term relationship. And I can’t forget the box of completely unnecessary random “stuff” from my own childhood, old stuffed animals, old clothes, pictures and keepsakes.
Life presents us with many twists and turns, and even some of the most joyous moments paradoxically come with stress, anxiety, sadness and grief. As I experience and adjust to a new major life change, I can’t help but reflect on my journey and the previous major transitions in my life, the joys, the struggles, and how I have experienced and gotten through each one. I look back on my relationship with my husband, who I have now been married to for over 20 years, and reflect on the ups and downs we have had, the good times, the bad, and the struggles we have experienced and overcome as we have lived through many life stages and changes together. It’s a joyous time to be celebrated when two people get married, but very few people tell you how hard this relationship is going to be, and how much work is involved on an ongoing basis to sustain the relationship and the changes you will go through.
Becoming a mom was without a doubt one of the happiest moments of my life, but along with this also came some of the biggest changes and challenges I have experienced. Deciding to become a stay at home mom, and not only reinventing my day to day life but reinventing myself in the process, was no easy task. Many people who have not experienced this role may assume the life of a stay at home mom is a life of leisure. While I loved being available to spend my time with my young children and am thankful I had the choice to do so, I will tell you it is definitely not a leisurely life! It is a role that also comes with learning to navigate many challenging dynamics of its own.
Flash forward years down the road I found myself contemplating how to get back into the workforce. Having not worked in my field in 10 years the thought of putting myself out there was scary, overwhelming and very anxiety provoking. But put myself out there I did, and while going back to work and setting the goal to get my LCSW seemed almost impossible, here I proudly sit today as an LCSW in private practice, exactly where I had hoped I could get to so many years ago.
And now, I begin to face and deal with one of the most difficult things I have had to do in a very long time, sending my children out into the world on their own. This is not only a huge change in my day to day life, but also a major identity shift for me as my role in their lives changes drastically. Once again, I find myself facing this new challenge with mixed emotions, while there is a lot of sadness over this shift in my life, there is also a sense of curiosity and interest to see what the future holds for me and what is yet to unfold.
I find great joy in working with people trying to find new avenues in life, people who may be struggling with a major life change and identity shift, and enjoy helping them create their vision for the future. If you are facing a major change in your life it can help to have an objective ear and some added support to get through the challenges that come with these transitions. My personal and professional experience provide me with a great deal of knowledge when dealing with some of life’s major transitions. If you are struggling in your relationship, are getting married or adjusting to being newly married, ending a long-term relationship, contemplating divorce or going through a divorce, starting a family, becoming a stay at home mom or returning to work after years of staying home with your kids, contemplating a career change, sending a child off to school or becoming an empty nester, give me a call or send me an email. I would love to help you navigate this challenging yet exciting time of your life that is filled with many possibilities. call: 706-425-8900 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You and your significant other have decided you are ready to take your relationship to another level by getting married. Congratulations on making this decision! With all the excitement in the air about getting married and planning for a wedding, you may have given little thought to some serious topics that will impact you long after you have celebrated your union.
Through my conversations with newlyweds and couples in general, I have found these ten topics to be important to discuss prior to marriage. I encourage you to dive deep and spend some time with your significant other discussing what you want life to look like after you say I do. Focusing on these topics now can help you build a great foundation as a couple.
1. Communication – Effective communication is the lifeline of a relationship. There are so many things you will need to communicate as a couple. To begin, consider each of your communication styles. How are they different? How are they similar? Issues will arise and disagreements will come. Think about how you might want to work through these things. How have you previously handled disagreements? Did it work? If not, learn communication techniques or conflict resolution strategies to help you get through these moments. Your discussion of the remainder of the topics is a great opportunity to practice your communication skills.
2. Family Background– Whether you have met your significant other’s family members or not, your upbringing is worth discussing. Discuss your family dynamics. What was it like to live in your family growing up and what is like to be a part of the family now? What are your family traditions? Do you plan to continue with any of them?
3. Expectations of Your Spouse/Partner – Each person has ideas of how they imagine their marriage will be and what they expect from each other. Instead of leaving it to chance that your spouse/partner will read your mind and know what you expect, clearly communicate your expectations of each other.
4. Relationship with in-laws –. While starting your own family can be exciting, it may also present some challenges with staying connected to your individual families. Discuss how you want to remain connected to your families. How do you want to spend time with them? How will you all celebrate holidays (with or without family and with whose family)? Don’t let these moments creep up on you before you decide.
5. Managing finances – Finances is often an issue for many couples, especially if you haven’t discussed your financial expectations and plans. To get a better understanding of your significant other’s views on finances, discuss your upbringing as it relates to financial management (i.e. how was it managed in your home?) and how you are currently managing finances. How do you plan to manage your money (i.e. budget, separate or joint checking accounts)? What are your short-term and long-term financial goals as a couple?
6. Sex – Whether you have had sex or you are waiting until marriage, you will want to talk with your significant other about sex. Discuss your sexual health, your concerns as well as your expectations. Also acknowledge that your desires and needs may be different and can change. Be open to talking about that. It may be hard for you to start this conversation, however, you will be glad you did. If you find it difficult to address this topic, consider seeking professional assistance. A therapist can offer you the safe space you need to openly talk through this topic.
7. Career Plans – Along with money and sex, career plans is another top concern for couples. Prior to marriage, spend some time with your significant other discussing your individual career plans. Consider how your current jobs and future career plans will impact your relationship or the expansion of your family. If you travel a lot, work long hours, or have different work hours, how will this affect your relationship? If one of you will have to relocate to join the other person, what impact will relocation have on your relationship or the other person’s career plans?
8. Addressing Unresolved Issues – Marriage can be viewed as a way to escape issues from your past that have not been resolved. However, these issues will follow you into marriage. Before you say I do, consider how past hurts, disappointments, resentment, and failed relationships have affected you. Discuss these with your significant other and determine how to best address them. Seek professional assistance if need be.
9. Expanding Your Family – It is important for you and your significant other to have an open conversation about whether you would like to expand your family beyond the two of you (and your fur babies). Decide if you want to have children. How many children would you like to have? When would you want to have them? Are you open to adoption or foster care? Are you willing to care for family members (i.e. nieces, nephews, cousins, etc.)?
10. Religion & Spirituality – Whether you have no beliefs, the same beliefs, or different beliefs, it is important to discuss this topic together. Even if you have similar religious or spiritual backgrounds, there may be some differences in your practices or beliefs. If you have different backgrounds, you may want to decide how you plan to continue your practices separately or together.
Hopefully, this list will help you start an insightful conversation that could lead to a much better future for you and your significant other. As you discuss each of these topics, you may realize that there are additional topics that are relevant for you all to consider. If you feel that you need assistance in addressing any of these areas, schedule an appointment with me. As a Prepare Enrich facilitator, I like working with engaged and newlywed couples. I can help you explore various areas of your relationship while also providing you with skills and tools to help strengthen your relationship. To schedule an appointment contact me at 706-425-8900 ext. 704 or email@example.com.
Courtesy of PhotoDune
Love the One You’re With: Understanding Personality Differences and Communication Styles in Your Marriage
March 21st, 10am-12pm, Cornerstone Church, Athens, GA
Facilitated by Marian Higgins, LPC
Do you ever find yourself wondering why you and your spouse communicate differently? You are not alone. Many couples struggle in this area. Our personality differences can challenge our relationships but they can also be one of the greatest parts of our marriages.
During this interactive workshop, you and your spouse will:
- gain a better understanding of your personalities and how to best communicate given your personality type.
- take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a personality assessment that can help couples with communication in their relationship.
- and engage in a series of activities and learn techniques that you can use in your marriage.
Whether you are engaged, newly married, or have been married for years, you will benefit from this workshop.
Registration is $60 and includes two assessments and a book. Space is limited. Sign-up today by contacting Marian Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-425-8900 ext. 704. The deadline to register is Thursday, March 19th.
We are wired toward connection! This is an exciting time in terms of the emerging knowledge regarding our minds and our behavior in relationships. I highly recommend you read the article linked above. Interestingly, recent MRI studies show that participants react to a threat against a loved one with the same intensity as they would a threat to themselves. Daniel Siegel, who is a pioneer in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, has written and spoken prolifically for years describing how our minds develop through interactions with others and that processes to integrate the mind heal relationships (and the reverse is true as well). These MRI studies confirm what therapists have known for years about the importance of empathy in our relationships. Also, this type of research is confirming what we know about couples: partners become emotionally attuned to each other and react to the other’s emotions and moods.
The really good news is that when we learn to have attuned communication with others, we actually integrate and improve the wiring in our brains. Attuned communication is defined by Siegel as resonating with another’s inner world. This connects with John Gottman’s research with couples also that happy spouses know each other’s inner worlds. Siegel says we cannot just focus on the thoughts and feelings, but we have to be mindful of the energy in our exchanges with others. Mindfulness practices and meditation can improve our ability to be present in relationships as well as improve our well-being.
If you are interested in improving your understanding of your own behavior in relationships and learning tools to enhance them, I am a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist and Certified Hatha Yoga Instructor with expertise in helping individuals and couples improve their communication and lessen their reactivity as well as change patterns that are painful. Please call 706-425-8900 or email Suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com with questions or to schedule a session.