Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC is a kind, compassionate marriage counselor, therapist and coach here to help you create your very best life. Ana specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts so they can create fulfillment and joy in their lives.

What Are Your Expectations In a Relationship?

Avoid The Three Relationship Expectations That Will Always Mess Things Up

Even before I became a Denver marriage counselor and online couples therapist, I would have described myself as being a “hopeless romantic” and had grand expectations in a relationship. Growing up, I loved the idea of love. To me, the movies I watched made relationships seem easy. You know, the ones where both partners overcome some kind of obstacle to finally realize their need for the other, they confess their undying love then live happily ever after.

I loved this idea growing up, because it just seemed so natural. It seemed like such a stark difference from the real-world relationships that were falling apart all around me. I realized that my idolization of relationships in the movies led me to develop some unrealistic expectations about relationships in my own definition of what a healthy relationship looks like.

Here are some of the biggest expectations in a relationship that may prevent you from experiencing fulfillment with your partner:

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #1: “I have to be perfect.”  

Have you ever felt that you can’t let your partner see your faults or weaknesses?

As a couples therapist, I work with many couples who feel this pressure to be perfect for their partner, oftentimes stating their fear that sharing their weaknesses will somehow diminish the quality of their relationship.

These feelings of insecurity often leads to one or both partners tip-toeing around each other, neglecting to share their needs or fears, forfeiting the opportunity to experience a true, genuine connection with each other.

The myth of perfection is detrimental because it assumes that humans are faultless beings. Which we are not. Furthermore, perfectionism results in unsatisfactory relationships because there is a lack of depth and meaning when you are only sharing what you believe to be the best parts of you. In fact, vulnerability connects. 

A partnership is about giving each other the benefit of the doubt, it’s about sharing life together.  To share life with another person is to offer them your whole heart with the hope that you are both able and willing to accept and love each other fully — accepting the good with the bad.

When this kind of intimacy happens, it creates a true partnership, a bond full of depth and meaning with a person who you feel safe to rely on, through both the difficulties of life and the joys.

Tip: Try making a list of your top three insecurities and sharing them with your partner, while allowing space to validate each other’s vulnerabilities.

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #2: “This relationship is about meeting MY needs.”

Living in an individualistic society, we can often place more emphasis on what I can get out of a relationship, or where our partner is failing to meet my needs.  

What I so often see as a marriage counselor and couples therapist is that both partners have needs. It is important for partners to understand how to meet each other’s needs in a way that provides safety and security in the relationship. I also believe that we can be so focused on what OUR needs are, that we fail to see what our partners are needing from us and wind up neglecting them.

Partnership requires togetherness. Togetherness requires the courage to see beyond yourself into another person’s world. Consider your partner’s perspective, what they need, and how you can fulfill them. Doing this can create a community dynamic in your relationship, where you know that you and your partner are looking out for one another, that you’re not in this alone.

Tip: Try spending a day focusing on filling your partner’s “love tank” by doing what makes them feel most loved without expecting anything in return. 

Unrealistic Expectation #3: “You should be my everything.”

In my role as a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I’ve noticed this narrative increasing in the couples I’ve seen: a relationship expectation that their partner needs to be their everything.

This unrealistic expectation often leads to someone feeling lonely and hurt when their partner is unable to meet their every need. This mindset also puts an intense pressure on both partners to become something that is often unattainable.

I believe that, much like the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to keep a strong partnership. Having more people in your life besides just your partner, and a shared community where both partners’ feel safe and supported by a number of people, helps to lessen the pressure that you both have to be everything.  Having a community creates an environment for your partnership to flourish as you realize that it does not have to be just the two of you against the world.

Tip: Try spending time with friends both as a couple and individually to build up your community. When you’re unable to meet with your community in-person, here are some tips for social distancing relationships: Building CommUNITY During Social Distancing and Self Quarantine.

Have you had some expectations in a relationship, like the ones I talk about here, that have gotten in your way of having the kind of happy relationship you want? I hope that this article helped shed some light on them, and offered you some tips for how to break free of some unrealistic relationship expectations.

If I can do anything else to support you in creating a great relationship, you know where to find me!

Warmly,

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

Let Yourself Feel Loved

OVERCOMING INSECURITY | It’s not uncommon for both women and men to feel insecure in a relationship from time to time. We often see emotional insecurity as an underlying issue to address with couples who come to us for marriage counseling, couples therapy, premarital counseling and relationship coaching. After all, when couples don’t feel completely emotionally safe and secure with each other it tends to create conflict and problems in many other areas of their partnership. [For more on the importance of emotional safety and how it may be impacting YOUR relationship, access our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz and my mini-couples coaching follow up video series.]

It’s especially true for people in new relationships to have some anxiety, but even people in long-term relationships can worry about their partner’s feelings for them sometimes. While very common, feeling insecure in your relationship can create problems — for both of you. 

Root Causes of Insecurity

If insecurity is an issue in your relationship — either for you, or your partner — you might be speculating about the root causes of insecurity and how to heal them. People can struggle to feel emotionally safe with their partner for a variety of reasons — sometimes due to their life experiences, but sometimes, due to things that have happened in the current relationship itself. 

Insecurity After Infidelity: Certainly being let down or betrayed by your partner in the past can lead you to struggle with trust in the present moment. Insecurity after infidelity or an emotional affair is very common. In these cases, the path to healing can be a long one. The person who did the betraying often needs to work very hard, for a long time, to show (not tell, but show) their partners that they can trust them.

Anxiety After Being Let Down Repeatedly: However, insecurities can also start to emerge after less dramatic betrayals and disappointments. Even feeling that your partner has not been emotionally available for you, has not been consistently reliable, or was there for you in a time of need, it can lead you to question the strength of their commitment and love. Trust is fragile: If your relationship has weathered storms, learning how to repair your sense of trust and security can be a vital part of healing. Often, couples need to go back into the past to discuss the emotional wounds they experienced with each other in order to truly restore the bond of safety and security. These conversations can be challenging, but necessary.

Insecurity Due to Having Been Hurt in the Past: Sometimes people who have had negative experiences in past relationships can feel insecure, due to having been traumatized by others. For some people, their very first relationships were with untrustworthy or inconsistent parents and that led to the development of insecure attachment styles. This can lead them to feel apprehensive or protective with anyone who gets close. However, even people with loving parents and happy childhoods can carry scars of past relationships, particularly if they lived through a toxic relationship at some point in their lives. It’s completely understandable: Having been burned by an Ex can make it harder to trust a new partner, due to fears of being hurt again.

Long Distance Relationships: Certain types of relationships can lead people to feel less secure than they’d like to, simply due to the circumstances of the relationship itself. For example, you might feel more insecure if you’re in a long-distance relationship.  Not being able to connect with your partner or see them in person all the time can take a toll on even the strongest relationship. Couples in long-distance relationships should expect that they will have to work a little harder than couples who are together day-to-day, in order to help each person to feel secure and loved. In these cases, carefully listening to each other about what both of you are needing to feel secure and loved is vital, as is being intentionally reliable and consistent.

Feeling Insecure When You’re Dating Someone New: And, as we all know, early-stage romantic love is a uniquely vulnerable experience and often fraught with anxiety. Dating someone new is exciting, but it can also be intensely anxiety-provoking. In new (or new-ish) relationships where a commitment has not been established, not fully knowing where you stand with a new person that you really like is emotionally intense. If you’re dating, or involved in a new relationship, you may need to deliberately cultivate good self-soothing and calming skills in order to manage the emotional roller coaster that new love can unleash. 

Feeling Insecure With a Withdrawn Partner: Interestingly, different types of relationship dynamics can lead to differences in how secure people feel. The same person can feel very secure and trusting in one relationship, but with a different person, feel suspicious, worried, and on pins and needles. Often this has to do with the relational dynamic of the couple.

For example, in relationships where one person has a tendency to withdraw, be less communicative, or is not good at verbalizing their feelings it can lead their partner to feel worried about what’s really going on inside of them. This can turn into a pursue-withdraw dynamic that intensifies over time; one person becoming increasingly anxious and agitated about not being able to get through to their partner, and the withdrawn person clamping down like a clam under assault by a hungry seagull. However, when communication improves and couples learn how to show each other love and respect in the way they both need to feel safe and secure, trust is strengthened and emotional security is achieved.

Types of Insecurities

Emotional security (or lack of) is complex. In addition to having a variety of root causes, there are also different ways that insecurity manifests in people —and they all have an impact on your relationship. As has been discussed in past articles on this blog, people who struggle with low self esteem may find it hard to feel safe in relationships because they are anticipating rejection. The “insecure overachiever” may similarly struggle to feel secure in relationships if they’re not getting the validation and praise they thrive on. 

For others, insecurity is linked to an overall struggle with vulnerability and perfectionism. People who feel like they need to be perfect in order to be loved can — subconsciously or not — try to hide their flaws. But, on a deep level, they know they’re not perfect (no one is) and so that knowledge can lead to feelings of apprehension when they let other people get close to them. In these cases, learning how to lean into authentic vulnerability can be the path of healing. [More on this: “The Problem With Perfectionism”]

Sometimes people who are going through a particularly hard time in other parts of their lives can start to feel apprehensive about their standing in their relationship. For example, people who aren’t feeling great about their career can often feel insecure when they’re around people who they perceive as being more successful or accomplished than they are. This insecurity is heightened in the case of a layoff or unexpected job loss. If one partner in a relationship is killing it, and the other is feeling under-employed or like they’re still finding their way, it can lead the person who feels dissatisfied with their current level of achievement to worry that their partner is dissatisfied with them too. 

Insecurities can take many forms, and emerge for a variety of reasons. However, when insecurity is running rampant the biggest toll it takes is often on a relationship. 

How Insecurity Can Ruin a Relationship

To be clear: Having feelings is 100% okay. Nothing bad is going to happen to you, or your relationship, or anyone else because you have feelings of anxiety or insecurity. The only time relationship problems occur as a result of feelings is when your feelings turn into behaviors.

If people who feel insecure, anxious, jealous or threatened don’t have strategies to soothe themselves and address their feelings openly with their partner (and have those conversations lead to positive changes in the relationship), the feelings can lead to behaviors that can harm the relationship. Some people lash out in anger when they perceive themselves to be in emotional danger, or that their partner is being hurtful to them.  Often, people who feel insecure will attempt to control their partner’s behaviors in efforts to reduce their own anxiety. Many insecure people will hound their partners for information about the situations they feel worried about. Still others will withdraw, pre-emptively, as a way of protecting themselves from the rejection they anticipate.

While all of these strategies are adaptive when you are in a situation where hurtful things are happening, (more on toxic relationships here) problems occur when these defensive responses flare up in a neutral situation. A common example of this is the scenario where one person repeatedly asks their partner if they’re cheating on them because they feel anxious, when their partner is actually 100% faithful to them and has done nothing wrong. The insecure person might question their partner, attack their partner, check up on their partner, or be cold and distant due to their worries about being cheated on or betrayed — when nothing bad is actually happening. This leaves the person on the other side feeling hurt, controlled, rejected, vilified… or simply exhausted. 

If feelings of insecurity are leading to problematic behaviors in a relationship, over time, if unresolved, it can erode the foundation of your partnership. 

How to Help Someone Feel More Secure

It’s not uncommon for partners of insecure people to seek support through therapy or life coaching, or couples counseling either for themselves or with their partners. They ask, “How do I help my wife feel more secure,” or “How do I help my husband feel more secure.” This is a great question; too often partners put the blame and responsibility for insecure feelings squarely on the shoulders of their already-anxious spouse or partner. This, as you can imagine, only makes things worse. 

While creating trust in a relationship is a two-way street, taking deliberate and intentional action to help your partner feel emotionally safe with you in the ways that are most important to him or her is the cornerstone of helping your insecure girlfriend, insecure boyfriend, or insecure spouse feel confident in your love for them. The key here is consistency, and being willing to do things to help them feel emotionally secure even if you don’t totally get it. This is especially true of the origins of your partner’s worry stem from early experiences of being hurt or betrayed by someone else. 

Tips to help your spouse feel more secure: 

  • Ask them what they need from you to feel emotionally safe and loved by you
  • Give that to them (over and over again, without being asked every time)
  • Rinse and repeat

How to Stop Being Insecure

Of course, it’s very frustrating to partners who feel like they’re not just true-blue, but doing everything they feel they can to help someone feel safe and secure… and yet insecurities persist. While partners of anxious people do need to try a little harder to help them feel secure, the person who struggles with insecurity needs to also take responsibility for their feelings and learn how to manage them effectively. Note: This doesn’t mean not ever having worried or insecure feelings (feelings happen y’all), but rather, learning how to have feelings that don’t turn into relationship-damaging behaviors.

Without the ability to soothe yourself, become grounded in the here and now, and get your emotional needs met by your partner (or yourself), unbridled insecurity can put a major strain on a relationship. But how? How do you manage insecurity? That’s the million-dollar question, and that’s why I’ve made it the topic of the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast! 

If you’re struggling with insecurity in your relationship — either as the person who worries, or the one who’s trying to reassure them — you’ll definitely want to join me and my colleague Georgi Chizk, an Arkansas-based marriage counselor and family therapist who specializes in attachment therapy as we discuss this topic. We’re going deep into the topic of insecurity in relationships, and how to overcome it. Listen and learn more about:

  • The root causes of insecurity
  • The surprising ways insecurity can impact a relationship
  • Practical strategies to help someone else feel more secure
  • Actionable advice to help yourself feel less insecure
  • How trust and security are healed and strengthened
  • Concrete tools couples can use to banish insecurity from their relationship

We hope that this discussion helps you both overcome insecurity, and create the strong, happy relationship you deserve.

With love and respect, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby & Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT

P.S. Pro Tip: Once you listen to this podcast, consider sharing it with your partner. Doing so can be an easy, low-key way to start an important, and necessary conversation about how to increase the emotional safety and security you both feel in your relationship. xo, LMB

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How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Juniore, “Panique”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Getting on the same page around money is an important task for every couple as they create their shared life together. We often address finances in premarital counseling, but it’s never too late to create unity and agreement around your financial future. Sooner or later, every couple has to!

Couples and Money: Financial Conflict Can Destroy a Relationship

It’s not just a generally good idea (like, “a nice thing”) to have a joint approach to finances, it’s necessary. Having a happy, healthy and enduring relationship may depend on it.

While many couples find finances to be an emotional trigger point that can easily lead to conflict, we also know, from research, that not only can financial conflict be one of the leading causes of divorce and disharmony among couples. It get’s even more sobering: The presence of financial conflict is also linked to a higher likelihood of divorce than the presence of other types of conflict. What that means is that having unresolved conflict about money is more toxic and damaging to your relationship than having unresolved conflict about anything else: parenting, priorities, and even sex! Yow!

So, it’s incredibly important for you to get on the same page with your partner about finances under any circumstances. But circumstances are not currently normal! (Thanks coronavirus!) Particularly in the current high-stakes environment that coronavirus has created in many marriages, it is essential for couples to be actively talking together about not just financial goals, but the realities of how they’re going to get through the lean times and come out the other side together.

Why Do Couples Fight About Money?

Money is a hot-button issue for many couples because it is tied to powerful, and often deep emotional triggers. Money can be strongly tied to core values, life-goals, a primal sense of security, and even existential needs around “what is the purpose of my life.”

Given the fact that couples always have differences in financial values, financial life experiences, and old messages about money that came from their families of origin there is a lot to talk through.

Productive conversations about money can be challenged by the swift and powerful emotions that come up when we start to talk about money with our partners. Anxiety, defensiveness, a fear of being controlled, and even a sense of judgment can all be emotional obstacles that prevent our financial conversations from going smoothly.

And when productive communication about money is compromised, it feels impossible to create agreements and things like:

  • Shared financial goals
  • A financial plan for married couples
  • A sustainable budget that feels good for both of you
  • A sense of shared purpose

When couples start fighting about money and communication shuts down altogether, it can even lead to things like financial infidelity or financial abuse of a partner. Not okay!

Financial Counseling For Couples: Couples and Money — Expert Tips

So, to help YOU have important, necessary, and productive conversations with your partner about finances I’ve invited my colleague, Denver marriage counseling expert Meagan Terry, M.A., LMFT.

Meagan is an emotional intelligence coach as well as a couples therapist, and she has provided financial counseling for couples for many years. Meagan is spilling the beans and providing both insight and actionable tips for how you can talk to your spouse about money without fighting (or tears!)

How to Talk To Your Spouse About Money Without Fighting

Here are some of the financial counseling for couples tips that Meagan shared:

  1. You CAN Create Alignment Around Finances: It takes good intentions, a willingness to compromise, good communication, and a fairly high degree of emotional intelligence — but it is possible.
  2. Focus on Emotional Safety: When you both feel heard, supported and understood it’s much easier to talk about everything, including hot-button issues like conflict around money.
  3. Release Judgment: It is so easy to think that our values, perspectives and ways of doing things are “the right way.” However, that belief will create a barrier when it comes to having productive communication about money. Release them, and practice open curiosity instead.
  4. Practice Emotional Intelligence: Communicating about money requires the ability to manage your own feelings, and communicate with empathy and tact. Focusing on your own emotional responses will allow you to stay in a good place during high-stakes conversations.

These are only a few of the tips for how to talk to your spouse about money without fighting that Meagan so generously shared. So many more helpful tips for you around:

  • What to do and what NOT to do, in order to keep communication constructive
  • What to prioritize first if you’re running into financial issues as a couple
  • The behaviors you MUST avoid if you want to avoid unnecessary conflict and strife
  • The best money apps for couples
  • The financial values inventory that Meagan always recommends to her marriage counseling clients

And even MORE expert relationship advice. All for you, on this episode of the podcast.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LMFT, LP and Meagan Terry, M.A., LMFT

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

Couples and Money

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Steadman, “Two Together”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Relationship Help

Relationship Advice For Stressful Times: I’ve been a Denver marriage counseling therapist and online marriage counseling specialist for many years. I know for a fact that stress and anxiety takes a major toll on relationships. If you’ve noticed your relationship feeling more challenging since this whole coronavirus quarantine happened, it’s not just in your head. This is an incredibly stressful time, many people are anxious about coronavirus, and people in relationships cope with stress differently — and sometimes, not well.

These relationship issues can be exacerbated by non-stop togetherness, and being in each other’s space constantly. If you are you at home wondering, “How am I going to make it through this quarantine these next few weeks?” I get it! Throw in a stressed-out husband, wife or partner, working from home with no childcare (or no work!), homeschooling and being worried about finances… everyone is totally on edge. 

One of the greatest challenges that couples are going to experience over these next few weeks of COVID-19 quarantine is being around or with one another continuously …like all the time.

We all need our space, and space is what makes a lot of our relationships work. We go to work, we run errands, we check in with our friends, we divide and conquer the kids’ activities, etc. But now that your “normal” life is on hold – how are you managing your new way of living, especially with your partner?

And it’s not just our routines that have been upended in the United States. There has been an understandable surge in mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and people are cut off from their support systems and self-care routines. It can be hard to find a good therapist who specializes in online counseling or online therapy, and even harder to find affordable online mental health services that are evidence-based and genuinely effective. (Texting with a chat-bot is ridiculous, but can seem like the only alternative when traditional therapy is out of reach). 

As a marriage counselor, I know that this whole situation is a breeding ground for a relationship crisis. Research studies looking at the impact of coronavirus on relationships and marriages in China showed that as soon as the quarantine lifted there was a surge of married couples filing for divorce! 

Yes, it’s essential to survive coronavirus, but it’s also extremely important to get help for your relationship so that you don’t lose your marriage or your family in the aftermath. In order to get through coronavirus as a couple, it’s essential to be making every effort to nurture and protect your relationship right now. 

Relationship Advice To Save Your Marriage

The relationship crisis that coronavirus quarantine can cause caught the attention of legendary reporter and journalist Katie Couric. If you weren’t already aware, Katie is doing so much good in the world through her extremely helpful and informative Instagram Live events, IGTV page, Facebook, podcast, and her online newsletter. She’s putting out a ton of helpful information lately about “how to survive coronavirus life” and more, and if you’re not already following her, you should! 

I was so honored to have the opportunity to speak with Katie Couric on her Instagram Live today about how coronavirus is impacting relationships and marriages, and the things that couples can do (and avoid doing!) to get through this stressful time together.,

During her broadcast we discussed YOUR questions and how to cope with different situations you’re facing as a couple.

During my time with Katie this morning, I answered questions around:

  1.  How to stay emotionally connected with each other when you’re both stressed.
  2.  How to improve communication, and avoid the communication mistakes that will damage your relationship.
  3.  How to negotiate childcare and other household duties in the “new reality.”
  4. How to deal with college-age kids suddenly under your roof again.
  5. What to do if your husband or wife refuses to social distance or engage in coronavirus prevention strategies at home.
  6.  Signs that mental health issues may be impacting your marriage.
  7. How to support your spouse through a job loss.
  8. How to find affordable online therapy, or effective alternatives to therapy  if you need it.

If you joined us this morning on Instagram, thank you! If you’re just now getting a chance to check it out – welcome. I hope that this conversation encourages you during what can feel like a challenging time in your life and relationship, and also helps you to move forward through some of the obstacles you may face over these quarantined days.

Enjoy this video and for more visit Katie’s Instagram at www.instagram.com/katiecouric!

Wishing you all the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

Premarital Counseling Questions… and Answers

Premarital Counseling Questions… and Answers

Premarital Counseling Questions… and Answers

Relationship Advice From a Premarital Counselor

All pre-marital couples have the best of intentions. People get married because they love each other, and hope (and intend!) to have a happy, healthy marriage that lasts a lifetime. They move forward, happily expecting all good things in their new life together and then… have the same experience that ALL couples have, which is that there are things to work through. Big things. Things that they didn’t always anticipate. And HOW they handle those big things can make a big difference in the trajectory of their marriage.

Denver Premarital Counseling (and Premarital Counseling Online) is Proactive and Positive

Hear this: All couples have things to work through. That part is inevitable. But some couples put time and energy into learning how to handle those things well. They develop their communication skills, their emotional intelligence skills, and learn how to care for each other in a way that works. So, they work through the inevitable issues, and then move on — stronger because of having worked though things. They have not just figured out an issue, they’ve moved into a new level of relationship for having done so. Evidence-based premarital counseling in Denver, and online premarital counseling teaches couples the skills they need to do this so that they can handle these moments successfully.

How To (Accidentally) Ruin a Marriage

Other couples, who have exactly the same, inevitable relationship issues that every couple has do not put time and energy into figuring out how to handle them. They wing it. They use whatever communication styles and ways of relating to people that they absorbed unconsciously from their families of origin, or past relationships — for better, or for worse. As I’ve discussed in other podcasts, there are lots of effective ways to destroy a relationship. But the greatest of these may be overconfidence that you already know all there is to know about how to “do” relationships.

Marriage that fail do so because the couple is doing what most people do: simply “reacting” to their partner (rather than utilizing constructive, effective relationship skills that they intentionally learned and practice regularly). As a result… they don’t get great results. Important conversations turn into unproductive arguments. Unresolved problems fester into resentment and avoidance. Emotional safety and trust erode. Toxic ways of relating and communicating can easily take over their interactions. Over time, even the strongest, most compatible couples will — due to not knowing how to handle normal relationship issues — start to wonder if they’re even compatible.

The most distressed, least effective couples do not actively learn how to “do” relationships or get help for their relationship until they are on the brink of divorce. They’ve bought into the false idea that “marriage counseling is only for when it’s really bad,” and as a result, by the time they do begrudgingly get help for their relationship it is actually too late. It’s so sad.

Relationships are just like anything else: You have to maintain them and put thoughtful, effective energy into them in order for them to grow and thrive. But this is much more than “spending time together” or “going on a date night.” Successful relationships require the development of relationship skills: Communication skills, emotional intelligence skills, behavioral adjustments, and more. We say all the time that great relationships don’t “just happen.”  They’re grown, very deliberately, by learning how to have a great relationship.

Myths About Premarital Counseling

One of the biggest fallacies that has sunk many, many marriages (and that prevents some couples from seeking premarital counseling) is the myth that “Love is enough.” Believing that loving each other is the same thing as having and using specific relationship skills is simply not true. This idea is also destructive. Because when (not if, but when) couples experience the fact that just winging it and reacting to each other creates problems, they begin to doubt the relationship itself. It makes sense, in a way: If love “should” be enough, and it’s not enough in this relationship…. then maybe it’s the wrong relationship.

Not true! The only difference between happy, successful couples and those who ultimately separate is not a matter of love, or fundamental compatibility in a relationship. Successful couples simply invest in learning how to be good partners for each other, and then use those skills very intentionally.

Another (often unspoken) myth about premarital counseling is this irrational fear that premarital counseling might bring things to the surface that will destabilize the relationship, or make people realize they’re not compatible after all. I know that sounds silly when you say it out loud, but it’s true. That fear leads people to avoid premarital counseling. The irony, of course, is that research clearly and consistently shows that the number one most important relationship skills is talking, constructively, about important topics rather than minimizing them.

Oh, the irony: When couples fear that premarital counseling will cause problems, they inadvertently create the very circumstance that will actually damage their relationship long term — apathy and avoidance.

Questions About Premarital Counseling?

If your goal is to have a strong, successful marriage, high-quality premarital counseling is essential. Research shows that high-quality premarital counseling has a significant impact on relationship satisfaction and marriage longevity. Premarital counseling matters. However, some couples avoid premarital counseling. Even more couples do “premarital counseling” (emphasis on my pretend air-quotes) that is extremely superficial, and not skills-based. When I say “high quality” premarital counseling, I’m referring to premarital counseling approaches that are evidence based and founded on scientifically sound approaches to marriage counseling and couples therapy, such as the Gottman Method and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. These approaches have been shown by research to address the aspects of a relationship that really matter, long-term.

Proactive, smart couples are asking questions about marriage counseling and doing the research to make sure that their experience in premarital counseling is meaningful and effective. They’re asking questions like, “What happens in premarital counseling? What do you talk about in premarital counseling? Do you need a licensed marriage counselor for good premarital counseling? What are some premarital counseling questions we’ll be asked to talk through? What are some of the specific relationship skills you learn in premarital counseling? How does premarital counseling work? Can you do a premarital counseling class? How long does premarital counseling take? Do we need a premarital assessment? Does premarital counseling make couples break up? How much does premarital counseling cost? Can we do premarital counseling online? Why is evidence-based, non-religious premarital counseling often more effective than the “premarital counseling” and important to do in addition to the premarital counseling we get through our religious institution? Why is premarital counseling so important? What do experienced premarital counselors teach, that we might not already know?”

SO many good, thoughtful questions to ask about premarital counseling!

Your Premarital Counseling Questions, Answered

In order to understand what premarital counseling really is, and how premarital counseling works, I’ve invited two of the amazing premarital counselors on the Growing Self team to join me on the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

My colleagues Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT and Rachel Harder, M.A., LPC, MFT-C are both marriage counselors and experienced premarital counselors, and who both teach our Lifetime of Love premarital class. (Brenda teaches our premarital class in Broomfield, CO, and Rachel teaches our premarital class in Denver, CO). In addition to the class, both Rachel and Brenda offer private premarital counseling in Denver, DTC, and Broomfield, and they also offer premarital counseling online.

Brenda and Rachel offer incredible insight into what happens in premarital counseling, and share specific skills and tips that they teach their premarital clients. If you’re getting married soon, we hope you listen to find out what you learn in premarital counseling and why it’s so important.

Wishing you all the best,

Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT, and Rachel Harder, M.A., LPC, MFT-C

Ps: One of the resources we discussed in this episode is the free, comprehensive premarital assessment that we often give to premarital couples. This is a 200+ question premarital assessment that explores so many different areas of your relationship, in order to identify your relationship’s strengths and growth opportunities.

While that particular assessment is only available for our premarital counseling couples, we do have a “lite” version of this assessment available for you to take. It’s our “How Healthy Is Your Relationship” Quiz. Access our free relationship quiz right here! — LMB

 

 

 

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Relationship Advice From a Premarital Counselor

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Is your head spinning after a terrible fight? Here’s how to get your relationship back on track…

We’ve all been there. The sanest, most intelligent, reasonable, successful people — brilliant CEOs, steady-handed surgeons, unflappable news anchors, and uber-rational captains of industry can all become unhinged in the heat of the moment. Before I became a marriage counselor, the adventure husband and I spent a good deal of the 90’s trying to knock the corners off each other too. So I understand what this feels like.

I also know (now) that intense fights are not necessary. Fighting is not a productive or effective way to solve the issues in your relationship. However, what is much more important than whether or not fights happen is how they end. When you can come back together afterwards to solve problems together, your relationship is strengthened as a result. Here’s how to reconnect…

The Anatomy of a Fight

To mend a fight, you first need to understand what made it so awful in the first place. It doesn’t even matter what started it — the reasons can range from someone taking a sharp tone with the kids, to coming home with the wrong brand of salsa, to staying out all night. But it always starts with someone feeling anger, hurt or fear, and then attempting to communicate about it. And it goes badly.

You try to say how you feel — reasonably, and with good intentions — but somehow it quickly disintegrates. You get triggered. They get triggered. And suddenly awful things start happening. You may find yourself defensively attempting to protect yourself from the insults and accusations hurling through the air. You may find yourself screeching like a crazy person at your partner’s wooden face. [Read: How to Communicate With a Withdrawn Partner]. You may find yourself doing or saying things that you would never do, otherwise. It is shocking what can happen during a bad argument.

There is a “point of no return” for everyone. We can keep our cool and behave rationally even when we are upset, until our rage-o-meter gets up to about a five or six on a ten scale. But once we push the needle past a 7 or so, we enter the “red zone” of anger.

We actually know, from research, that when people get into this elevated fight-or-flight state they literally cease to think coherently, and the part of their brain that encodes ideas into language stops functioning well. We enter a primal state where our feelings are expressed through our actions — dishes are thrown, doors are slammed, or we screech off dramatically in cars to convey what our words no longer can. We disintegrate into inarticulate screaming, or lash out with insults intended to wound. [Read: Why Your Partner is Angry]. It can get intense, and scary.

And in the aftermath, you are shaky, your heart feels broken, and your mind is understandably flooded with questions. Namely, “What the hell just happened?”

You replay events to understand where the wheels came off the bus. If you’re like most people, you walk back through the timeline to reassure yourself that your intentions were good and that you did your best. As your rational mind slowly comes back online you might be left feeling shocked and raw by the things you just experienced with your partner. Maybe you are embarrassed and ashamed by the things you said and did in the heat of the moment.

You’re probably also feeling worried about what this means about your relationship, how to come back from this, and most importantly, how to make sure this never happens again.

Four Tips To Get Back on Track After a Terrible Fight

1) Give it some time. Know how grandmothers and pop-psych gurus like to talk about “never going to bed angry?” That is complete and total crap. People vary in the amount of time it takes to calm down after a terrible fight. You might be ready to talk rationally fifteen minutes later. Your partner might need a few days to calm down. Do NOT try to make them talk to you if they aren’t there yet. Leave them alone, and they’ll show back up when they are ready to talk about what happened. Forcing the issue will only lead to round two of the horribleness.

2) Never underestimate the power of a good repair attempt. Reach out and apologize. Do the dishes. Make a joke (at your own expense, if you want to live). Come back with a peace offering, or at least a wry smile and a hug. Show your partner that you are sorry about what happened and that you still love them. It may still be too fragile to talk about it, but at least you are showing them that you are available to make it better when they are.

3) Own your stuff. It is very easy to fixate on your partner’s problems, and how they were responsible for the fight. We all think about how, “If they’d only done something differently / been more responsible / followed through / used a different tone none of this would have happened.” I get it, and I agree that your partner probably does have some things to work on. And you and I also know that you are not perfect, and could have done some things differently too. If you want to mend your relationship and have the opportunity to work on things together, it would be much more effective for you to take ownership for your stuff. At the very least, your setting a good example will help your partner take ownership for their parts of the conflict too.

4) Solve the problem. No relationship problems are ever actually solved during a fight. When people are shouting, no one is listening. But after the dust settles and everyone is calm again — that is the time to address the underlying problems that caused the fight in the first place. Remember, it’s never about the salsa. Look deeper, and see if you can identify the bigger issues underneath, like trust, security, love, partnership, values, or connection. When you work on that level, the real issues are addressed and your connection is healed.

And remember, if it keeps exploding in your face (or going nowhere) every time you try to talk about it, that is a good sign that you could benefit from marriage counseling. A great marriage counselor can help you talk about tender things productively, and help you and / or your partner take ownership for (or even see) how they are contributing to the issues. They can teach you both the skills you need to head off yucky arguments and simply solve problems together without all the drama. But most importantly, they can help you strengthen your secure attachment and deepen your connection — which makes hurt, fear, and anger much more likely to bubble up in the first place.

We’re always here to talk if you ever need us. Just schedule your free consultation session, in person or online. 

All the best to you both,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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