Dr. Carmichael says a long-term marriage can be saved and rejuvenated if both parties are willing to encourage each other’s growth and address feelings of stagnation. She proposes 3 regenerative things couples can do to save their marriages.
Online PR News – 24-July-2012 – New York, NY – New York, NY - With people living longer, healthier lives and expecting more out of life at any age, it’s not surprising to see a 50 percent divorce rate among baby boomers reported in the media, says New York City psychologist Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D. “People have a fear of stagnating in a dead relationship, but there are things that a couple can do together to improve each other’s lives and experience a sense of regeneration.”
“I think the struggle for many empty-nest couples is feeling like they either have to get divorced and make a new start or stay in the marriage and stagnate,” says Dr. Carmichael, whose Manhattan practice is located on Park Avenue. “Getting divorced and going out on their own feels like the way to regenerate, but couples can find a way to capture that 'regenerating' feeling together. They need to book some 'time out' together to create a 'dare to dream' time where they can list the ways that they want to grow as individuals and then find the common ground that they share as a couple- whether it is traveling, opening a business, working with a charity, or whatever they find that they can enjoy as a couple that helps them to maintain a sense of growth.”
“Sometimes this issue has to do with the couple, and many times it is about one member of the couple needing to take time and discover what they really want to do and what really makes them happy,” says Dr. Carmichael. “That is the first step to being able to share and grow with your partner- if you have been really wrapped up in work or raising kids and suddenly you want to be "generative" in your relationship, that process often entails spending "quality time" with yourself so that you can come to your partner with some fresh ideas and something to share.”
3 Things Couples Can Do To Regenerate:
1. Couples can talk with each other about what has given them a sense of regeneration and growth in the past, both individually and as a couple. This could include things like recalling the pleasure of learning a new skill together, such as tennis or language lessons. Singles can do this activity with a friend or family member by asking someone close to listen and give feedback about when that person has seemed to feel a sense of newness and possibility. This is intended to build awareness about what gives you that sense of expansion and possibility, so once you have started the discussion about what has made you feel regenerative in the past, then move the discussion to ideas about what would give you that sense of regeneration going forward.
2. Sometimes, starting small can be helpful. For example, try driving to a nearby town or making a point to "change it up" three times every week. This can mean going to a new restaurant, getting a guest pass and working out at a new gym, or inviting new friends to visit your home for dinner. This helps to remind you that you can take your life in new directions, even in small ways at first. If you are single, consider sharing about your "change it up" project with a friend to keep you motivated. If you are in a couple, let each person choose one change per week and then choose the third change together.
3. If at all possible, travel. Experiencing a new culture invariably brings out a different side of you and stimulates growth, which is absolutely regenerative. You don't even have to travel internationally to experience a new culture here in the United States: try going to a cosmopolitan area if you are from the suburbs, or visit a different culture and climate at the same time such as the Southwest if you are in New England. If you need help, visit a travel agent and ask for lots of brochures to get stimulate your sense of possibility. This is great for singles to do in groups, as well as for couples. When you are traveling, keep the focus on regeneration by sharing ideas about what you imagine life would be like in this new culture or discussing familiar issues but in this new environment. You would be surprised what a change of environment can do for your perspective on certain issues. By getting away from your daily grind and stepping back, you gain a new perspective- which is inherently regenerative!
In fact, says Dr. Carmichael, these reports of unrest and unhappiness after many years of marriage are reflected in “Erikson's stages of development”, which states that each stage of life is affected by conflicts between various issues. Erik Erikson was a German-born American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychosocial development of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase ”identity crisis”.
For example, people in “early adulthood” (defined as ages 20 to 25) often experience an inner conflict between intimacy and isolation; the successful resolution, or “virtue” for this age group’s source of conflict is defined as ‘love”. (The scale categorizes eight stages of life, from infancy to old age.) According to Erikson’s developmental staging, all but the oldest baby boomers currently fall into the “Middle Adulthood” category, up to age 64. “In this age group, the underlying conflicts are generativity vs stagnation, and the successful resolution in this stage is feeling positive about one's ability to make meaningful contributions to their community, and feeling comfortable and fulfilled about moving forward and reaching new phases of life," says Dr. Carmichael. “The idea is that couples can deal with the generativity vs stagnation stage together, by sharing whatever activities and interests that help them to ignite a sense of exploration.”
“I have worked with many men who are unfaithful in their marriages and they don't want to be unfaithful, but they are having a hard time finding time with their wife to discover something new together as a couple,” says Dr. Carmichael. When the man is able to be honest about his need to try something new, and his wife is able to hear it and give it a chance- or vice versa, depending on the situation- then the couple is able to re-capture a sense of newness and see a new side of each other and a new side of themselves, and a new side of life. This helps them to feel like they are learning together, growing together, and being "generative" together even after the kids are grown.”
“Sometimes also, it is the woman who is being unfaithful, and again it is because she is seeking something new and different. Her husband could provide that for her if the two of them could be open and honest about the need for growth. For example, I worked with a woman who became very interested in stress management and fitness, and because her husband wasn't doing it with her it began to feel almost like her "separate thing" apart from him and apart from the marriage. By working with her individually and helping her to see that this was actually about her desire to learn something new and grow as a person, she was able to share the idea with her husband in a way that felt fresh and inviting, and they were able to grow/explore together. They ended up going to India together and had a wonderful time!”
About Dr. Chloe Carmichael:
Dr. Chloe Carmichael holds a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Long Island University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with Departmental Honors from Columbia University. Her private practice focuses on stress management, relationship issues, self esteem, and goal attainment. Dr. Carmichael sees clients in her Manhattan office or via videoconferencing.
Dr. Carmichael attended Columbia University for a BA in Psychology, and graduated summa cum laude with Departmental Honors in Psychology. She completed her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Long Island University in Brooklyn; the LIU Clinical Psychology Program admits fewer than 10% of applicants and is accredited by the American Psychological Association. Dr. Carmichael completed her clinical training at Lenox Hill Hospital and Kings County Hospital, as well as other settings such as community clinics and academic centers. Dr. Carmichael has published work on issues related to psychotherapy through academic sources such as Guilford, and presented at the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Dr. Carmichael has instructed undergraduate courses at Long Island University and has served as adjunct faculty at the City University of New York. In addition, she has been a certified yoga instructor since 2001; she has also completed coursework in Buddhism and meditation with Robert Tenzen-Thurman (Dr. Thurman is an Oxford scholar and was the first American to be ordained a Tibetan monk by the Dalai Lama) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction designed by the Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. In addition, Dr. Carmichael was recently named as the psychologist for the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. In her role at the NYCPM, Dr. Carmichael provides support to faculty and students in the form of individual counseling as well as the creation and delivery of stress-management and goal-attainment workshops. Previously, Dr. Carmichael worked with both the clinical and consulting teams at Corporate Counseling Associates in Manhattan. CCA contracts with financial institutions, law firms, cultural institutions, and other corporations.
Dr. Carmichael was recently selected as a co-chair for leadership of a committee for the New York Junior League, which is a charitable organization devoted to promoting volunteerism and improving the lives of women and children in New York. In addition to her work with executives and very high-functioning clientele, Dr. Carmichael has provided clinical as well as personal volunteer services to under-served populations including the homeless, veterans with addictions, and poverty-level immigrants.