Latest from the Blog

Things To Start Doing If You Have Social Anxiety

Things To Start Doing If You Have Social Anxiety

Social anxiety activities are those things you can do to challenge your anxiety. ​Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect around 12% of the population at some point in their lives. People with SAD suffer in all areas of their lives; they have trouble making friends and maintaining friendships, finding life partners, finding work and building a career, and even getting through the mundane aspects of daily life.Read More

How Trauma Affects Your Relationship

How Trauma Affects Your Relationship

You get upset. He blows up. She shuts down. The next day you can’t even remember why it bothered you so much.

We’ve all been there, even therapists (we’re no more immune than anyone else). Here’s what I tell my clients about trauma and relationships, and the ways it can impact your day-to-day interactions with each other as well as your long term relationship.Read More

Controlling Your Temper When You’re Home

Controlling Your Temper When You’re Home

This is a tough time for parents and families. With most of the country staying indoors to practice social distancing, “flatten the curve,” and decrease the spread of COVID-19, parents are finding themselves stressed out and stretched thin.Read More

How To Trust Again

How To Trust Again

Everyone has experienced pain and hurt at some point in their lives. We have all felt like our trust has been compromised, and we wonder if we will ever be able to trust again.Read More

The 4 Types of Conflict-And How To Deal With Each

The 4 Types of Conflict-And How To Deal With Each

Even if you’re the kind of person friends describe as “super chill,” someone who prides yourself on the ability to keep cool when faced with all types of conflict, everyone experiences friction now and then—and that’s not inherently bad. The key, of course, is knowing how to deal with it.Read More

How To Have A Healthy Disagreement

How To Have A Healthy Disagreement

Not long ago, I had a triggering conversation with my partner (yes, therapists are human and have triggering conversations too).  But rather than going in on him, I said, “I need time to process what I’m feeling.Read More

How To Be A Better Friend

How To Be A Better Friend

A true friend gives support without judgment, comes through in a crisis and knows just the right thing to say when it matters most. Friendships are an essential ingredient in a happy life, so it’s time to give them the care and attention they deserve. Keep reading to learn why friendships matter, how to sustain them and the simple steps you can take right now to be a better friend.Read More

Be The Change You Wish To See In Your Relationship

Be The Change You Wish To See In Your Relationship

One couple came into session wielding weapons of war. Bryant complained that when they argued, he felt “mad and insignificant” and characterized his role within the marriage as a “little kid.” His wife shared her emotional experience of the verbal combat, saying, “I feel betrayed,” quickly adding, “I feel guilty.”Read More

How To Be Kinder To Yourself

How To Be Kinder To Yourself

We all tend to think the worst of ourselves when under a lot of stress. The next time you feel like you’re being too hard on yourself, try this simple practice to foster self-compassion.Read More

Tips to Reduce Stress at Home

Tips to Reduce Stress at Home

As many Americans will attest, “home, sweet home” isn’t always a stress-free zone. With April being Stress Awareness Month, here are tips designed to reduce stress at home. Homegrown stress can be traced to numerous sources – a noisy environment, an unhappy spouse, financial worries, or even mundane domestic duties such as doing the laundry or mowing the lawn.Read More

Here’s How Healthy Couples Survive Lockdown With Their Partner

Here’s How Healthy Couples Survive Lockdown With Their Partner

Life has been no party lately. Coronavirus has shattered our routines, pitched our economy into free fall and left us stunned. We’ve been stripped of our social safety nets, those customary conversations with neighbors, friends and family. We’re isolated and split off from each other like fish from water.

Seclusion is punishing. It strips us of our identities, the ways we recognize ourselves. Many of us have lost jobs — or at least the collegiality jobs bring — and our usual run of errands to do. No more school drop-offs, baseball carpools and dinners out; no more trips, parties or March Madness over beers. Spring Break is broken, and our points of reference have evaporated.

Without those we float, homebound but restless. The only person we dare approach is that partner of ours who’s stuck at home, too. But sometimes he, she or they annoy the hell out of us.

Many of us have less-than-ideal intimate relationships. We may relate more to “Marriage Story” than “Sleepless in Seattle.” A month ago we could escape the bickering and blowups and just go to the gym, but now we’re stuck in our four-walled pressure cooker — and hot steam is thickening by the day. With coronavirus shutting off our normal escape valves, how do we release the lid and turn off the heat before our relationship has all but melted down?

 Providing therapy for many years now, here is what I have learned:

 

Successful couples — those who remain happily together for decades — live by consistent guidelines. They look for what their partner is doing right, not what they’re doing wrong, and they say “thank you” a dozen times a day, even for something as simple as making the wake-up coffee for the umpteenth time. They look for beauty and positive traits in their partner and lovingly call them out. They work hard to ban criticism and contempt from their vocabulary — they almost never call each other nasty names or roll their eyes and scoff; instead, they express what they do need, rather than what they resent. As listeners, they first ask questions to plumb the depths of their partner’s needs before responding — questions such as “Why is this so important to you?” or “Is there some background or childhood history behind this?” They create fair compromises: each partner first identifying those closely held values and dreams that they cannot negotiate, then together finding ways to concede in areas where there is some give. Last but not least, they cuddle and touch each other often — with affection, not just eroticism.

These habits of communication prevent poisons like criticism, contempt and violence from toxifying the air a couple breathes. They create warmth, safety and nourishment instead, so partners can relax and grow individually and together.

In the 1990s, another relationship researcher, Neil S. Jacobson, analyzed his own interventions for helping distressed couples. He learned that most of the couples he treated relapsed in no time, except for one strange group that didn’t. These couples maintained a practice different from what he taught them. Every night they had a “stress-reducing conversation,” in which each partner downloaded the highlights and lowlights of their day and shared their external worries, the ones emanating from outside the marriage. Contrary to the norm, listening partners didn’t try to solve anything. They simply asked for more detail, especially about the speaker’s emotions, while listening and nodding empathetically. These couples remained happier in the long term. We integrated Jacobson’s work into our own and found his findings valid.

Guy Bodenmann, a Swiss researcher, cultivated “coping-oriented couples therapy,” a different style of marital counseling that emphasized couples talking together to reduce their stress. It worked beautifully — and no wonder. Biologically, we humans are pack animals. We depend on each other the way wolves and primates do. Bodenmann’s and Jacobson’s work — along with our own — suggests that couples need each other intensely, especially during times of stress. They don’t need help from their partner to solve their own problems. They each need help to feel less alone.

So why do we still think there is such a thing as “too needy” or that solo self-reliance is the ideal? These ideas are nonsense. In the face of this new pathogen, we need each other more than ever — especially that person we live with. Let’s cultivate a little more kindness between us.

 

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