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Why couples therapy isn’t just for when things are going wrong

Most people tend to associate couples therapy with intractable problems that they and their partner are struggling with. Couples usually wait until their situation has reached the breaking point before seeking couples therapy, often putting themselves through months or years of unnecessary disappointment, distress and destructive behavior. As an experienced couples psychotherapist, I can say with confidence that much of the distress, heartbreak and breakdown in couples’ relationships could have been avoided with early intervention. Your couple relationship can harbor rich rewards for your mental and physical health, and significantly contribute to achievements and life satisfaction in both your personal and professional life.… Read more...

What’s better than fixing your marriage?

What if a good marriage was not about focusing on fixing problems? What if a good marriage was not learning a new set of skills or tools? The most common requests couples who are starting therapy have is for communication skills and tools for a better relationship. This is an understandable but misguided request. What if couples were taught skills and tools, with penetrating insights on how to improve, but there was no underlying dedication to growth? What if a great marriage is about character? The sum of moral strength, fortitude, self-discipline, integrity, curiosity and caring. Tools are about using your mind.… Read more...

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...

3 Weddings and 4 Questions

wedding_cakeThere are only three weddings happening this year at The Couples Institute. And we are being facetious – we haven’t had a wedding of an associate or staffer happen in quite a while! First, our bookkeeper, Daniel, married his long time partner Hunt in May. They’d been together for 26 years so their ceremony was a celebratory re-commitment of their enduring partnership. This past weekend, our marketing guru, Shelley, tied the knot with a man she’s known since college; mutual friends brought them back together a few years ago. They’ve been inseparable since, wondering why it didn’t happen sooner. Then later in November, therapist and clinical assistant in our training program, Michelle, whom many of you have been in touch with before, weds the love of her life, Dan.… Read more...

Developmental Change, Focus on the Initiator, Part 3

Therapist Errors: Not Recognizing Protective Passivity This blog post continues to focus on the initiator. Last month we looked at  recognizing a “non-Initiation.”  Remember we are discussing couples who have done very little active differentiation. An important subtle issue that occurs in many initiations is passivity. Passivity happens as a self-protection when partners fear the vulnerability of self-exposure. They may have difficulty articulating what they desire or they may not even know.… Read more...

Developmental Change, Focus on the Initiator, Part 2

Recognizing When Your Client Defines a Clear Issue with Related Feelings Today's blog post is the second in which we focus on the Initiator for more effective Initiation. We are explaining the steps with volatile couples as you begin working with them in the Initiator-Inquirer format. The tasks of being an effective Initiator sound simple. The Initiator… 1.  Brings up one and only one issue/problem 2.  Uses “I messages” to describe thoughts & feelings about the issue 3.  Describes the issue without blame or name calling 4.  Is open to learning more about him/herself than was known before he/she started talk For you as the therapist, this step involves asking yourself, “Did my client actually initiate?”… Read more...

Overcoming Passivity and Passive-Aggressive Behavior

…in the Early Stages of Therapy Couples therapy has numerous challenges in the early sessions depending on the type of presenting problem. Our next few newsletters will focus on some unique challenges and what to do about them, beginning with passive behavior and passive-aggressive behavior. A common pattern of highly distressed relationships is each partner wants the other to change first. The complaining partner wants massive personality changes. The “request” is more or less stated as a demand or accusation, with no awareness of how much is being requested. When this happens, the pressure is on either you or the partner to do something to relieve the distress of the complainer.… Read more...

The Narcissistic Personality

… Why Recognizing Hurt and Vulnerability Leads to Greater Self-Acceptance Our culture in the United States is one that supports narcissism. We tend to revere athletes and celebrities and elevate those who are rich or beautiful. Many of these people give very little to get a lot. Someone once said, “If it weren't for marriage or committed relationships, some people could go through life believing they had no faults at all.” Welcome to the inner world of the narcissist, the person who is quick to feel entitled to get and slow to give. Over the years, it has been a challenge to become more effective with these individuals when seeing them in the couples context.… Read more...
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