The simple fact is that for many while there are children in the home, the marriage relationship often seems to be thrown to the background. The schedule revolves around feedings, changing, bedtime, bath time, homework, and on it goes. It is inevitable that just when you think the kids are asleep, and you make a move with your spouse, the baby starts crying or your other child ends up standing at the foot of the bed. Passion wanes. Time for adventure disappears. It is, however, possible to capture time with your spouse before passion fades. Here are a few ideas:
1. Establish a schedule. This is not only great for the kids and their development; it also helps create time for each other. This could be done as simply as scheduling a weekly dinner or lunch date. A coffee break together. Or a regular sexual encounter together (scheduling this does not lessen the passion and heat despite the lack of spontaneity; you can be spontaneous during the encounter). By having something scheduled, you create room for anticipation.
2. Utilize babysitters or family members. There are many very capable teenagers out there interested in earning a little bit of money while you take your spouse out for the evening. The beauty of this option is the kids get someone new to play and interact with, while you get a break together. Be sure to plan out the evening away in order to ensure you don’t return home until after the kids are in bed asleep. That way, if the date has gone well, there will be the possibility of being invited in for an uninterrupted “nightcap.” To create a greater flow towards the end of the date, look for a babysitter that either drives or can get to and from your home easily. An even better option is to utilize family members that live nearby. It is amazing to me the number of couples I have met that have not had their kids stay over night with family members or friends. Not only do you and your spouse benefit from this time, your kids do as well. They experience an expanded range of people who love and care for them. This can set a foundation for greater self-confidence and growth as they develop. It also begins to create a village mindset in the raising of your children. The best thing about the family option is the likelihood that the kids would be out of the house the whole night.
3. Secret signals or code words. It is often difficult to have conversations that may lead to deeper more intimate connections when you are interrupted every five minutes by one kid tattling on the other or needing something from you for their homework or wardrobe. This can be overcome by creating another language or codes to use with each other. This language or code should be based on whatever you would be saying to each other if given the opportunity. If this type of language is not part of your normal dialogue, then it would need to be created all together. It could be as simple as lighting a candle that is centrally located in the home as a signal one of the parties is interested in an encounter. Whether the encounter is sexual or emotional is up to you. Or it could be as complex as learning a second language. How great of a motivation would it be if you were trying to woo your spouse in another language? And if your kids begin to understand the language, they would only discover more about the love and desire you have for your spouse. There are far worse things they probably already know about you.
4. Be a lover to your kid’s other parent. As your kids grow older, there is nothing wrong with informing them of your plans to be alone with your spouse. You don’t have to give all the details, but claim the time you want to spend with your spouse and let the kids know they are not invited to join or interrupt. When your spouse and the marriage are a priority, the kids benefit. In fact, research is now showing that when the marriage is the focus rather than the kids, it is better for the family. I have always believed that the best thing you can do for your kids is to love your spouse. Let them also appropriately see you love them as well. Hold hands, talk, hug, kiss, sit by each other, and cuddle in front of your kids. They may be jealous that they aren’t getting the attention, but in time, they’ll be glad you paved the way for their relationships.
Kids in the home present some obstacles to passion in marriage, but they aren’t the only reason passion wanes. By overcoming the hurdles of kids, you are faced with what else may be going on in the marriage. The kids can provide a buffer for a stale marriage. If that’s the case, more work will need to be done individually and relationally to address the other concerns. Marriage is work. But the things in life that require work are more valuable and more worth it.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
While driving down the highway in the fast lane, the person in front of you appears to have no idea what the fast lane means. After running all over town with the kids, you arrive home. They know they have rooms yet insist that the entire house is their closet and drop things wherever they please. It’s your birthday and your best friend gets you just what you needed, nothing. It seems that in these instances, the first reaction is to take things personally. As if what was done was intentional, a personal attack.
As odd as it sounds, we often think that there are many forces against us and we are innocent bystanders. I don’t agree. While there are some truly random events, much of what happens is our own doing. How we feel and react to the things going on around us will largely determine what happens to us. In the preceding examples, what makes us think that the things that happen to us are directed at us? Instead of reacting with a “How dare you!” we often react with a “How dare you do this to me!” The truth of the matter is that each person is really more concerned about themselves than they are others. It’s survival of the fittest. The person driving slow in front of me in traffic is more concerned about having a wide open lane ahead of them than they are with me getting past.
A lot of our life is spent worrying about what others may think or feel about us. To paraphrase Dr. Phil, we wouldn’t worry near as much about what others thought about us if we knew how seldom they did. When we are emotionally reactive to things in life, we give up our power to choose. If we take things personally, whether intended personally or not, our reaction intensifies. All of the sudden we have to defend ourselves, though many times a response is not warranted. Instead it would be better if we could learn the art of self-soothing. To be able to calm ourselves in the midst of emotional reactions opens a whole new range of responses.
We all have this ability. We are born with it. Just the other day, my 2 year old was climbing up on a toy in the house for the first time. As I watched her, she had a moment of pause just before she stood up tall and proud. In that moment of pause, she gathered herself and found the internal courage to stand. We do the same thing just before we honestly speak our mind, or address an issue with our spouse or kids. Self-soothing can be enhanced and used in all situations. And doing so gives you much more power over life’s circumstances.
To put this another way; you teach people how to treat you. If you feel that many people treat you wrong or take advantage of you, it only happens because you let them. Learning how to self-sooth, then stand up will produce a different outcome. This in turn will change the way others treat you. If you demand respect, trust, love, honor, comfort, or whatever, accept nothing less. Whenever you receive less than you expect, rather than taking it personally and reacting as such, calm yourself and address the issue. Either put yourself in their shoes and see it from their perspective or stand up and be honest, or both. If this honesty comes from both your mind and heart, it carries much more weight than just emotional reactivity.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
We hear what we expect to hear, we see what we expect to see. Our expectation changes our experience. If we walk into a meeting and expect it to be a long, drawn out process rivaled only by a root canal or preparing your taxes, more than likely it will not disappoint. At that same meeting, another member of the crowd may come with a more open mind and willingness to learn and think it is the most enlightening time they have ever spent. So what’s the difference? This same rule applies to our relationships. Our expectation changes our experience.
So where does our main model for relationships and communication come from? You probably guessed it, our parents; who received their patterns from their parents and so on. How they did and do relationships has an impact upon our own. Like it or not. If you had an affectionate relationship modeled by your parents, you will most likely carry the model forward or go to the other extreme so as to try and break the cycle, either way the influence is there. If your parents were good communicators when it came to the sticky topics; money, discipline/parenting styles, intimacy, then you most likely can handle the tension most people try to avoid when it comes to talking about some of the tough things in life. If this information gets you down, don’t worry. You can change the pattern if you choose. When you understand some of the forces at work in your relationships and life, you attain the possibility of being able to have your past no longer dictate your future.
When you shed some light on this process in your relationships it’s easy to see why our important relationships are so much work. There are two family systems fighting to gain control of this newly formed system. Coupled with the idea that we see what we expect to see and hear what we expect to hear, no wonder there are times of conflict in this relationship. Surprisingly, there are many people I have worked with that are shocked at this fact. Apparently they have held on to the fairy tale version of relationships for too long. Maybe you have too. Movies and TV portray relationships as an alluring time of romance, love, laughter and joy. You know what I mean, “and they all lived…”
If you can complete that sentence, you have had that illusion as well.
Now back to the initial question, what did you expect? The onus rests on our own shoulders to make the most out of this life. If you expect things to be tough today, most likely they will be. If you expect your marriage to be rocky, it will. I am not advocating that you don’t examine reality honestly, but more often than not, what we expect out of things becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. By changing your focus or outlook on things, other aspects of life will begin to change as well. Problems in life are inevitable, struggling is optional. Improve your ability to improvise, adapt and overcome will allow you to take charge of your life and harness more energy for your day. Rather than spending a lot of time trying to change the wind in your life, adjust your sails.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Imagine you’re 42 and in pretty good shape.
You exercise several times a week, eat okay, and outside of the occasional cold, are healthy.
You’ve been married for over 15 years, have a couple of kids, nice house, and a good job.
One morning you wake up to find that you can no longer move your right arm. Everything else in your body feels fine, you even have feeling in your arm, you just can’t move it.
What would you do?
If you’re like most people, you’d schedule an appointment with your family doctor as soon as possible. You may even immediately head to the Emergency Room. You also would probably be fine going to several visits with various specialists in order to find out what’s going on with your arm.
You’d sit through tests, scans, waiting rooms, and be willing to take whatever prescribed medication the doctor’s recommend. You’d be willing to go to physical therapy several times per week until your arm was working properly.
The point is, you’d be willing to do almost whatever it took to have your body working well.
Now, answer me this: What makes it so many people don’t treat their marriage the same way?
If you wake up one morning and discover a problem (or finally admit to a problem’s existence), would you seek out help right away or hope the problem simply goes away on its own?
It seems many people hope for the latter.
Don’t believe me?
Research continues to show that couples wait an average of 6 years after a problem has become a problem before seeking out professional help. That’s 6 YEARS!
Imagine if we treated our bodies the same.
Imagine if we said to ourselves, “Oh well, I really don’t use my right arm all that much. Perhaps it will begin working again soon. I’ll just wait and see. In the meantime, honey, can you cut up my dinner for me?”
Marital problems and struggles are common to us all.
But they don’t have to be the end of the relationship, and you definitely don’t have to go through them on your own.
Seek out a marriage and family therapist. This is your best option.
If you don’t want to do that, open up to a close friend. Preferably as a couple to another couple, or if it’s just you, share your troubles with a good friend of the same gender.
Life is so much better when shared with others. Including our struggles.
Most of the time, when you share a struggle with a friend, you find out that they’ve experienced it as well. Plus, you get the burden lifted off your own shoulders a little.
Thanks to the technology of today’s world, you can find help regardless of where you live.
One last point: being brutally honest with you.
Seeking out professional help or opening up to friends around you is a whole lot cheaper than divorce.
10 sessions with a therapist = $200-$650ish (depending on insurance)
Talking to a good friend = Free, unless you pay for dinner or the coffee
Divorce= $???????, but a whole lot more than all the above options combined.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Marital/couples therapy is a form of therapy which involves working with both partners of a couple to improve their relationship and/or help them make important decisions about the relationship. Couples enter into therapy for many reasons, often at a time of transition or stress in the relationship or in their lives. Couples may come to counseling at a time of crisis, for example, following an extramarital affair, or when one or both is unhappy in the relationship or may want to leave. However, some couples use therapy before getting married or early in the marriage in order to learn skills to resolve conflicts and differences, or to recognize potential vulnerabilities in the relationship, with the goal of preventing problems later on and protecting the relationship.
Other issues which may lead couples to seek help through therapy include: anger/resentment/lack of communication, trust issues, fighting, upcoming marriage/wedding/commitment, fertility issues, mid-life crisis affecting one or both partners, illness: physical or psychological in one or both partners (e.g., depression, history of sexual/physical abuse), moving, parenting/family difficulties, in-law problems, religious/cultural/value differences, sexual problems.
In couples therapy both partners meet together with the therapist, who initially tries to get an understanding of each of them, their views and feelings about the relationship, and what they each want from the relationship and the therapy. The therapist also uses her own observations of the way the couple interacts in the session to evaluate what happens between them and determine how to best help them.. The therapist understands that relationships and people are complex. Problems that develop within relationships involve an interplay of the personalities and life circumstances of each individual to varying degrees, as well as what they bring out in each other when they mix together.
To improve a relationship, the therapist may work on helping each of the individuals as needed, usually with the other one present, in addition to working on the relationship and changing problematic patterns which have developed between them. Individual and couples issues affect one another. For example, when one partner is depressed and despairing, the mood of the relationship is affected. Similarly, when the relationship is in trouble, one or both partners may become depressed.
Common tasks of marital/couples therapy are as follows: to develop better communication, resolve trust issues, manage anger/differences/conflict, determine whether the relationship is salvageable, learn fair fighting skills, enhance intimacy/sex, heal after an affair, change destructive patterns, improve understanding of one another and oneself (including understanding gender differences that affect behavior and communication, and learning how to translate the other’s “language”), increase empathy for one another, and repair/strengthen the relationship by healing old wounds. Entering into couples therapy is an act of courage and offers the possibility of freeing oneself and the relationship from tedious and/or destructive patterns of relating, as well as hope of greater intimacy, happiness, and/or peace/resolution.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
There are aspects of men’s experiences that are particular to being male. In working with men, it is important for a counselor to understand the differences in men’s experiences, what men need, and how to best help them achieve their goals. For men, psychotherapy can promote success in careers and relationships by teaching better communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills. Therapy can improve men’s relationships in general, at home and at work, by fostering greater self-awareness, self-confidence, and empowerment.. Therapy can also help men with issues of mid-life crisis, affairs, anger management, fear of entrapment in relationships, sex addiction, performance anxiety, social anxiety, and difficulties in relationships with women, e.g., understanding what women want from them.
Men often experience common dilemmas in their relationships with women. In relationships, men frequently overestimate their ability to sacrifice themselves for their partner, often trying very hard to please their women and accommodate them to make them happy and to keep the peace. These efforts may seem to go unrecognized or unappreciated, and they may experience confusing complaints from their partner in spite of their efforts. This pattern typically leads to a build-up of resentment and hurt, which the man may not even be aware of, except through his partner’s persistent accusations, of which he may feel innocent. These feelings may take a disguised form, for example, forgetting, being late or unreliable, not following through on his word, tuning out, working late, becoming impotent or losing sexual desire, having an affair. Men can be helped with this issue in a number of ways. Through psychotherapy men can learn to better recognize and identify what they need and feel, which may be foreign to them since boys usually grow up in this society trained to suppress or be ashamed of most feelings (other than anger). Once they become more self-aware, they can learn ways to be more direct, but non-combative, in expressing their opinions, even opposing ones. As men learn to express themselves more directly with words, versus actions, passive-aggressive expression of anger or resentment through actions, is no longer necessary. This change often leads men to feel stronger and more effective. Also, therapy can teach men how to decipher the language of women, so that they can more easily understand why they get upset and how to more easily satisfy them without sacrificing themselves.
Another issue particular to men, and often misunderstood by women, is the importance of sex. For a man, sex is often at the core of how he feels loved, and loved as a man. Though women may need to feel close or loved in order to have sex, men experience the reverse: they need to have sex in order to feel loved. This difference can create conflict and misunderstanding in relationships especially during times of conflict when their partners do not want sex. At these times whatever conflict already exists now becomes compounded by the man feeling more rejected, unloved, and angry, even suspect that his partner is using sex (or the withholding of it) as a weapon. When these patterns develop, men often retreat in hurt and anger or escape the relationship by acting out. Therapy can help by increasing self-awareness, developing more effective ways to communicate, and providing an experience of being understood.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The odds of at least one partner having an affair during the life of a marriage is anywhere between 20-40%; however, many affairs occur toward the end of an already failing marriage. That means that happier couples are less likely to fall prey to an extra-marital affair. Here’s some relationship advice for the aftermath of an affair:
Keep in mind that the “I didn’t go out looking for an affair” excuse may well be true. Unless a partner is a philanderer, affairs are often slow-growing and unplanned. Usually they happen to people who are going through a sluggish time in their marriage, who feel lonely or who are experiencing stresses and strains they don’t easily discuss with their spouses.
The kids don’t need to know everything. If the couple wants to save the marriage, it’s better that the children don’t know all the details of what went wrong. It can be confusing for younger kids and disheartening for older ones to know that mom or dad had an affair. The kids probably know already that mom and dad are having relationship problems. They’ll feel better once they believe that their parents are working things out without knowing the specifics of what happened. If the children do learn of the affair, they may take sides and add to the amount of tension in the household. It’s then important for the parents to let them know that the problems are being handled.
It is important for the unfaithful spouse to examine why the affair occurred and to ask serious relationship questions. Dissatisfaction with one’s marriage or unhappiness about one’s age or place in life common factors.
Addressing areas in one’s life that aren’t working well can help defend against an affair happening again. But the spouse who was cheated on may demand to know “Why?” over and over. That is because no answer to why can ever be good enough. At some point, an affair must be accepted and no longer explored.
Understand the stages to overcoming an affair. The months following the revelation of an affair are “roller coaster” months. Getting along one day can be followed by harshness and coldness on another. You may push away the guilty partner when he shows you affection, and be angry when he doesn’t show it. These ups and downs are exhausting and confusing but are not forever. They are usually followed by a stage of flatness— fighting is less, emotional outbursts are fewer and farther between, but passion and zest are absent. This is finally followed by a stage of peace and a rekindling of feelings of love accompanied by less resentment.
The guilty party must understand that trust will take a long time to rebuild. It’s realistic that arriving home an hour late from work may raise relationship questions. “Where were you? Why didn’t you call?” The guilty party is advised to accept these moments rather than get offended that there is mistrust. This may be a time when the person who had the affair is on a “tight leash.” He or she will feel controlled and not like it, but it can be helpful in the initial weeks or months for the injured partner to regain a sense of influence over the relationship. In the long run, there must be no leash, if trust is to return.
Schedule discussions. Random discussions about the affair—usually demanded by the injured party—are risky. They are often long and drawn out and tend to ruin the rest of the day for both parties. It makes the guilty party less willing to want to talk in the future. A better idea is to schedule discussions—daily or weekly—and have them be time-limited (no more than one hour). This allows the injured party to vent and ask relationship questions, and allows the other party to relax more during non-scheduled times.
No more lies. In most cases, it is not so much the sexual aspect of an affair that destroys a marriage but the deceit that went along with it. A partner needs to regain trust. Often, the guilty party will hold back certain facts to avoid more arguments and to avoid hurting their partner anymore than they already have. But if those hidden facts come out later, a spouse can be devastated and believing there must still be more that is hidden. Once an affair is revealed, it is best to put all the facts on the table, however painful.
The guilty party should raise the topic of the affair from time to time. Most often, the injured party thinks about the affair way more than the guilty one. This is why it’s very important for the guilty one to ask the injured party how he/she is doing. By initiating the discussion, the injured party will feel cared about and will not resent having to always be the one to bring up the subject.
If resentment lingers, consider couples therapy so you can have help working through questions about the relationship.
Tell the kids when real progress has been made. No need to get specific, but when real headway has been made in the marriage, tell the children. Let them know you are happier and that the marriage is on solid ground. It can ease their minds.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
While there is certainly much debate on the specific phases of a relationship among professional Counselors and Therapists, we can all agree that certain “phases” do exist. Couples do not always move in succession from one phase to the next harmoniously, which is why Couples Counseling can be helpful. I will briefly discuss the five phases of a relationship, while interjecting with where I have found (in my professional experience) Couples Counseling to be beneficial.
Phase #1: The Honeymoon Phase – the relationship is fresh, new, and exciting. You cannot keep your hands off of one another. You look forward to seeing your partner at every opportunity that presents itself. You have sex regularly and cannot seem to get enough of it! Your partner is all you think about, dream about, and talk about in most instances.
Phase #2: The Accommodation Phase – this is when you start to realize that love isn’t as “perfect” as you originally thought. Don’t get me wrong, things don’t exactly have to be bad at this point, but you have had your “reality check” with regards to your relationship. Perhaps you have taken your relationship to the next level and moved in together or even gotten married. Daily struggles and bad habits are becoming evident at this point, and you may start to notice things in your partner that you hadn’t noticed before (or had noticed and just overlooked). This is where conflict begins most of the time. Things are becoming bothersome to you and your partner, and you may end up fighting or arguing frequently. A good intervention at this point would be Couples Counseling orMarriage Counseling. This is usually done to avoid bad habits and unhealthy patterns becoming worse and affecting the quality of your relationship. If you can catch yourselves at this stage of the relationship, and intervene with proper counseling, then your relationship should be fairly simple to salvage.
Phase #3: The Challenging Phase – somewhat similar to The Accommodation Phase (#2), The Challenging Phase is all about the troubles you encounter as a couple and how you deal with them. With life comes change, and this phase is all about how you two are adapting to the inevitable changes that occur in your daily life. It could be a new job opportunity, a new baby, or an illness in the family. Any of these events are enough to cause stress and strain in your relationship, and it is all about how you deal with the challenges as they occur. Once your roles and expectations are established (hopefully by Phase #2), you should be well-aware of what to expect from your partner when you encounter challenges in this phase. I often find that couples in this stage who are having trouble maintaining their relationship are struggling with their sex life (i.e. not having sex as often as they used to), or are having issues with being attracted to other people. This phase could be potentially dangerous to your relationship, as you do not want to promote or encourage infidelity or unfaithfulness in your partner, but you also want to ensure that you are standing up for yourself and what you believe in. If you find yourself fantasizing about past relationships, or wishing you were with someone else (which are both easy things to do when you are enduring a challenging time with your current partner), Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, or Marriage Counseling are all good routes to try here.
Phase #4: The Crossroads Phase – after already having been through several challenges as a couple, (and depending on how you have handled them), you move along to The Crossroads Phase. Judging by past responses from your partner to challenges that have arisen, you are now better able to gauge how he/she reacts to difficult situations and find out when/if you can depend on him/her. This can be a potentially damaging phase to the relationship, and often if couples did not experience a healthy outcome in The Challenge Phase, they do not make it to The Crossroads Phase successfully. Again, counseling can help during this phase, but ideally you want to catch the problem before it gets to this stage. If you find yourself already at this phase in your relationship, it is not too late to seek out help. I am a qualified professional Couples Counselor in San Diego who has helped many couples in the phase work through their problems in order to move along to the next proposed phase of their relationship.
Phase #5: The Rebirth Phase – while statistics do not favor this stage (it is estimated that only about 15% of couples reach this phase in their relationship), it is possible. By this point in your relationship, you are typically married or co-habiting, and have been for quite some time. You have encountered challenges and dealt with them as a couple. You understand your partner better than anyone else does; including your partner’s needs and wants. You have figured out who they really are, and are accepting and appreciative of one another. In this phase, you have learned and developed healthy coping mechanisms and skills for when conflicts and challenges present themselves, and you are able to deal with them together. Instead of engaging in circular, unproductive arguments, you give your partner the benefit of the doubt in situations, as well as accept that you will have to “agree to disagree” in some instances. Your focus is on what it right for one another and your relationship as a whole. You sex life has been reignited, and you are spending much more time than you thought you had relaxing and listening to each other. When challenges do arise, you speak about them calmly and employ conflict de-escalation or resolution skills you have learned either on your own or acquired through Couples Counseling.
Please remember, the proposed Five Relationship Phases are not set in stone. Typically, couples find themselves moving back and forth from phase to phase – sometimes even digressing or moving backwards to a previous phase. These phases are meant to educate you about the stage of your personal relationship, and to identify any troubles or concerns before they become detrimental to your relationship. You do not, by any means, have to live by these “phases” and what they entail, as they are just meant to be used as a general guideline for couples in relationships. Regardless of the “phase” you think you might be in, you can always feel free to give me a call for a consultation regarding Couples Counseling. Together, we can discuss your relationship’s unique struggles and issues, and come to a resolution that is agreeable to both you and your partner. We can also work on coping mechanisms as well as healthy communication strategies that you can employ in your day-to-day life with your partnerRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Fights are never what they seem to be. She may be saying she’s angry because you never help with the laundry. She may BELIEVE she’s angry because you never help with the laundry. But the laundry is a placeholder. It could really be anything. What she really wants is to be taken care of. It’s what we all want.
Over and over, couples come to therapy because one person feels alone, neglected, or unwanted. The person that feels this pain picks a fight, hoping to get through to their partner. The belief, often unconscious, goes something like this. “If I can make him/her feel as bad as I do, he/she will understand and do better.”
Instead, the original pain is lost to a chain reaction. The partner who is supposed to learn from being punished instead gets defensive. “Oh yeah, well you never help with the dishes!” (or bills, or diapers or whatever). And when the fight takes over, no one wins. Over time, these interactions erode trust, love and security.
If your partner is complaining or punishing you, it can really help to take a step back and ask yourself, what security need is not being met? There are only three to choose from, safety, soothing, and specialness.
Safety: Does my partner feel I’ve put them down, dismissed their needs, punished them or left them to fend for themselves? Can my partner talk to me about difficult things. Do I hear his/her emotional distress and respond with kindness?
Soothing: Has my partner had a rough day? Is he/she stressed? Is he/she not feeling well? Am I listening with my full attention. Am I being affectionate? Am I reassuring him/her that no matter what happens, I will always be here, I will always love him/her?
Specialness: Does my partner feel like he/she is special to me? Have I been spending time with him/her? Have I told him/her how important he/she is to me? Have I done anything recently to show him/her that he/she is the only one who makes me feel this good?
These may be the last things on your mind when your partner seems to be attacking you. Which is why I’m writing this. It might not feel natural to behave in a loving way with someone who is angry. The key is to see that the anger is a defensive way of communicating distress. If your partner could, he/she would tell you, “Honey, I’ve had the hardest day, and I really need you to hold me and tell me everything will be okay.”
You may be thinking, well that’s his/her responsibility, isn’t it? Why should I have to interpret what’s going on under the defenses? The answer is this. YOUR happiness and security depends on it. Would you rather spend the rest of the evening fighting or getting the silent treatment? OR would you like to have the power to defuse your partner’s anger and create more kindness and love?
Imagine what it would be like if you always knew the right thing to say to bring any argument to an end and feel loving and close. Isn’t that a win? And if it’s not a win, what defenses or demons in you are stopping you from being a secure base for your partner? Does gentleness or tenderness mean you’re a wimp? Does it feel shameful to feel or see someone else feeling vulnerable?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
You’re picking up his socks, fuming, muttering epithets under your breath.
You’re listening to another one of her tirades, nothing you do is ever good enough.
At a party, he jokes about your closet, or hobbies, or (gulp) weight.
Her girlfriends stop talking when you come into the room.
These are just a few of the many scenarios that leave couples saying, “why am I doing this?”
It would be great if they taught relationship skills in High School. We’d use them daily, unlike, say, algebra. But they don’t. And unless you come from parents who had amazing relationship skills (and taught them to you), then you’re winging it. Most couples wait too long to get help. It may be that therapy seems scary – what if the therapist takes the other person’s side or makes you do things you don’t want to do.
But counseling really helps when couples make it in early enough. In fact, pre-marital counseling is usually the most successful. In the early stages of relationship, there is a big emotional reserve of love and kindness that helps couples withstand conflict about money, in-laws, parenting, and how to load the dishwasher correctly.
Regardless of what stage of relationship you’re in, you can make positive changes, even if your partner doesn’t want to change! The key lies in understanding some basic concepts and committing to changing YOURSELF (not the other person).
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1.No one wants to be mean or hurtful, when we hurt others, it’s because we are hurting inside and feeling vulnerable.
2.When we feel hurt or emotionally threatened, our fight/flight reflexes take over. This is automatic and requires time, soothing and emotional safety to recover and return to a loving place.
3.Relationship problems are never what they seem. Everything from arguments about cleaning to infidelity are symptoms of attachment or bonding wounds, often from very early childhood.
So, if all of this is automatic and started in childhood, how do we change?
The first step is to realize that the PRIMARY function of your couple relationship is to provide a safe place for each person to be themselves.
The second step is to begin learning what makes your partner feel safe and what makes him/her feel unsafe emotionally. As you learn this, your job is to shift your behavior so he/she feels safer more of the time.
REMEMBER this step will backfire if you focus on changing the other person so you feel safe. Often your own safety will come naturally as your partner feels safer and softens toward you. If this doesn’t occur naturally within a month or two, then counseling may be needed.
The third step is to recognize that neither of you will ever be perfect. The good news is, you don’t have to be. Learning how to mend when one of you gets hurt is really what works. Take time to learn what makes your partner feel safe again and re-connected to you. For some people it’s a sincere and genuine apology. For others, actions speak louder than words. And for others still, it’s a combination that reflects you understand how your actions caused pain and your ongoing commitment to changing so you don’t cause more painRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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