Before You Go to Couple’s Counseling

Image of a man looking off into the distance. There is a lake and mountain range.
Therapy can bring you and your partner closer than you ever dreamed.

If you’re having relationship problems, here are some things to consider before you and your partner walk into a therapist’s office:

1) Are you getting enough sleep?

Sleep has a big impact on our perception of problems and on our mood. If you are suffering from chronic lack of sleep, work to improve that as soon as possible.

2) Have you had a physical recently?

Just like sleep, an underlying medical condition could greatly impact your mood and problem-solving skills. Make sure both you and your partner have recently had blood work done. If anxiety and/or depression are present, this will most certainly affect your relationships. ADHD is another condition that influences our ability to communicate effectively and typical ADHD behaviors are often misinterpreted by others. If any of these conditions are present, it may still be beneficial to attend couple’s counseling. A counselor can help you and your partner learn new skills to work-out your problems.

3) Reach-out to a friend you can be real with. 

Community is of upmost importance for our health and wellbeing. Sometimes we need a trusted friend to remind us that we’re not alone in our troubles. Even the best therapist can’t replace the comfort of a loving friend. A good therapist will always encourage you to seek outside support. If you do have such a friend in your life, remind them that you just need a listening ear, not advice. Also, a true friend will be honest with you about how you may be contributing to the relationship problems, which leads me to…

4) Have you considered how you are contributing to the problems in the relationship?

It’s so easy to see how our partner can do better, but have you considered your part? In my article, How Couple’s Counseling Works, I describe a relationship gone wrong. You’ve heard the term, “It takes two to Tango?” Well, it’s true. No one can make you behave a certain way. Sometimes it feels like we don’t have a choice but that’s just not true. We always have a choice to respond in way that reflects who we want to be. Consider journaling daily about your relationship. Note how you are contributing to the problems. 

5) Are you being the partner you want to be? 

Make a list describing the kind of partner YOU want to be. Now is the time to reflect on who you want to be as a partner, regardless of who you are with. Often, we become resentful, frustrated, critical, or hopeless when we aren’t taking care of ourselves by setting good boundaries. If you find yourself being critical when you’d like to be more patient, ask yourself why that is. Patience isn’t required in easy situations. Patience is required when other’s fall short of our expectations. However, if you find that your patience is constantly wearing thin, maybe you haven’t been setting enough boundaries. It’s possible that you need to take some responsibilities off of your plate or lower your expectations of yourself. Here are some examples of boundaries:

  • If you need to go to bed before your partner, maybe you could agree that one of you will sleep in the guest room so that you can get a good night’s sleep and aren’t awakened when they come to bed.
  • Choosing to have PB&J two nights per week for dinner to lessen the pressure of meal planning and prep.
  • Gently telling your partner that you will not discuss an issue further if they continue to yell.
  • Telling your boss that you won’t continue to answer work emails on evenings and weekends. 
  • Hiring a babysitter one night per week to deal with the bedtime routine while you go to a local bookstore. 

When it’s time to see a therapist. 

Any or all of these suggestions may help to solve the problems or they may serve as a great start towards a better relationship. If it feels like you and your partner are stuck, reach-out. Changes are hard to make and you don’t need to go through this alone. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a third-party present who is trained in relationships. This person can help identify your unhealthy pattern and get you on the path to better communication, better self-care, and better problem-solving. Send me an email or search for a therapist near you on Psychology Today.

Thanks for reading!

Like pdf’s? This is for you!

Before-You-Go-to-Couple’s-Counseling

Continue Reading

When Your Partner Resents Your Growth

image from Summit Point

“I’m afraid if I change, my family won’t grow with me.” – KG

Hello Everyone!

Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. Today I want to talk about something that came-up in a group that I am facilitating. The group was created to help women create self-loving habits around food and exercise. We’re about three weeks in and some are hitting road blocks.

One group member courageously shared that what holds her back is realizing that the changes she wants to make could leave her isolated from her family. It wasn’t long after that many others in the group resonated with her experience.

I’d like to speak to this dynamic that is so common in relationships. I call it, the, “Now I see Me” phenomenon. The truth of relationships is that they often reveal our inner lives, the good, the bad, and sometimes the very ugly. Friends, family, coworkers, partners, kids… ALL will bring-up unresolved issues within us. So when someone does something offensive and we find ourselves reacting in a way that is disproportionate to the ‘crime,’ we need to start digging deeper. We need to stop and intentionally search within ourselves for the cause of such a reaction.

“I know that what I was doing was the right thing for me but for some reason, it was like my wife couldn’t stand it.” – LD

Now that will take time, work, and possibly therapy for you to uncover what’s really going on. That’s hard enough as it is. But what do we do when we’re not the one having the disproportionate reaction? Let’s go back to the concept of, “Now I see Me.”

For the sake of clarity, we’ll discuss through the lens of an adult romantic relationship. When your partner is resentful of you for positive changes that you want to make in your life, there’s a good chance that it is due to fear.

Let’s say that you and your partner make a regular habit of drinking to the point of blacking-out every Friday night. It’s been fun sometimes, but horrible at other times. You’ve decided that the horrible times outweigh the good times. There’s something in you that has been whispering, “This is not healthy.” So, you tell your partner you’re not going to do that anymore.

Now your partner’s behavior has been challenged. What was once a joint activity, will now be a solo one. They start to question for a split second if what they are doing is wrong too… Oh shit, now I see ME. This is terrifying. You see, whether it’s drinking, or overeating or whatever, that behavior was serving a purpose. Most likely, the behavior was allowing you both to escape or hide from an emotion or truth that is uncomfortable. Most people aren’t aware of this but when their behavior is challenged, some very intense emotions rise-up. Fear is incredibly powerful.

“My boyfriend and I had huge issues when I started changing my eating and exercise habits. He said he was afraid I’d think I was too good for him.” – LM

“Now I see Me,” is saying now I see my brokenness. And now they could be terrified that you’re going to see it too. They may fear that you will come to a place where you think you’re better than them and leave. Remember how I just said that fear is incredibly powerful? Well, for humans, an intrinsically social species, fear of being alone is the probably among the worst and being LEFT leaves a particularly deep wound.

In my practice, have seen couples with this dynamic- when one is ready to explore and grow and the other is digging their heels in the ground. This is actually very normal. We’re talking about two separate individuals, each on their own life journey. To expect us to always be in the same place at the same time is unrealistic. However, it is not acceptable or healthy for one to demand that the other not grow. It also isn’t healthy for one to want to change but not to do so out of fear of the other’s reaction.

So what do you do?? 

Continue Reading

How’s Your Marriage?

boardwalk-1783843_960_720.jpg

Photo cred: Pixabay

 

I was unbuckling my kids from their car seats this morning at the “Y” and overheard a very loud Bluetooth conversation from the car next to me. An exasperated woman was talking to her (soon-to-be ex) husband about why things were “just not going to work out anymore” and how she had “tried and tried to tell (him) many times that (we)needed help.” Now, “it’s too late.” I couldn’t hear his words very clearly but I could sense a pleading and despair in his tone. The woman was most likely in her fifties. I wondered if she fit the common story of being a recent empty-nester now finding herself married to a stranger.

I then wondered about my own marriage and about my friends who are also in-the-trenches-with-littles parents. I wondered about the couples I knew who have kids who are about to launch into the adult world.

Then I wondered, “We are giving so much to our kids, but are we investing in our marriages?”

Are we remembering to prioritize each other and ourselves before it’s “too late?” Statistics don’t lie. Divorce is non-discriminatory. It doesn’t care if you’re religious, well-educated, stubborn, patient, beautiful, rich or pious. It can find any one of us. I hope that we all can take a sobering moment to be honest about the time and energy we’re investing in our marriages. I hope we can find creative solutions to make date nights happen. I hope that if we need help, we get it. My hope is that we never get to a point where our committed relationships feel hopeless.

If you’re feeling like your relationship could use a tune-up, consider seeking counseling. While therapy isn’t always cheap, it’s sure more affordable than divorce and your relationship is worth it. In the meantime, here are some books that may help you get back on track (I would also recommend these to newlyweds):

225x225bb.jpg

^This book offers a basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t work for couples from leading researcher Dr. John Gottman. Gottman’s research has led his team to predict the likelihood of divorce with astounding accuracy. This is a great place to start.

225x225bb-1.jpg

^My husband and I love the work of Dr. Sue Johnson which is also research-based. This book will take you deeper than Gottman’s work and will be a little more personalized.

225x225bb-2.jpg

^I’ll admit, I haven’t read this book in it’s entirety but it comes highly recommended from some of my marital therapist peers. I love how Hendrix helps us to see the (often untrue) assumptions that we make about our partners and ourselves.

51prCKzit9L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

^ In my opinion, this is the best Christian-based marriage book on the market today. It was just released in October of 2016. It is from the same author as the formerly mentioned “Hold Me Tight.”

Continue Reading