Archive for Couples Counseling

It Happens All the Time in Heaven

One of the things that hap­pens in rela­tion­ships that cre­ates dis­con­nec­tion from each oth­er is too much focus on what is irri­tat­ing us about the oth­er per­son — and let­ting them know. It’s impor­tant to feel safe enough and take the time to talk about what’s both­er­ing us. It’s also impor­tant to let the oth­er know what you appre­ci­ate. Having an atti­tude of look­ing for ways to be kind and appre­ci­at­ing the ways your part­ner is being kind can help shift the focus to a more pos­i­tive one.

A poem by Hafiz about kind­ness, “As It Is in Heaven” touch­es me deeply. I occa­sion­al­ly share it with cou­ples as some­thing to remem­ber and aspire to. I think if we woke up every day and thought about this as an inten­tion­al way to be with our part­ners — or with every­one real­ly — our rela­tion­ships would be more mean­ing­ful.

It hap­pens all the time in Heaven,
And some day it will begin to hap­pen
Again on Earth –

That men and women
Who give each oth­er light,
Often will get down on their knees

And, with tears in their eyes,
Will sin­cere­ly speak, say­ing,

My dear,
How can I be more lov­ing to you,
How can I be more kind?”

—Hafiz

What’s Preventing You and Your Partner from Connecting More Deeply with Each Other?

If you rec­og­nize that you tend to be self-critical (as most of us are), chang­ing that can address neg­a­tive pat­terns in your rela­tion­ship. It is easy to feel dis­ap­point­ed and dis­con­nect­ed with our part­ners and as a result become crit­i­cal of our part­ners and con­se­quent­ly of our­selves. Kristen Neff describes why that hap­pens:

Because self-critics often come from unsup­port­ive fam­i­ly back­grounds, they tend not to trust oth­ers and assume that those they care about will even­tu­al­ly try to hurt them. This cre­ates a steady state of fear that caus­es prob­lems in inter­per­son­al inter­ac­tions. For instance, research shows that high­ly self-critical peo­ple tend to be dis­sat­is­fied in their roman­tic rela­tion­ships because they assume their part­ners are judg­ing them as harsh­ly as they judge them­selves. The mis­per­cep­tion of even fair­ly neu­tral state­ments as dis­parag­ing often leads to over­sen­si­tive reac­tions and unnec­es­sary con­flicts. This means that self-critics often under­mine the close­ness and sup­port­ive­ness in rela­tion­ships that they so des­per­ate­ly seek.” ― Kristin NeffSelf-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind

Attachment Theory

Attachment TheoryI want­ed to share this arti­cle on Attachment Theory and its sig­nif­i­cance to adult rela­tion­ships. It’s impor­tant to under­stand how the rela­tion­ship you have with your par­ents as a child affects your abil­i­ty to be in a healthy rela­tion­ship lat­er.

A secure attach­ment changes the way a baby sees the world because they learn that they’re not alone,” author Sue Johnson says. “Adults are the same. A sense of con­nec­tion changes one of the most basic ele­ments of the brain, which is how you per­ceive threat. It changes the world into a safer world.”

Clinical Psychologist Sue Johnson is the author of Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships.

Check out Relationships First for more arti­cles on build­ing healthy rela­tion­ships.

What Couples Who Stay Together Do Differently from Couples Who Don’t

Open and Honest Communication

What Couples Who Stay Together Do Differently

  • Talk and con­nect every day
  • Practice lis­ten­ing with the intent to under­stand
  • Work at under­stand­ing their partner’s world
  • Show respect rather than con­tempt
  • Assume their part­ner has a legit­i­mate point of view
  • Ask them­selves, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to hap­py?”

Everyday Demonstration of Caring Behaviors

Find out their partner’s “love lan­guage” and which of the fol­low­ing he/she needs to feel loved, then prac­tice doing them.

  • Words of affir­ma­tion
  • Spending qual­i­ty time
  • Doing acts of ser­vice
  • Giving phys­i­cal touch
  • Giving gifts

Ask their part­ner:

What is one thing I could do dif­fer­ent­ly that would make the biggest dif­fer­ence to you?”

Tell their part­ner:

Something that would make me hap­py is…”

Relationship Inventory

Take Time to Talk Intimately with Your Partner

Relationship Satisfaction Inventory

Happy CoupleFill out this inven­to­ry and give it to your part­ner to do the same. Then set aside some time to com­pare and talk about how each of you has rat­ed each cat­e­go­ry. Look for the strengths in your rela­tion­ship as well as iden­ti­fy the areas that could be enhanced, to make this the kind of rela­tion­ship you would like it to be. Set a goal togeth­er to make this hap­pen.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being very unsat­is­fied and 10 being very sat­is­fied, rate each of the fol­low­ing:

  • Communication skills
  • Creative use of conflict/crisis
  • Common goals and val­ues … what are they?
  • Agreement on gen­der roles
  • Cooperation and team­work
  • Sexual ful­fill­ment
  • Money man­age­ment
  • Commitment to growth, yours and the rela­tion­ship
  • Giving and receiv­ing appre­ci­a­tion and affec­tion
  • Time togeth­er
  • Family mat­ters … par­ents, in-laws, chil­dren
  • Decision mak­ing skills