Conflict in relationships is one of those things that gets a bad reputation. Much like discomfort or pain. We sometimes mistakenly assume that relationships should not have moments of conflict, despair, frustration, discomfort, or pain. It is important that we learn what conflict really means so that we can deal with it accordingly. Typically in couples dynamics, conflict is not usually the problem we face, it is knowing how to deal with it in a way that doesn’t create calamity in our relationships. To have conflict is to be normal. But to avoid conflict, discomfort or pain is to sabotage an opportunity for growth. Conflict is really just growth trying to happen in your relationship.
Trust is often seen as this big thing that we either have or we don’t. Someone has either earned it, or they haven’t. Trust is sometimes seen as one of those things we have, until it is lost or betrayed. Or it is something we can’t know that we have until someone has taken the necessary steps to ensure they are, in fact, trustworthy. Researchers have begun to explore the anatomy of trust and what ingredients make up trust. Whether you’re starting a new relationship, revitalizing an old one, or trying to recover from betrayal or infidelity, it can be helpful to know how to measure trust, what to look for, and how to detect what’s missing and what can thus be worked on.
Here we are, in the midst of a brand new year. The rush of the holidays have passed, we are financially recovering from our excess spending, physically recovering from too many holiday treats, and emotionally recovering from too much hustle and bustle or too much time with family members that we, uhhh, prefer to enjoy less time with. The new year marks a new start, a fresh beginning, and an opportunity to better ourselves. We often focus on resolutions like hitting up the gym, quitting smoking, saving more money, or living life to the fullest. But, how often do we make relational goals with our lovers? Why not shift our focus this year to also attending to our relationships?
Feeling a bit at odds with your mate? Like you’ve been at each others’ throats about small, trivial things? You may wish your partner was less irritable, more enjoyable, and more fun--like they used to be. But, it can feel like a daunting task and downright powerless to sit around hoping and waiting for the other person to change, especially after you’ve repeated yourself over and over again. While there aren't any quick-fixes, here are some simple, but effective strategies that YOU can implement turn your relationship around this week.
As couples therapists here at our center, we devote our professional careers to helping couples restore, re-ignite, and rejuvenate their relationships to their former glory and beyond. We are committed to helping couples who feel like they are in a relationship “crisis” or a really rocky place get to a place that feels “good.” And other times, we help couples who are feeling “good” get to a place that feels “great.” Often times that is attainable, and other times, we therapists have our own challenges when a couple decides to end the relationship. We can often see lots of deep, meaningful, and “great” work to still be done, and yet we sometimes will hear the thing we don’t want to hear: “We have decided to end things, so we won’t be coming back to therapy.” This decision might make sense to you, but marriage counselors aren’t just here for those who are married. We can do great work even when you decide to split. Here are some things that we therapists wish you knew before you decide to cold-turkey the therapeutic relationship.
Imagine you’re happily coupled up in a wonderful relationship that you find satisfying and fulfilling. Now, imagine that your partner tells you they love you, but they’re no longer in love with you, or that they’re seeing someone else, or that they want out of the relationship. How might you feel? Worried? Upset? Devastated? Betrayed? Confused? Angry? Brokenhearted? Now, imagine that you’re naturally anxious or depressed but you are in a relationship with someone who can calm you in the storm, will have your back and support you, can bring you back from the edge, and can understand you even in the midst of your emotional pain. If relationship distress can have a negative impact on our emotional and physical health, can’t it be possible that secure relationships can have a positive impact on our emotional and physical health? Research and revolutionary science of romantic love is now suggesting that secure bonds are vital when we are struggling.
Often times, couples are broken into a few different categories:
- those who are together and happy
- those who are together and unhappy but are trying to repair the relationship
- those who are together, unhappy, and are not sure what they want to do (and are "stuck")
- and then those who have made the decision to end the relationship.
As couples therapists, we usually work with clients in the first 3 categories. But, who works with those who are ending a relationship, are going through a breakup or divorce, or are trying to get back on track after a relationship has ended? A marriage therapist can still be a great type of counselor to consider.
So, you may be thinking about marriage or couples counseling and have started looking for a therapist. Finding the right fit can be confusing and sometimes a bit of a challenge, especially if you don't know what to expect. Many clients are nervous that when they finally do meet with their therapist, they will be met with some kind of fate about the relationship and that they will possibly hear something they don't want to. This is extremely normal and common for many individuals and couples pursuing therapy. If you're wondering if a therapist will tell you what to do regarding your relationship, then we have an answer for you.
We begin serious relationships and marriages with the intention that it will last forever. We are hopeful, excited, in love. There is honesty, good communication, passion. We think it will always be this way. So, when you realize that your relationship is not what it used to be or not what you hoped it would turn out like, we naturally begin to ask ourselves “is this as good as it gets?” I get it. It seems like you’ve tried everything and nothing works. It may feel like your partner doesn’t communicate well, or doesn’t understand you, or doesn’t even care to change. You may begin to feel like you’re miserable and can’t help but wonder if it will always be this way or how much longer you can do this, eventually asking yourself “should I stay in this relationship or end it?” Can you relate to this? If so, here are a few tips to consider to help you make your decision.
Apologizing is no easy feat. I work with many couples, families, and individuals who are hurting, and want their loved ones to recognize their hurt, and expect an apology in some capacity. But, why is apologizing so hard to do? And if we don’t mean it, should we still apologize? We have conceptualized apologizing as a vehicle for admitting we are wrong, smoothing things over, or giving in, any of which signify that we may be weak. Contrary to popular belief, it takes great strength and courage to dare to apologize, and here is guide for when to do it, and how to do it well.
The majority of couples that I work with (and even individuals) tell me that communication is a struggle for them. Either they don’t feel heard or understood, or they can’t keep a simple disagreement from escalating to unhealthy levels, or they feel like what they say isn’t important. HOW you argue is more important that HOW OFTEN you argue. If you have daily spats, but are able to address them quickly and create a resolve, that can be more healthy than arguing once a month, but never resolving the issue and communicating in a way that harms the relationship. One of the first steps in learning to communicate clearly and effectively is understanding what to eliminate in your communication style.
As a couples and marriage therapist, there is one area of the field that I wish was more popular: premarital counseling. I cringe a little bit inside every time I hear a couple say they don’t need pre-marital counseling because: “we never argue,” or “we get along so well,” or “we agree on almost everything,” or “we are just so happy already.” While that may be true, premarital counseling can be very effective in setting the tone for how resilient your marriage is when those tough waves come rolling in. Premarital counseling can help you prepare for your marriage, and not just the wedding. The wedding lasts for one day, but the marriage is intended to last forever.
If you are recently engaged, approaching engagement, or considering marriage to your partner, you may have heard of pre-marital counseling. These days, it is not uncommon for pastors or certain churches to require it of couples before they walk down the aisle together. If you are wondering how it works, or what to expect from the process, here is a glimpse into how I work with premarital couples.
Perhaps you’re considering working with a couples therapist to improve your relationship, but may be wondering how it works. Here’s a bit about what you can expect to learn when you work with a therapist that specializes in working with couples and relationships.
Considering couples therapy or new to the counseling process? It is normal to be scared and nervous if you’ve never done it before and don’t know what to expect, or if you’ve been to counseling before but are now working with a new therapist.It would likely be helpful if you had some insight to what really happens in couples therapy. While each therapist may be a bit different in their approach, this is just an idea of what it could look like based on how things go when I work with couples. Here is some of what you can expect if you are considering couples therapy.
I often get asked “does marriage counseling work?” The short answer is: yes, it absolutely can. I also hear many spouses who call me say “I want to come, but my spouse doesn’t want to/doesn’t believe in it/doesn’t think it’ll work/doesn’t want to tell our business to everyone.” The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy suggests marriage counseling helps 7 out of 10 couples find great satisfaction in their marriages. But, success and effectiveness in therapy depends on a few factors. Knowing these can make the difference.
Feeling nervous or uncertain about marriage counseling? Are you looking for some guarantee that you'll see changes? Worried about putting the fate of your relationship solely in the hands of a stranger? You're not alone! Today, I'd like to share with you some tips on how to get the most out of marriage counseling. These secrets can give you more control in your marriage counseling experience so that you can increase your chances of seeing changes more quickly and getting the results you want.
Recently, on social media, a mother’s account about the ever-changing role in motherhood caught the attention of mothers across the world. The article was titled
Recently, on social media, a mother’s account about the ever-changing role in motherhood caught the attention of mothers across the world. The article was titled “When Did I Last Wash Your Hair?” It revealed how we often forget to savor the small moments in our relationships with our children, and how this mother didn’t know that the last time she washed her daughter’s hair would be the last time. She went on to state:
“Why didn’t I know it was the last time? If I would have known, I would have done a better job, or made it last longer, or kissed her head or something. I would have DONE SOMETHING!”
Further into the article, she discussed how she was afforded a second chance after her daughter fractured her wrist, transforming her independent daughter into someone who, once again, needed her mother’s help. She was able to wash her daughter’s hair with a new perspective:
the wisdom to know that every moment is sacred if we can slow down enough to see it.
This article made me think about the clients I work with. We are often so plagued by the annoyances and nuances of our partners, that we forget to view each moment as sacred. We begin to view them through the lens that makes them the enemy, not the ally. We sometimes distance emotionally and physically.
I often work with couples who are trying to survive an affair, and typically the first response is anger and hurt. This is normal, valid, and important to process through. But sometimes what happens is we begin to create a dynamic where the adulterer is the problem, the bad guy, the one to blame, and the perpetrator so to speak, making the other partner the victim. The “victim” can certainly feel “victimized”, shocked, betrayed, and blindsided, and it is easy to sit in that pain, sometimes becoming paralyzed by it.
It is important to note that affairs (whether emotional or sexual) are usually an attempt to solve a problem in the relationship, and are essentially a cry for help. Healing can begin and trust can be re-established especially when both parties are willing to take a hard look at how they shaped the relationship, and how the affair made sense in context. Taking a look at some hard truths requires us to take accountability for our behaviors (or lack thereof) and how we may have drifted from bringing our best version of ourselves to our relationship table. Our relationships often serves as a mirror for us and reflect back what we are putting into the relationship.
What does this have to do with the article I mentioned before? Being willing to slow down and see each moment as sacred can change the way we see our romantic relationships. Some of the clients I work with finally reach this point and are brave enough to see past the anger and hurt and examine those hard truths. Sometimes they say things like this:
“I was so hurt that my husband cheated on me and we finally sat down to talk after being apart for some time. When I looked at him, I noticed his skin was rough and his toenails had not been clipped. I realized, I used to take care of those things for him, and now I can’t remember the last time I clipped his toenails or rubbed lotion on his body.”
“Before bed, I used to always make my husband sandwiches for lunch the next day. He never appreciated me. I felt like he didn’t need me, so I stopped making his sandwiches. I don’t remember the last time I made him a sandwich.”
“When I was dating my wife, I made sure to compliment her. She was so beautiful and fun and sexy. After we got married, it was great because she knew I felt that way about her and I didn’t have to remind her all the time. We didn’t have to talk about it. But I can’t tell you the last time I looked at her, you know, really looked at her, and told her all the things I found beautiful or attractive about her.”
When was the last time I washed your hair?
When was the last time I clipped your nails, or put lotion on you, or made you lunch, or told you that you were beautiful, or held your hand and kissed you just because?
Whether those questions regard your child or your spouse, I invite you to dig deeper and be willing to answer them. Be willing to slow down and appreciate those moments. Be willing to continue taking care of those who need us, whether they seem to appreciate it or not. Be willing to not just HAVE love; be willing to DO love, BE love, and MAKE love.
Ready to go deeper? Whether you’re healing from an affair, trying to affair-proof your marriage, or just trying to be more present in your relationship, call today at 678-796-8255 for a consult or schedule online 24/7.
We live in a culture where admitting to problems in our relationship is difficult, but seeking help for those problems is even more difficult. Today, I’d like to offer you 3 reasons why having problems in your relationship can be a good thing
Christmas is quickly approaching. Sometimes the season is a little more exhilarating for some more than others. But nonetheless, we live in a culture where we are expected be cheery, delightful, spirited, and excited about the holiday craze. Before we know it, we find ourselves deciding what people we will be buying gifts for, what we will buy them, and how much we will spend on them. Sometimes, even those of us with the best of intentions can find ourselves thinking things like this:
“I’m not spending much on so-and-so this year...they always buy me a crappy gift.”
“They never spend as much on me as I do on them.”
“I’m not buying them anything this year because they never bother getting me anything. Why should I care?”
Many of the couples I work with adopt this same mindset, but it persists throughout the year rather than just popping up at Christmas time. I often hear couples saying things like this:
“He never apologizes first, so I’m not going to either.”
“She never tells me what she wants in the bedroom, so I don’t tell her either.”
“He hurt me, and I want him to hurt back.”
“I’m going to treat him like he treats me and see how he likes that.”
“I gave the kids a bath and got them to bed last time. If you don’t do it tonight, I’m not going to help you when you need it.”
“I will have sex with you if you give me something in return.”
The problem with this mindset is that it is tit-for-tat, becoming cumbersome, burdensome, and full of rigidity, ultimately harboring anger, resentment, or breeding contempt in the relationship. The thing we often forget about love is that we have to give it the space to be genuine, authentic, and vulnerable. This means, we have to be willing to give without a guarantee we will get something in return. If we do things only hoping we will get something back, this becomes less of an intimate relationship and more of a scoresheet...a game where there is clearly a winner and a loser. Love cannot be spiteful or vindictive.
So, this holiday season, may we remember to give without the expectation of receiving. May we act with integrity and give the gift we truly want to give instead of the gift we should give. May we treat others the way we WANT to be treated, rather than reflecting to them the way they already treat us.
If this sounds like you, or you feel your relationship is looking more like a scoresheet, consider working with a therapist. A trained therapist will be happy to help you get out of the rut and figure out how to give and receive more love without anger or fighting. It is possible to feel more loved and appreciated in your relationship.
Call today at 678-796-8255 and let’s see if we can work together or schedule an appointment online.