On this Valentine’s day eve, I’m thinking of those couples whose disconnection is weighing even more heavily. As if the daily reminders weren’t hard enough, this holiday can a quite the twist of the knife. I trust that you can find countless articles about the 10 special ways to celebrate Valentine’s day, but when you are sitting in disconnection it can be a real challenge to get through the day. Here is some perspective from a couples therapist.
Identifying your defenses that guard against some underlying uncomfortable feelings is very important if you want to break the negative cycle you are caught in together. There are four key defenses that we use; John Gottman refers to them as “The Four Horsemen.” They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. They are interconnected and build on each other. The good news is that once you recognize them in yourself, you can do something about it.
Parenting stress and the fall-out from it is one of the many reasons why couples seeks therapy. When I work with couples/parents, I often remind them that going through these challenges together will only reinforce their bond and commitment. Here are a few strategies to cope with the stress of parenthood.
Transitioning to parenthood is one of the greatest challenges that most couples face. We read every book available about the growing baby, research the best cribs or nursery accessories, but don't take the time to talk and prepare for how becoming parents will affect the relationship. Here are three signs that parenting stress is affecting your relationship/marriage
And yet, what often brings couples to counseling are those very changes that seem so intolerable and unexpected: "He's so irresponsible with money", "She's so disorganized", "He's so illusive, I can't seem to get a straight answer from him", "She flirts with other people" .... And in the sea of complaints and finger-pointing, deep down I know that most of the complaints are not truly surprises once the person starts to think about how their partner was when they first got together.
Based on the research of Dr. John Gottman and his famous Marriage Clinic, couples wait on average of 6 years from the time marital tensions began to the time they seek professional help. So between our misconceptions of who, why couples seek therapy, along with our apparent ability to tolerate a least 6 years worth of marital disconnection, when is actually a good time to seek couples therapy before it's too late? Here are a few pointers.
All relationships entail some degree of power dynamics. If you're in a marriage where things are relatively equal (either you agree on almost every decision or you have consciously agreed that you will each have your departments of decision-making power) then you're not feeling a constant push and pull. But I see a lot couples with power imbalances that can become real relationship killers.
One of my favorite aspects of providing couples therapy is the individual growth that I see in my clients. Clients come in for their relationship and midway through then process, they end up with so much insight into their respective individual stories to find compassion for each other. Because we define ourselves in and through relationships, couples counseling is actually an ideal venue through which we can learn to undo our life long defenses and become the best versions of ourselves we can be.