The last few decades of human research have clearly demonstrated to us how inescapably relational and interconnected people are, however, most therapists still primarily work with individuals, most of whom present with serious, persistent problems in their intimate relationships.
Part of the reason is that many clients themselves avoid couples therapy. Sometimes they resist because they aren’t sure if they want to stay in the relationship, they are ambivalent and perhaps hope to get some clarity from seeing a therapist individually.
Sometimes they fear the unpleasant things their partner might say about them or they are scared about how volatile things might get if they raise issues they are unhappy about with their partner present. Sometimes the thought of really talking about what’s not working in their relationship feels too hard and there is not enough safety or trust in their relationship for them to allow themselves to become vulnerable about their hurts in front of their partner.
The holiday season can be a wonderful opportunity to take time out from the stressors of daily life, the pressures of work, the never-ending list of tasks and duties and to connect with your partner, children, family and friends. The holiday season is much anticipated and highly valued by many. It is the end of one year and beginning of another. A time for reflection on the past, a time for planning for the future and importantly a time to be present with the important people in your world. The holiday season can often be rich with rituals that bring people together, sharing experiences, traditions and connections.
It is also true that the holiday season can be a very difficult time where relationships can become strained and disconnected, where expectations and ideals are not discussed or shared, where miscommunication and tension can arise.
What is your partners favourite song? Favourite Ice Cream flavour, flower, sports team, movie, holiday destination, their favourite memory in your relationship, their birthday, anniversaries?
Do you know these answers about your partner in the present moment?
John and Julie Gottman call this Building Love Maps.
Just because you have had a baby, doesn’t mean that the universe will give you a break and put a hold on all of the external stresses that happen as a part of everyday life! In fact, all of the same challenges are still there once you become parents, but once you have a baby, your conversations with one another can tend to become 100% baby focused – and all other issues take a back seat.
So, when stressful situations that happen outside the home are continually not acknowledged or discussed, they can cause a build-up of anxiety, anger and withdrawal amongst couples – even though the situations did not originally involve them AS a couple, the fallout of not talking about them certainly can BECOME a relationship issue!
Most people would agree that heartbreak is the worst kind pain to experience. There is no easy medical intervention that will help. That dull, chronic pain feels like it is with you everywhere you go, and it can hit you like a kick in the guts at seemingly random moments when you are least expecting it. It is often at the core of your thoughts, and typically haunts you right before you go to sleep and the moment you wake up.
The problem is that most people don’t process their emotional pain.
I can’t tell you how many times we get asked for advice about how to make your relationship a success. Questions like: “If you could only identify one thing that makes relationships work, what would that be?” Of course, this is a trap, as there is simply not one strategy alone to make a relationship successful. Relationships need to work on multiple levels simultaneously. Couples need to continuously work on their friendship system building a strong sense of really being known by each other, being there for each other in small and significant times. Couples need to manage conflict with a sense of curiosity, that conflict is an opportunity to learn about each other. Conflict that is done with gentleness and respect is critical to a successful relationship. Relationships need to have meaningful rituals of connection and a mission for the future where dreams and goals are understood, shared and supported. However, if I was pushed to answer the question above, I would probably say that a critical aspect of relationship success is to know, understand and honour your partners dreams. To be in sync with your partners life long journey and to support their dreams and aspirations, journeying through life, sharing and supporting each other’s dreams is a wonderful gift.
Conflict, from mild disagreements to awful battles, from conversations about different perspectives to vilifying one other, from stony silence to screaming matches. The term conflict can mean many different things; from a pathway to understanding and accepting one another more to a way to build negative affect and sentiment. Your perspective on conflict is just so important in shaping the future of your relationship. Do you view conflict and the expression of negative emotions such as hurt and frustration as a sign of an ailing relationship, as something that should be avoided, retreated from or indeed rallied against or do you view relationship conflicts as inevitable and simply part of the couple’s landscape that needs to be understood and worked with? It is the latter view that John Gottman found in his many years of research that promotes relationship satisfaction and stability.
A harsh startup is when one partner brings up an issue and uses criticism and contempt to get their point across. Using Harsh Startups are one of the indicators of a failing relationship, the more often you use them the more damaging they are and the higher your probability of relationship demise.
Many studies have shown that whilst having a baby is often viewed as one to the most joyful events in a couple’s lifetime, the very act of becoming a family can also be the beginning of their relationship unhappiness.
According to Gottman research, a staggering 67% of couples become discontent with each other during the first 3 years of baby’s life, leaving only 33% that remain satisfied during the transition to parenthood and beyond. Exhaustion, hormonal changes, anxiety about baby, a loss of libido and added family pressures are all challenges that can confuse and overwhelm even the strongest of relationships. So here are 5 simple tips to help every new parent stay connected as a couple, instead of just becoming a ‘couple of parents’
Do you feel like your arguments come out of nowhere?
And sometimes you can’t remember what you were fighting about - but it gets nasty and hurtful!
Communication break-down happens when you allow the four horsemen - criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling to enter your relationship.
DR John Gottman found through his research - these four things were the most reliable predictors a divorce was inevitable.
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