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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.

Most New Year’s Resolutions Fail – Here’s Why

For some reason the calendar seems to dictate the desire to become a better person. You may feel a surge of excitement at the prospect of overcoming a bad habit or attitude. What is it about New Year's resolutions? Despite good intentions, your efforts soon evaporate like snow flakes in July. Here’s why you don’t follow through.… Read more...

How To Enjoy Your Family and In-Laws This Year

Are you already playing out scenarios in your head about what could go wrong this holiday season? Maybe you are tired of feeling uncomfortable around the in-laws, or dreading the arguments that tend to come up between you and your partner. With so many different personalities and conflicting desires coming together, it can be challenging to stay centered and feel enthusiastic about the holidays! …Which is why I have put together some tips for you. Who says this year can’t be different from the others?… Read more...

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...

Surprising Medical Study: Is Your Marriage Like Poison Ivy?

Recently as I was reading a mostly dry academic journal, I came upon an interesting research article about the power of beliefs. It's a common notion that our beliefs profoundly affect our lives. And this article presented the kind of verification that psychologists seek when attempting to prove that notion. The evidence was detailed in the “Kyousha Journal of Medical Science.” In Japan, thirteen volunteers who reported being hypersensitive to poison ivy were touched on one arm with leaves from a harmless tree. They were told the leaves were from a tree similar to poison ivy. On the other arm, they were touched with the poisonous leaves, which they were led to believe were the harmless ones.… Read more...

Listen and Concentrate

  It is impossible for me to even estimate the number of times I hear couples in my office say their partner doesn't listen or understand. Often both people will say it. As my practice is in Silicon Valley, home of some of the brightest people on the planet, one would think understanding would come easier. Maybe it has to do with the ability to listen and concentrate. So I'll give you a test to check your powers of concentration. This simple little test comprising of four questions will determine your thinking ability. Your replies must be spontaneous and immediate, with no deliberating or wasting time.… Read more...

Actions of True Intimacy: a Different Gift for Valentine’s Day

Are you willing to go beyond flowers, dinner and chocolate for Valentine's day? Here's a different gift. The gift of intimacy. It will last longer than a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers. The poet Rilke once advised a friend that a good marriage does not create “a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries,” but rather appoints the other “guardian of his solitude.” Rilke's comments, applicable to all committed partnerships, point to the mutual respect and clarity that form the basis for genuine intimacy. Here are 10 ways to deepen your intimacy.… Read more...

10 Ways to Love Fearlessly

Let's face it: love is messy. With its magnified highs and lows, love is unpredictable and never what we expect – so much so that we might be tempted to cower in fear. But if we approach love with the courage of a warrior, we can have relationships of heroic proportions. Here are 10 ways: 1. BE YOURSELF. If we want to be loved for who we truly are, why put on an act? 2. DON'T BELIEVE YOUR STORIES. Our interpretation of events and feelings is, in fact, just one possibility for what is actually true. Focus on what IS to get closer to the truth. 3. STAY OPEN. Fear shuts us down. But when we are vulnerable, true connection to others is possible.… Read more...

The Surprising First Steps of Negotiation

In our 40 collective years in practice, we've discovered that most partners do not negotiate very well. Maybe our sample is a little skewed, since it is comprised of couples in therapy. However, the popularity of books on this subject confirms that most people are deficient in negotiation skills. So this month we ask you to focus on improving your own skills as an effective negotiator.Why do partners struggle so much with negotiation? It's hard work! It's often difficult to clearly define your own desires, plus it requires careful dialogue to elicit your partner's desires. If the topic is complex, you will have to ask yourself and your partner lots of questions.… Read more...

How to Tell the Truth, Part 2

Last month we presented the first six steps to telling the truth with your partner, even when it's on a difficult or touchy subject. To review the article, where the steps are described in more detail, click here 1. Make the decision to be truthful. 2. Decide what you want to happen. 3. Explore your own avoidance. 4. Set a time and a place. 5. Don't be passive aggressive. 6. Plan what you will say or do. This month we'll pick up where we left off. Tina's been preparing to bring up the difficult subject of faking orgasms with her husband Tom. It's finally time to start the conversation she's been thinking about.… Read more...

Six Steps to Telling the Truth

  It's understandable that couples are wary about bringing up sensitive topics. The avoidance of pain and distress are major motivators to go into hiding. But too much avoidance or passive behavior can lead to marital corrosion. So how can this difficult problem be managed? Because of the extra length, this month's column is divided into two parts with the second part finishing next month. We will follow Tina and Tom through their truth-telling process. They met as students at a large Midwestern university and married soon after graduation. They both come from religious, church-going families.… Read more...