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Specializing in Gottman MethodTM Couples and Marriage Counseling

Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Making Life Dreams Come True for Both You and Your Loved Ones

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

My son will be starting high school next year and he must select an area of emphasis to guide him in course selection, such as Law Enforcement or Science and Technology.   His initial reaction was to choose a path that matched his aptitude, not necessarily his passion.

This has generated plenty of discussion around the dinner table.  My husband and I shared how neither one of us followed our intuition or passion and initially wound up in unfulfilling jobs.

One of my favorite authors, Wayne Dyer, often says “Don’t die with your music still inside you.”.  In his latest book I Can See Clearly Now, he details the twists and turns his life took and how he always followed his intuition and passion to create a life of purpose and fulfillment.

We all have music inside us and we all have dreams.  Careers should be full of passion, not just paychecks.  But passions also arise in many other areas, such as travel, adventures, sports, creative outlets . . . there is no limit when it comes to passion and dreams.  These are not just bucket-list items to be checked off, but things we feel called to do in our lifetime.

As I reflected on how I arrived in a career that I love, I felt a debt of gratitude for my husband.  He has supported me along the way in more ways that I can count.  And I have done the same for him.

In Gottman Method Couples Therapy, making life dreams come true is at the top of the Sound Relationship House because it is one of the necessary ingredients inSound house relationships that work.  In fact, Gottman believes it is the most important thing.

Initially I was surprised by this statement, but as I now reflect on it, I can see from personal experience that when partners support each others dreams it generates many positive feelings.  We feel heard and supported in our relationship, cherished by our partner and happier in our life.  And I believe the same is true for our children too.

My son’s music is just now emerging, literally.  While he may have an aptitude for math, his passion is creating music.  The teen years are full of inspiration and dreams, and how he navigates his adolescence will have a tremendous impact on the rest of his life.  Helping him to feel safe to explore his dreams and to feel the supported is one of the best gifts I can give him.

It’s my way of paying it forward.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Certified Gottman Therapist


(281) 812-7529

Houston (Kingwood), TX


Power, Respect and Influence . . . How Does Your Relationship Rate?

Friday, February 7th, 2014

IMG 8We are just a few years short of the century anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. A lot has changed for women in the last 100 years and that has spilled over into changes in relationship dynamics.

For example, in the early 60s men were not allowed in the delivery room to see their children born. But now 91% not only watch, they actively participate in that special moment. When my son was born by C-section, I was being stitched up and my husband was the first to hold our bundle of joy . . . now I was the one that felt left out. Yes, the times have changed.

It’s no surprise that two income families are becoming the norm. Women outnumber men in higher education enrollment and that means they now vie for higher paying jobs.  While women still lag behind men in equal pay, men are losing their status as sole breadwinners.  A recent Pew Research analysis showed that of all married couples 24% had women as breadwinner, and that number is 30% among newlyweds.  This is up from 6% in 1960.

In his research of couples, John Gottman found that men who accept these changes are way ahead of the game in the world of parenting and relationships. They are sharing power and allowing themselves to be influences by their partner’s point of view.  Women who feel respected in this way are happier in their relationships.  And as many men say, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

But accepting your partner’s point of view is a two-way street.  Women must allow themselves to be influenced by their husband’s point of view, especially in the area of parenting or other traditionally held female roles.  But the truth is women generally do a far better job of accepting influence from men than men do from women.

Developmental psychologists have found the roots of this  in childhood.  Girls accept influence from boys, but boys almost never accept influence from girls. This is most likely due to the fact that boys and girls are raised to manage emotions differently.  Boys learn to deal with emotion quickly and “to keep the ball in play”.  Girls “play house” and nurture baby dolls in their play, and they love playing with others. This means that when both genders come together at puberty, girls are more experienced about relationships.

Gottman’s work suggests there is a new kind of male partner that is emerging, one that is adapting to these changes.  The new male has reset his priorities and is turning towards relationships.

When men have a hard time accepting influence they say “no” and try to hang onto their power.  They become obstacles in the relationship.  They dismiss their wives needs and emotions and become righteously indignant.  And they also become lonely.

We are living in a world-wide revolution that is trying to correct the imbalance that has been historically there for women.  As women become more psychologically and economically empowered they no longer accept feeling powerless or stuck in unfulfilling relationships.

How are you doing with accepting influence in your relationship? If your relationship needs some overhauling in this area, work with a Certified Gottman Therapist or attend a Gottman Couples Workshop (our next workshop is February 15-16).

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

(281) 812-7529

Houston (Kingwood), TX


Rituals of Connection Strengthen Relationships

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Sound houseThanksgiving is upon us and that warms my heart.  Over the past 20 years my husband and I have unwittingly developed  rituals around this day of gratitude.  We honor his family tradition of tamales and football and my love of Brussels sprouts and my friend Mary, who has spent 18 of the last 20 Thanksgivings with us.  When any of these things are missing from our day, it simply doesn’t feel right.

And that is how rituals go.  They are routines that create shared meaning in relationships and strengthen emotional connections.  Notice that Creating Shared Meaning is at the top of the Sound Relationship House, the model we use in Gottman Method Couples Therapy.  Rituals are important in relationships because we look forward to them  . . . they symbolize who we are as a couple or as a family.  They have the power to smooth over rough spots and transitions that we all naturally experience over the course of time.

We tend to think of rituals on holidays, especially ones that honor cultural heritage, faith or family values.  But rituals on a smaller scale are equally important.  How couple and families routinely come together creates a sense of belonging.  Rituals demonstrate that we take time out of our busy schedules to make one another a priority.

Here are some examples of rituals from my own family, as well as ones I have heard from other couples and families:

  • Six second kiss when you wake up, when you say goodnight, and when you come and go
  • Family dinnertime where everyone talks about their day
  • Walking the dog every evening
  • Making a cheesecake for your partner on their birthday because it is their favorite dessert
  • Going for pancakes every Saturday morning
  • Weekly date night
  • Returning to your honeymoon destination every year on your anniversary
  • Leaving love notes by the coffee maker for your partner to find every morning
  • Training for a distance bike ride together
  • Watching a favorite TV show together
  • How you approach your partner for sex
  • Family game night
  • Going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve
  • Snuggling for 10 minutes every morning after the alarm goes off
  • Parents and kids volunteering once per month at an animal shelter
  • Planting a vegetable garden every year
  • And my son’s favorite . . . serving his “lucky” foods (Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino and shrimp cocktail) before he plays a football game

Rituals create positive memories and are like glue in relationships . . . they keep you connected. What are the rituals in your relationships?

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist




7 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Teenager

Monday, October 14th, 2013

IMG_0715My son has always had a good balance of being stuck to us like glue and being fiercely independent.  He was the kid who could easily leave us for a week long camp and also the kid who wanted to climb in bed with us, not because he was afraid but because he wanted to be close.

Now that he’s a teen the same balance still exists, it just looks different.  Staying connected is not as hard as some may think, but it does require a shift in parenting.

To Stay Connected with Your Teen:

1.  Go with the flow and change your parenting style as your teen develops.  It is during this critical time that parents need to shift from managing their child’s every move to being their consultant.  Micromanaging your teen will create emotional distance in the relationship, not to mention some rebellion.  The developmental task of the teen years is to become increasingly more independent and parents need to facilitate this process.  Our job is to be their coach, guiding them through their emotional and social development, without trying to do it for them.

2.  Get to know their friends.  Make your home a welcome environment for your teen and their friends.  Offer to be the chauffeur.  You will learn a lot about your teen by observing how they interact with their friends, and from that you can generate some great conversations.  A word of caution about interacting with their friends online . . . . if you have a presence on their social media sites, simply read and DO NOT comment.  Your teen will think this is a boundary violation and quickly unfriend you.

3.  When your teen comes to you with an issue, be sure to listen to what they are saying and validate their feelings before jumping to advice giving.  They may just need a sympathetic ear.  Trying to solve their problem can send the message that they aren’t capable of solving them on their own.  Try asking “What do you want to do about that?” and then generate discussion from there.

4.  Develop rituals of connection with your teen.  Try to find activities that you and your teen can share, such as walking the dog together, baking cookies, going to Starbucks, watching a favorite show or playing catch.  You may need to be flexible and join in activities your teen likes, but it is important to come together a little bit each day.  Be sure to keep these rituals positive so both you and your teen come to value the time together.

5.  Take advantage of times your teen may be more open to talk.  Circadian rhythms change in the teen years and you will find that your teen is wide awake in the late evening and may be more willing to open up.  Hang out in the kitchen once in a while (even if it is past your bedtime), knowing your teen will wander there for a snack, and share a bowl of popcorn or polish off the rest of the pie together.  Being available to them when they are ready to talk is half the battle.

6.  Be conscientious of how you say Hello and Good-bye.  Setting a positive tone with separations and reunions conveys your desire for connection with your teen.  Be sure to say Good Morning when they wake up.  Before they leave for school find out what is happening in their day and give them a hug before they go.  When they return home greet them with a smile and talk about what happened during their day. Barking out orders as soon as they walk in the door is harsh, so avoid saying things like “Take the trash out” or “Put your bike away” before you’ve had a chance to positively connect.

7.  When your teen is moody, don’t take it personally.  Understand that everything seems like a big deal to them  They are dealing with cheerleading tryouts, chemistry tests, dating and many other pressures.  They are still not adept at managing their confusing feelings so their emotions ooze (or explode) out.  Being in the line of fire is equally confusing for a parent, but don’t match their mood and tone.  When your teen is emotionally flooded, give them some time and space to calm down and then address it with them.  Validate their feelings and tell them it is OK to feel whatever they are feeling but at the same time set a limit on them being disrespectful to you.

While your teen may drive you crazy at times, having a positive connection with them with help them feel more safe and secure as they move towards adulthood.  And best of all it will be filled with mutual respect for one another.


Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist










Sex in the Digital Age – 5 Things to Tell Your Teen

Friday, July 19th, 2013


Because of the nature of the work I do, I am privy to some of the latest trends in what couples do in the bedroom, except the bedroom is now really cyberspace and it only takes one person with a pulse to have a sex life.  As a couples’ therapist who endeavors to teach people the joys of deeply connected intimate bonds, cybersex is throwing a wrench in the works.  Being the mother of a teen coming of age in this new sexual culture, I have realized that the standard Birds and Bees talk is not hitting the mark.  Yes folks, that’s right, you now have to teach your kids that true sexual intimacy means two live people, not one person with a good internet connection.

Tell your children . . . .

  1. You cannot fill your emotional and sexual needs online.  Building a truly connected relationship means touching each other heart and touching each other physically.
  2. Internet pornography and chat rooms are cheap thrills, and usually degrading.  It is true that the sexual scenarios played out online are steamy and real life partners may not measure up, but building a true connection takes more than a hot sex life, much more.
  3. Virtual partners, such as Furries are a growing trend.  Because these images are anthropomorphized and sexualized it is easy to confuse them for real life people.  But they are not.  They are computer generated and don’t really understand you or have an attraction to you.
  4. Develop a comfort level where you can openly talk about sex, not just dirty jokes or crude remarks.  Being able to talk to your sexual partner about what you both desire and building a true intimate connection, not just a sexual connection, is what real relationships are all about
  5. Understand that pornography, chat rooms and virtual partners are not real.  When you engage in these activities you can be hurting yourself and your partner.  You can become addicted to these things and your partner can feel betrayed, reducing your chances of having a beautiful, loving, trusting relationship.

Teach your teen not just about STDs and how to prevent pregnancy, but also the importance of building an emotional connection.

Mary Beth George, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist



Softened Startup . . . how to start a conversation the right way

Monday, February 4th, 2013


Ever feel like you are speaking at a frequency that your partner, children or boss can’t hear?  No matter how you voice what is on your mind it’s falling on deaf ears?

Well, there may be truth to that.

The fact is, others will react to what we say within the first three minutes of any conversation, so in order to be heard we must think before we speak.

If we com across as harsh or attacking, people on the receiving end will either bite back, blame or shut down.  And then it is on . . . . the attack-defend cycle that allows for plenty of venting but no understanding or empathizing.

In order to be heard and understood we must remove criticism from our complaints.  Talking about how we feel and what we want is the recipe for better communication.

In Gottman Method Couples Therapy we teach couples how to use a softened startup when they have something to say to their partner.  This powerful technique helps couples move past attack-defend into a deeper understanding of one another.

Watch the brief video above for examples on how to use softened startup in any of your relationships.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Self-Esteem Boosters for Kids and Teens

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Positive affirmations are simple little sayings we can tell ourselves to build self-esteem.  They are positive statements about our traits, abilities and qualities.  Recognizing our value on this planet and having a strong sense of who we are helps to develop a positive “can do” attitude.

Most of us develop the bad habit of beating ourselves up over our mistakes and failures.  And we tend to listen to the teacher, coach or parent who belittles and criticizes us.  Often before we reach adulthood our self-esteem can be quite damaged and we find that all of our doubts and feelings of inferiority cast a dark spell on our confidence and identity.

The ideal time to begin affirmations is in childhood and the teen years.   Children need to be taught to be kind and loving towards themselves.  Adolescents are especially vulnerable to negativity and criticism because they are forming their identity.  Teaching them to do affirmations can help them better weather the storm of this confusing time.

Affirmations should be short and to the point, easily remembered and in the present tense.  Affirmations should start with “I am” and end with what you want to have in your life I am healthy.  I am creative and have a never ending supply of ideas.  I am capable of great things.  While these statements may sound vain, it is actually healthy to talk to yourself in this manner.  We tend to bring about in our life what we think about, so it’s best to set the stage for positive scenarios rather than negative ones.

Teens spend a lot of time in front of the mirror, either admiring themselves  or looking for  flaws.  This is the perfect setting for having them read and repeat affirmations.  I have come up with a way to help my pre-teen repeat affirmations.  I wrote out 30 affirmation cards, each with 3 different sayings.  Some reflected on physical or intellectual abilities, some were spiritual in nature and some IMG_0499were just plain fun.  I placed them on a memo holder and put it on the bathroom counter, surely to be found next time he was looking for a zit or admiring his smile.  Sticky notes would also work well but I like the reusable nature of the cards.

Once you have finished your affirmation cards for your child repeat the following:  I am a good parent.  I am boosting my child’s self-esteem.  I am loving.


Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Fostering Independence in Your Adolescent

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

My husband and I are approaching our son’s budding adolescence in very different ways.

He really misses the days when our only child wanted to be with us, curled up with us on the couch watching TV.  He is melancholy about not being numero uno in his life and being ousted from that spot by a best friend.  Our child’s moods and changing interests have caught my husband off guard.  He wasn’t prepared for his own emotional roller coaster during this tumultuous time.

I, on the other hand, am not getting caught up in nostalgia.

While I loved all of those  things, I am loving the independence and growth our 12 year old is experiencing.  Maybe it’s because I clearly remember the exhilaration of being 12 and exploring the world, well, at least my little piece of the world.

Back in the dark ages we had much more freedom than kids today.  I remember the thrill of riding the bus into town by myself and being able to go into the department store all alone.  Riding my bike meant travelling all over and  doing crazy stunts and sometimes not coming home until after dark.   I could cook an entire meal without scalding myself or burning the house down and it made me feel very grown up.  My best friend was my constant companion and the crush I had on a boy named Jimmy was all-consuming.  Yep, 12 was pretty darn exciting.

What I don’t remember about being 12 was feeling incompetent or being criticized by my parents for my 12 year old-ness.  I’m quite certain I wasn’t as savvy as my memory recalls.  Truth is, I probably was quite nervous when I first rode the bus, ran home in the dark or cooked a meal for the first time.

I am forever grateful that my parents appreciated my independence rather than trying to keep me more child-like.  This wasn’t necessarily a well thought out  parenting strategy on their part.  They both worked and it was just assumed that the kids would step up to the plate.  It’s now different than in the dark ages, but I still want to impart a feeling of competence and acceptance in my child’s development.

Children always let us know one way or another that they are ready to take a leap in development, either with their words or behaviors.

It shows they are learning to reason and think independently. It is important for parents to realize that forbidding freedoms they are requesting makes them all the more appealing.  Keeping an open line of communication is my preference for handling these issues.  Because I don’t want to learn of behaviors ex post facto, I have worked hard at making it safe for my son to tell me what is going on in his world.  Reactivity and always saying no to their requests is a sure ticket to acting out, rebellious behavior committed on the sly.

My strategy is simple and involves only two words, “Yes, but . . . . “.

A few months ago he came home from school and asked me if he could have a girlfriend.  Ok, I have to admit my first reaction was a vision of some scantily clad tramp being very  inappropriate with my sweet boy, but I quickly snapped back to reality.  His nervousness in telling me was priceless.  He was reaching out for a little guidance and if I said anything remotely negative I would be closing the door on advice giving, forever.  If I said “no, you are too young” he would probably just seek advice from his friends and hide his girlfriend from me.  So I said “yes, but” and defined the limits of what a girlfriend means at this age.

We have had a million “yes, but” moments in the last few months.  Mom, can you leave my room now?    Can I go to Wendy’s for a Frosty?   Can I stay out a little longer?  These are terrific opportunities to allow for growth yet set appropriate boundaries.

Don’t get me wrong, we still say no too.  Safety is never a time to compromise, but don’t confuse normal, age appropriate risk with unsafe situations.  Our job as parents is to raise independent kids.  Of course they will make some mistakes, but if they are small, don’t worry.  On the other hand, what seems like a great idea to an adventurous 12 year old may make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  Oh the stories I could tell! The key is to not belittle them in the process of setting a firm limit.

I understand my husband’s feelings.  This is the age where we start to let go a bit and we move into unfamiliar territory.  It is bittersweet.  If we have done a good job of instilling values and have worked on keeping communication safe and open, letting go really means keeping them close by. The relationship between parent and child can blossom into one of mutual respect.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Sexting . . . is it the new flirting??

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

The word of the week for me seems to be sexting . . . you know, sending sexually explicit material from one cell phone to another.

A few colleagues and I discussed this issue a few days ago.  A friend relayed a story about some teens that got caught sexting.   What’s the problem with sexting?

For consenting adults, sexting is not necessarily a big issue.  Unless of course the photos are saved and used against a partner in a divorce or custody battle (oh yes, I have seen this in the ugliest of divorce cases).  Or if the person you sent it to seems to  thinks that Facebook is a better venue for your picture.   This is known as sextcasting and is humiliating, to say the least.

My 12 year old now has a cell phone and like all children his age with a phone, texting is the preferred communication form.  And yes, his phone, like most phones, has the capability of sending pictures.  So this morning over our morning oatmeal I found myself having a conversation with him that I could not ever imagine having with my own parents at his age.  We talked about sexting, what it is and the ramifications of doing it.  It never ceases to amaze me how me what we have to tell our young children these days.  Sigh.  But it is far better to arm them with information so they don’t seek it elsewhere or get themselves into trouble for lack of it.

Sexting is quite popular with the young crowd.  Taking nude photos and sending them to a love interest is the new flirting.  Young people aren’t savvy enough to understand that the receiver of their photos may not be completely trustworthy, and in fact, might find great pleasure in forwarding those pictures.  Texts spread like wildfire and end up on social network sites.  The problem is (well, clearly there are many problems) that this is considered child pornography.  It is not unheard of for children to get in trouble with the law (exploitation, harassment, felony, registering as a sex  offender) for sending and forwarding nude pictures.  Add pornography to that list of uncomfortable conversations over morning oatmeal.

The emotional pain and legal consequences of sending sexually explicit photos over a cell phone or the internet are not what adolescents are thinking about when they engage in this behavior.  When parents make the decision to get their child a cell phone or a Facebook account they must leave no stone unturned on the rules of usage.  ALL children have a curiosity about sex, even good kids.  ALL children want approval from their peers.  ALL children are naïve.  ALL children make dumb mistakes.   But sexting and sextcasting are symptoms of a bigger issue – kids don’t view sex in the same way their parents do.  This generation has a much broader view of what is considered acceptable sexual behavior.  It is up to parents to communicate very clearly and stay one step ahead of their tech-savvy kids.

So the next time you have a moment alone with your child, whether over oatmeal or driving down the highway, take that opportunity for a little education on some timely topics. It’s a changing world and we must keep up with the times.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD



Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates provides service to Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, Porter, Fall Creek, Summerwood, North Houston and surrounding areas.

Couples Counseling & Psychotherapy Associates

2330 Timber Shadows Drive
Suite 106
Kingwood, Texas 77339
Ph: 281-812-7529


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