I was published in a local magazine this month! I wrote about five of the most important things I wish for all of the couples I work with to learn. This blog contains the article before it was edited for publication and a few videos.
How do you express and receive love in your relationships? People tend to have particular “love languages” through which they feel loved and express love to others. It is important for couples to identify and talk about their love languages so they can better give and receive love and feel connected to one another.
Have you ever been in a situation where you have gotten annoyed and really angry with your partner over something that you would normally think is small and unimportant? Maybe there is something more to it and previous relationships are affecting you in a way that is making you fearful and insecure in your relationship. Everyone has a need to be loved, supported, understood, and cared for by their partners and/or parents. When something happens to threaten that safety and security, we can become sensitive to things that might indicate that we could be hurt again. Sometimes it is important to evaluate whether or not the things that are hard in your relationship are real “deal breakers” or if they are worth “the price of admission”.
This blog is a follow up to last week’s “Empathy Vs. Sympathy”. It talks about the experience of the person who is pulled to be “the fixer”. Sometimes when someone we love has a problem, we want nothing more than to fix it and make things better for that person. However, sometimes fixing the problem is equivalent to ignoring the emotions surrounding the problem. It is more important to be emotionally attuned to your partner than it is to provide solutions.
A common problem that comes up in couples counseling is when one partner tries to “fix” the other person’s problems rather than listening and providing accurate empathy. It is ok to want to help your partner in any way you can, but if you provide a solution without empathizing, your partner may be left feeling unheard, misunderstood, and unsupported. This can be confusing for the “fixer” who is only trying to help. Receiving accurate empathy from our partner makes us feel heard, supported, and understood. These feelings are a fundamental attachment need that each person needs in order to feel safe and secure in a relationship.
Our interactions with our caregivers as children have a significant impact on the the people we grow to become. As infants, we are vulnerable and completely dependent on our caretakers. If they are warm, caring, and meet our needs, then we thrive. When they are not, we develop unhealthy attachment styles. In the absence of therapy and/or healthy, reparative relationships, we carry these attachment styles with us throughout our lives. In this way, our early interactions with our caregivers affect how we view and interact with the world as adults.
Do you find yourself blaming others a lot? Every human being has a need to express themselves and be heard by others. Often times when this doesn’t happen, people will try to suppress their emotions and not express them to others. This is an uphill battle and typically suppressed emotions will leak out in other ways. One of these ways is blaming. In relationships blaming is a symptom of unexpressed hurts that need to be addressed.
Often times trouble in couples relationships is due to miscommunication of underlying emotions. We are all wired to pay attention to things that can hurt us, and relational pain is no different. When faced with a real or perceived threat in a relationship, many people respond with gut reactions like trying getting the first punch or punching back. A primary goal of couples therapy is to help people to identify and verbalize the primary emotions that are behind those gut reactions. All too often anger is really the result of fear, and people who act defensively or offensively in a relationship are really just trying to keep themselves safe.
Its important to take time to have genuine, open conversations with the people we love. Sometimes life gets in the way and reconnecting with each other can feel like extra work. Following this path of least resistance can lead to trouble down the line. This is something that I work on a lot with people in couples therapy.