relationship advice

I Go a Bit Crazy When...

...My husband says anything like “I need you to…”  “I want you to…”, pretty much if it doesn’t sound like a request I get irritated.

 

I think Chad (husband) and I had about a one hour conversation yesterday around the whole subject of making a request vs. making a demand. He honestly can get a little flustered / totally overwhelmed by me and I know this so I try to temper myself. It doesn’t always work, but I try. Yesterday, we had a talk and I literally gave him the words to use with me so that he can get his way. I also told him if he doesn’t know how to approach me, to just say that and I can help out.

Sound stupid? Maybe, but it works. I just expect him to know then I am really asking him to be psychic which will never happen in a million years. So if you are expecting your partner to just KNOW because you have been together for decades, well dream on my friend. You might have to have the same conversation over and over. Lord knows we have. In fact, yesterday I told him I was going to have a laminated cue card made for him. I was joking but I’m also seriously considered it. I think I will do it and wrap a nice bow around it. His brain works differently than mine so I do need to tread lightly. He wouldn’t care if I said to him “I need you to…” or “I want you to…”, but I care.

It is in your best interest to figure out how to let your partner know how to communicate with you so that you get almost everything you want. In yesterday’s conversation, I gave him the roadmap to use so that he can get what he wants. Do yourself and your relationship a favor, tell your significant other how you need to be approached when they want something. It’s a million times better than guessing and ending up in an argument. Now, off to do some laminating!  

 

Constant Attention

Having a healthy relationship takes work. It never stops taking work. That doesn't mean it has to be difficult or a daily grind, far from it.  But it needs daily attention, care and love or it will suffer. I promise. I see and hear about it every day.

I had a couple in today who I haven’t seen in about 2 years.  They were in a good place, both putting in the effort.  Life went on, they got back into their routines, sank back into bad habits and you can guess the rest. The good news is that they already know what they need to be doing. They ignored the habits they learned and quickly began blaming the other person and the defensiveness was back in full force.  

In order to get these two back on track we have to brush the cobwebs off and unearth the love. They came in highly critical and full of contempt, but they both softened by the end. It feels so bad for them right now because the fear of abandonment, perceived or real, iis masked by anger and resentment. It’s much easier to be pissed off then to enter a place of vulnerability and tenderness. Learning how to be safe in your relationship again will take a bit of time and effort. The point is that when you are not paying attention to your relationship, it will wither and eventually die if not tended to appropriately.  

If you need to brush off some cobwebs, we will help you through that process. Give us a call today and get back on track ASAP.

Validation Strategies: Bonus - Validate Yo Self!!

Validation isn't just for external relationships. If you want to take it to the next level with some upper division therapy shit, try the validation strategies on yourself. I'll be doing bonus blogs with each validation strategy to give pointers for how to validate yourself so you can heal and strengthen your relationship with you.

 

Strategy one: show up!

Real talk: How often to you show up for yourself? How often do you really take the time to check in? If your gut tries to get a hold of you, do you take the call or let it go to a voicemail you rarely check? Do you make uninterrupted time to be with yourself or do you spend alone time frantically distracting?

If a friend did to you what you do to yourself, how would you feel? Maybe sad and alone. Maybe hurt. Maybe pissed. Maybe resentful. Maybe you just give up on sharing important details about your thoughts, feelings, needs, boundaries, and values.

So often we disconnect from ourselves then wonder why we feel disconnected from our lives and our relationships. How could I fully listen to another if I'm not willing to listen to myself? How can I assert a need or a boundary if I don't know what they are? How can I express my emotions to someone if I don't how I feel?

Your relationship with yourself is SO important! If you feel like it needs some help, try paying attention to you. Start with planning some alone time, free of distraction. Maybe take a walk in nature or journal or meditate. Create a time to check in and pay attention, even just once a week or few a few min a day. It may take a while to grow, heal, or rebuild your relationship with yourself. It may not always be easy. It may not always be convenient. But you're worth it!

Validation Strategies: Show Up!

In therapy, we look at ways to build relationships through effective communication. There are some basic ways to help people feel connected and, in psycho-babble terms, they're called "validation strategies". If any of your relationships feel strained or if you just want to enhance an already kick ass relationship, do more validating!!! In this little series im doing, I will go through the different strategies and of validation.

Strategy one: show up!

Duh. If you want to connect or make someone feel heard or seen you need to create a situation where that's possible. Making yourself available, setting up a time to talk, or answering a call or text or in person request is validating. It makes the person feel they are important. I can't tell you the number of times that I've talked to couples who feel hurt or invalidated because they never see their partner. Similarly, I've seen friendships get ruined or dissolved  because the friends never see each other.

But don't just be a warm body. Actually show up. Eliminate distraction. Turn off the TV....even if you're in the middle of binge watching your latest Netflix show,  there's this nifty thing they have called the "pause button" now and I would highly suggest using it. Put away the phone. Or if you're on the phone or texting, don't be watching TV and driving and painting your nails or whatever else you might be tempted to do. Focus on the conversation at hand. People notice. They care. I'm sure you like feeling attended to, so this is a great time to practice the "golden rule" and do that kindness to someone else.

Internal distractions should also be reduced. These might include, but not be limited to: making a grocery list, planning what to say next, judging the other person, daydreaming, physical pain or fatigue or hunger. Do your best to notice and eliminate as much as possible. In the case of pain or fatigue or hunger, I suggest saying something up front like "hey, just so you know I'm super tired, I'm doing the best I can, just don't want you to take it personally in case I yawn or something. I'm here. I'm listening."

Challenge: practice showing up today. Make an effort to fully arrive and listen. It will help your relationships and make you feel good about yourself. Now go get 'em tiger!

Why I Ask My Husband If I May Spend Money

What was the very first thing that popped into your mind after reading this title?

Was it…

  • He’s a super controlling husband!
  • Wow, she has no backbone.
  • Are we living in the 1950’s?
  • Gag!  Typical gender roles!

Did you feel…

  • Like puking?
  • Anger?
  • Confusion?
  • Connection?

Just to be clear, I DO NOT ask for permission.  Chad and I have a few assigned roles in our relationship and one of them is that he handles most of the money and paying the bills.  I don’t want to handle it.  I am informed and we speak at least once a week about the money, but he is the one who is intimately involved with it. Therefore, I am inquiring about the state of affairs in our bank account.  We have a set amount of money that we can each spend without speaking to the other first.  In other situations, we agree to have a conversation about any amount above and beyond that.  If he wants to spend, he checks in with me and if I want to spend, I check in with him.  However, for years and years, I saw this as my husband trying to CONTROL me - and oh the fights we would have.  Now I know that control was never the case but I made it the issue.

When I finally realized it had nothing to do with control but all about having security for the family, I let go of that control thing.  I do have to say it took considerable effort to let go of that feeling. Couples get all wrapped up in situations where one person simply has more information but it comes across as controlling.  This is a mindset that needs shifting.  Look at the facts.  One of the major facts I overlooked was that I didn’t want to take care of the money and he did.  I opted out and then didn’t want to play along.  So I opted out and then got pissy when it didn’t suit me.

If that sounds at all familiar, ask yourself if YOU are being fair or if you are opting out and then not wanting to play by the rules you helped to create.  What rules have you broken that you co-created??   If you need help untying some of these twisted scenarios, we are experts at helping to heal relationships, call us!

"We don’t have anything in common anymore" PART TWO: Tell better stories!!

I listen to podcasts. A lot. Excessively.

I’ve listened to ones by comedians and ones about serial murderers. Ive listen to shows about athletes and shows about gamers. Ive listened to ones about rappers and one's about farmers. You get it.

So what makes those random podcasts interesting to me? It’s not that I relate to the day to day comings and goings of a rap star or farm hand. It’s not that I've actually played a first person shooter video game or done a triathlon. It’s that these podcasts tell good stories.

I say this because many people get trapped in this notion that "our relationship suffers because we have nothing in common." Some are trapped because they are not listening to the other person to see the human experiences of success, pain, and emotion in a story (see my last blog on listening). Others are trapped because they don't tell good stories.

From my years working with individuals and couples and from my voracious consumption of comedy, podcasts, movies, books, etc, I offer a few tips to connect better by telling better stories:

  1. Show up. If you want to tell a good story, show up. Don't be talking while watching t.v. or checking Facebook or looking for who else is at the party that you can talk to. If you want others to be present and engaged listeners, be a present and engaged talker.
  2. Know your audience and try to connect with them. Try and speak their language and use examples they might relate to as a way to illustrate your point. People generally like to feel like you're talking spontaneously to them and not doing the same canned monologue that you've been telling at every water cooler for the past year. They also probably don't like feeling lost or left behind when you only speak in jargon without humbly offering to educate them. When people feel seen as a unique listener and that you are invested in helping them follow your story, they are often more open to listening.
  3. Check for understanding. Its cool to geek out on details and minutia. But if you're going to take a deep dive into a topic, make sure your conversation partner is keeping up. Ask "does that make sense?", "Did I lose you?", "Do you know what I mean?", "You picking up what I'm throwing down?"...well maybe not the last one. And don't shame or belittle your listener if they don't get it.  They could have bull-shitted you but they cared enough to be honest and learn, so honor that.
  4. Include a liberal amount of commentary and behind the scenes footage. People may not connect to how you're using a new code to work on the financial concerns of middle age men in Nebraska, but they may be interested in how you felt as you struggled to figure it out or the relief of completing it on time. Insights into the human experience behind the story, help connect. Authenticity is attractive in a speaker, so practice letting your guard down and speak from your heart.

Happy storytelling!!

"We don't have anything in common any more": PART 1: Listen Better!!

You're outdoorsy and he's a gamer. Your mom has a new passion for cross-stitching and tennis and that’s all she talks about. Your office mate just hiked another 14er....again.

I've been hearing a lot from clients who are struggling with relating in their relationships. This is part of one of a two part series to help you (re)connect in relationships.

Part of the disconnect can be that you aren't listening, aren't listening well, or aren't listening to the connective material in the other person's story. Here are some tips to start listening better.

  1. Show up. Like really show up. Be present. Eliminate, or at least minimize, distractions, and focus on listening.
  2. Stay engaged (non verbals). Listening is not a passive, spectator sport. I'm sure you have had someone passively hear you while they are checking Facebook, people watching, randomly and dispassionately saying "uh-huh", or totally spacing out. And I'm sure you've had someone actually be there, hold space for your words and feelings, and actively engage in the conversation by listening. Do that.
  3. Listen for understanding. Don't listen just for your opportunity to make a point. Not just to get in a jab or a punch line. Not to one up you or turn the conversation back to yourself. Listen for emotions. Listen for thoughts or reactions that give you a glimpse into the other’s life. Listen so the other person leaves feeling seen and known. Listen to others how you like others to listen to you.

Why bother!?!

  • It makes conversations more connective.
  • It can reduce conflict, sometimes people escalate in order to be heard
  • When people feel heard, they are likely to listen
  • It's kind and validating for the other person
  • Why not!?!

Happy listening!!

The Anatomy of an Argument: Step 6 - Give and Ask for Equal Regard

Brent Atkinson describes this step in the following terms.  “Let your partner know that you’re willing to keep an open mind to the potential merit of their viewpoint.  If a decision needs to be made, be willing to be flexible and attempt to find a middle ground.”  He goes on to say that successful relationships operate like a democracy - every person gets one vote and every vote counts equally without having to prove why their reasoning is valid.

Researchers can’t always tell in an argument what success looks like while couples are going at it.  Success sometimes shows up at the end of the argument.  When 2 people are willing to give equal regard to their partner’s point of view, even if they staunchly disagree, that’s where the success lies.

When one person tries to diminish another’s feeling, priorities or opinions, they are standing on shakey ground.  These aren’t facts, they are belief systems.  Stop thinking that your beliefs are the best.  The obviously perfect example is all over the news right now. Trump vs Hillary.  Thank goodness when you go to the polls you won’t have to defend your pick!  So stop putting your partner / spouse / best friend on the defensive, you won’t win.  You are only building up resentment.  Be a superstar and argue like a champ.  THAT’S how you actually win.

If you are looking for couples counseling for you and your spouse, or couples counseling for one, we would love to help. Make an appointment today.

Be sure to check out steps 1-5 of Anatomy of an Argument.

The Anatomy of an Argument: Step 5 - Offer Assurance with Flexibility

In Step 2 of Anatomy of an Argument, we look at avoiding a judgmental attitude when fighting with your partner. Step 2 is integral to Step 5 - offering assurance.

When you offer up assurance, the goal is to communicate to your partner that you are doing your best to keep an open mind.  For lots of folks out there, this is insanely difficult because they think their way is just fine, no problem.  The other person feels strongly about their position.  You each have to figure out how to come to terms with the other’s place when neither of you are wrong but you still have a hard time tolerating the other’s perspective.

For example, my husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to privacy vs sharing on certain issues.   I like to get counsel from friends and colleagues, he’s not into me doing this.  He actually has a brilliant mind.  But to my dissatisfaction, his mind instantly jumps to all the potential risks involved.   I don’t mind risk, he craves certainty.  This is an ongoing struggle.  We typically come out of these arguments ok and with a better understanding of the other person and usually with a lot of sympathy going back and forth between us.  But man it’s like clawing my way out of a hole sometimes.  

When all's said and done and I have regained my emotional balance, I actually do see his point of view.  I don’t like it, I don’t think like he does, but I accept that this is the way he is / has always been / most likely won’t ever change.  Neither will I.  Our task is to continually strive to let the other person just be and to learn to cope with our differences in more meaningful ways.  It’s a never ending journey.  Make it count.

The Anatomy of an Argument: Step 4 - Finding the Underlying Needs, Values and Worries

When we are arguing with a spouse, in the heat of the moment it’s so hard to do anything but concentrate on OUR needs and the outcome WE want.  That needs to change ASAP.  In step three of the Anatomy of an Argument series, we learn to identify the underlying needs, values and worries of our mate.

When we assume that our partner’s reasons for wanting something a certain way are stupid or make no sense, we aren’t making room in the argument for the possibility that they actually have valid concerns or worries.  If your partner’s reasons aren’t making any logical sense to you, take a step back and get curious, ask questions.  Ask if there is a fear that they haven’t disclosed.  Ask if there is an influence behind their argument that is steering them in one direction. 

You also need to get clear on your underlying needs, values and worries.   Don’t just put up a fight because you think you are more right or that your way is best.  Remember that most often you two just have a difference in opinion.  If you two can come together to discover each other’s needs, you will be solidly more empathic towards one another.  

A few years ago my husband and I got into an argument because I said something to his mother that he asked me not to.  It was a complete accident, I forgot that he had made that request (which at the time I thought was so stupid!!!)  So by the end of the argument, he was finally able to explain to me that I had actually shamed him.  EWWWW, that felt terrible to me.  The clearer you can be from the get-go, the better.  

When you find yourself in a fight with your partner, put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and start digging around.  You will be far more productive if you can help each other figure out the underlying needs, values and worries.  I would love to hear if any of you can conjure up some stories from your own life where you didn’t do this.  What happened and what do you wish you had done differently?  Please share!

Anatomy of an Argument: Step 3 - Find the Understandable Part

In our series about the anatomy of an argument, we have discussed focusing on your own reactions and avoiding a judgmental attitude. Here is step three:

Finding the understandable part of your partner’s argument can be difficult, especially when you are entrenched in your position.  ‘Find the understandable part’ does not mean agreeing with their view or accepting it as the right one.  It simply means that each of you have legitimate reason for your beliefs.  

Here’s a little example.  My husband and I were having a discussion over a new car I was about to lease.  I can’t even remember the whole fight, and it was a doozy, but the part that I will never forget it this:  at the end of the argument he revealed that he had felt shamed over a certain action I had taken.  The action was telling his mom something I had promised not to but I thought it was so insignificant that I totally forgot, it was an accident.  The argument ended as soon as I understood what had happened for him.  

Don’t let yourself dig your heels in so deep that you refuse to acknowledge the other’s experience.  This will get you nowhere.  You need to find reasons for their actions and beliefs and they need to do the same for you.  This is a 50/50 deal on both sides.  

Consider these scenarios:

  • A terrible day at work, so she comes home already upset
  • Not all pertinent information was given so details are left out
  • One person thinks a word has one meaning and the other thinks something completely different
  • His mind went to the worst case scenario inventing things you never meant or said
  • The issue is likely to be more important to one of you - sometimes it’s nice to give in if you don’t      care that much
  • Our priorities often differ, so try to keep in mind what is important to one won’t be so important to the other
  • Perhaps one of you had felt belittled or dismissed recently

Next time an argument with your partner arises, do your very best to find the understandable part.  Get out of your own way and really look at their point of view and ask yourself if they are truly wrong.  If you loosen up on these issues, your partner is likely to do the same!  Feel free to respond with situations of your own and what you did to work through them with Step 3 in mind!

Please call and make an appointment for couples counseling or couples counseling for one. We look forward to teaching you how to fight fair!

Anatomy of an Argument: Step 2 - Avoid a Judgemental Attitude

We first looked into fighting with your spouse or partner effectively and focusing on your own reactions. Here is step two of the anatomy of an argument:

Do you try to be open minded and flexible when you are at odds with your partner?  Research has shown that those people who are able to remain flexible are more successful at getting their partners to treat them the way they feel they deserve to be treated.  

Most often when we find ourselves in an argument we have competing agendas.  When we find ourselves in this position, we typically end up making the other person “wrong” in one way or another.  A silly example is driving… which lane do you prefer, what speed, what route?  How many of you have been driving and get criticized one way or the other?  Odds are you aren’t doing anything wrong, it is just different from your mate.

Do your best not to jump to negative conclusions regarding your partner.  Instead, it is best to get curious about why they acted they way they did or said what they did.  Automatically assuming the worst is an invitation for your partner to become instantly defensive and angry.  If you want your mate to meet you in the middle, this is a skill you need to master.

Happy couples will get curious before they get defensive.  Next time you find yourself in grid-lock, ask yourself if the other’s actions / beliefs / opinions are really wrong, or just legitimately different than yours.  This is where constructive compromise happens so both parties feel heard and understood.  

Please call me and I will give you all the knowledge I have on fighting fair.  I help couples navigate arguments daily, let me help you, too.

ARE WE FIXABLE or ARE WE F#%&ED???? – 4 things to remember!

In couples counseling, I hear these phrase frequently.

“Can you fix us?”

“Have you seen worse than us?”

“How F#%&ED are we?!?”

Here are 4 things to remember!

  • Nothing is broken.  Ok, yes you have lost trust, you have been unreasonable, etc…  But nobody is broken.  You have reached a new level in your relationship and we need to adjust the sails. This is about compromise, being honest with yourself and your partner, and making your wants and needs overt.  Expecting your partner to be psychic and figure out your needs isn’t going to happen.

  • Do you want to improve things or do you want to stay in power in your relationship? Often, when one partner has been in control and then they relinquish that stance by trying to be more compassionate/understanding/friendly, the other flies in for the coup.  We think this is a great position to occupy, but really it’s the opposite.  When you decide to take over as Captain instead of Teammate, you are making a decision to stay in turmoil.  I totally understand when you have felt so beneath somebody for so long why you would take on the power position, however, the truth is that it just doesn’t serve you.

  • You are only as F#%&ED as you think and act. Couples in my practice who jump in with both feet, who do the work and follow the path set in front of them make huge strides.  Remember that it took you a long time to get to where you are, you need time to back out of that space and make room for a new and improved relationship.  You need very specific tools to rebuild what has been shaken.

  • Are you committed to doing YOUR part to change the way YOU react and engage? If you are able to focus on how you react and engage, you will be far more successful in your relationship compared to others who wait for their partners to change.  You know the saying “be the change you want to see in the world”?  The same holds true in your relationship.

If any of this rings a bell and you would like to make changes or improvements in your relationship, please get in touch.  Rebuilding your relationship – believe it or not – doesn’t have to be a nightmare.  I make a point of bringing levity into sessions, you don’t have to cry your way into happiness. Call today to set up a couples counseling appointment in Denver!

The Cost of Not Standing up For Yourself

You might think that holding your tongue during an argument serves you well.  It might, if you are truly able to let whatever is being said slide off your back and not sweep it under the rug.  For most of us, holding our tongue means something along the lines of “I am going to remember this and bring it up again as ammunition to use against you later!”

For others, not saying anything is a sign that they have difficulty standing up for themselves.  Often this means that the one being silent thinks the other person is controlling and then they end up blaming them somehow. Staying silent won’t make whatever “it” is go away.  It will just build up until you explode in anger or in some other fashion.

In couples counseling, I often see clients who after years of being silent can’t hold it in any longer.  The relationship is on the brink of collapse.

Given the right tools and the formula for how to effectively stand up for themselves, couples learn how to develop the emotional habits that enable them to stand up for themselves without attacking or blaming the other person.  They learn that what used to turn into a meltdown can actually turn into a productive conversation.  It’s so empowering to rise up and flourish instead of fade away during arguments.

Standing up for yourself doesn’t have to be an ugly mess that turns into a showdown with guns loaded.  Getting the right tools is essential for learning how to fight fair and stand up for yourself.

One of the first tools for effectively standing up for yourself is being able to focus on your own reactions by emotionally regulating yourself.  If you let what the other person says trigger the hell out of you, chances are the guns will come out.  Being able to regulate yourself is critical.  You need to learn to breath, stay grounded and focus on what YOU are saying.

There are many tools to help you along the way.  Would you like to learn more?  If you would like to learn how to stand up for yourself effectively, please give me a call.  I would love to hear how you regulate yourself, and please share in the comments section!

Here’s to learning how to fight fair!

20 Reasons to Consider Couples Counseling

Are you considering couples counseling for yourself and your partner? Looking for help is the first step. Here are 20 reasons to consider couples counseling:

  • You keep thinking to yourself that you and your spouse / partner aren’t communicating well. I give you the EXACT couples counseling exercises and techniques you need in order to express yourself effectively.

  • You keep having the same arguments over and over. In couples counseling, we will figure out what habits are sabotaging your efforts and why you aren’t getting your needs met.

  • You can’t remember what the arguing was about in the first place. It started as a complaint about a dirty table and ended up about how you feel totally disrespected!  In this part of couples therapy, we will uncover what your underlying needs are and how you are contributing to the cycle of fighting.

  • You can’t figure out how to phrase something so that the other person can actually hear it, you don’t feel heard. If this is during an argument, it is likely that you are trying to persuade your partner that you are right.  In couples therapy we will explore why this hardly ever works and tell you what you need to do instead.

  • You feel like you walk on egg shells all the time. Couples therapy will help you stand up for yourself effectively while not putting the other person down so they can have an open mind about your point of view.

  • You are constantly wondering if you are living up to their expectations. You don’t have to live up to their expectations!  Those expectations belong to them, not you.

  • You feel like a crappy mom / wife / husband – so much guilt around not being good enough. We will explore why you are good enough right now and how you can feel even better.  You ARE enough.

  • You are wondering where the passion went! This is retrievable, you have to make the time and commitment!  You need to plan, to pay attention and to be active in your relationship.  I will also give you homework assignments to help with the awkwardness!

  • You are having better conversations with friends and coworkers than your spouse / partner. Couples counseling shows you how to reignite that spark and to avoid the temptation of doing it with somebody else.

  • You are avoiding going home because home is actually lonely even though somebody else is in the house. I will show you how to gently reintroduce conversation into the relationship that is completely gentle and reengaging – oh and it’s fun.

  • You need to figure out how to have boundaries in your relationship. Don’t be a doormat and let people walk all over you!

  • You feel bad about getting angry. Anger sets a boundary – couples counseling will show you why this emotion is KEY!

  • Baggage! We all have it.  Couples therapy will show you how to unpack that baggage and leave it in the dust.

  • Only 25% of couples know how to fight fair. Most of us, 75%, are royally screwing this up and were never given the tools we need.  Couples therapy with me will show you the 12 skills you need to join the ranks of the successful couples.

  • There are 4 nails in the coffin for relationships. Defensiveness, contempt, criticism and stonewalling…but one is the deadliest.  Couples counseling will show you how to avoid these relationship killers and give you the antidotes.

  • Most couples don’t realize that their nervous systems are soothed in often opposite ways. What makes one person feel good brings out anxiety in the other.  Couples counseling gives you ways to maintain emotional stability when those anxiety producing moments pop up.

  • We often feel we’re made to be wrong in situations when our partners don’t agree with us. We aren’t wrong, we just have a different viewpoint.  Couples counseling shows you how to react effectively when you feel blamed or when your partner believes you are more to blame.

  • Affairs – this is a biggie. Yes – you can move beyond it.   Yes – you can heal from it.

  • There are 9 emotional habits that will never serve you in a relationship. With over 40 years of research from the top minds in the field, I will show you the 9 habits that you need to say bye-bye to and which habits you want to embrace.

  • Couples therapy can be FUN! Sure there are tough times, but let’s get you back to the place you want to be and to bring the joy back into your relationship.  I give homework and readings to every couple I work with.  These are fun, ego-boosting assignments meant to exercise and build your emotional muscle.

If any of these reasons sound like a good idea to you to consider couple counseling, please call me to set up a first appointment.  Couples counseling and relationship therapy should never be a scary or blaming place.  With me, it is a place to gather all the tools and skills you need to be a member of that 25% that does it right.  Anybody can join that group! Let’s talk today!

How Homework in Couples Counseling Helps Clients Connect

“Your scars are beautiful”

I have couples do weekly homework assignments.  They don’t take long and they are fun.  I explain to couples that just like going to the gym to build up biceps, reconnection doesn’t happen after one visit.  To build the emotional muscles in your brain, you need to exercise them consistently.  Here’s one of the coolest / loveliest / most darling responses to one of the questions asked that I have ever heard.

The statement to reply to is… “I am physically attracted to my partner.  Name one physical attribute you are attracted to.”

He said “I am attracted to so many things about you.  But the things I am most attracted to are your scars.  Your scars are beautiful.  I know what each of them means, I know what how each of them happened.”  These scars – some are small, some are pretty visible – like the one where the tracheotomy was in her neck – have a very intense story behind them.  What could be painful and awkward for her became powerful and intensely meaningful for each of them.  It’s a connection that only they have.

The smallest questions lead to profound answers neither one could ever guess would actually be spoken or written.  Couples therapy isn’t just about clearing the current crisis, it’s about reaching down deep to those astonishing and lovely insights.

I haven’t met a couple yet where AWESOME answers weren’t a part of the process.  If you or your spouse / partner want to uncover some of these touching insights, please get in touch with me and let’s get to work.  And yes, even my really angry couples have those moments where the walls begin to come down after going through these exercises.  EVERYBODY has hope and potential.

At Colorado Couples and Family Therapy, we have use many different resources and couples counseling techniques to aid you in your therapy journey. We are looking forward to working with you! Contact us today.

 

Anatomy of an Argument: Step 1 - When Arguing, First Focus on *Your Own* Reactions

Couples naturally argue and disagree over almost anything you can imagine.

Fighting with your spouse or significant other can be healthy in that you are standing up for yourself and letting your feelings and intentions be known. You are telling your views and opinions. That’s great!  But are you doing this effectively?  In a series of posts I am writing, we will look at the anatomy of an effective and appropriate fight.  In this first post, we dissect why the first step in arguing effectively is focusing on your own reactions.

When we get into an argument, we are presenting our case for why the other person should come over to our side and our way of thinking…because we are more right, right?  WRONG.  In all likelihood, the other person’s opinions and beliefs are just as valid as yours.  HUH?  Yep, if you take a step back and really think about it, they just have a different viewpoint than yours.  You might not like or agree with that viewpoint, but it isn’t necessarily wrong.  Right?  People show up in the world in all sorts of different ways and you can’t make somebody wrong because they disagree with you.  The only thing you accomplish is that both of you will end up digging your heels in deeper. You each get more and more defensive.  When we get defensive, we slip into our bad habits and then we are off and running.

The first step in a successful disagreement is to focus on your own reactions.  If you can do this, you will automatically help manage the other person.  If you come out with guns blazing, you are instantly pushing all the buttons of the other person.  Their defenses will naturally go up and you have now created the perfect storm.  Want to know a better way?

In order to get somebody to listen to your opinion, you need to make sure you are acting in ways that are optimal for this to happen.  You want to get your way, right?  You must make sure you are coming to the table as calm as you can be with a tone and facial expression that isn’t off-putting. If you don’t, good luck.  Take a few minutes prior to engaging and take a few deep breaths.  Tell yourself that you are going to engage in this process in a calm and collected way.  You have valid points and the other person probably has some, too.  If you head into the conversation with an all-or-nothing-your-way-only attitude, they will sense this immediately and nobody will get their needs met.  Make it easy for your spouse or partner to give you exactly what you want!

Always remember that if you manage yourself, you manage the other.  In the next post we will explore how to avoid a judgmental attitude, the second habit that all successful couples have in their back pocket.


Here’s to fighting effectively!  Please call me and I will give you all the knowledge I have on fighting fair.  I help couples navigate arguments daily, let me help you, too.

Men and Machismo and Therapy, Men LOVE Therapy

Calling all Machismo...Listen up

I have this fantastic pair I am working with in couples therapy.  These two – in the beginning – and I am NOT exaggerating, could hardly say one sentence without the other one jumping all over them.  True story.

Today they are in session and he is telling me how mortified he was coming into my office for the first session.  To him, it meant failure and he (and I quote) “doesn’t fail”.  This is a guy who wakes up every morning and declares himself a winner in the mirror ( I LOVE THIS!!!).  He’s a very successful businessman who I imagine is definitely in charge at work and his tone is BIG.  She is soft spoken and had trouble standing up for herself because she put everybody else first.  She is certainly not a pushover, rather a care-taker who put herself and her spouse second or third on the list of importance.  They each had their faults.  While I was definitely concerned about these two, I also saw the passion that they have for each other, their careers and those they love.  Even when they were seriously pissed off at each other, they were holding hands.  It was sort of like, I am so pissed off at you and terrified of losing you at the same time… so don’t let go.

As for the “failure”, now he “loves” coming in and talking and these two are doing fantastic.  I felt like I really pushed both of them during one of our sessions and I seriously wondered if they would be back.  I wondered about these two all week long.

Hooray!  Each one stepped up in a way they had never done before.  Both gave something that they were terrified of giving.  Once they gave, the other softened.  They each now had some really good faith that the other was all-in, no going back.  That’s all they needed was to know that 100% the other wasn’t taking off and that they were secure with each other.

They have civil arguments now, they each know their growing edges and where they still need to do the work.  She brings in the couples manual every week and shows where she has fallen short and where her work is still in progress.  I love this story because I have only seen them XX times.  Therapy doesn’t have to be some year-long process.  When you commit and dig in you are in control.  I want you to be in control and I want you to get your power back.

Let me help you get the control back in your relationship, for each of you, asap.  You can come in by yourself or with a partner.   Why won’t many men come in for therapy? Because they feel like they have failed. Failure is NOT coming in, so be a winner 😉 Call me asap

Couples therapy is a winner’s game.