Geoffrey Zehnacker, MSW, LICSW geoffrey@affinitypsych.com

Geof works with all ages, individuals and families both in person & virtually (and will never miss a chance to find an outdoor space for a visit). He typically sees clients outside normal business hours and is often accompanied by his service dog.

asian woman with serious look on her face looking at something off camera

Why Do Women Initiate Divorce More Frequently Than Men?

There are about 2 million marriages in the U.S. each year. At the same time, there are roughly 700,000 divorces in the U.S. each year. The divorce numbers relate to first marriages. Couples getting hitched for the second (or more) time face a substantially higher divorce rate. You may or may not be familiar with such numbers but there’s a statistic that may take you by surprise. About 70 percent of divorces are initiated by women.

On top of that, 4 out of 10 men report feeling regret about getting divorced. For women, that number is only 27 percent. While the hardships and financial costs of getting divorced are usually far more challenging for women, they often see staying in an unhappy marriage as worse.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence

How we are raised and socialize has a huge impact on how we see the world as adults. A big part of socialization is gender-based. Men, more often than women, will display lower emotional intelligence. It’s not that men can’t have plenty of emotional intelligence, they’re just now encouraged to cultivate this crucial attribute.

As a result, women are more likely to feel unsupported. The burden of emotional labor is dumped on them — along with child-rearing and domestic chores. At some point, all of this can add up to make divorce sound more palatable than the status quo.

A Few More Reasons Why Women Initiate Divorce More Frequently Than Men

Expectations

The blend of female socialization and higher emotional intelligence can create a scenario in which women enter into marriage with high expectations. As pop culture promises, it will “complete” them. Thus, when disappointment rears its ugly head in the form of unmet emotional needs, it’s only natural for women to do some reassessing.

Benefits

When you start a new job, it’s normal to ask about the benefits being offered. If the company doesn’t follow through, you’d be justified to feel let down. Well, statistically speaking, married men live longer and earn higher incomes. Married women do not usually reap such benefits. Combine this with the aforementioned unmet emotional needs and it helps explain why 7 out of 10 divorces are initiated by women.

asian woman with serious look on her face looking at something off cameraRisks

Men commit far more violent crimes (including domestic abuse), consume more pornography, and are more likely to engage in infidelity. There’s more than can be added to that list but you probably get the idea. Life can be safer and more simple in a variety of ways for single women.

Friends

Almost one-fifth of American male adults have no close friendships. Meanwhile, women frequently have large social networks — including several close friends. This equates to having a strong support system in which they can discuss marital strife and weigh the pros and cons of divorce.

Children

Women are granted child custody in over 80 percent of divorces. In other words, they don’t need to view such a separation as shifting into loneliness and isolation. Divorced men, on the other hand, most often see a decline in their mental and physical well-being. Therefore, men less often make the first move when it comes to divorce.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Yes, the above information sounds daunting. In no way, however, does this mean you can’t break the mold. Men and women can have fulfilling and egalitarian relationships but it requires self-awareness and commitment to doing the work. Rather than allowing society to design your blueprint, you can challenge your conditioning to learn new ways to live in the world.

If your marriage is not what you need it to be, let’s connect and talk. Life transitions counseling can be a giant step toward bringing out the best in each other.

middle aged woman sitting at her desk smiling at camera

Thinking About a Midlife Career Change As A Woman? Here’s How To Transition

There is no shortage of sentimental movies with plots about midlife changes. But, in reality, it’s more common than pop culture leads us to believe. Career choices we make in our early 20s may leave us feeling stuck or dissatisfied a couple of decades later. Therefore, it is essential that we not let ourselves believe a midlife career change is impossible. Obstacles will arise, but what else is new? We face challenges whether we change or not!

The challenges presented to women are unique — especially when children are involved. Even so, women over 40 regularly make successful career changes and so can you.

The Rewards Are Often Worth the Risks

Change can be daunting. For women, considering the societal pressures they endure, it can feel downright frightening. But just as they regularly juggle all that’s on their overflowing plates, women learn to trust themselves. They take effective action without being 100 percent certain about everything involved. Research shows that, most often, the outcomes are quite positive:

  • A woman’s pay growth is still rising when they are in the mid-40s
  • 50 percent of those who change careers see their salaries increase
  • 9 out of 10 women who’ve made midlife career changes report positive emotional results, e.g. feeling recharged, less stressed, fulfilled, and happier

What can you do to garner results like this for yourself?

How Women Can Transition Successfully to a New Career

Patience and Preparation

It’s tempting to feel rushed because you think “time is running out.” On the contrary, this is the time to engage in diligent research and homework to increase your confidence in this step. Talk to the people in your life who will be impacted by your change. Seek the counsel of those who trust. Look inward to discern where your passions lie so you are making a choice that reflects your interests, values, and integrity.

middle aged woman sitting at her desk smiling at cameraIt is Not a Solo Act

Following up on part of the above, do not feel you have to go it alone. Connect with women who have made such a transition. Find support groups in which you can brainstorm with and learn from others in a similar position. Working with an experienced therapist is a proven method for easing this major life shift.

Get Technical Advice

It may be a while since you were job-hunting. Well, in this digital age, things change quickly. Get professional input on steps like creating a resume. Typically, it’s the first thing potential employers will see so allot a fair amount of time to this critical effort. Also, set aside time to deep dive online for useful suggestions from human resources professionals about presenting yourself in the best possible way.

Speak Success Into Existence

Far too many folks settle into their skillset by the time they hit mid-life. They feel self-conscious about their age and don’t challenge themselves to stretch and grow. Left unchecked, this mindset can cause negative self-talk. Hence, a crucial step is to begin focusing on your strengths and how you can improve. Society has some pretty skewed perceptions about life after 40 but you are not obligated to buy into such viewpoints. Be your own biggest fan and let that positive energy buoy you on this exciting new journey.

Again, Therapy is a Game Changer

As touched on above, women amid a mid-life career change can benefit greatly from connecting with a therapist. Those private sessions can serve as a workshop of sorts. Under the watchful eye of a skilled guide, you can hash out motivations, obstacles, hopes, doubts, and dreams. We would love to support you on this amazing life transition. Let’s connect and talk soon about life transitions counseling.

photo of a woman throwing confetti celebrating the new year

Unsure of What You Want In The New Year? How To Set Realistic Resolutions

It’s so common that it’s become an unfunny cliché. Most people make New Year’s resolutions and break them in a matter of weeks, days, or hours. In reality, this trend is nothing to laugh about. Everyone deserves a fresh start at times, and they deserve to know what it feels like to pursue a goal. This sense of purpose is one of the best things about being human.

Therefore, if we view resolutions as something not to take seriously, we miss out on a golden opportunity to challenge ourselves with an inspiring mission. Let’s break this cycle in 2024 and set an example for others. 

Why Don’t People Follow Through on Resolutions?

At least half of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by the end of January. For that matter, around a third of such promises are broken within two weeks. Why has this become the norm? Here are three common reasons:

  • Accountability: Actually, it’s the lack of accountability that serves to sabotage the effort.
  • Fear: It may not be clear at first, but you just may be afraid of the success you crave.
  • Big Picture: You’re aiming to change behavior without first changing your mindset.

If there’s something you deeply want to accomplish, you’ll need to do some serious introspection to discover if you believe in yourself, feel you deserve to succeed, and can handle how others may respond to you elevating yourself. 

How To Set Realistic Resolutions

photo of a woman throwing confetti celebrating the new yearWhen you factor in the emotional work that needs to be done, you can probably appreciate the importance of momentum. You’ll want to break the cycle by witnessing yourself attaining some goals to get things started. Increase your odds of success by setting goals that are:

  • Realistic and attainable
  • Specific and time-specific
  • Measurable
  • Motivating

Let’s say your resolutions revolve around physical fitness. It’s self-defeating to list something like “getting healthier.” Ask yourself: What does that exactly mean to you? Is there a deadline? How will you gauge success vs. failure? Are you excited to get started? Questions like this can empower you to narrow down your resolutions into something sustainable.

Making Success Possible

Obviously, each person will have their own individual desires and dreams. For the sake of this post, let’s stick with “getting healthier.” To follow are a few basic suggestions for making this resolution all of the above: realistic, attainable, specific, time-specific, measurable, and motivating. For the first two weeks of the year:

  • Get seven to eight hours of nightly sleep — getting to bed at the same time each night
  • Starting each day with a full-body stretch
  • Drinking eight glasses of water each day
  • Each evening, prepare a healthy lunch for yourself the next day
  • Find a form of exercise you enjoy and get started with it three times per week

On their own, these suggestions are helpful but not the be-all or end-all. However, they will integrate you into a mindset of health and well-being. As you accomplish these daily goals, you experience the joy of success and trust yourself more to upgrade the program. You can next add in elements like:

  • Eliminate one food or drink that you know is unhealthy
  • Increase the exercise to four times per week
  • Commit to weekly grocery shopping and cooking at least four dinners a week at home

Do you recognize the concept here? You’re shifting your perspective as you change your habits. Of course, this is not just applicable to health-related resolutions. Use the above presentation as a blueprint to apply to whatever you aim to achieve. If you feel your perspective is not shifting, let’s connect and find ways to make it happen with anxiety, depression, or life transitions counseling.

Sam Swafford, MS, LPCC sam.swafford@affinitypsych.com

Sam is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and those who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. They specialize in trauma work and those with dissociative abilities. Sam aims to create a safe and comfortable space for all.

Christine Dudero, MA, LMFTchristine.dudero@affinitypsych.com

Christine Dudero is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist experienced in working with individuals, couples & families across the lifespan. Christine takes a collaborative approach towards empowering you to achieve your therapy goals.

teens throwing graduation caps up in the air

How To Help Your Teen Prepare For Adulthood After Graduation

Your child enters high school barely out of adolescence. Four years later, you watch an adult graduate. It’s normal but it may not feel that way to you. Where did your child go? While you ponder the universe, you will also have to get busy helping your teen prepare for adulthood. Whether or not they go directly to college, a lot has changed and the changes will keep coming.

Fortunately, there is a roadmap of sorts for this transition. For many years, parents have been finding ways to foster independence while still being there when needed. Everyone is different, of course, but a general blueprint exists.

Do Not Neglect the Basics

Assess where your child is at and what they have planned as their next steps. From there, you can guide them to master crucial, often overlooked skills like:

  • Everyday hygiene
  • Shopping and cooking
  • Making healthy choices
  • Maintaining a budget
  • Basic repairs around the house (including the car)
  • Doing laundry
  • Writing a resume

You get the idea but it goes beyond chores and tasks. Be ready to talk with them about making new friends, navigating romantic relationships, handling life in a workplace, and more. If they’re the type of kid that likes structure, support them in creating valuable new routines in their life.

3 More Ways To Help Your Teen Prepare For Adulthood After Graduation

Help Them Discover Agreeable Options

There are so many possibilities and so many variations on each possibility. Will they go to college, a tech school, work full-time, work part-time, travel, and so on? Whatever they choose, they will need input and support. You might coach them on college applications or help them find the best job options.

The underlying key is that you do all you can to see them for who they are. Respect their preferences. Learn about their needs, dreams, and goals. This will empower you to be best positioned to provide counsel when called upon.

teens throwing graduation caps up in the airValidate Their Emotions

As much as they want to be respected as a “grown-up,” there’s a lot going on during this stage of life. Undoubtedly, your teen will feel overwhelmed and more than a little scared at times. Here’s where you may be asked to perform a high-wire act. They’ll need your support and validation but not in the way you’ve done for their entire life.

You’ll be challenged to talk to them — adult to adult — while still being a parent. They need both. Being treated like an adult is essential but most kids crave the special kind of reassurance you can only get from a parent. A high school grad needs room to explore without losing the safety net that have at home.

Don’t Project Your Emotions Onto Your Teen

Your teen will not be the only one juggling emotions. This scenario can trigger a whole lot of feelings in your mind. They might have to do with your own childhood. They might have to do with your unconscious fear of letting go. No matter what, do the work to identify these emotions and not pass them on to your child. For example, refrain from starting a question with something like “Are you nervous about [blank]?”

Who’s Looking Out For You?

To piggyback off that last suggestion above, you would be well-served to seek out some support for yourself. Transitions can be tough on everyone involved. There’s no reason to struggle in silence. In fact, you’d be leading by example by asking for help. With that in mind, we invite you to reach out. Let’s talk about the benefits of teen counseling or life transitions.

empty lecture hall with seats and podium

Anxious About Going To College? 3 Tips For Making This Transition Easier

It’s that time of year. Back to school may feel like a month away but for college students, it is right around the corner. This can be a time of excitement, new adventures, and so much personal growth. Simultaneously, the transition to college is nothing to take lightly — especially for those who are leaving home for the first time.

If going to college has you anxious, you are not alone. Nearly two-thirds of students in your position report feeling anxiety. Almost one-quarter of them seek professional care. This is serious business so please ask for help if you need it.

Some of the Challenges of Going to College

  • Academic pressures: The comfort zone of high school is no longer present.
  • Living up to parental expectations: Even the best-intentioned parents can provoke more anxiety than they realize.
  • Financial issues: Have you seen the cost of college — and cost of living — lately?
  • Feeling homesick: Independence sounds perfect… until it’s not.
  • Making friends: Social anxiety can rear its ugly head.
  • Dating: This is yet another situation that can sound more fun in theory than in practice

No matter how you slice it, this leads to pressure from all directions. Sure, this can help a young adult prepare for the rat race but is that what we’re really aiming to do? Instead, let’s offer some helpful advice.

First: Take Advantage of the Resources Available to You

Every college campus will make valuable mental health resources available to its students. You do not need to suffer in silence. Also, there is no need to wait. If you feel the transition starting to get to you, ask for help. The sooner you seek support, the less overwhelmed and anxious you’ll get. But, at the same time, there are self-help steps you can take to ease the anxiety.

empty lecture hall with seats and podium3 More Tips For Making the Transition to College Easier

1. Prepare in Advance

Learn some basic but crucial life skills. You may or may not have done much housework, cooking, shopping, and laundry at home. So, give yourself a crash course. These chores can feel a lot less daunting with a little prep work.

While you’re at it, familiarize yourself with where you will be living. If possible, make some low-key visits to get a feel for the general vicinity. Learn the weather patterns so you can pack the right clothes. Buy your textbooks early. Inquire about what technology is available. Ask about tutoring options. Take these kinds of seemingly minor steps to avoid having things pile up as the pressure hits.

2. Create a Contact Plan With Friends and Family

Do not allow yourself to be left feeling isolated. This is not to say that you spend all your time video-chatting with Mom or your BFF. But you don’t have to cold turkey either. Ease into the process by scheduling regular chats and pep talks from the people who love you the most.

As you do this, you can also join the college’s Facebook page and begin connecting with potential new friends. Lay the groundwork for a smoother transition than you may be fearing.

3. Practice Self-Care

Create a daily regimen that will help you build resilience for those moments when you feel the walls closing in. Safeguard your sleep patterns. Make healthy eating choices. It’s okay to party — a little. Pace yourself. Be sure to get in exercise and physical activity each day. Develop a routine of stress management and relaxation techniques.

And remember: If you feel better seeking help off-campus, therapy is a powerful option. Let’s talk. I’m here to help you make this exciting transition as positive as possible!

Working Through the Transition of Your Child’s Approaching Wedding

This post is not necessarily about wedding planning and family drama. But it could be. The sheer magnitude of work required to help prepare for your child’s wedding is itself a major stressor. So, for the record, this aspect is baked into the main point of this conversation. All that said, there is an elephant in the room that must be addressed.

Your child’s approaching wedding is a big deal. The happy couple deserves the focus, attention, and well wishes. Yet, as a parent, you are also going through a life-altering transition. This transition also deserves a whole lot of attention.

Mixed Emotions

You won’t want to bring this up during the wedding prep, but it is normal for the parents to feel some mixed emotions right about now. For example:

Do I like my child’s spouse? (and what about the in-laws?)

Basically, a group of complete strangers is about to become part of your family. Thanksgiving is about to seriously change.

Will my baby have a happy marriage and life?

You worried on their first day at school, during the big soccer match, and you still worry now. Will they start a family and stay married? Will they fulfill their dreams?

Where did the time go and what do I do now?

Yes, of course, this is your child’s moment to shine. But who says that stops you from wondering where and how you fit in from now on?

Working Through the Transition of Your Child’s Approaching Wedding

Let’s try addressing some of the above questions.

1. Accept Your Child’s Decisions

There’s no law that says you have to be crazy about your daughter-in-law or son-in-law. But you can respect the social contract. Your child is creating a legal separation from their life with you. They are free to experiment and explore. Your job is to give them space, provide your support, and offer advice when appropriate.

2. Give Your New Extended Family a Chance

Remember a few things:

  • These folks are part of your life now
  • There’s little value in pre-judging anyone
  • You are not required to become bosom buddies

Put in a sincere effort. Consult with your child for feedback. Hope for the best.

3. Expect and Embrace Change

Your child may move in directions that surprise you. This could be related to religion, sexual orientation, political viewpoints, or even geographical location. Any such change can feel like it compounds the sense of loss you already feel. But you had your time and did your best. The best gift you can give them now is your trust.

4. Reimagine Yourself

Empty Nest Syndrome is real but it’s not automatically a bad thing. You will miss your child but you won’t miss certain aspects of having them around all the time. For starters, if you’re still married, use this transition as an invitation to rediscover each other.

Here are a few more potentially welcome changes:

  • Create your own, personal daily schedule
  • Take up new hobbies and interests
  • Rearrange or redecorate your home
  • Take vacations
  • Hold dinner parties
  • Go back to school
  • Try a new career

Most of all, be spontaneous. Ask yourself often: What do I feel like doing right now?

Ask For Help

You do not have to navigate this life transition alone. Working with a therapist is a proven path for making major life changes a little easier. I would love to connect with you soon for a free consultation.

life-transitions-therapy

How to Ensure Your Resignation Doesn’t Lead to Regret

Life is filled with big transitions — relationships, relocations, and more. Some of these big changes are thrust upon us. In other cases, we have the agency to author a major decision. For example, you may reach the point where you decide to leave your job. The reason can vary widely. But, regardless of those specifics, you may end up trying to cope with anxiety and uncertainty after leaving your job.

How do you know it’s the right move? Can you ever possibly know such a thing? And can you avoid feeling regret after a resignation? These are complex questions that vary widely from person to person. Even so, there are steps you can take.

Dealing With a Major Life Change

Compiling a complete list of major life changes would be futile. But here are some samples:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Moving to a new home, neighborhood, state, or country
  • Starting or ending a relationship
  • Beginning studies at a new school
  • Retirement
  • Illness, injury, or disability

The list goes on and so does the need to adapt. Whether or not you saw the change coming, you will endure a transition period that can get challenging. With the recent “Great Resignation” in mind,” here are some suggestions for coping after you’ve opted to leave a job and/or career.

4 Ways to Ensure Your Resignation Doesn’t Lead to Regret

1. Accept and Process the Initial Self-Doubt

You may worry if you did the right thing. In addition, you may find yourself wondering if anyone will care or notice that you’re gone. Other concerns can range from financial issues to dealing with a loss of identity. Spoiler alert: All of this is normal.

Transitions involve loss. Losses involve mourning. Mourning involves a slew of emotions. Practice accepting this process as inevitable. You will second guess. You will also feel excitement and anticipation. Feel it all but don’t get stuck in any single feeling.

2. Keep a Journal

Monitor your thoughts and feelings. What were you grateful for about your former job? What are you looking forward to now? Keep track of these and other emotions. Give voice to your feelings. Journaling will help you gain clarity on your wants and needs. It can be helpful to use this practice to speak your future into existence. Plus, that journal will come in mighty handy in your therapy sessions (see below).

3. Learn As Much as You Can From It

Perhaps you tolerated behavior that was disrespectful to you. Maybe you played a role in your need to resign. Examine the situation with a nuanced perspective. This is not automatically about assigning blame. The goal here is to assess the situation in the name of bringing new awareness to your next set of plans.

4. Don’t Get Caught Up in Gossip, etc.

There’s a reasonable chance you will stay in touch with at least one former co-worker. At first, you’re likely to discuss the old workplace. As quickly as you can, move away from this focus. There is no value in rehashing old office politics and so on. Reimagine your friendships with former colleagues without them being centered around the old job.

Counseling Helps With Life Transitions

You’ll feel unsteady and unsure at times — especially if you were at this job for a long time. It’s not unusual to feel confused by all the mixed emotions. If you are struggling, this is an ideal time to connect with a therapist. Your counseling sessions offer you a safe space to speak openly about this experience.

No matter what life transition you are navigating, it helps to have a skilled guide on your side. Let’s connect and talk about this!