relationships

Are You Voting for Your Marriage?

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Happy anniversary to us!

My husband and I recently celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary! On that day, I performed the social media ritual of posting a throwback photo of our wedding. Captured in that sepia-toned photo were two joyful people, kids really, preparing for a journey they knew little about.

We may have looked like a couple of kids... but we were old enough to vote. My husband touched on something important when looking back on that day: you do need to vote. Every day you need to vote/choose to be a couple. The wedding day is all cake and laughter, but the choice to be with one person for the rest of your life, for better or worse, is hard work

Getting through the rough patches

Everyone gets thrown some curve balls in life. And when you are married, you are not only dealing with your own curve balls, but you are also dealing with your partner’s.

When I think back through the past 18 years, I reflect on some pretty hard times. The stress of having young kids, worrying about finances and health scares, and balancing that with a busy career can leave little time or energy for anything else. Even date night can start feeling like a chore. Honestly, neither of us were very fun to live with in those days.

Thankfully, things have gotten easier over the years. However, we often reflect on how thankful we are for making it through those times and not giving up on us. It’s definitely tempting to run away in those dark moments. Instead of giving up, we decided to go to couples counseling. 

We voted to be a couple.

Taking the leap

Going to counseling wasn’t an easy step to take. So many fear-based thoughts went through my mind that almost prevented us from asking for help… Going to couple’s therapy meant our marriage was a failure Maybe we can work things out on our own... or What if it doesn’t work? Ultimately, I realized that sometimes even the strongest people can use some outside help. 

Considering all the objections my mind came up with, I’m thankful that we chose to seek help.

What couples counseling taught us

Couples counseling helped us change the way we communicate with each other. We learned to recognize our pattern of fighting that got us stuck in a negativity spiral. We were encouraged to look beyond the content of what we were saying and doing, and focus more on the process of how we were interacting with each other.

I never would have thought that a stranger could be the answer to our problems… that an outsider could hear the details of our specific situation, and use our story to guide us closer to each other.

But here we were.

We got to the heart of what we were feeling and what we needed from each other. When we started communicating from our needs and genuine intentions, it was easier to hear what the other person was saying. We started feeling heard and understood. We were able to express our hurt and pain, and look into each other’s eyes and see that our pain hurt our partner, too.

Those moments were healing and it made it easier to vote for each other. 

Is this you?

As a marriage counselor on the other side of the room, I see many couples who clearly love (or loved) each other, but they have waited so long to come to therapy. Could it be that the inevitable hurts and resentments that naturally come with spending a life with someone have hardened you and built up a wall between you and your partner? 

This wall can get in the way of your ability to vote yes for your marriage.

We can do something about that. 

Tearing down the wall

In a marriage, while you and your partner are so interconnected through kids, shared memories, and assets, you can also build walls between yourselves when it comes to your own needs. Although the wall might have protected you in many ways from your hurts, it has also caused isolation and loneliness, which hurts even more.

Sometimes the task of breaking through that pain feels insurmountable, and you might give up hope. Separating from each other can be the right thing for you, despite the shared experiences and love you had for each other. But for others of you, there is light on the other side of this marital hardship. Having the strength to walk through the hardship is what is needed to see that light, and feel the connection and happiness you once felt. 

I’m voting for you

Going to marriage counseling is like voting yes for your marriage. It can give you the extra support you need to walk through the darkness and come through on the other side. It takes hard work, but just like marriage itself, it can be well worth the work. 

Let me know when you’re ready to come in and vote. I’ll be here. 


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Kristin O’Hara is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate at People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice. She helps couples find love and connection in their relationship. She also helps people struggling with midlife transitions. She spent her anniversary relaxing with her husband, reflecting back on their many years of joys, sorrows and wonderful shared memories.

What My Husband Taught Me About Self-Care

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

It’s been a while

Last week, I woke up with a bad sore throat. It came suddenly, overnight, even though I tried to remedy it in the middle of the night. I verified that pharyngitis is contagious and I either canceled or moved my appointments online. I also gave the people I had scheduled the day after a heads up.

You see, I haven’t been sick like this for almost two years. I remember so because I wrote about it here. As a result, I wish to get better asap, but somehow, I thought I could get better by doing just as much as always...

But, the to-do list!

I had little human contact that day and grocery shopped for food. I added to the pile of dishes in the sink and later on, made a further mess of the kitchen by boiling oatmeal over our gas stovetop. Twice.

Spending most of the day at home, I thought, Well, there’s laundry to do. I can unload the dishes and empty the sink. I can make congee. I can work on the copy on my website. The list goes on. At the end, I did none of that. I crashed on the couch until my husband came home and I told him I hardly did anything. “That’s good. You’re not supposed to. You should be resting.”

Learning from my husband

Then I remember the times when he has been sick and he indeed did very little. He worked minimally, ate, napped and watched episodes on the couch, day after day. He focused his energy on resting and recovering. In fact, when he’s stressed and he still needs to take out the garbage, he will do just that: take out the garbage and leave the recycling for next week. He attended to his priorities and waited on the less important tasks. 

While I can imagine this turning into an argument for some couples, like, “If you’d only help out around the house more!” or, “How am I supposed to know what you need when you’re sick?” I saw it as an opportunity to learn from my husband about self-care.

Not my usual self

Because I haven’t been sick for a while, I’d forgotten how tiring it can be. I don’t have the same level of energy and my mind doesn’t work the same way. Just because I have the time does not mean I can. Just because I can does not mean I should.

My husband encouraged me to cancel my engagements the next day so I could fully rest. I still ended up going to my morning appointment and slipped into the office for some computer work. I did cancel the date to hang out with a nine year old, though by mid-afternoon, I thought about resuming the date because I felt like I could. I’m glad I didn’t. By the time I got home, I was exhausted again. I was on an unexpected call and did a load of laundry that could’ve waited.

Apparently, I haven’t learned my lesson. Head knowledge doesn’t always transfer into actions taken.

Still wanting more

Alas, the next day, I slept in but woke up to learning that one of my favorite local artists will be hosting a booth at the Oddmall in Monroe! We also bought tickets to see Westside Story midday. “Can we do both?” I said enthusiastically, only about 70% recovered. “They’re in opposite directions. It’ll be too much for you to do both,” answered my husband. As if I’d forgotten everything that has transpired the last two days.

So we had a sad, but amazing experience at the musical, got a dinner takeout and came home. I left the dishes and stove cleaning to him and was able to sustain energy until later that evening.

Asking for what I need and want

Aside from doing less and giving myself the permission to rest, I also learned the importance of being clear with my requests, especially when I have less emotional and physical bandwidth. “Hon, I’ll need the pot to make congee. Can you please do the dishes by tomorrow?” This is a more vulnerable and direct ask, compared to, “You’re going to do the dishes, right?” When he doesn’t know my needs, the why and the when, then he isn’t given the opportunity to meet them. He also doesn’t understand why I get upset every time I pass by the boatload in the sink. It’s not just about the dishes. It’s much more than that.

My simplified life

As you read this, you might be thinking, But Ada, you don’t have kids! When you have kids, you don’t get to rest! It’s true, we’re a household of two and our lives are simpler. What’s more, we hear stories from friends that when their kids are in school or daycare, they get sick half the year!

The thing is, while we don’t have little people demanding our attention, the tendency to push myself, to do just as much, to be short with my husband, and to assume that he can read my mind, are still there. At the end of the day, stress will suppress my immune system and an argument with my spouse is the last thing I need when I’m sick.

Flexing a new muscle

As I continue to flex the muscles of doing less and asking more vulnerably in my relationship, I wonder if you might be going through similar things. Just because you have time does not mean you can. Just because you can does not mean you should. 

The counselors here at People Bloom would love to help you flex the muscles of self-care! We can also help you with your relationship, so you can learn to ask more vulnerably for what you want and need.

Don’t wait until you’re under the weather to get help.


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Ada Pang is the proud owner of People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice. She helps unhappy couples find safety and connection in their relationship. She also helps cancer thrivers and their caregivers integrate cancer into their life stories. When she’s sick, she likes to eat congee, drink hot water with lemon, and watch comedy. She’s sad to have finished the remaining episodes of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on HBO.

How to Overcome Barriers by Cultivating 1:1 Relationships

Remi Walle/unsplash.com

Remi Walle/unsplash.com

My new pet peeve

So I go to yoga about two times a week, preferably three. I love the studio; love the teachers. It’s a great community there. It’s like 83 degrees inside and people sweat bullets, or more like puddles. I’m fine with feeling my own sweat and wiping it but I discovered a new pet peeve: I don’t like stepping on other people’s sweat. There’s something about my bare feet touching someone else’s bodily fluids that makes me cringe. The mood lighting does not help as I navigate my way around the studio after class. 

How I’ve coped

As with most pet peeves, we find a way to cope with them or to otherwise avoid them. I’d scoot around the studio after class, using what little lighting there is to side-step shiny liquid reflections. If I’ve landed on a puddle, my towel is just a reach away. This was my coping strategy, until one day, my world was turned around. 

Sweat has a name

It was a usual Wednesday evening class with teacher Aaron and he asked us to do something out of the ordinary. After some power vinyasa routine where we were dripping wet, he asked us to find a partner to do this strap exercise. It looks difficult enough: you’re doing some backbend with your leg behind you strapped to your hands overhead. Your partner is spotting you. “Bob” and I were the only ones without partners and I jumped to my feet to join him.

We met in the middle of a matless area and started doing the pose with me spotting him. He talked about not being very flexible and fell over. Fa-thud! I’m not a very good spotter, am I?! Someone then recommended that we do it on a mat and we walked over to his mat. He had a towel spread over it and it was soaking wet. “Bob” was noticeably embarrassed. He started wiping the outskirts of the mat where his sweat puddles formed. He might have apologized for how damp his towel was, but I don’t remember.

None of that mattered. I was about to spot him again so he could do his backbend, hopefully without falling. And I had a few turns and realized the pose was easier than it looked. We chit chatted for a bit while waiting for Aaron to gather us in. We shook hands, shared our names and I eventually went back to my mat. 

Why wasn’t I bothered?

My feet were damp and I wiped them off but I didn’t feel the usual disgust. Why? It could be that I was distracted by the pose or engaged with “Bob.” In retrospect, I think it had more to do with the fact that sweat has a name and it belonged to “Bob” and he was kind and personable. “Bob’s sweat” didn’t bother me because “Bob” is a human being I have come to know, for all of ten-minutes. It’s no longer a nameless sweaty pile on the floor that I tip toe around. 

Perhaps it is a bit of a stretch to say that “Bob” and I have formed a friendship, but he sure is no stranger. He wasn’t in class this past week; otherwise I would’ve waved. The human-to-human connection changed the way I feel about something I used to dread. While I can’t say I’m now free to glide through the yoga studio in the dark without holding back, I am a step closer to that direction because of “Bob”. 

So why am I telling you this story? 

Relationships break barriers

When I think about my experience, that human touch made a difference for me. It’s after all easier to stay on our “mats” or “pair up” with people we already know and feel comfortable with. But we then miss out on opportunities to get to know an “other,” someone different than you; someone different than me. When we do take that time, what might happen? What beliefs might be challenged? What relationship might come of that? 

At the core of who we are, we’re human beings who breathe, sleep, eat, pee, poop and yes, sweat. We all feel glad, sad, mad, fear, disgust, shame/guilt, surprise, and interest. We are all a brother, a sister, a daughter, a son, a friend to someone, somewhere. Our humanity is our common denominator. And, we can be each other’s guide through the discomforts of life if we allow each other in. 

If you ever need help leaving your “mat,” you know where to find me


Ada Pang is the proud owner of People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice in WA. She mostly helps unhappy couples and breast cancer patients. At the heart of what she does, she’s about helping people flourish and live compassionate and vital lives. She can be found at PeopleBloomCounseling.com.