Couples Counseling

Be the Mirror

I know you’ve all heard the great Ghandi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.  And I whole heartedly believe it.  I believe that you have 8000 times more power to influence change when you’re doing it too!

But if you need one quote that packs a bit more punch to realize the power of influencing change, here it is: “If you want to be successful, focus on your own sh*t!”

We have to accept that our greatest power to influence change, especially in our relationships is by doing it first!

Is Couples Therapy Where Relationships Go To Die?

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

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

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

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

PreCommunication

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

Sounds silly, right?

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

Losing Our Needs

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

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

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

Love on the Brain

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

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

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

Me Too Syndrome

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

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

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

Game Night

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

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

Needing to Be Right Leaves Us Nowhere But Alone

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

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

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

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

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

Circumstantial Evidence

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

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

The Gap Between Our Ideal Marriage And Our Actual Marriage.

Social media is a phenomenon that I find endlessly fascinating.  It’s amazing the “version” of your friend’s relationship you can buy into if you’re only going off their Instagram pics.  It can create this growing pressure to put out your own polished version of love and while also rattling your confidence in your real relationship.

 

You see, when you look around, people are usually sharing examples of ideal relationships, not what they really look like behind closed doors. Whether it’s social media, movies or your own internal expectations, there can often be a gap between your ideal marriage and your actual one.

Are You Making Decisions Based On Your Past Or Present?

I’ve been diving into all sorts of different learning these past few months and challenging myself to learn from other helpers and healers, not just other therapists.  In order to be the most dynamic helper to the folks I work with, I feel it’s my role to also challenge myself to hear other voices and perspectives, especially when it comes to all things love.

 

I was watching a webinar by a woman who does energy healing through flower essences…(told you I was expanding my learning)….and she was sharing about this continual pattern we get stuck in of making decisions based on the past, not the present. 

What If We’re Just Broken Together?

There’s this beautiful song by Casting Crowns, Broken Together, that I can’t stop listening to.  There’s so many messages in the song, but the one I can’t shake is this beautiful message of being able to last forever because we’re broken together.

 

Holy powerful song folks (I linked it at the bottom).

 

I believe that we live in a culture that glorifies wholeness to a fault.  It leads you to believe that the only way things last, is if they’re perfect.  That damage, pain, betrayal, injury are things that you can’t ever heal in love. 

 

Mud On The Tires

I grew up in a small farming town in California and my Dad used to always say “Never trust a farmer with clean boots”.  His theory was real work means we’re gettin’ a little muddy.

               

With that being said, it isn’t surprising that I married a hard working boy from Northern Idaho or that country music makes me nostalgic for home.  Or that the site of muddy boots always makes me smile.  

I Want The Kind Of Relationship That Makes My Kids Want To Fall In Love.

After hearing a friend talk the other day about the ups and downs of relationships and how having kids intensifies both the good and bad in our love relationships, I started thinking about my own marriage and what I want my kids to see and experience since they’re truly tiny observers of my husband and I’s relationship.

                              

We all know that children are sponges and soak up what we say and do, even when we’re not meaning for them to be lurking in the corners of the room.  As parents, we have a great responsibility to be models to our kids for what love should look like.  We also carry the responsibility of finding a way to interact in a healthy and respectful manner even if you’ve decided to part ways.

Let It Be About Each Other.

Valentines is fast approaching and I feel like it’s one of our most controversial holidays….well besides whether the day after Super Bowl should be a National Holiday, but that’s a debate for another blog post.

 

Celebrating Valentine’s Day feels like it has become polarizing because of this expectation for it to be a big to-do with grand gestures while potentially neglecting the importance of small but consistent acts of love throughout the year.

What’s Your Relationship Word?

In doing this exercise, I realized that my professional words for 2016 are the same as my personal.  Because in my marriage, I want to practice abundance.  I want to find the good, even when I’m in a sour mood. I want to slow down and show gratitude.  I want to focus on abundance because I want to be intentional about creating a large amount of love and joy around me.

Are You Suffering From The HYPE This Season?

But not buying into the HYPE is really a year round battle.  I realize that the holiday season can be more intense to resist the HYPE, but it’s always around.  We’re constantly having to work to shift the focus to the right stuff.

Because the HYPE actually disconnects us.  

You see the most successful we can be in love is when we’re focused on prioritizing the right things.  Quality time, patience, laughter, sex, kindness, adventures. You know, the right stuff.

Taken or Taking....Can We Change The Tides in Love?

But I want to flip the coin here, so stick with me for a second.  Now one of the things I’m always curious about when I’m working with couples is how they’re showing up in love. When I say “showing up”, I mean how are you behaving, acting, talking, etc? What are the ways that you create disconnection or trample connection between the two of you?  Are you sharing or withholding? Are you reaching out or shutting down?  How are you showing up?

But It Worked On The Playground!

Because as a couple’s therapist, I know that long term I’m setting up my kids to fail if I tell them to “shake it off “or “don’t let it bother you” or any of those other things we may have heard growing up.

I know that the hard shell they may need to survive on the playground is actually one that’s going to do them a disservice in relationships down the road.