I sometimes hear clinicians saying, “I’m not sure that the Oral History Interview is a useful way to begin couples therapy”; or “Couples don’t want to talk about their history, they want to get straight into resolving conflict”. This is certainly not my experience. The Oral History Interview generally helps the couple to put their current issues into a larger perspective. I often hear couples say, “You know as we talk about this I’m realising that we have had a pretty good relationship”; or “Things between us have generally been good”. Of course there are also those who say things like “I’m really not sure why we stayed together.”
The term ‘Marriage Sabbatical’ was first coined by Cheryl Jarvis in her book The Marriage Sabbatical. The idea is that individuals in long term relationships be able to support each other to take time away from their daily routines to nurture their own creative, intellectual, or spiritual strengths in order to become fully expressed human beings.
According to research conducted by neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, there are seven distinct “emotional command systems” believed to be present in each person’s brain. Each command system coordinates the emotional, behavioral, and physical responses needed for certain functions related to survival, including rest, procreation, and self-defense.
John Gottman has given these systems descriptive labels to help us understand how each one functions. As he explains in The Relationship Cure, acknowledging emotional similarities and differences in your relationships is an important part of bidding and responding to bids for emotional connection.
Tom and Evette presented for therapy 8 weeks after Tom had discovered that Evette had been involved with another man from her workplace. At the time of their presentation Evette has refused to discuss the affair with Tom, simply saying that “It’s over, stop going on about it.” Tom is understandably angry and hostile towards Evette. He is frustrated that Evette will not discuss the affair saying frequently, “I have a right to know!” Tom has hundreds of questions that he wants answers to while Evette is “scared” to talk about it because she is sure talking about it will make things worse.
As most couples begin to address the consequences of an affair their relationship does not feel safe and trust is completely destroyed. It is therefore critical that therapists working with these clients create a safe, trusting environment for them firstly in the therapy room and eventually in their own homes.
Marathon Therapy is fast becoming one of the most popular and successful approaches to helping couples through relationship crisis. It is an approach that I would recommend for all couples presenting with significant relationship distress. Marathon Therapy usually consists of 2 to 5 consecutive days of intense, structured, evidence based couples therapy. Marathon Couples' Therapy is a specific type of therapy that is short-term and intensive. Its purpose is to move couples quickly through their current crisis or specific perpetual issue. It is not meant as an on-going, long-term couples' therapy.
It’s an all too familiar scenario.
You excitedly bring home your first baby, full of love, hope and anticipation – only to find that by bringing a new little person into your relationship, your own partnership begins to deteriorate. In fact, research has shown that most new parents will experience a huge increase in arguing and fighting during the first weeks and months of becoming a family. This in turn leads to almost 70% of new parents becoming permanently unhappy within their relationship.
There are many reasons for this potential drop in happiness, but today we are exploring the role that intimacy and sex has during your transition to parenthood – and how this can effect the long-term success of your relationship.
This is a question that is frequently asked of therapists by media. It turns out that couples are mostly fighting about “absolutely nothing”, according to Dr John Gottman. In his research with over 3,000 couples Dr Gottman observed thousands of hours of couples fighting and what he came to see was that couples think they are fighting about wet towels on the floor, or messy kitchens, or a million other day to day things; but what they are actually fighting about is the way they think they are being treated!
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a clinician tell me they treat all their gay and straight couples ‘the same’ I’d be a rich man. Although it’s totally true that same-sex couples bring many of the same issues to their therapist’s offices, working with gender and sexually diverse individuals in relationships is anything but the same as working with their heteronormative counterparts.
For many of us Christmas is an important annual ritual of connection, but the way we celebrate Christmas can vary considerably. For some couples Christmas can be a deeply spiritual and very personal experience that draws them closer together. For others Christmas can be a source of tension, conflict and misery. Dr John Gottman found in his research looking at what made relationships work that couples who had developed a culture rich with symbols and rituals and an appreciation for the roles and goals that link them together had much more stable and satisfying relationships.
While Christmas has a reputation for good cheer and joy, it is also the most stressful month of the year for couples, according to Seddons, a law firm in the UK. They report in their 2011 study of 3000 couples that more arguments occur during the month of December than at any other time of the year. It was reported that the average couple has 4 arguments a day during December, or a total of 124 arguments over the month.
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