Holding on to Hope

She leans over the bathroom sink toward the mirror getting a better look so as to blend her lipstick evenly.  She realizes she only has ten minutes before her daughter wakes up, and not much more time before her husband’s comatose like sleep from last night’s bottle of Smirnoff wears off. This time of day is her favorite as the companionship of silence is peaceful and always cleansing, ridding her of the chaos from the day before, and giving her hope for a new beginning.

As she finishes the last strokes of mascara she glances down toward the counter where she places her rings every night after she brushes her teeth.  She can’t help but think, “God, how the meaning of what they symbolize has changed over the past years. They use to symbolize happiness, eternal bliss and care free love.  Now they remind her of the adoption of his struggles brought on by two simple words:  “I do.”  As she places her rings on her desperately needed manicured hands she asks herself “Why do I put them on every day?  Is it out of habit, or do their presence give me some sense of hope that one day we will be the happy couple we once were, and the family we are supposed to be.  She then thinks, or do I put them on to avoid the questions about separation and divorce that would be triggered by their absence. “Maybe these are all the reasons just on different days.”

As she turns the lights off leaving the bathroom she hears her daughter waking in her crib bringing her thoughts back to the responsibilities of the day.  By this hour she knows she has to take on all the tasks of being a parent and a working mother alone.  This is not how she thought it would be when they discussed having a child. They promised to split the responsibilities and support each other’s careers. They promised to have family time and also to make an effort to sneak away on dates to keep their passion and love alive.  They promised to focus on the reason they had a child, because of their love for the other, not let having a child take away from their relationship.

As she turns the doorknob to enter her daughter’s room she tells herself, “Get it together and look happy for her.”  She does not deserve to see anger, sadness and frustration.”  This is a lesson you learn quickly when married to an alcoholic, always look happy to avoid being asked: “Are you ok?”  People get tired of hearing the same story over and over where nothing changes. She then looks at the clock on her daughter’s dresser as she picks her up. She has thirty minutes to get her daughter ready for day care, feed her breakfast, and leave before rush hour traffic; all while hoping to make it on time for work.  As she changes her daughter’s soaked through diaper and pajamas from twelve hours of sleep she thinks about what the morning would have been like if he didn’t drink the night before. He would have woken up early and prepared breakfast for them as he loved the morning hours; an egg white omelet with tomatoes and onions for her, and a bowl of oatmeal for his daughter. After he prepared breakfast and put the carton of eggs and vegetables back in the refrigerator he would have made himself a cup of coffee and read the paper while waiting for the house to wake up: babbling from his daughter’s room and the sound of running water from his wife’s shower.  They would have all eaten breakfast while discussing the upcoming events of the day. After breakfast he would have played with his daughter, rolling her favorite purple ball toward her while waiting for it to reach her tinny hands and anticipating her screech from pleasure that would come when it finally did. His wife would have watched from the kitchen while placing the dishes in the dishwasher. She would have had a smile on her face from a blissful morning as it was a morning she had hoped to have many of when she found out she was pregnant.  She always asked herself on these “normal,” days: “Why couldn’t it be this way every day?”

He started drinking heavily after their daughter was born.  She never knew that marriage and a baby would be so stressful for her husband, leading him to drink away his anxieties. Work also added stress to his life.  He had a high stress commission based job and feared not being able to care for his family, even though he always did.  She could never understand this fear of his.  All she could do was keep reassuring him that all would be ok but it never soothed him.  She was so angry that this was her reality.  She had hopes of fun, happy times with her new family after the birth of their daughter.  She never thought this would be the family she would end up having and often thought: “Why aren’t we enough to make him stop and he be the husband and father that I know he can be?”

She often reflected back to when they first met to try to understand how alcoholism sneaked into their lives. She remembers meeting her husband and it being love at first sight.  He became her best friend and she became his.  They did everything together before the baby.  They would wake up, go the gym, come home and make sweaty love, and then shower for work.  They would text each other throughout the day, make dinner together when they got home, watch a movie before bed, and make love again. They never fought. They never raised their voices.  Whenever there was a difference in opinion they talked it out in the moment. Nothing negative ever lingered between them.  They called each other the male and female versions of the other.  They had the same values, work ethic, and generous hearts.  People would comment that they were a perfect match.  They both knew it.  She thought, “So what went wrong?” Now it was so different. They barely spoke to each other or had sex.  She resented the fact that she had to do the majority of the household chores and take care of their child alone. She was bitchy to him as a result, which made him distant from her. They never agreed on his drinking habits which always caused fights. He believed he could stop drinking without AA or therapy. She believed he needed them as his failed attempts without support were too frequent.  Now she just focused on the question people always asked her: “Why do you stay if he is not ready to change?” This question was beginning to make her wonder if her usually reply was enough anymore:  “Hope, hope for my husband and partner to return and for him to be the father I know he can be and hope to have the life I always wanted.

Hope. We are all hoping for something in our lives to change: Hope that he won’t leave again. Hope that he will spend more time with his family than at work.  Hope that he will be good enough for the parents.  Hope that he is the right man to marry.   Hope that she will support him through his illness.  Hope that apologies will be forgiven. Hope that she will get a bonus to get herself out of debt.  Whether we are hoping for people or circumstances to change, hope encouraged us to keep going on with our lives but sometimes its also prevents us from doing so in a healthy way.  Learning when to give up on hope or keep holding on is a personal challenge we all face.  

JK Therapy

Are there really healthy marriages or do we all just settle?

They had been dating for about two years. They met at a local friend’s Fourth of July back yard BBQ. They were the only ones whom the host did not know from work. Talk of programming and outsourcing left them on the sidelines truly positioned to seek comfort in the other.

The past two years seemed to fly by for Sally and Dave as they lived up their early twenties as a care free committed couple enjoying summers down the shore, winter weekends skiing and spontaneous trips to a warmer climate to break up the monotony of the cold NJ winters. They were always on the go and liked it that way. They had the same ideals on lifestyle, careers, how to manage money, family and friends. They had a great way of communicating addressing whatever concerns they had immediately, finding a solution and moving on. This was the “easiest” relationship they both been in: no more drawn out fights that would last for days even weeks, no more silent treatment, no more screaming matches, no more walking on egg shells, no more disrespect. They were in a healthy relationship and at peace in both of their lives.

The following fall they moved in together and began to receive daily invitations to weddings for the spring. When Sally and Dave met they discussed marriage and the fact that it was not in the near future for either of them. They wanted to enjoy the time they had together getting to know each other before they discussed marriage. They both eventually wanted to get married and have a family but felt they needed to make sure the other met their essential relationship and life needs for a lifelong time of happiness. They did not want to settle and eventually get tired of their needs not being met and divorce.

At dinner they discussed the wedding invitations. They were surprised at the couples who had decided to take the next step and get married. The first wedding was in April, James and Laura’s. They had broken up three times in the last 2 years and have been dating for a total of 3 years. The reason they broke up was to “explore other options.” Would complacency eventually cause a divorce between the two as they would always be looking for someone who would better meet their needs?

The next wedding was Kyle and Samantha’s in May. Every time he went out with the guys while Samantha was on a work trip, he would come home with different women. Samantha had no idea that he had actually acted out but suspected such. Samantha stayed because she thought there is more good than bad in this relationship and that she would rather be with him than alone. Would Samantha eventually grow to feel confident and comfortable living alone and eventually not want to manage the hurt that goes along with infidelity?

Kyle’s friends were surprised when he told them he was ring shopping as they never expected Mr. Playboy to “settle down.”  Kyle had decided to take action as the pressure from his parents to marry Samantha “a good girl,” was too much for him to continue to handle.   Would Kyle finally meet a girl who was “good” but also who understood him, whom he felt a deep connection with and whom he respected?

The Labor Day weekend invitation was for Michael and Mary’s wedding. Mary had lost four jobs in a year. She would show up to work intoxicated.  How many times would Michael emotionally and physically be able to bail Mary out of her difficult situation? At what point would he realize that a relationship is a two way street and want to be in a reciprocated relationship?

Then there was the final invitation of the wedding season: Scott and Katie. Scott was previously married. Scott pay alimony and child support on a $300,000 income he no longer has due. He struggles to pay his bills and is not able to financially support his relationship with Katie. Kate and him always fight over Katie not feeling like she is his number one priority and the fact that she had to take on another job to support them has created resentment in the relationship. Another contentious issue in their relationship is that Katie wants kids as she does not have any of her own. Scott cannot wrap his head around having another child as he has difficulty paying for the ones that he has and refuses to budge on this decision. Will financial stress and not wanting the same family dynamics eventually come between them?

Infidelity, complacency, finances, difficulty handling a substance abuse problem, difference in what a couple wants in their family dynamics are all common reasons relationships struggle and why couples break up or get divorced. Are these issues that you would like to work out before you get married? Do you want to take on these issues for the rest of your life and accept that “they are what they are?” Do you want to find a relationship that meets your needs? Do you even know what these needs are? Are you letting fear of addressing these concerns dictate your actions? Eventually you will have to face your fears of questioning do I stay and try to overcome these challenges, do I go or do I settle and learn to live with the situation at hand and find peace with it?

Sally and Dave finished dessert in silence with the residue of each of their friend’s relationships lingering over them. How had they seemed to find a peaceful relationship with the other, one that met their needs and that they truly valued? They each used the turbulent relationships in the past to learn what they wanted and did not want in their currently relationships only allowing those people in their lives that met their standards: loving, respectful, equal, responsible, reciprocal, fun and funny. Don’t we all deserve this?

JK Therapy Hoboken

Do you stay married for your children?

Lilly slowly walked up the stairs and reached into the front pocket of her backpack for the house keys.  She could hear the fighting between her parents from the landing of the stairs and thought “Will they ever stop?” She then became mad at herself for not staying longer at the playground with the rest of the kids.    As she placed the key in the door she slowly turned the knob trying not to make any noise that would aware them of her presence. The staircase was a couple of feet to the left of the entrance. She knew it took five long steps for her to make it to the base of the stairs to begin her incline to her room, where she could put her head phones on and read about far off countries, escaping from the home she lived in.  As the door opened she saw her father’s briefcase on the hardwood floor and his black shinny shoes.  Lilly wondered, “Why is he home so early?”  For the past six months she heard him come home around 9:30 pm when she had just dozed off to sleep.  His entry would alarm her and she would have to try to fall back asleep with the fear that they would begin fighting at any moment.


It has been a difficult day at school.  She was told that morning when she came to school to stay behind while the other children went to recess.  She had been arriving early to get out of the house as soon as she could. She would clean the dry boards for her teacher before school while her teacher prepared her lessons.  She enjoyed the company of her teacher, as she spent most of her time alone when she was at home. She told her mother that the drama club had a production coming up and she needed to practice her lines with the other students before school so as to be allowed to go to school early.   Today her teacher left her alone in the room while she cleaned the boards because she had a meeting with another teacher about the upcoming class trip to England and France.  Lilly hated that she had to wait until recess to talk to her. All she could think of was…….

“Did I do something wrong?”  “If I did something wrong this will make my parents even more upset and get divorced?  I hope she doesn’t tell them that I did something wrong. I hope I can convince Ms. Adams to keep this between her and I.  I am such a bad kid. I tried to do everything perfectly lately because I do not want to make them more upset and have them fight even more.  They will decide to get divorced because of me.  Maybe I have to try harder.  Maybe if they see that I am really trying to be perfect they will stay together.  Oh no.”


Lilly could not concentrate on her time tables that morning as she was too nervous about the talks she was going to have.   She usually finished math before anyone in the class but today she was mixing up numbers.  During bathroom break she went into the stall and threw up from nerves.

Finally 11 am came.  All her classmates left for recess.  Lilly waited anxiously for Ms. Adams to start speaking.  She thought, “OK I am ready for whatever she has to say.”   Ms. Adams started off by telling Lilly what a bright and pleasant child she is.  Lilly’s heart began to beat faster as she was waiting for the bad news to come. She knew that people always start off with good news and ended up with bad.  And then it finally came. “Lilly I am a worried about you.  Lately you seem rather sad. You never talk about any fun times you have with your friends or family like you use to.  Is everything ok?”  Lilly had no idea what to tell her. She wanted to scream and cry and tell her that the two people she loved most in the world were not getting along and that she was so sad to see her mother cry every night because she was angry at her father.  She never saw her father anymore because he always had to stay late at work.  She could not remember the last time he took her to one of her soccer games. They shared the same passion for the sport as he played college soccer and always encouraged her to do the best she could.   She didn’t know if he was aware she was the top scorer so far this season.  She thought “Why doesn’t he care about my soccer anymore or me?”  She wanted to tell Ms. Adams this but also did not want her parents to look like they were bad people. She loved them more than anyone.  She replied to Ms. Adams by saying, “Everything is ok. I am a little sad because my grandfather is sick.” Ms. Adams told her, “It is normal to feel sad about someone you love being sick.  If you want to talk about this I am here for you. “Lilly thanked her and immediately left for what little time was left of recess.  Lilly hated to lie but knew that she could not tell anyone about what was really going on because she had to be strong for her family.

Two months later Lilly’s grades began to drop.  She would go to the bathroom at school and cry two or three times a day. She did not remember the last time she saw anyone in her family happy.  Her stomach was always in knots and she had no appetite.  Her mother would send her to school with a lunch that Lilly would throw out so her mother would think she ate it.  She no longer was the leading scorer on her soccer team. The sport she loved so much became dreadful to go to as she had no energy and could not focus on the drills.  All she wanted to do was to escape to her room with her headphone after school and sleep.   She had lost about 10 pounds in the past month and had no idea until her coach mentioned his concern.  He had told her that she needed to see her doctor before she could return to practice and that a doctor’s note was necessary to continue with the team clearing her physically.  She did not want to ask her mother to bring her to the doctor.  She had a hard enough time asking her mother for anything as she spent most of her time sleeping.

At the doctor’s Lilly sat in the waiting room with all the bright toys the little children were playing with. She watched the younger children and thought, “It must be nice to be so little and not know about your parents problems.”  Her mother sat there with her eyes closed, slouched down waiting for the nurse to call them in.

The doctor’s visit was quick. The doctor examined Lilly and then made her wait in the waiting room while he spoke with her mother.  Lilly did not know what they discussed but she knew it was not good when her mother came out her eyes were red from crying.  She grabbed Lilly, hugged her like she had never done before and told her she was so sorry. She could not stop crying.  The next week her mother brought her to Carly’s office. Lilly loved it there.  She drew pictures, played board games and talked about school and her parents.  She started having more energy and wanting to play soccer again about two weeks after she started seeing Carly for therapy.   When this happened Lilly noticed that she stopped hearing her parents fight. She knew that her dad still came home late but he always made the effort to bring her to her soccer games.  This made Lilly so happy.  Her dad had told Lilly  that week that he was looking at an apartment in the city and  was excited  to have her come over a couple of times a week for a sleepover.  Her mom had more energy and stopped crying all day.  She started taking yoga and decided she would finish the photography class she had started a year ago.  Lilly saw that her parents were happy again and began to be happier herself. With all these positive changes Lilly stopped going to Carly’s every week and began to see her once every two.


Questions you are probably asking yourself….

Studies show that children who grow up in homes where there is constant marital conflict are at a higher risk for developing depression, anxiety and ADHD so…. Is it better to stay together or separate?  Is there a way to still live together with your spouse while showing your children a happy environment?   Children want their parents to be happy.  If their parents are not happy can they be happy.  How do you create happiness for yourself when you are struggling in your marriage?  Isn’t that a key lesson to teach your children, that the most important thing they will have to strive for is their own happiness?  How can they know what happiness is if they do not see it from their most important role models, their parents?    All of these questions arise when parents are having a difficult time in their marriage.  They are not easily answered and take much thought and many times are revisiting in order to truly come to an answer that works best for you and your family.

JK Therapy

Mother’s Fatigue

She was exhausted.

She quietly stole a moment for herself as she rested her head on a throw pillow. She reminisced about the carefree and happy memory of picking out the pillow when they bought their first piece of furniture together, a year after they met. As she laid there she realized she was experiencing the same feeling of fatigue she did when she was the top Real Estate agent in Hoboken.

This time the fatigue was from caring for her beautiful new born baby boy Matthew, who became colicky the minute they arrived home from the hospital.

Promise to Self

She had promised herself early on in the pregnancy that she would strive to maintain a balance in her life remembering not to lose her sense of self while still being a caring friend, wife, and mother. This promise became difficult when she had to meet the needs of her colicky child. She did not have nearby family to offer support and her parents were presently in their 70’s living in a nursing home. She began to isolate herself in her home as the stares in the grocery store and bank from fellow patrons became too much for her to handle, making her question her ability to mother her child: “Why can’t I make him comfortable? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I do not know how to be a mom?” She felt emotionally and physically spent, and frustrated because she could not meet her child’s needs. She hated to say this because she loved her husband and her child with all of her heart but this was not what she expected when she found out she was expecting. She desired adult conversation and some time to herself. She missed the daily hour of yoga that centered her before she became a mother. She could not remember the last time she wore makeup or dressed up for a dinner out, because it truly felt that all twenty-four hours of the day were dedicated to her son. Although her husband provided as much support as he was able she found it was not enough to prevent her overwhelming feelings of sadness. These feelings of sadness were nothing she could have prepared for. She never expected to feel depressed as a new mother. She felt ashamed of her depression and the reason it evolved. She could not tell her husband after all, being married to him and having a child together was all she every wanted. She wondered if she would ever feel “normal” again.

Balance of Roles

How do we maintain a balance of being a wife, mother, and friend while caring for our own needs when the needs of our family take precedent? When can we as mothers tell ourselves that we are doing our best and our best is just that? How can we recognize that these feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control, or depressed are signals that we must care for ourselves to enable our own psyche to be healthy; fueling a healthy mindset toward our little ones? Whether we are parents or not we all have the struggle of maintaining or own identity in the different roles we subscribe to. Is it wrong to want a balance in our lives as mothers?

When relationships and roles begin to take over your own inner identity causing sadness, we must understand that this is normal and it is perfectly okay to ask for help.



JK Therapy

When Does Helping an Alcoholic Parent Become Self-Destructive?

He sat in the waiting room of the hospital picking at his nails while the midnight news began. He was glad the volume on the television was slightly louder than it needed to be, as he did not want to sit in silence alone with his thoughts. The question of “should I call my brother” seemed to persist. He feared looking like a fool as he was the only one left in the family who believed that his father could change for the better. He had made this call so many times before and each time no one had faith in his father’s ability to stop drinking. He realized that to his brother and family, this looked like the typical “Boy Who Cried Wolf” story that they all have heard for the past twenty-two years. He felt alone. No one understood why he continued to try to pick up the pieces for his father each time he fell: losing jobs, being arrested for public intoxication or urination, trying to find lawyers who would take on his case for minimal pay, fielding phone calls from angry family members who he had stolen from to buy alcohol or who he had verbally abused in a rage of drunkenness.

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