couple in a storm can this marriage be saved?

Can this Marriage be Saved?

People often ask “can this marriage be saved?” They want to know if their situation is SO bad there’s NO hope. Did they marry the WRONG person? Have they totally screwed things up? Are they in all this pain now simply because they got married for all the WRONG reasons?

Yup. Yup, that’s it. There is no hope.

Do I say that?

Um, NOOOOOO, I don’t. But you probably already knew that, right?

Answering “It depends” is a cop out.

Do I say that? Sometimes. Because really, it does depend. But not on the things above. In order to know if this marriage can be saved, we must know what “it depends” means.

First, it doesn’t depend on marrying for the right reasons or the right person. It doesn’t matter how much crud has happened. Solution doesn’t even depend on whether “he’s a narcissist” or “she’s bipolar” or any of the other things people complain about regarding their high-conflict spouse.

Now, maybe you’re not high conflict. Maybe you’ve just “grown apart” or you feel so very blah. Perhaps you’ve found passion and spark with someone else at a time when the marriage seems “long over.” Or your spouse has cheated and one or both of you just wants out.

No matter what the situation, there’s often a big pause before one or the other pulls the plug entirely. You might both have the question, “Hey, wait. Can this marriage be saved?”

Thankfully, it does not depend on anything out of your control, except that you can’t actually FORCE someone else to hang in there and try harder and love you.

You can make it a helluva lot more inviting to hang in there, try harder, and yes, they might have a chance of loving you again. But not by doing the same things you’ve been doing.

Most often I say this TRUTH:

No matter how you each are made, what has happened, and what is the pattern of your relationship, you CAN get to a place of health where your marriage works for both of you.

Your marriage can be safe, connected, and nourishing for both of you.

That would be cool, right?

The relationship of your dreams CAN be yours… if you both want it… and you are willing to do the work to get there.

Now, look, that does not mean that both of you know you want it and know you’re willing to do the work to get there. I am realistic. I know that ambivalence is part of the reason you’re in pain right now. Blasting past the reasons without processing that ambivalence does neither of you any good.

So if one or both of you are ambivalent, we’ll explore that first.

There has to be a reason to put in the work.

Because the work itself, is, sorry to say, not the most fun you can have on a weekday between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm.

It’s true, in my office we engage humor on purpose, knowing that none of us benefit from MAJOR, SUSTAINED INTENSITY. Besides, you don’t want to spend time in the same pattern of communication, defensiveness, bad feelings, and utter yuck that brought us all together in the first place.

You won’t be doing any of that yuck in my office, by the way.

We will be doing some of the scary stuff you’ve been avoiding. But not before offering you some hope and underscoring the reasons you personally have for getting better at relationship, even at this very relationship.

If there’s a good reason, most every marriage can be saved.

Big talk, right?

But it’s true.

If there are children you want to raise together, that can be the motivator. If you want to look into the eyes of those same children and one day say, “Mom and Dad figured it out, weathered the storm, and took responsibility,” that’s a good motivator.

Maybe you’re tired of failing at relationship and you just want to get it right. That’s a good motivator.

Maybe you believe divorce is for wimps and the faint of heart looking for a loop-hole and that’s not you. Well, that’s a good motivator.

If, in the end, you just want to say you gave it your very best effort, that’s a good motivator.

You are gonna have to find your reason.

If you don’t already know, a good couples counselor will help you. She’ll listen well, identify your values and concerns accurately, and help you clarify just why you’re making the investment. She’ll explore the motives for each of you.

If one of you wants to stay and one of you wants to go

Keep this in mind: using convincing tactics to persuade a skeptical partner is, not just ineffective, but, ewww, gross, it’s so very unattractive.

Also, it NEVER works.

So, if you are the one who would like to preserve the relationship and your spouse is ready to move on double-quick, get yourselves to a proper, trained therapist who knows how to help you stop doing what’s not working and start doing what will actually help.

Of course, I can be that therapist for the two of you. You might want to give marriage counseling a fighting chance.

If your patience, time, and energy are limited, look into doing a Couple’s Intensive to answer in two days’ time whether it’s time to call it quits or if you have a reason to hang in there and make things work.

Contact me and let me know what’s going on and which option for help you’d like to explore.

CONNECT

 

 

relationship patterns that need busting might mean learning to walk down a different sidewalk

Relationship Patterns Busted

We all establish relationship patterns, sometimes without realizing it. Even when you’re aware you’re doing the same dance (or experiencing the same frustrations) it can be hard to see things clearly from the inside.

Maybe one day you suddenly realize you’re doing all the reaching out. You text and call. You initiate contact. You come up with fun ideas for what to do together. It’s never the other person.

Or you realize you just can’t seem to get what you need no matter what you’ve done to make those needs known. It’s almost like you’re speaking a foreign language. If only you could feel heard. You try harder and get even less!

It could be you’ve loaned more money or paid for an outing or bent over backwards to help and had the same person fade or withdraw over and over. In your frustration, you realize they only surface when they need something. Next time they appear, you appreciate feeling needed, (and you’ve missed them) so once again you give, only to have them do the same thing when they get what they came for.

Your pattern might be something different entirely. Like the more you want connection and ask for it, the more she withdraws. Maybe the more you treat him like a child, the more irresponsible he becomes.

It can take time and insight to recognize relationship patterns.

It’s easy for other people to see what you’re doing. And not so easy to make sense of it or see it clearly when you are the one (or two) doing the dance.

Even if you recognize yourself in one of the above descriptions, (or any other recurrent pattern) it can be tough catching yourself in the middle of it. Besides that, from the inside of the dance you may think you look a whole lot different on the outside.

(Hint, hint, you probably DO look a whole lot crazier to other people, especially those who have witnessed the relationship pattern over and over and over. Remember, just because you look crazy doesn’t mean you ARE. You’re just stuck repeatedly doing something that’s not working.)

Avoiding your relationship patterns’ trap

Ever heard the sidewalk analogy? Your relationship pattern is like a hole in the sidewalk. At first, you just walk down the familiar sidewalk and fall right in.

You might wonder why it’s suddenly so dark and damp, pitiful, and well, kinda gross-smelling in there. But, it’s familiar. You’ve been here before. And the other person is down there in the muck with you. After slipping and sliding a bit, (or a lot) you each claw your way out of the hole, sometimes over the tops of each other.

Next time, you know the hole is there and MAYBE you find a way to go around it. But it’s like a magnetic vortex. You get scooped off your feet and fall down it again. Whoops!

Soon, however, you are recognizing the hole and you develop enough strength to resist its magnetic pull. You deliberately walk out and around it. (Cool!)

The real win comes when you recognize the sidewalk and find a different route entirely. Bonus: the alternate route not only avoids the slimy, slippery hole, it gets you where you really want to be a whole lot faster and without all the slime, stink, and muck of the hole, not to mention there’s zero clawing on the way out.

Shifting the pattern

Picking a different sidewalk requires some serious skill. Usually there are reasons that darn hole is magnetic. Most people need a map, a guide, or a coach watching from the outside who can help them see and understand the pattern, build the strength to resist its pull, and find a suitable alternate route.

Don’t do this alone. You already know falling into the hole is zero fun. There’s no need to spend extra time standing out there on the sidewalk arguing about which way to go.

I know it can be humbling to ask for directions. I know some of you even like your sidewalk. It’s familiar at least, maybe it’s comforting in some way, perhaps it pays off sometimes. (For example, when you beg for attention, sometimes you get it. When you chastise him, maybe he behaves for a bit.)

For some of you, admitting you need an outside perspective is the biggest hurdle. But you know the sidewalk you’re choosing does not lead where you want to be. You know you need directions.

Still, it can be a risk to trust someone else with your life and relationship patterns. You want your investment to pay off, not lead down another dead-end street. I get it.

You could ask any and every passer-by for directions, but a wiser approach is to get a good map. Better yet, hire a personal guide. Heck, you might even need a skilled coach to help you stay out of that hole.

I want to be that kind of effective help for you. Let’s talk and get you on a path that leads to the kind of life and relationship you really want.

CONNECT
communication is key

Communication is key

You need a communication key. It’s true. And so many people say it when they come to me for help.

But lots of people think communication means more words. And usually it means exactly the opposite.

Use fewer words; say more.

Here’s how this works.

Listen, you already know the words you say are a small percentage of what you communicate (no matter the context of relationship. This goes for that texting conversation too.)

Energy, body language, tone, timing. It all matters. Plus, it communicates so much… way more than the actual words you choose.

it allows and invites and incites inference. (You’re smart, so you already know this.)

It’s how you interpret what the other is going to say next and how conversations become a patterned dance you repeat over and over and over and over.

Stop talking.

I’ve invited many of you to do this. Okay, for some of you , I’ve invited you to stop talking so much. You’re wearing your partner out and giving them WAY too many rabbit trails to follow on your “verbal processing fest.” Honestly, there’s just too much for one person to track sometimes when you’re going at it like that.

One thing at a time, grasshopper.

Ever heard of single-tasking? It actually takes more concentration than multi-tasking. It requires focus, showing up and paying attention. The speaker must practice conscious presence.

This is a GOOD THING.

Doing a verbal dump on your partner (or anyone else for that matter) is a little disrespectful anyway and a lot self serving. So, literally, stop talking.

It’s hard, right?

Good. It should be a little hard. You’re doing something different than you’re used to. And now that you’ve closed your mouth, go the next step and really listen.

Get curious about what the other person is saying. Not like “why are you saying that?” or “why does he think like that?!” but curious like, literally, “hmmmmmm, that’s interesting.” And then think about it instead of plan the response.  That kind of curious.

Become a quiet observer.

Sometimes what you’re observing is what’s going on with you. Notice this. (You are super interesting.)

Are you feeling defensive? Is something else rising up in you? Are you noticing you want to argue? Do you want to show what you know?

Just notice that. And let it be. Go back to listening.

I know you have a point to make.

And I know you think it’s super important and it’s THE THING that is going to make the difference and that THIS TIME the other person HAS TO HEAR what you are saying and UNDERSTAND you for once.

But they aren’t going to. So get over that. Breathe. Go back to listening.

Someone wise once said

“I never learn anything new by hearing myself talk.”

After all, it’s stuff you already know. So, take a weird risk and actually get quiet. See what happens.

Yes. People worry all the time about talking about those super important issues. There ARE really important topics and hard conversations to have sometimes. Don’t worry.

You will talk about the important stuff.

Most of you don’t have the skill to handle that right now. You’re too entrenched in your usual patterned dance, your regular, tired way of seeing things.

Listen, you’re stubborn for very good reason.

It makes PERFECT sense to you. And it’s very logical for the way you’re made, the way you think, and the way you move through the world.

AND…

you think some things that aren’t exactly true or at least something that isn’t exactly serving you right now.

Those beliefs (we call them limiting beliefs) are not easy for you to spot all by yourself. You might want the help of a qualified and trained specialist. (I’m one, in case you forgot… and there are others too. You might like to spend more time with one of us.)

Find someone who can help you clarify your message.

You want minimum verbage, and maximum inpact. Low potential for arguing or for “trigger language,” for escalating conflict, for taking the conversation out of productive zone and into the fight zone.

You also want to say the very important thing. This includes telling the truth, your truth. Laying it on the line. Really revealing yourself. Getting open and vulnerable.

No one likes that, right?

It feels risky.

You might feel exposed when you actually tell the truth. There’s no telling how the other person will respond, right?

That is the nature or risk, by the way. You step out. You do your thing. No telling what will happen next.

That’s good. It’s a start.

I have couples (in particular) all the time who want to talk through the hard stuff but they have proven that they have no skill, no means, no history of success talking through the hard stuff. But they insist on doing it. If not in my office, then definitely away from my office.

And they usually have “some productive conversation” and very little real movement.

They have just enough “productive” in the conversation to keep them coming back to do the same old dance. Don’t keep doing that.

Tell the truth.

See if you can boil your point down to the very gist of it, the core, the most important and central, integral, bottom-line expression. See if it can be ONE thing that fits this format:

1. I feel… (and ONE emotion word.)

2. I want (or I don’t want) in ONE sentence. Form it without using the word “you” and let it be about what you want or don’t want in your own life and experience.

Get to the bottom line. Go to the heart of every matter.

And make it actually TRUE.

Here are some true and hard things people are actually dying to say to one another:

I feel scared. I don’t want to lose relationship.

I feel anxious. I want to please my mate. I don’t want to feel rejected or disappointing.

I feel overwhelmed. I don’t want to get 10 years down the road and regret staying together.

I feel petrified. I don’t want to have to forgive something I thought I’d never face.

I feel ashamed. I don’t want to live with the weight of what I’ve done.

There’s a lot of power in telling the truth.

Most of us want to fix it. But don’t. For now. Just let the truth (your truth) be the thing. And listen while the other tries to express theirs. See if you can hear the feeling and the want or don’t want in all the words they’re using.

It’s a start. It’s not the only thing, but it’s the first thing.

And let me know how it’s going.

REPORT

You can read more about communication here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day

Enough of what you want

What’s the stuff that gets you through these cold, spare-feeling months after the holidays?

Here in Cincinnati, as I write, it’s late January, cold, with a dust of snow on the ground and spurts of gusty wind, so the reflective, winter hibernation feeling pervades. Even if it’s sunny and warm where you are, I’m sure you can relate.

Are you getting enough love, connection, warmth, belonging, appreciation? Maybe it’s respect, a commanding rhythm to your day and comfort you crave. Maybe you really want a solid plan for the new year and to feel grounded, certain, and safe.

What matters most?

For me, especially this time of year, it ends up being a sense of purpose. And you might guess my central purpose is all about helping people.

I want to help people have great relationships…with themselves first, then with their mates, children, friends, colleagues, and families. People make up communities that reflect the quality of those inner circles. It’s all very important. And it’s best to start from the inside out.

I also want to have the good stuff in my own life. For me, good relationships are good life. I’m not the only one who says so either. Check out this Ted Talk on Harvard’s study. It’s good for us to have healthy intimate relationships and resolved relationships with our children, our siblings, and within families.

It’s good stuff

Sometimes people think relationship work is “fluff” because it’s not tasking, or doing kind of movement.

We might think it’s not measurable.

But it is.

So much good, measurable research has been done for decades. Gottman, Sternberg, Adams, Tatkin, and so many others have amassed real measurable results to the question “how do healthy relationships work?”

Let that be a comfort to you. If it’s measurable and DO-able, then it’s also measurable and DO-able for YOU.

Anyone can learn to enjoy healthy, good, loving relationships.

How you’re made matters

It’s also important to know that our normal way of coming at life influences everything. We’re built a certain way, we’ve been influenced by our environments and experiences, and we move through the world in a particularly dominant pattern.

Maybe you’ve heard me talk about Whole Human Theory Therapy (TM). It draws on decades of research, brain science and methods testing to meet each individual person -and pairing when couples come to me- with an understanding of your current and dominant movement through the world

That’s just where we start. It’s not enough to recognize the way you’re made, the ways you’re different from others, or get a revelation that not everyone thinks the way you think. Then we get to use who you are essentially to do things that matter for you in getting the kind of growth that will allow better relationship.

In short, truly knowing yourself and then knowing how to use that is what will get you to enough…enough of what matters most to you.

Want to know more

about the way you’re made and how it affects everything you do…including the struggle in relationships you might be facing right now? Shoot me a message and let’s get together.

CONNECT

In the meantime, everyone can benefit from this reminder:

Be Gentle

I hope you’ve learned this sweet trick. It makes everything in life so much better. Everything goes easier and more smoothly.

Breathe deeply. Let go. Allow yourself to relax. Loving kindness. Let it be your intention.

And I mean be gentle with yourself first and then with others. Most people who are harsh with others are even harder on themselves.

You might know this is you. Still, it’s no comfort to those who might be withering from the weight of your words… or your silence and withdrawal. Speak to yourself -and others- in the kindest way you can.

Be gentle. Go gently.

If that’s difficult for you, it’s not surprising. Most of us believe that we have to be hard on ourselves (and others) in order to…get enough, have enough, be enough. But it’s not actually true.

Today, give gentle a try. See how it goes.

And let me know how it’s going.

CONNECT

Coming up…In the next days and weeks, I’m writing a post each about what it means to be #heartfirst, #brainfirst and #bodyfirst. This distinction leads us to a whole host of other insight. Stay tuned.

 

therapeutic relationship, therapy, in a boat together

Therapy relationship working?

How’s the therapy relationship treating you these days? Maybe you’ve been seeing your therapist for a while now, and lately you’re wondering if you should scale back or if it’s time to say goodbye for good. How do you know?

She’s probably “really nice”  so breaking up can be hard to do. There’s a good time to move on and there’s a good time to hang in there and really get to the next level. But how can you tell the difference?

There are several legit reasons for scaling back or even ending a relationship with a therapist. You might be thinking about the money. Or you’ve met your goals. You might think you’ve done as much as you can with this particular person. Maybe there’s an actual conflict: in interest, approach, or opinion. Maybe you realize you go away feeling worse than when you came in with no good tools to approach things differently. (Yuk!)

Before you ghost your therapist, and before you go in even one more time, do yourself a HUGE FAVOR and get some things hammered out.

Guide to evaluating the therapy relationship:

1. Clearly define your reason

Check in with yourself and write down what first comes to mind. Why did you first begin this therapy relationship? What brought you in to start? Now that you’re considering possibly leaving, define that as well, then take it a little further by examining it.

For example:

You might be thinking, “okay, this is getting expensive.” Go further. Is it really getting too expensive or is it that you don’t detect progress?

When we make the decision to trust someone with our tender parts in hopes they can help alleviate our pain, we do so because it’s worth it. We value it. We are willing to make the investment of time, energy, and money.

When we stop being willing to invest (in any of those ways) it’s usually because we don’t see the benefit or payoff.

Is it really finances? If you’ve had a financial down-turn, tell your therapist. There might be a cheaper alternative, or a lower rate for a specified time. Maybe there are other options like a group that will help you achieve your ultimate goals or yes, maybe dropping back to twice a month or even once a month really is a good option.

But be clear (at least to yourself) about what is the real reason.

2. Examine your Original Goals

Maybe you’re past the crisis, that acute, intense sense of distress. Yay! You made it!  It’s totally fair if that’s the only reason you enlisted a therapy relationship to begin with. You may indeed be done; ultimately, you get to decide.

Often, if you ask her, you can find out with your therapist if there is more to do than just get past the crisis. Even if you decide not to proceed, at least you’ll have an idea the kind of growth that might be possible for you. You may as well make use of her expert perspective. At the very least, you can park it as a goal for “next time.”

Maybe this therapist is an expert at this area of your life but another area would be better served by a different kind of specialist. In that case, ask for a referral. A good therapist will make a great referral to another specialist when that’s appropriate.

Need to revisit your goals? Maybe it feels like your progress lacks structure. Did you write those puppies down somewhere? If you didn’t and/or you can’t remember them, check in with your therapist. Actually say, “I want to revisit my original goals today and see where I am with them.”

Every therapist worth her salt will be glad to go over them, refine them, and help you see clearly what you’ve achieved and decide how far you really want to go. Not there yet and feeling frustrated about progress? Say so and ask for specific ways to get where you want to go.

3. Identify the Conflicts

Here’s an inside tip: as therapists, we are always trying to balance support and challenge. Too much of one or the other and our clients just won’t grow. There will be some conflict (and maybe at several particular spots) along the way. Growth can be frustrating. Some of this is just part of the growth process. But some of it might be the frustration of not getting what you need from a therapist. Figure out which it is.

Does something get under your skin? Is a recurrent event or a particular response setting you off? Is your therapist reminding you of someone in your life? You can use that as an opportunity to experience something different in the safe environment of the therapy office.

A really good therapist is going to be savvy about sensing if there’s tension and she might be the one to say something about it in the moment. She could also be waiting for you to say something.

Therapists are human with their own personalities and foibles and sometimes they actually miss something that feels really obvious to you.

We can read people, but we can’t always read minds. 😉 So, to get the most from your time with your therapist, no matter how big or small that “irritation” is, say something about it. Here are examples:

  • “I don’t like it when you say that. I feel bad.”
  • “Can you tell me more about what I need to do? I need a tool to use in my real life.”
  • “Today I really need to talk this all the way through before you give me feedback.”
  • Or it can be as simple as “I’m getting really irritated. Can you help me figure this out?”
  • “When you said I’m being demanding what did you mean by that? Isn’t it good for me to have standards? I’m confused.”

Ask questions. Talk to the therapist about the relationship. Take the risk, even if it’s the first time in your life you’ve done this kind of confrontation.

4. Consider the Response

A relationship with a therapist is, above all, a relationship. In that way, everything you are learning to do in relationship with your therapist is a skill you probably need to hone in the rest of your life. It might be standing up for yourself. Maybe being honest isn’t easy for you. It might be finding a kind way to approach something. It might be being brave enough to broach a tough topic.

Sometimes you do have to find someone else, someone you click with more, someone who gives you more of what you need, someone who actually CAN help you meet your needs.  Let that final decision also be based on your therapist’s response to your expressed need.

Worth the time and consideration

You owe it to yourself to be sure you’re getting the best you can from the therapy relationship before you move on. You’ve invested time, energy, and money, right? Walking away prematurely might undercut all the good you’ve done so far.

On top of that, using relationship with your therapist to practice relating, take risks, and do things differently might be just what you need to grow.

Are you satisfied you’ve achieved your original goals? It’s okay to step back to a less frequent time-frame or even consider that you’re done with this therapist for now. Maybe you’re ready to do more, set new goals and keep moving forward. Could be, you legitimately need a rest.

When you leave in the right way, you can always come back for a tune-up whenever the need arises.

But if the relationship is really not working for you- and you’ve clarified your reason and goals, then you bring it up and you get dismissed or feel worse than before- move on with confidence.

Looking for a new therapy relationship…to attain that next goal, get a better connection, or just to come at things from a different angle?  You know I’m here for you. Let’s connect.

CONNECT

 

Three Things that will Hinder your Therapy

Considering therapy? Honestly, I AM biased. I do believe we ALL can benefit from time with a good therapist. Getting the perspective of someone who is objective, studies humans for a living, and has the know-how to communicate what they see in a way that will benefit you is, well, just priceless. And finding the right one IS hugely important.

It’s not all just on the therapist, though. Go prepared.

When you head in for your session, there are a few skills and default thoughts you can leave outside the door, in order to have the best, most healing experience possible.

1. Argument. You’re not going to need this one inside.

Now I’m not talking about telling your truth. If the therapist is trying to identify how you feel and restates something you’ve said in a way that is just off, say so. As in “I wouldn’t identify it as anger so much as a burning desire to never see that person again.” Or “I don’t know, it just feels more blah than that. Like, I have a hard time even caring.”

Yes, clarify.

But don’t waste your energy arguing with the therapist. You’re paying this person to learn what they know, so when they share an insight, listen, consider it. (And they should be doing this- reflecting back to you, offering perspective, coaxing your insight- about 30% of the time. They should not just “validate your feelings” and nod or ask “how does that make you feel?” like we see in the movies all the time.)

If you truly ARE paying them to talk at them and you don’t want any reflection at all, by all means, tell them. Some therapists will still take your money, but I wouldn’t consider that very ethical…or frankly, all that much fun. I like to see people grow.*

*The two exceptions might be if you realize you are a “verbal processor” and you just can’t tell anyone else the truth about your life right now OR if you are intentionally engaging what we call “narrative therapy,” a method that can be really healing in certain instances, like processing grief.

2. Thinking “I already know this.”

Yep. Some of it you do already know. And you’re not doing the right thing with the information or you wouldn’t be having the distress that brought you to therapy.

Just notice when you think things like that. Instead of the reflex of thinking “I already know that, why should I pay someone to tell me what I already know?” replace it with, “hmmmm, that’s interesting. That sounds familiar. How can I use that to do something different?”

Plus, consider the possibilities. Listen better. You might not know what you think you know. Besides, that thing you think you know? Usually there’s more to it than you considered previously.

3. Defaulting to “It’s really just common sense.”

If it were common sense it’d be more common. And if it were common sense to you, again, you wouldn’t be in the distress that brought you to therapy.

Yes, many of the central concepts of health and well-being are common between disciplines. You will find relationships between concepts and insight with things you’ve heard or read or tried before. Listen and go further. Lots of the things that trip people up are simple and many of the adjustments therapy offers can seem simple as well. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy.

A good therapist sees and can identify your sticky spots for you and will let you know the ways she sees you getting in your own way. Let her.

Get the Most from your Therapy

These reflex tendencies are usually born of a sense of inadequacy, actually. Arguing with the therapist displays some defensiveness. You might think it’s masking your insecurity, but it’s really highlighting it. Honestly, you don’t have anything to prove, least of all to your therapist.

Thinking you know things already closes you off to possibilities. Yes, you know some stuff. You are an expert at your own experience. Go you! A good therapist is an expert at people. She’s probably intuitive. She’s got an arsenal of tools and skills and frameworks with which to approach your challenge.

And the only thing you need to keep considering when you’re thinking “it’s just common sense” is “how can I use these insights in my daily life?”

After all, applying what you experience inside the therapy office is key to your growth and you deserve to grow as much as possible. Be sure you’re doing all you can to allow your therapist to help you.

Wondering when you know is the RIGHT TIME to break up with your therapist (or at least spend less time there?) Stay tuned for the next blog post.

relationship marriage counseling

Science of Love can Mend your Relationship

Maybe you’ve noticed there’s information available on the new science of love. Maybe you’re thinking, what new science?

Well, most of us grew up believing (and experiencing) love as a great mystery, a wild intangible, a strange tangle of feelings and odd mating ritual.

Okay. Not in my house. There was no visible evidence of mating ritual going on that I could detect. There was not a huge expression of feeling either. About anything. And believe me, I’ve always been a curious sort, so I watched! Still, my parents did manage to bring eleven humans into the world so mating happened and I’m pretty sure they had feelings for one another; I just missed the rest of that mystery. But I digress!

I’ll give you a couple tips from research before I wind up this post and go see my next couple, so keep reading (or scroll down. I know you do that sometimes too.)

“New” science of love exists for many reasons.

We’ve actually studied it closely from a scientific behavior/observation stance for decades now. Sure, such study was on “attachment,” on “bonding,” later on “pair bonding and monogamy,” on “conflict resolution” and “communication.” Notice how none of these call it LOVE, but it really IS! These days, we’re not so shy about calling it what it is.

Then, along came the capability to actually study the brain in action. Yay, neuroscience! We can now see the brain with an FMRI machine (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and watch how different areas respond to different realities: thinking of the lover, responding to betrayal, being comforted by the lover, reliving a loss.

We can even pre- and post-test couples who engage Couples Counseling!

I wish I owned an FMRI machine and had scads of money to pay the neuroscientists. That stuff costs oodles of cash! It would be so cool if you came in for your first session talking about the issues at hand and we got a scientific reading of just what’s going on in your brain.

Would you say I could read your mind?

Fortunately, I don’t have to. We all reveal ourselves. Sometimes we just need someone to actually pay attention, recognize and know what they see, then be able to put into words the experience.

Good couples counseling does that for you.

It will also move you into a state of better functioning, relating, and connecting.

We actually know how secure, functional pair bonding happens, what it looks like, and what your experiences and interactions mean. Most importantly, good couples counselors know how to help you correct what’s actually hurting you so you and your partner both get the love you really want.

All the things people find troubling in relationship occur for very good reason.  It’s almost always a perfectly normal and reasonable response to challenging circumstances. (And when it’s not i.e. there’s an underlying brain chemistry imbalance, well, good couples counselors can spot that too and they know what to do about it.)

And yes, it’s true: early attachment, childhood experiences, family of origin systems, birth order, communication styles, personality, previous relationship history, your overall health: body, mind, emotions… all of these things play into the sweet cocktail which becomes YOUR unique mix of relationship.  Inevitably, eventually, invariably, one plus one equals conflict.

Do you really want to figure all that on your own?

Have you been reading all the “self-help” and “personal growth” books possible? It can be stimulus overload. If you do the wrong thing with the information, it has no positive effect on the relationship anyway.

It can even hurt or make things worse.

That’s why people decide to trust a specialist. I certainly recommend this. (You knew I would, right?)

You want someone with the knowledge and expertise to spot what is TRULY going on (not just what one or the other of you is experiencing.) Then you want someone able to fashion an approach that fits you and will solve problems, get you somewhere, and give you skills that will last.

We all want good love. Period. You deserve it.

Back to the Science of Love

John Gottman identified four indicators of major distress that, when left unchecked in any marriage, can lead to divorce within five years (or less!) Do you know what they are, how to spot them, and what to do about them?

He also identified seven principles that function in lasting, satisfying relationships. Gottman measured the ratio of positive versus negative interactions that sustain people and their connections. He and his wife, Julie, designed a whole approach to therapy that has helped thousands and trained thousands of therapists.

Other experts took early research on attachment theory and built an effective methodology for treating couples. Terry Real and his Relational Life Therapy effectively treats high conflict couples on the brink of divorce in a last effort to answer the question “can this marriage be saved?”

Sue Johnson developed Emotional Focused Therapy, an approach combining the tenets of Person-Centered Therapy with emotional regulation and intelligence between two people. This stuff is awesome, people!

Stan Tatkin’s Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT) heavily relies on science to move couples from their patterned responses into a secure, bonded, safe haven of connection. And it’s measurable!

Wouldn’t it be nice to DO RELATIONSHIP and enjoy it?

You don’t have to know all the science! Yes, you can go read their stuff. It’s great, let me tell you. Maybe you ARE a relationship geek like me and you LOVE all the science behind it. Have at it!

But if you want to save yourself that investment of time and energy and get answers as well as know HOW to apply the information, you deserve to go see a real relationship specialist who can fully see what is going on for you and your partner.

Obviously, you want someone who knows a lot and has a flexible approach to meet you where you are.

You want someone who can help you through the tough parts of making sense of what you learn and knowing how to do something different in your relationship. It’s not enough to know on paper what to do; it has to work for YOU.

Here are a couple researched tips.

1. Research indicates that the mere presence of a cell phone anywhere near your person, or your partner, elevates cortisol levels by 30-40%. In case you didn’t know, cortisol is a stress hormone. It being high is not a good thing. This was true even if the phone was “ringer off, face down.”

You can do something about that.

Leave it across the room in a designated area. Carve out time away from it. Make mealtime cell-phone free. Choose to forgo surfing on it while the television is on. Ever heard the advice to do one thing at at time. Well, do one screen at a time.

Does that sound like a tough thing to do? Try it. If it’s a real struggle, let’s talk about that!

2. Gottman’s research revealed the magic relationship ratio is 5:1. For every negative interaction, happy couples engage 5 positive ones when they are having a conflict or solving a problem.

On the opposite side, unhappy couples actually resist engaging positive interactions under some mistaken idea that the positive interaction will dilute the negative.

It will! This is a good thing. And yet, they resist doing it. They avoid doing it. They dig in their heels instead, hunker down and go to war.

No good can come of that.

Having trouble being positive while having a conflict?

Next time there’s a conflict, see if you can infuse humor or make a reassuring statement. Try starting by outlining all the things your partner is doing right. List things you’re grateful for at the same time you’re bringing up something annoying.

Maybe in addition, you’re having trouble feeling heard, getting through to your partner, or feeling truly cared for. Get help with that. It matters.

You deserve to have a happy, satisfying, and lasting love relationship. Let the “new” science of love help you get there.

Got questions? Ask me. I love to help.

CONNECT