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Premarital Counseling Tip #3

April 25th, 2013

 

In the first “Premarital Counseling” blog I discussed how couples nervous systems and hearts electromagnetically “wire together”. In the last blog, I discussed the importance of choosing love and committing to repairing any injuries with your partner. I wrote about common roadblocks to “repair” and the need of a commitment to the concept of “mutuality.”

In this “Premarital Counseling” blog, I will elaborate on how one creates “mutuality.” I will also discuss three of the common counter positions that lead to the opposite effect – relational distress.

 

Premarital Counseling Gift #3, Repair Part Two: Creating The Win-Win.

When it comes to “repair”, successful couples fully understand that they are “tethered” to each other. That sense of “togetherness” provides a powerful resource for providing a sense of security, comfort, and confidence with which to face the world. If they present themselves as “antagonists”, they must understand that there is never a true winner in an argument. If one goes down, both go down.

 

“What is good for me must also be good for you.”

                                                                       – Stan Tatkin

 

I love this quote by Stan Tatkin. It is a perfect mantra for mutuality. Compare it to these other three statements:

  • “What’s good for me is whatever is good for you.
  • “Because it is good for me, that must mean it is good for you.”
  • “You do what is good for you and I’ll do what is good for me.”

 

In the first statement, there is a lack of recognition of Self. The person has somehow learned that their needs and desires are secondary to the needs and desires of the other. Sometimes to the point that they are no longer even aware of their own needs. They thus organize their sense of selfhood around the needs of another. These people lack sufficient differentiation, the ability to maintain a sense of Self and Other when you are in close relationship. This is the common position of the “co-dependent personality”.

In the second statement there is also an absence of differentiation between Self and Other, but in the opposite direction…lack of recognition of Other. This type of person struggles with accepting the possibility that their point of view isn’t necessarily the “right” point of view or the only point of view. This type of thinking often shows up in the heat of battle, but it can also be one of the major underlying dynamics in the relationship leading to marital discord.

The third stance outwardly prioritizes differentiation, but at the expensive of connection… lack of recognition of Relationship. Thus, while it may appear differentiated it is actually pseudo-individualization as a coping strategy for the inability to successfully navigate differences between Self and Other. These people often feel walled off and emotionally inaccessible to their partners. Because they are more “self-contained”, they can easily fool themselves into thinking they are more “put together” than their perceived “irrational” partners. The truth is, these people are “self-contained” because they never learned how to depend on someone in a healthy way in their childhood. They are thus limited to “auto-regulation” and lack the ability to participate in “co-regulation,” an essential part of mutuality.

“Mutuality”, on the other hand, is a commitment to the “Win-Win” resolution. It is the ability to hold Self, Other, and Relationship as equally important entities. When there is discord in the relationship, mutuality allows us openly examine each side of the equation and negotiate a solution that is fair and just for each person.

Successful couples embrace this concept and are mutually committed to protecting the fact and importance of their relationship even in times of distress. They know that if anyone’s feelings are left unattended to that the relationship and both parties in it will ultimately suffer.

Learn to see each other’s points of view. When someone feels hurt take the time to really get clear with each other about what the behaviors or interpretations of those behaviors meant to each other. And most importantly, hold a sense of compassion for the struggle that you and your partner face in learning how to deal with differences and disappointments.

 

Here’s an example:

During an argument, couples are often unconsciously organized around perceived threat – something they need will not be given or some thing undesirable is being imposed. Typical examples, “He/she never understands my pain and continues to ignore my needs and feelings.” Or, “He/she always attacks me for not being enough and I never feel accepted for who I am.”

Action:

  1. Take some time to slow down. Breathe!
  2. Shift your focus from threat to friendliness.
  3. Take time to think about what it is you both really need from each other? What is the real issue?
  4. Take responsibility to make the necessary repairs.

 

Premarital Counseling Tip #2

April 1st, 2013

 

Welcome to the second edition of the Premarital Counseling Blog. I hope you enjoyed last month’s blog on electromagnetic attunement. The next two articles will examine the concepts of commitment to “repair” and commitment to “mutuality” in maintaining a healthy relationship. 

 

Premarital Counseling Tip #2: Repair Part One, Choosing Love

Knowing how to “repair” with your partner after an emotional injury is an essential element to a healthy relationship. It is not only an act of atonement; it is a re-attunement and demonstration of our “caring about” and our “feelings of importance” towards our partner. In fact, “repair” is so important… studies have shown that it is the lack of “repair”, not the original injurious incident that causes the most damage to the individual and the couple’s relationship.

Couples often struggle to create repair. One common sticking point is when both people feel hurt and the need to be listened to… but both feel too hurt to listen to the other. This involves a loss of mutuality – an inability to find the place in relationship in which the couple can hold compassion for both you and me. A common concern I hear in session is, “If I attend to his/her pain then I have to ignore my pain or needs.” Again, this is an either-or mindset rather than embracing the concept of “mutuality.” It simply indicates that the couple has not learned to hold each other’s pain and needs together as a team. The good news is that this is a skill that can be learned but needs to be practiced. If you have trouble creating this together, it is something that a trained professional can help you achieve.

Another sticking point in creating repair is feeling too upset or hurt to want to repair. There are all sorts of reasons why couples hold on to their pain or resentment. You have to realize though, that this is your life! You can either hold on to pain and/or fear, or you can choose love. Either way, it is ultimately up to you. How many times have you thought to yourself after a fight, “Well that was stupid! Why did we fight about that?” Normally (not always) it does not feel good to fight. Most couples regret getting caught up in a fight after all the dust settles. I am also not suggesting you abandon your hurts and needs. I am suggesting that you can choose to treat each other with love while discussing things that bother you at the same time. I am also suggesting that choosing love is a choice. If you make it dependent on someone else’s behavior, you are not taking responsibility for your life and your behaviors.

Here is an example of making an “offer for repair“:

“Wait a minute, honey. I know that you’re (upset/hurt/etc.) I’m starting to feel really triggered. I don’t want to fight with you about this. I love you too much. Can we slow down and try to figure out how we got off track… together?”

 

Notice that the example includes simple sentences, creating:

  1. A boundary
  2. Empathy for the other (first)
  3. Empathy for the self
  4. Commitment to the relationship/love
  5. An invitation into mutuality.

 

Remember, fights often involve one-sided argument, blame, defensiveness, needing to be right, and other losing strategies. Successful couples understand the need to commit to being in each other’s care. They are committed to the need to protect their relationship first and foremost!

 “Thou shalt correct all errors…and not make dispute of who was the original perpetrator.”

–       Stan Tatkin

 

 

Premarital Counseling Tips #1

March 20th, 2013

I have recently launched a new premarital counseling and maintenance program. One of the tragedies of my profession is that couples wait too long before coming in for help. They show up with so much pain and resentment from years of fighting or disconnection that it is extremely difficult to repair or re-open lines of communication.  Much of the damage could have been avoided by an earlier effort to seek out professional counseling.

I have written a six-part blog series to share some of the common insights I discuss with premarital couples who want to safe guard their relationship. Help spread the word. Please feel free to forward this information to anyone you know who is planning on getting married or just got married (even the starry-eyed couples), or anyone else who might benefit from this information. Thank you.

 

Premarital Counseling Tip #1, The Limbic Brain and the Heart

Our ability to give, receive and feel love is governed by the limbic portion of our brain (the emotional center) and the heart. Scientists have shown that both the brain and the heart attune themselves to the energetic fields of the brains and hearts of those around us. This means, whatever we are feeling, our brain and our heart create an electromagnetic frequency that is then perceived by the brains and hearts of those around us. This is particularly true with the heart. One of my favorite books on the Heart as an organ of perception is The Secrete Teaching of Plants by Stephen Buhner.

This electromagnetic resonance between people can even occur at a distance. Studies have demonstrated that even when two people are in different rooms, if one person is shown an emotionally evocative image, both people register a predictable electromagnetic frequency on devises such as EEG’s and EKG’s.

As a Couples Therapist, I’ve seen many examples of how deeply a couple “wires together.” There is a nonverbal dance that occurs (or is absent) between a couple that operates far beneath their level of true consciousness. For instance, have you ever seen a couple sitting at a booth at a restaurant and under the table (outside of their visual fields) their feet are wiggling in perfect synchrony with each other? We call this “tail waging.” This unconscious synchronization occus frequently in couples therapy.

While most of this synchronization goes on whether we recognize (like) it or not, couples can use this knowledge to their advantage through intentionally developing and engaging with each other with emotional intimacy. In my free report on successful couples, I discuss several ways couples can strengthen and utilize emotional connection to strengthen and enhance their relationship. (You can download this report for free when you sign up for the Couples Connection newsletter.

Remember, emotions are electromagnetically “contagious”! Your brains and hearts will “wire” together. Learn to recognize and choose moments of loving connection. Relationships are meant to enhance our lives and help us grow. Keep in mind… emotional intimacy is the most pleasurable when we learn to properly meet each other with all the flavors of emotion – joy (mutual celebration), sorrow (compassionate presence), fear (comfort and reassurance), and even anger (care and understanding).

 

Helpful Hint:

  • Make sure you take time to relax together. Life can be very stressful.  Long term or extreme stress is inherently damaging to our health and sense of wellbeing. Everybody knows the importance of stress management. Not everybody knows how to best utilize their relationship as a power resource for stress reduction.
  • Learn to tolerate feelings of sadness by simply offering your compassion. Sadness does not need to be fixed. It needs to be “cared for”. Practice compassion with each other.
  • While keeping in contact through phone calls and text is helpful, long distance “mechanical” connections are insufficient.  Face to face, eye to eye, and belly to belly connections have a profound effect on our nervous system, our blood chemistry, and our ability to attunement to one another. Hug belly to belly until you feel each other relax. Frequently gaze into each other’s eyes. This may be uncomfortable at first, but it is well worth the effort in the long run.
  • Make sure to take time to laugh and play together. Every moment of positive interactions builds “credit” in the “love bank.” Keeping your love bank in the black is important for when you get on each other’s nerves. And let’s be honest, you will get on each other’s nerves.

 

“Laughter may be the shortest distance between two brains.”

– Daniel Goleman

 

 

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