Managing Emotions

How to Get the Most From Your Couples Therapy

Couples are often uncertain what to expect from the process of couples therapy. They are not sure of what to expect of the therapist or even if the therapist has any expectations of them. I have found most couples approach therapy with the notion that each person will describe their distress and somehow the therapist will assist them to create a happier, more functional, relationship. They expect to learn some new or better skills. However, most people hope their partner will do most of the learning in problem areas. After 30 years of clinical experience and specializing in working with thousands of couples, I have arrived at some guidelines that can make our work more effective. First, I do have some expectations of you. I am not neutral. I have evolved principles and concepts that I believe give us the greatest chance for success.

Stress-Free Valentine’s Day

  Less Stress & More Fun Holidays can sometimes be stressful for couples—especially Valentine’s Day. One partner may be imagining something very specific to celebrate the day. The other partner may not have a clue of what that thing is. The result can be disappointment and confusion. Rather than hurt feelings and a Valentine’s Day gone sideways, take steps to create a relaxed and fun celebration with your beloved. What Would Your Partner Like? Take the stress out of Valentine’s Day by having a conversation about it. You can ask your sweetheart, “What do you think you might enjoy for Valentine’s Day?” Find out if they are hoping for a special gift.… Read more... “Stress-Free Valentine’s Day”

Combat holiday stress with this brain hack

It’s common knowledge that the holidays can be stressful for lots of people. Some of the stress comes from feeling overwhelmed by the added projects, tasks, expenses and other obligations of the season. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed balancing expectations of different family members. Or you’re frustrated trying to make everyone happy. Another kind of stress comes from other people in the extra social interactions and gatherings. Maybe you’re caught off guard by zingers from a supporter of the “other” political party. Or you’re stuck in conversation with the brother-in-law who criticizes everybody for something – and you for everything.… Read more... “Combat holiday stress with this brain hack”

Has your spouse cheated on you?

…a starting point for overcoming the pain of infidelity. Holy #@%!, I don’t need to tell you about the anguish you’re going through if you've discovered your partner cheated. Most couples don’t have a “no cheat” agreement. It is simply assumed you won’t lie about who you are with and what you are doing. The discovery feels like getting hit in the stomach by a cinder block flying at the speed of sound. Suddenly it feels like your relationship was built on a pile of broken stones. What’s real? What can you believe? You wonder if you are crazy. (You’re not.) You wonder if you should stay or go. You contemplate the painful uncertainties of any decision you make.… Read more... “Has your spouse cheated on you?”

My Marriage Is Like a Bunch of Rhinos

White rhinocerosEllyn and I have a special interest in Africa. We’ve been fortunate to travel there a few times, building classrooms in refugee camps and sometimes even going on safaris. On our last African safari I discovered the correlation between rhinos and my marriage.… Read more... “My Marriage Is Like a Bunch of Rhinos”

A Surprising (and Magical) Perspective on Your Marriage

  couples-communicationEvery couple has some aggravations with their relationship that seem to defy understanding. “Why in the heck does he/she keep doing that when it is guaranteed to start an argument?” Sometimes these puzzles are hard to figure out. But if you ask different questions or ask them in a different way, you might get a new insight about why these things happen. This takes some detective work but the effort is worthwhile to increase understanding and perhaps avoid some of those common relationship annoyances. Here's a different and fun way to sharpen your sleuthing skills. Click on the following website. … Read more... “A Surprising (and Magical) Perspective on Your Marriage”

What’s That You Said? The Fears That Prevent Us From Speaking Up

How much do you value being seen and heard? Do you really want a truly successful relationship? How important is it to have impact on others? Let's look at speaking up! Of course, for some people, that's easier said than done. You might prefer to sky dive without a parachute than tell another person what's really on your mind. But it is possible to develop an assertiveness connected to head and heart that clears the way for honest, empowered living-without being rude to others. Those who stay mum when they would be better off speaking their mind do so for a variety of reasons: Fear of being rejected. Any time you risk disclosing what you want and why it is important, you become vulnerable.… Read more... “What’s That You Said? The Fears That Prevent Us From Speaking Up”

More On Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and Stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” From personal and professional experience I know that's not true. And the scientific proof has just become quite dramatic. I recently read in a professional journal that neuroscientists have discovered that the place in our brain that lights up when we are hit by sticks and stones, or when we step barefoot on broken glass is the same area that lights up when we are rejected. Rejection comes in lots of varieties. It can include a refusal to grant a request, and it means to throw away or discard as unsatisfactory, to repudiate, renounce, rebuff or deny.… Read more... “More On Sticks and Stones”

A Successful Marriage is a Series of Unnatural Acts

I recently completed my 64th weekend workshop for couples. Once again I was impressed by a group of intrepid couples who were willing to leave their emotional comfort zone to create a more successful marriage for themselves. One of the exercises of the workshop is brainstorming a list of effective communication behaviors and attitudes. Then I ask the group how many saw their families exercise these behaviors 50% or more of the time when things got tense. I never have had more than 15% of the couples raise their hands. What this means is that under stress, effective communication is statistically exceptional.… Read more... “A Successful Marriage is a Series of Unnatural Acts”