Is Couples Therapy Where Relationships Go To Die?

Is Couples Therapy Where Relationships Go To Die?

I realize the title of this post may sound really intense, but it’s a question that I get asked more often than you’d think.  And quite honestly it’s a valid question because it’s a real fear that many couples have. One that actually prevents them from asking for help.

And sadly, the longer couples put off asking for help, the longer they live in pain.  Really unnecessary pain. 

According to researcher and world renowned couples therapist, John Gottman, couples wait an average of 6 years being unhappy before they reach out for help….SIX YEARS!  Let that sink in for a bit.  Can you imagine the resentment that can build in that time? (Some of you are reading this, nodding along and saying, “um, yes, that’s my life!”)

And really there’s no reason to wait.  Couples therapy is a gift that we give to our relationship.  A gift of hope.  A gift of healing.  A gift of creating a fresh start.

Precommunication

Precommunication

Precommunication is a funny term that I came up with years ago that has become a super helpful tool in couple’s therapy.  Precommunication is the communication that needs to happen right before you communicate.

Sounds silly, right?

But let me expand a bit.  Whenever you go into communication, you typically (aka always) have a vision of what you want to accomplish. Right?  But the problem is we rarely start conversation by sharing what we want to accomplish. Yes, we share what we want to talk about, but not necessarily the why. And sadly, we end up leaving the conversation feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. The implications of this have a huge impact on your intimate relationship.

Losing Our Needs

Losing Our Needs

I’d say that 99.99% of all arguments are based on unmet needs.  Yes, even the ones about chewing too loud or forgetting to take out the garbage can be narrowed down to some attachment need not being met in the relationship.

And I realize that may sound like an intense overgeneralization, but if you really slow down to think about it, it’s sort of true.  Whether it’s our need for safety, belonging, acceptance or unconditional love, it all comes back to an attachment need.

And yet one of the hardest things in love is actually learning how to communicate our needs. We’re honestly really crappy about it. And it’s understandable, because communicating our needs is really, really vulnerable. And most of us don’t do vulnerability well.

Priorities Reveal Themselves

Priorities Reveal Themselves

A reoccurring theme in my office and life in general is this running against the clock, fast paced, we have no time to do what we know we need to be doing pace.

And no one is immune to it. We all struggle with juggling our time and sadly the things that we say are the most important can often get placed much too low on the priority list.  And sometimes we can feel lost or stuck on how to reverse the order.

I work with couples every day that find themselves months and years down the road of not connecting, not spending intentional time together and not prioritizing their partnership. And they’re not bad people. They’re couples that were trying their best doing all the wrong things when it comes to nurturing their love relationship.

Messages in Water

Messages in Water

Has anyone heard of the book Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto?  It’s a few years old, but I’m so darn fascinated by it.  The whole premise of the book (spoiler alert) is scientifically demonstrating how “the influence of our thoughts, words and feelings on molecules of water can positively impact the earth and our personal health”.

Which to some may sound absolutely nutty but I swear it’s completely fascinating. Mr. Emoto shares about how negative words can literally change the molecular make up of water.  Pretty much mutating the molecules.  And he shows how positive words and feelings can enhance the molecular make up of water making it “super” water.

Love on the Brain

Love on the Brain

I have a VERY eclectic musical taste.  From classic rock, to country to rap, I’m pretty much game to listen to anything.  And what I love about music is the place it takes you. Music has the amazing quality of helping us say the things we feel and think.  The stuff we can’t put words to.

And so much music is about love. New love. Old love. Brokenhearted love. Wounded love. Healing love.

Lately I’ve been so captivated by the lyrics of Rihanna’s song- “Love On The Brain” because I feel like she beautifully describes what it’s like to try and get close to someone in love.  Especially when you’re both struggling to be vulnerable.

Earning the Right to be Heard

Earning the Right to be Heard

So before you read any further, I need to prepare you that this blog post may make your blood boil.  Because honestly the first time I heard the statement I’m writing this post about, my blood boiled. But stick with me for a second.

Now we all know that we live in a day and age that is full of distractions.  Most conversations resemble merging onto the freeway in the middle of rush hour. You know where you’re paying so much attention to try and dart into traffic that you are aware of little else.  It’s quite horrible that we’ve lost our ability to slow down and actually converse.

Me Too Syndrome

Me Too Syndrome

Have you ever walked into the house after a long day and tried to get support from your mate, only to hear, “me too”?  Or you’re trying to share about a concern or need in the relationship and your partner responds with “me too”?

It sucks, right?  Not that you don’t want to hear your mate’s feelings, but when you’re trying to share, “me too” is a big shut down. 

And as much as your partner is trying in the moment, there is nothing worse than looking for support and hearing “me too”.  Because despite it’s best efforts, “me too” leaves you feeling more alone than you’d like to admit. 

Game Night

Game Night

Do any of you watch games shows on TV? I swear, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, but if I’m flipping channels and Wheel of Fortune is on, I have to stop and watch for a few minutes.  I have no idea why, but that show always hooks me in.

And honestly, there’s nothing better than a good Family Feud montage.  You know…where they put together all the outrageous clips of what family members have shouted out under pressure.  I find them absolutely hysterical.

Needing to Be Right Leaves Us Nowhere But Alone

Needing to Be Right Leaves Us Nowhere But Alone

I’d say the most common things couples call and ask for support around is communication.  Yes, intimacy and healing trust are close seconds, but the initial call is usually around communication.

And communication in and of itself is a tricky thing.  Because honestly, most communication is really up to interpretation…or perspective.  Unfortunately you aren’t built to be an accurate self observer and often times you leave a situation believing you were entirely right, when in fact your perspective has left you blinded to what really just went down.

I Hope You Know.

I Hope You Know.

I was sitting with a friend at lunch the other day, with a perfect view of the walking path and park.  A sweet little toddler and her dad were walking and for whatever reason she started getting frustrated (we all know how toddlers are) and the dad got on his knee, slowed down and started to calm whatever frustration baby girl was struggling with. My friend turned to me and quietly said, “I hope he knows how important he is to her…he’s her whole world.”

Her words took my breath away, because it’s so true. 

And so today, in honor of Father’s Day this month. I want to remind all of the fathers, uncles, grandpas, and best friends….You SO make a difference.  And I HOPE you know how important you are.  You see we model relationships after what we see. NOT what we hear, NOT what we believe, but what we SEE.  And the most important relationships we SEE are those that are right in front of us. 

I know you’ve all heard me say this before, but I believe that you can model very healthy relationships to your children, even if you’re divorced or separated. The determining factor is how You show up. Are you respectful? Are you kind? Do you think two steps ahead of how your words/actions/behaviors potentially injuring others? 

Your ability to positively impact your children is not determined by whether or not you stay married. It’s determined by how you treat each other.

And the role model of a father is hugely important. I know that many men see their primary job as provider. And I’m not here to argue or dispute that. The intention of this blog post is to inspire those fathers that discount the important role they play in their children’s lives or think their presence is best served by sitting on the sidelines. 

My encouragement to you is to get in the game.

You are a vital part of your children’s lives and every moment that you’re there, championing them, supporting their mom, building up their self-esteem, encouraging their successes and unconditionally loving on them as they fail has a tremendous ripple effect on their future relationships.

No matter how small the moment is, take it.  No matter how silly it may seem, slow down.  No matter how worried, stressed or scared you are, know that you have the ability to reassure the little ones in your life.

And no matter what, I hope you know how important you are. 

Happy Father’s Day from one really appreciative mom.

Yours,

A

Saying "I'm Sorry" vs. Asking for Forgiveness

Saying "I'm Sorry" vs. Asking for Forgiveness

I had the most amazing/eye opening conversation the other day and I simply had to share it.  It was this thought provoking discussion on the difference between saying “I’m sorry” versus asking for forgiveness.

As many of you know, I’ve worked hard to become a better apologizer in my own marriage.  As a middle child, I have some stubborn characteristics and admitting when I’m wrong is probably one of the places I’ve pushed myself to grow and change the most.  Because it’s honestly the place I’ve struggled the most.

Trying Doesn't Guarantee Success

Trying Doesn't Guarantee Success

I hate making mistakes.  I know that’s an odd way to start a blog post, but it’s the truth.  I don’t like making mistakes and I really don’t like letting others down.

But as a wife, mom and business owner I’ve learned that I do let people down.  It’s not intentional. I’m not trying to disappoint or drop the ball.  And yet it still causes hurt.  

I’m (still) working to accept that I’ll continue to let others down, especially those that matter the most.  Because at the end of the day, I’m only human.  And being human means that I can only do so much, be so much and try so much.

My Biggest Pet Peeve

My Biggest Pet Peeve

I love learning about people’s pet peeves. I know that sounds odd, but I feel like learning about people’s pet peeves is super interesting but also helps me feel like I know them better. So depending on how well we know each other, there is a chance that I’ve asked you this question.

And to be fair, I’ll share one of mine with you.

I CAN NOT stand it when someone doesn’t try because they don’t believe that a little bit can make a huge difference.

I don’t know how I developed this pet peeve, but I have some ideas.  

Circumstantial Evidence

Circumstantial Evidence

Are any of you into the crime shows?  I feel like I was so into them at a point that I started spouting off legal info without even knowing it.  One of my favorite terms was circumstantial evidence. You know, using conclusions connected together to create fact. There always seems to be great debate in crime shows about whether or not to use the circumstantial evidence to make an arrest, go to trial, look for a conviction, etc.

And although those shows are about courtroom dramas, we have a way of bringing that same chaos into our living rooms and our relationships.

Don't Make It Worse!

Don't Make It Worse!

I love my kids to bits, but some days they are lunatics (remember I say this with love).  We’re deep in the parenting phase of “helping” them to become productive members of society.  Seriously this is what it feels like! 

One thing that seems to be rearing it’s ugly head is this phase of “not starting the issue, but equally contributing to making it worse”.  Any of you out there with kids older than mine, please don’t message me and tell me this phase never goes away (only kidding). 

Acceptance Is Harder Than We Think

Acceptance Is Harder Than We Think

Do you remember the trend a number of years ago that was focused on “tolerance”?  I don’t know about you, but that campaign always drove me a bit crazy because honestly, the word “tolerance” kind of drives me a bit crazy.  It feels like one of those words that is cloaked with disdain when you say it.

I guess my biggest issue with the word, “tolerance” is that it feels like a half assed way to accept someone.  We know that in love, our greatest need is to be unconditionally accepted by our mate.  Yes this can be a lot harder to do than you realize. Often times you end up “tolerating” aspects of your partner rather than accepting all of who they are…unconditionally.

Working Towards Understanding

Working Towards Understanding

Over the years of being a couple’s therapist, I’ve come to realize that I’ve chosen a very interesting line of work.  I feel blessed to have a job that I truly enjoy and humbled to have folks trust me enough to let me into the most intimate space of their life…their relationship.

One pattern that I see come up over and over again in the counseling room is this idea of agreement.  It’s amazing to me how stuck folks can get trying to find a place of agreement.  Simply put, love isn’t one of the places that we should be seeking agreement.

Fighting For Each Other or Fighting Each Other?

Fighting For Each Other or Fighting Each Other?

We’re in our intimate relationship for a reason.  Hopefully reasons.  And despite all the amazing reasons.…sometimes we need to take a step back to be sure we’re really fighting for each other and not accidentally fighting each other.

I believe in love, both personally and professionally, and sincerely believe that there are SO many reasons we should fight to make our relationships work.  (Side note: I also think that there are some reasons not to fight to make relationships work…but I digress).

What Motivates You In Love?

What Motivates You In Love?

I was listening to sports radio during my drive in the other day and the discussion was on maintaining motivation.  I am truly fascinated by sports (some would say fanatical) because the idea of someone dedicating their whole lives to perfecting a talent is amazing to me.  It takes a special kind of person to sacrifice the way athletes do. Yes, there are big pay offs, but there are also tremendous sacrifices made along the way.  And in order to justify the sacrifices, you not only need dedication to your craft, but you also need an ability to stay intensely motivated.

 Or you’ll simply fall flat.