Deep Listening on a Japanese Subway

An account by the first American Aikido Master trained in Japan, Terry Dobson The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty – a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows. At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborer's clothing, and he was big, drunk and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby.… Read more... “Deep Listening on a Japanese Subway”

Do you think you listen to your spouse? Think again.

I recently made a shocking discovery. About couples, of course. After 30 years of working with couples of every economic and social class, from CEO’s of major corporations to prison inmates, I thought I had heard it all. So I was stunned – really stunned – by this shocking discovery. Here’s the story. A couple of years ago I started asking most couples during our first appointment if they think they listen very well to their partners. The vast majority say, “Yes I think I listen pretty well – but my partner is not so hot.” Then I ask each person, “What do you think your partner’s major complaints about you are?… Read more... “Do you think you listen to your spouse? Think again.”

In Sickness and in Health

cool Saintpaulia flower in flowerpot isolated on whiteHow Illness Transforms Relationships Thirteen years ago this month, my husband and I got married in our backyard garden with our five children and a small circle of family and friends. Part of the vows we made to each other was a version of, “in sickness and in health”. Little did we know then, that the “sickness” part would be up front and center during our 12th year of marriage when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In looking back on the last 4 months of physical and emotional ups and downs, the experience of deep fear, and anxiety-provoking uncertainty, I can honestly say that illness can be an opportunity for couples to create a deeper bond of intimacy, genuine connection to self and other, and interdependence.… Read more... “In Sickness and in Health”

Vacation Time

Many of us look forward to taking a break with a loved one. It can be a wonderful way to renew ourselves and our relationship, a time to visit special places together and to do things we don’t normally get to do.… Read more... “Vacation Time”

Felony Lies

Nov 2012 infidelity255At the end of last month’s post, I asked you to think about a couple’s unfolding history and share how you would structure treatment after disclosure of an affair and a history of lies and deceit. What might you say to them at the end of the first session? And what would be some considerations for you in structuring the next session?  … Read more... “Felony Lies”

Couples Resources

This page, organized by the type of program, summarizes the various couples resources that are offered by The Couples Institute. These are in addition to couples therapy, which is described here. Couples Workshops Sign up to join Michelle Wangler Joy, M.A., MFT, for the next Couples Communication Workshop to learn skills to overcome stubborn relationship challenges. Invite one of our therapists to speak to your couples, parents, or family-focused community group by contacting our office here. E-Book Initiating Calm Discussions In this e-book by Ellyn Bader, Ph.D. and Peter Pearson, Ph.D., you will discover three different perspectives for every discussion.… Read more... “Couples Resources”

Here is Your Additional Information on Collaborative Conversations

The Role of Differentiation in Collaborative Conversations   Using the Initiator-Inquirer™ Exercise is a Powerful Way to Promote Differentiation. The first section below describes the exercise in language you could use with clients. The final section makes a few points for you, the therapist. The Initiator-Inquirer™ Exercise Differentiation of self is the ability to identify and express important parts of yourself. It’s about telling your partner what you think, feel, want or desire. This can be scary because you are exposing important and sensitive aspects of yourself. Differentiation from your partner is the ability to be curious about what your partner says while managing your own emotional reactions.… Read more... “Here is Your Additional Information on Collaborative Conversations”

Does Summer Vacation Planning Raise Problems for You?

  Summer vacations can involve family visits, which often present a challenge for many couples. This time of year when some couples do their summer vacation planning, I thought it might be timely to share with you a column I wrote for the “San Jose Mercury News.” Q:  My husband and I are at odds over visiting his family in Florida. His mother has remarried (his father died years ago) and her husband is impossible to be around. He is constantly criticizing me and the kids, and when we visit I have a terrible time. My husband says I am overly sensitive and should just “let it go,” which is how he handles his family.… Read more... “Does Summer Vacation Planning Raise Problems for You?”

How to Identify Failed Empathy in the Narcissistic Personality

… and Utilize Specific Tools for Increasing Differentiation Last month we talked about one defensive pattern of a narcissistic partner. This month we will address the low level of empathy in the narcissistic partner. A narcissistic partner would never start therapy by saying this in an initial interview: “I wish I could give even when it isn't convenient for me. However, I hate to admit I'm wrong and I have a very thin skin, so I frequently make demands or attack my partner. I wish I could make a sustained effort to give and respond in an empathic way. But, I am rarely giving or nurturing unless I feel like it.” The narcissist will never say this because they do not give when it is inconvenient and they have minimal capacity to be psychologically separate from another person.… Read more... “How to Identify Failed Empathy in the Narcissistic Personality”