Archive for June, 2012
I remember being somewhat perplexed the first time I met with a client who said they were in my office because of needing “anger management skills.” Of course, I’d heard of something like that, but realized specific skills for handling anger was not something that was covered in grad school.
Did my program have a gap in the curriculum? Was there some list somewhere of what exactly I should be teaching this client?
I consulted with my supervisor, who told me that “anger management” is just another term for “emotion regulation.” I realize that for people who are not therapists, “anger management” may actually seem like a clearer description, but from a clinician’s perspective, what my supervisor was telling me was that clients who present with “anger management issues” really need help in identifying their feelings (which may be anger, but also may be something else) and deciding what the appropriate way to respond to those feelings is.
The part about those feeling being “something other than anger” is also important. Humans feel a range of emotions, but in our society, not all of them are acceptable, especially in public. For example, it’s generally a cultural expectation that men will not cry in public. That doesn’t mean men don’t feel the urge to cry, nor that men never cry in public, but it’s not a common occurrence. As a result, many men channel that sadness into anger. A man yelling or displaying his physical strength in public is much more acceptable, even if it can be unpleasant.
Unfortunately, there are many losses that come with converting one emotion into another:
- Your partner may not even realize that is what’s happening. Childhood messages about what is acceptable behavior may have taught your partner that sadness is unacceptable, but anger is okay. As a result, any time your partner feels sad, the emotion comes out as anger. It becomes automatic and is usually an unconscious reaction.
- Your partner may “forget” what their different emotions feel like because they have one default emotion for upsetting events: anger. Your partner may look at you like you are crazy for crying, grieving, being terrified, or acting disgusted, to name a few relevant emotions for upsetting events. You may look at your partner and think, “What is wrong with you? How can [fill in the situation] make you angry?”
- Communication and support when times are tough can be extra challenging. People who are angry can be scary to be around, especially if they are aggressive while angry. If you and your partner are experiencing an issue that requires emotional support, trying to get close to an angry partner might be impossible.
The anger your partner feels may indeed by genuine, and they may truly have issues with controlling it. It is true that some people are more prone to anger than others. These people are sometimes referred to as having “low frustration tolerance,” and there are ways to help them manage situations they find triggering. Therapy can help with this. There also may be classes in your area that are marketed as targeting “anger management skills,” and depending on your partner’s interest and willingness to work for change, they might be worth checking out.
On the other hand, your partner may discover that what has been popping up as anger might actually be something else, and in that case, they need to relearn how to appropriately name what they are feeling. This will take practice and a caring, supportive partner to validate their experience.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Early life emotional trauma may stunt intellectual development, indicates the first long term study of its kind, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The impact seems to be the most damaging during the first two years of a child’s life, the findings suggest.
The US researchers tracked the development of 206 children from birth to the age of eight years, who were taking part in the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. This study, which started in 1975, looks at which factors influence individual development.
Every few months they assessed the participating families, using a mix of observing mother-child interactions at home and in the laboratory, interviews with the mother, and reviews of medical and child protection records.
From these data, they rated whether a child was abused physically, sexually or emotionally; endured neglect; or witnessed partner violence against his/her mother at specific time points up to the age of 5+ years.
The children’s intellectual development was then assessed using validated scales at the ages of two years, 5+ years, and 8 years, and exposure to maltreatment or violence was categorised according to whether these occurred during infancy (0-24 months) or pre-school (24-64 months).
Around one in three of the children (36.5%) had been maltreated and/or witnessed violence against his/her mother by age 5+.
In just under one in 20 (4.8%) this occurred in infancy; in 13% this was during the pre-school period; and in around one in five (18.7%) this occurred during both periods.
Analysis of the data showed that children who had been exposed to maltreatment and/or violence against the mother had lower scores on the cognitive measures at all time points.
The results held true even after taking account of factors likely to influence IQ development, such as social and economic factors, mother’s IQ, weight at birth, birth complications, quality of intellectual stimulation at home, and gender.
The effects were most noticeable for those children who had experienced this type of trauma during the first two years of their lives, the findings showed.
Their scores were an average of 7.25 points lower than those of children without early exposure, even after accounting for other risk factors.
“The results suggest that [maltreatment and witnessing domestic violence] in early childhood, particularly during the first two years, has significant and enduring effects on cognitive development, even after adjusting for [other risk factors],” write the authors.
They go on to say that their findings echo those of other researchers who have identified changes in brain circuitry and structure associated with trauma and adversity in early life.
The early years of a child’s life are when the brain is developing most rapidly, they say, adding, “Because early brain organisation frames later neurological development, changes in early development may have lifelong consequences.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
While it may be cute when a 3-year-old imitates his parent’s bad behavior, when adolescents do so, it’s no longer a laughing matter. Teens who fight may be modeling what they see adult relatives do or have parents with pro-fighting attitudes, according to a study to be presented April 29, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.
“Parents and other adults in the family have a substantial influence on adolescents’ engagement in fighting,” said Rashmi Shetgiri, MD, FAAP, lead author of the study. “Interventions to prevent fighting, therefore, should involve parents and teens.”
Dr. Shetgiri, assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center, Dallas, and her colleagues conducted 12 focus groups with 65 middle and high school students to discuss why youths fight and how violence can be prevented. Groups were divided by race/ethnicity and whether students were fighters or nonfighters based on self-report.
Youths said they fight to defend themselves or others, to gain or maintain respect, to respond to verbal insults or because they are angry due to other stressors. Girls also cited gossip or jealousy as reasons for fighting.
The discussions showed that parental attitudes toward fighting and parental role modeling of aggressive behavior influence youth fighting. Family attitudes also may prevent youths from fighting. Many Latino students, for example, noted that their parents condoned fighting only when physically attacked and said not wanting to hurt or embarrass their parents could prevent them from fighting.
Peers also can have a positive or negative influence on fighting by de-escalating situations or encouraging violence.
The conversations also revealed that nonfighters use various strategies to avoid confrontations such as walking away, ignoring insults or joking to diffuse tension. Fighters, however, said they are unable to ignore insults and are aware of few other conflict-resolution methods.
Potential interventions suggested by youths include anger and stress management programs led by young adults who have overcome violence, and doctors counseling youths about the consequences of fighting.
“Our study suggested that there may be differences between boys and girls, and racial/ethnic groups in risk and protective factors for fighting,” Dr. Shetgiri concluded. “This has important implications for violence prevention programs and individuals working with violent teens.”
American Academy of Pediatrics (2012, April 29). Fight or flight: Violent teens may be following parents’ leadRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Here’s a scene in my house: My almost 9-year-old is on the Internet doing something or other, and I am not standing over her shoulder or otherwise monitoring her.
Is this negligent? Am I throwing her to the wolves? I have no idea how to approach these thorny questions, so I have lunch with the academic and Microsoft researcher, danah boyd (she spells her name in lowercase letters for complicated philosophical and aesthetic reasons), who has studied this cluster of issues in an original and challenging way.
boyd has a pierced tongue, fuzzy sleeves, black and white striped tights, her mien basically that of a fast-talking Dr. Seuss hipster with a visionary vibe. She is a scholar and innovator, with a background in computer science and anthropology and media studies. She’s her own thing, in other words. She makes a million connections as she talks, the closest I have ever come to a human being who speaks in hyperlinks, but is also empathetic, attuned to nuanced emotional goings-on.
The thrust of boyd’s substantial research about kids is that we don’t need to be quite as hysterical about the Internet as we are. She once wrote, “Some days, I think my only purpose in life is to serve as a broken record, trying desperately to remind people, ‘the kids are alright’ … ’the kids are alright’ … ’the kids are alright.’ ”
boyd connects our fears of the Internet, of teenagers encountering adult situations, or explicit material, or interacting with strangers to the history of moral panics, which often center around technology and sexuality and young people. Her favorite moral panic, she tells me, is the panic over sewing machines, which concerned itself with women rubbing their legs on the machines as a threat to their purity.
Somehow the picturesque absurdity of the sewing-machine panic gets to the heart of the issue: What are we so afraid of? A friend tells me he worries about his sweet 12-year-old son being somehow transfigured by Internet pornography. Will he come across this stuff and turn into some kind of monster? But as boyd puts it, “exposure to content is much more complicated than that. Exposure to pornography does not automatically create the outcomes people are most afraid of.”
She is not, of course, arguing that kids should be exposed to pornography, but rather that their response to it depends on the kid. By way of analogy, she says that when a 40-year-old is an alcoholic, the issue is not that he was exposed to alcohol at 21.
In researching this issue, she studied teenagers’ response to Chatroulette, a webcam conversation launched in 2009 where people talk to random strangers around the world. (And here we are not talking about almost 9-year-olds, but slightly older set.) There was a great public concern that teenagers would come upon some guy jerking off and be traumatized, or somehow be mysteriously cajoled or beckoned into a life of promiscuity, but boyd said the teenagers’ actual reactions when they did encounter a flabby, bald middle-aged man staring into the camera and performing sexual acts was “Ew,” and they clicked past him. “It was the best abstinence-only education you can think of,” she jokes. Her point is that our deepest fears of kids’ confrontation with pornographic material, and what happens in that moment where they see something pornographic, may be overblown and irrational. And in fact, she argues that, on close examination, many of our cultural anxieties about what happens to kids online are based more on parents’ imaginations than the realities of teenage experience. (Take what she argues are the exaggerated fears of cyber-bullying for instance, or fears of sexual predators online, when the vast preponderance of sexual predators are people kids know in their daily lives.)
The idea of shutting out sex for as long as possible, protecting kids by not exposing them to it, may not be the perfect solution. “My feeling is that we do a disservice to young people by setting up pornography as forbidden ‘adult’ materials, thus making them hugely desirable. From my perspective, we need to prep young people to critically encounter this material long before they do.” Her argument that we should give them the apparatus to interrogate this material, rather than subscribing to the fantasy that we can shield them from it.
boyd points out that the expectation of constantly monitoring children and teenagers on the Internet is an upper-middle-class one. Even the ideal itself represents an impossible luxury for most people: Who has time to stand over the shoulder of your kids while they are on the Web? But even if we could monitor them so constantly, would it be a good thing? Are they doing something valuable with their avatars or profiles; is there something to be learned about the world by hanging out?
boyd argues that children’s freedom to roam in the physical world has been radically curtailed. While previous generations could ride bikes or walk to school or play outside unsupervised till dinner time, this generation is watched all the time. They have lost that thrill of being on their own until they are much older, and boyd suggests that for them, the Internet can provide that open space, to test and explore and try out the outside world. She points to the educational value of hanging out: a lot of the work kids do is apprehending the social world, and for them, much of this work is done online.
The important thing, boyd points out, is to give the kid the ability to handle choices, assess risks, and take what she calls “strategic” risks, or calculated risks. You want, in other words, to create the kid who can handle the Internet without you. And how can they become that kid if you are watching them all the time, if you are always hovering right there next to them? She says, “You don’t just throw a 5-year-old out on the streets and tell her to figure it all out. The same is true online. But, equivalently, you can’t expect to put under surveillance and control every action a child makes until she’s 18 and then magically assume she’ll be fine off at college when she hasn’t had any experience managing her own decisions.”
The point, according to boyd, is not to create a safe world, but a safer world. Of course this is very fraught emotional territory, since it engages with the crucial and impossible fantasy that we can protect our children, that there is some way to seal them off from awful or painful or frightening things. Here I think of a line from one of boyd’s papers: “Our fears are amplified when they intersect with our insecurities and challenge our ability to be in control. Nowhere is this more palpable than when it comes a parent’s desire to protect their children.”
As a coda: My almost 9-year-old, when I finally get around to glimpsing what she is doing, is Googling pictures of Harry Potter characters. Of course one never knows what some rogue Hermione is doing in the corridors of some rogue Hogwarts somewhere in the recesses of the Internet, but I have decided (thank you, danah) not to morally panic.
Many couples in troubled marriages wait too long to get help. By the time both spouses agree to counseling, the relationship has often been strained to the breaking point.
Some spouses, though, have found a way to work on their marriages even if their partners won’t go to couples counseling. They go alone.
Colleen Orme, 48, a marketing consultant living in Great Falls, Va., did this several years ago, after her marriage hit a rough patch. She believed her husband had stopped treating her with respect. He drove her car and returned it with no gas. He showed up two hours late to a charity event she’d been planning for months. He ignored her birthday. The two had many long, circular arguments in which she tried to explain her feelings and he defended himself.
Ms. Orme decided to continue without him. “We spend a lot of time in marriages trying to fix the other person,” she says. “I changed my approach and decided to focus on how I can become happy.”
Taking a new approach in couples therapy, some counselors say troubled marriages can benefit even if just one spouse seeks help. And usually that spouse is the wife: Experts say women are more likely than men to get relationship-focused therapy alone.
At the University of Denver, unpublished results from a five-year longitudinal study of 300 long-term couples suggest that a month or so after receiving relationship-skills training, those who got it as individuals saw as much improvement in their relationships as those who got the training as a couple. A year and a half after the training, the Denver researchers found that couples where the women attended sessions alone reported being happier than couples where the men attended alone.
Howard Markman, a psychologist and the study’s lead researcher, says the women learned relationship skills more easily and were better at teaching them to their partners. Women also are more comfortable talking about feelings and the strong emotions that arise in couples therapy. While there is no hard data available, Dr. Markman estimates that in his own practice, when one spouse is resisting counseling it is the man about 70% of the time. Some other therapists estimate that figure in their own practices as high as 90%.
Couples therapy is basic conflict management. “One of the major problems in relationships is that people can’t handle the inevitable problems,” Dr. Markman says. Couples therapy focuses on the present, not the past. It helps people identify negative interaction patterns, recognize their individual role in them and do their part to change them.
The process works best if both partners participate, experts say. But if just one partner is willing, a couples-based approach can be substantially more effective for the marriage than traditional individual psychotherapy, Dr. Markman says. This is because couples therapy teaches practical skills for improving the relationship; individual therapy often focuses on uncovering patterns from childhood and other experiences. Dr. Markman recently started offering relationship coaching on the phone for women who can’t get their spouses into counseling.
In order for couples therapy alone to work, there are some ground rules. The relationship must be basically sound—no lying, cheating or abuse. The therapist will focus on the relationship, not the individual. And the partner who doesn’t come to therapy must still want to improve the marriage and should be informed about what goes on.
Whether in couples therapy alone or with a spouse, everyone must recognize that they won’t be able to change the other person, only themselves, therapists say. And each spouse needs to recognize his or her own role in creating the conflict. “I have never seen a relationship where all of the problems are the fault of one person,” says Eli Karam, assistant professor at the University of Louisville’s marriage and family therapy program.
Rather than griping, the focus will be on problems that can be solved. Is one partner always late? This can be addressed. Hate your in-laws? Too bad. Dr. Karam says he tries to help clients re-frame behaviors in a positive way. He might tell a husband who feels his wife is overly focused on details that at least the bills will be paid on time. “We need to remember why we were attracted in the first place,” Dr. Karam says.
Ms. Orme says at first she felt stuck in a rut while in couples counseling alone. “I would say, How can he not value me? Why can’t he be mature?” she recalls. And the arguing didn’t stop. Her husband recalls telling her, “If you want to go to counseling and get some insight, great, but you’re not my doctor.”
After two years, Ms. Orme says she finally started to hear what her counselor was saying. “I couldn’t blame my husband forever,” she says. The Ormes have been married 23 years.
Ms. Orme’s therapist helped her to stop pleading with her husband and start explaining to him what was important to her and expecting him to respect her needs. If she had a work deadline, she asked him to watch the kids.
“He is probably treating me differently because I won’t tolerate certain things anymore,” Ms. Orme says. “But I’ve also become a happier person, because I am not looking for him to make me happy anymore.”
Mr. Orme says he was confused by his wife’s changes at first but gradually came to appreciate her independence. “When she changed her behavior, the pressure dissipated,” he says. “And when that is gone, you can think more clearly and your whole perspective changes.”
How to Make the Most of Marriage Therapy for One
- Find a therapist who practices an evidence-based approach like cognitive behavioral couples therapy. Therapists who say they are ‘couples friendly’ focus on the relationship, not either individual.
- Ask your spouse why he doesn’t want to go. Does he not agree there is a problem? Is he scared of what he will find out? Does he just not care? The answers to these questions will help you figure out where you stand.
- Understand the goal. It isn’t to change your partner. It is to gain insight into your role in the dysfunctional pattern. ‘One spouse is never 100% of the problem,’ says Eli Karam, assistant professor at the University of Louisville’s marriage and family therapy program.
- Invite your spouse to come with you to therapy, but don’t coerce. Do not threaten divorce! Your partner should be curious about this other person in your life. Perhaps he wants to come one time to meet your therapist? Even one meeting can help give a therapist perspective on the marriage.
- Share insights, reading materials, even ‘homework’—and ask for help. If your spouse says he doesn’t get it, respond with curiosity. Say, It made sense to me, what is confusing about it to you? ‘Go in the side door,’ says Kim Leatherdale, a Little Silver, N.J., marriage therapist. ‘You are encouraging your spouse to open up.”
Married couples who come in to see me for therapy are considering entering the door into the world of divorce. The experience of feeling empty, pained, fearful, lonely, angry, hurt, unloved, ambivalent, and numb is commonplace when intimate communication diminishes. Many couples have slowly and unknowingly drifted into divergent directions, or have found themselves with a metaphorical wall seemingly built between them. They might be thinking that, “something is missing in my relationship, we don’t talk anymore, we don’t have fun anymore, we don’t do much of anything together, we don’t have sex, we sit on the sofa watching TV without noticing each other, my spouse is rarely at home anymore, or what has happened to us?” Sometimes one partner may be having an affair, or might be triangulated with a computer, gambling, alcohol or drugs. I have heard these kinds of thoughts and have seen these scenarios many times from many couples. There is often the spouse whose partner doesn’t want to air their business in public, or doesn’t want to participate in therapy, so one spouse enters individual therapy.
The factor of distancing in the relationship happens for many reasons. Couples often blame or criticize one another for their problems. They don’t accept responsibility in the development of the current state of the marriage. Sometimes one spouse will refuse to talk or stonewall the other partner. Other times there is avoidance or defensiveness in communication. Or, the opposite occurs where there are frequent arguments and anger blocks the meaning in the communication. Then there is the couple who fight over who is right and who is wrong. So, they both lose out in the end. These attitudes, especially in combination, are what John Gottman, Ph.D. considers those that lead to divorce. To counter the presence of conflict or dis-connect when couples or one spouse enters into therapy, I support them for having the courage to break the silence and deal with what is happening in their marriage. Sometimes I talk to them about honoring their commitment to one another, or their spouse as this is what they agreed upon when they entered marriage. I tell them that they now have the opportunity to make their marriage the way they want it to be. I suggest that “it can’t get much worse than where they are right now.” I address their beliefs about marriage which most often come from what they learned while growing up. And, I give them permission to alter their relationship now and over time as they grow and change, and reach new life stages. I bring to their awareness that they don’t have to be stuck, and that they can negotiate and compromise change over the life span. Sometimes, the wake-up call of one partner finding out about a secret can in fact be a gift to bring the marriage back to the focal point in a couple’s life. The couple can now address what is missing or not working in the relationship, which otherwise would be lost in the conflict or dis-connect pattern. I suggest that feeling stuck at some point in life or marriage is a part of being human. Wanting to take action to change what’s not working for them is a personal choice and is possible. Once they have decided to try something different, they are on the way to finding what they are looking for. After all, they married to enjoy life with their partner! I ask them to think back about the vision of marriage they once had early in their relationship. Have suggested that sometimes trains get off track because the tracks are rusty or aren’t properly maintained. Train tracks need to be taken care of on an ongoing basis so that they won’t rust, break, or lead trains off course. Marriages, like our individual personal lives, need to be properly maintained. Couples need to make time to communicate with their partner regularly about important matters (that includes listening to each other). They need to have fun, have quiet time, have regular sex, and give their partner space when they need it for self – maintenance. It is okay and important to do something for one to feel good. This will in turn help each spouse to improve their marriage and family. When I first see couples, they might be feeling angry or numb, or something else. They might not feel too motivated to do something different. However, they can take things one step at a time to make small changes. I often suggest that small changes can show small results. Small changes can build on one another and develop more significant results. Sometimes, spontaneous changes can bring on unexpected results. And sometimes, planned changes start a new course of action.
Lastly, the notion of offering new possibilities and hope to a couple can open the door letting the light enter into the dark room in which they have been living.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Many couples come to marriage counseling after one partner has had an extra-marital affair or relationship. Both spouses may be expressing anger, fear, blame, hopelessness, helplessness, despair, and just don’t know what to do to salvage their marriage. Some want to do whatever it takes to stay married. Sometimes the betrayed partner just doesn’t know how to “get rid” of their negative feelings and thoughts. The partner who committed the betrayal may have much confusion about why they had the affair, and does not want to discuss it with their partner. One or both partners may be ambivalent about staying married, hold much anger and resentment, and have already discussed divorce. In either case, both have come to couples counseling, which may be a very important indicator that they want to remain married. They just don’t know how to manage their current circumstances.
These couples often present themselves with similar identifiable interactional patterns. However, every couple has different beliefs about what led to them being in their current predicament. Most couples have not placed much emphasis on maintaining their marriage connection. They haven’t dated, had a personal intimate conversation, or haven’t had sex in quite some time. Their focus has been on their day to day lives, children, work, and family and financial stressors. It is also common that the couple has difficulty with conflict and avoid having disagreements. Resentments may build as issues are not discussed. Getting locked into a who is right and who is wrong gridlock may develop leading to feelings of despair and hopelessness.
Outside relationships often begin due to the lack of connection in the marriage. People may begin by having an innocent conversation with someone of the opposite sex. These conversations may then lead to their enjoying being around one another. Then they begin to have more intimate conversations and have fun together. Sooner or later the innocence develops into fully broken marriage boundaries, and the couple begins to engage in sex.
Affairs may be a way in which individuals can avoid their own problems with emotional or sexual intimacy. The longer the avoidance, the more distant they become from their spouse. It is like living in a fantasy world where the spouse having the affair totally separates the marriage from what they are doing. They begin to live two lives in this secret world. According to research, affairs usually do not last. Partners often find out about the affair, and the marriage goes deeper into chaos.
Couples therapy is a means of assisting a couple in changing their problematic relational patterns. Moving from blame, and who is right and who is wrong, to both partners taking responsibility for their behavior in the present. The partner who has been betrayed needs to develop trust. The partner who had the affair needs to show their spouse that they are truly sorry for wronging them. They need to answer many questions about what lead to their seeking someone outside of the marriage.
So, how do you develop trust in your spouse after a betrayal. Stop blaming them for their poor behavior. Blaming places your spouse on the defensive and maintains distance in your marriage. Expect your spouse to be accountable to you and establish boundaries around your marriage. No locks on cell phones. No secret passwords on email. Secrets will eventually show up. Sooner or later, they just usually do. Stay focused in the present and do not keep on bringing up the past. Bringing up the past is a choice. Doing so will only put salt on the wound in your relationship will only enlarge the pain. Healing takes place with genuine concern for one another. Be mindful or closely notice the good things that you and your spouse do each day. Comment on these positive things and show appreciation for the positive connection. Every couple is different in how long it takes to move from anger and bitterness to being able to be NICE to one another. As the healing in your relationship moves forward, you may see less and less return to the past, and more and more focus on how you want your relationship to now be. You can imagine how you want your relationship to be in 3 months. You can then begin to work on your own behavior that can lead to that newly imagined behavior in your relationship.
I never said it was easy to move from being angry and resentful, and you can be resilient and build hope in your relationship through working on improving your own behavior on a daily basis. A goal in your relationship can look like feeling good about coming home to your spouse. You can have a positive outlook about what you can do to make your relationship the way you want it to be. Sometimes having one partner start showing new behavior can encourage your partner to respond in a more positive way. It really doesn’t matter who starts first to change your relationship. The more you think that your spouse owes it to you to take the first step, the more I suggest that you do it yourself. The sooner you begin, the sooner you will find contentment in your life and have some peace of mind.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I have found there are many reasons for married people having affairs. Much of the time, couples describe a distancing occurring in their relationship where they don’t spend enjoyable or meaningful time together. Their sexual relationship also becomes less frequent or non-existent. Unfortunately, when this happens and couples don’t discuss their difficulties, there is a high risk of one partner having an affair. In addition, with social media being so available, either one or both partners may seek to meet others on the internet. These meetings often begin out of lonliness, but turn into more emotionally intimate and sexual connections.
It is also common for men and some women to view pornographic websites when feeling angry, sad, or alone as a way to channel the negative emotions. These behaviors of having an affair, or using the internet do not solve the problems within the marriage. Avoidance only postpones the needed connection and communication in the marriage in order to solve the marital discord. The longer the disconnection, the more difficult it can become to re-connect and save the marriage.
I have seen many couples on the verge of divorce. When both partners are willing to work in the reconnection process, they can have very good success on not only saving the relationship, but having a better relationship the ever. When one partner wants to work on the marriage and the other is ambivalent or is “sitting on the fence” about remaining married, it is still possible to improve the relationship and save the marriage. Divorce does not necessarily lead to people being happier in their lives. And, second marriages have as high a divorce rate as first marriages.
I believe that we have a choice in how we deal with conflict within a relationship. Being direct and honest with your partner can often lead to working through differences and making your relationship better. Having open conflict and discussing it, is a healthy way of dealing with your relationship. Avoidance, lack of communication, dishonesty, holding on to resentments, anger, alcohol and drug abuse, and going outside of your relationship is a sure way of bringing on more problems and most likely, divorce.
I invite you, my readers, if you are in a troublesome relationship, to take on the challenge of being open and direct with your partner about your feelings. Do this in a conversational way while being respectful in how you present yourself. If you or your partner is angry, cool down before approaching one another. There is really no such thing as being “right or wrong”. These are only beliefs, not facts. If you think you are right and your partner is wrong, the chances are that you will lose out on an opportunity to work through your differences. Being respectful, direct and honest can be stressful. However, the rewards can be high. Being negative or avoiding your partner will result with little or no reward, and probably very high stress.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
When someone makes an accusation, it is usually hard for them to go back to review the underlying evidence. They will offer you rationalizations to defend their accusations, but these justifications came after the fact. They were made up afterwards to legitimise their own feelings. When you logically try to find out why someone disapproves of something, they will usually say something like, “What do you mean? It’s just wrong, that’s all.” This need to review the evidence is nonsense. It is not about facts, evidence or expert testimony. It is about their self-respect. If they were to change their mind, that would mean that they were wrong, and because they are so focused on the importance of being right, begin wrong is defended at all costs. The act of criticism, blame and disapproval doesn’t allow for a dialog. It is a one sided belief, “I am right and you are wrong.” There is no understanding only agreement. These rejections of any attempt to compromise, communicate, or problem-solve, lead directly to conflict.
In order to understand an emotional argument we must get into it. The greater the degree of emotion, the more important it is to examine the relationship between who is speaking. Heightened emotion tends to occur more frequently when a] the arguers are familiar with each other, and b] the issue is a recurring one. When people know each other it is impossible to be aware of what they are saying without breaking the codes of past discussions, inside jokes, shared experiences, and unconsciously agreed to rules. People who know each other, constantly draw upon previous conversations and their entire communicative history when they argue.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Unlike the classic Rolling Stones song, people seem to get what they want, but not what they need. The hardest thing in the world is to watch someone you love struggle. So when they come to you with a problem, your want to fix it. Your immediate reaction is to offer them suggestions, when perhaps all they need to be heard. But this same person coming to you with a problem has been able to solve countless problems in their life. They seem to be able to navigate life in such a way that they can afford to drink or buy gas, but they cannot save to pay the rent. So lecturing them on the need to save and think about the future is useless. Their problem keeps happening and they continue to come to you with the same problem. Or perhaps you know someone in a relationship that is full of conflict and arguments. You listen as they tell the same sort of story about perceived acts of inconsideration, but the person refuses to speak up to their partner about it.
If people can tell others solutions to problems but cannot find answers to their own, it is probably not a problem that they cannot think of a solution. The problem is an emotional one, not a logical one. People avoid doing something, not because they cannot think of them, but because they see them as unpleasant and are best to be avoided. When you insist on repeating the obvious solution numerous time, trying to make yourself clear, only to be met with defensiveness and hostility, you can be sure that the issue is not the issue. The problem is not the obvious answer. The issue comes from some deeper fear, which is keeping them stuck because it serves some emotional want. Yet, they argue with you about how your answer is no answer at all.
Sometimes you argue because you are hearing something you do not want to hear. Whether in the words or in the tone, you are trying to be heard. You try to get someone’s attention with your words and tone because you believe your point is not being heard. Again, this attempt to get your point across is made with the words you speak or is embedded within your tone. In the first instance the emotional strong reaction stems from your resistance to not getting what you want. In the second, your reaction comes from having information that you believe is true, but that is being intentionally (or so you believe) denied by the intended recipient.
It is also important to note that there are important visceral or situational factors that are always involved. Stress levels, hormonal influences (think of teenagers,) and the status of the issue and/or relationship of the participants are all major factors in how well one deals with surging emotions, every bit as much as how well and effectively we can reason in an argument. As the ‘I won’t hear you / you must hear me’ frustration escalates, you succumb to the expression of sentiments that are hurtful and damaging. In these cases, the rage and argument seems to be, more than anything else, a way of gaining your partner’s attention. Naturally, this frustration occurs on both sides and in anger, anything can happen.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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