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Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Be Friends, First

Over time in a long term committed relationship it can be easy for couples to lose sight of the underlying friendship aspects of their relationship. Research has found that being friends with your partner is actually fundamental to a couples’ overall success and satisfaction with the relationship. Unfortunately, it’s easy lose sight of that over time.

Creating A Strong Foundation

When thinking about how to strengthen your friendship with your partner, it might be helpful to think of the qualities you admire in your closest friendships. These friendship “ingredients” may include fostering underlying trust, respect, teamwork and a sense that the other person is on your side or “has your back” at the end of the day. These qualities can also include sharing simple connecting moments like having inside jokes with one another or talking about how your day went in the evening with your significant other. 

As a couples counselor and marriage therapist I have had the opportunity to work with many couples who desire to not only build this foundation of friendship with their partner, but also maintain it. Here are a few practical tips that you can use in your own relationship today! 

Three Practical Tips For Restoring and Maintaining Friendship With Your Partner

Intentionality is Key 

As previously mentioned, with the busyness and demands of life, it can be easy for couples to lose sight of these necessary friendship qualities to a relationship (balancing a Career and Relationship sound familiar?). Couples may also find it difficult to set aside intentional time for maintaining a friendship. Phone conversations, for example, may become limited to shorthand speak about what time dinner will be and did you remember to pick the kids up from soccer practice today?   

Even setting an intentional date night can sometimes miss the mark in maintaining friendship between couples. For example, there may be a lot of pressure to make date night grand and romantic or spending the majority of time together finding activities to do rather than simply connecting with one another. While doing fun things together is also important, it may not provide couples with the opportunity to connect in a way that fosters true intimacy and sharing with one another the way you might when having coffee with a close friend, for example.

One suggestion to avoid this pitfall is rather than setting a routine “date night” couples might focus on one time during the week that they set aside for connecting or “checking-in” with one another. Maybe you meet at your favorite coffee shop or simply have “couch time” one evening a week where you talk about how you’ve been feeling individually in addition to how you’re feeling about the relationship. This can be a great opportunity to share things that feel really great about the relationship or ways that you wish things might be going differently between you. [For more ideas on how you can set aside time with your partner, read: “How To Fall In Love Again”]

Honest Communication 

Another important component to maintaining friendship between couples is honest communication about what’s going well in the relationship and what isn’t. Part of this communication means giving honest feedback to one another on a regular basis. It can be easy to jump into defense mode when receiving feedback from your partner. Additionally, giving feedback to your partner can feel anxiety provoking and built-up resentment can make delivering feedback to your partner in a caring way difficult. 

One way couples might reduce anxiety around giving and receiving feedback to one another is imagining what it would be like to give or receive the same feedback to a close friend. How would you want the feedback delivered? What would be most important to communicate to the other person? What do you ultimately need from this person in the relationship? Sometimes imagining the conversation in this way can take some of the pressure and steam off the conversation with a romantic partner when the stakes often feel much higher and more emotionally loaded than in a platonic friendship. 

Mutual Respect 

The importance of mutual respect in a couple relationship cannot be underestimated. Mutual respect also means that there is a shared sense of equality in the partnership; that both members of the couple know that the other takes their needs seriously and cares about making the other feel cared for and important. In a friendship, this component is often easy because without it, you wouldn’t have much of a foundation upon which to build a friendship. 

One big way that couples lose a sense of mutual respect for one another is the way that conflict gets resolved in the relationship. An example of how this might play out is with grand romantic gestures. For example, a couple gets into a fight and one member of the couple buys the other a bouquet of flowers that gets delivered to the office the next day as an apology. Often times, while well-intentioned, grand romantic gestures disclude the fundamental component of mutual respect which is talking and communicating about what happened during the fight in a meaningful way. 

This involves a conversation where both members of the couple take responsibility for and convey understanding of any hurt feelings to one another. These conversations allow couples the opportunity to truly move on from an argument in addition to turning conflict into an opportunity to foster intimacy, honesty and connection in the relationship while grand romantic gestures tend to sweep things under the rug temporarily.

Most couples in long-term, committed relationships struggle to maintain these aspects of the relationship that are so important to overall relationship satisfaction. So know that you are not alone. I do hope you found this article has a helpful jumping off point to thinking about overarching ways friendship might be maintained within the context of a romantic relationship. Share with me your thoughts in the comments below!

Warmly, 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss, PhD, LP-C

 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss is a couples counselor, individual therapist, life coach and creativity coach. She specializes in helping couples restore emotional and sexual intimacy, individuals move past heartbreak and into healthy relationships, and creatives find their voice.

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Saving Your Relationship, Single-Handedly

WHEN YOUR PARTNER WON’T GO TO MARRIAGE COUNSELING | It can feel really discouraging when you are eager to work on your relationship, but your partner is less than enthused about going to marriage counseling or relationship coaching with you. But know this: Every couple who gets to marriage counseling does so because one of the partners initiates it. In your relationship, that person might need to be you. And that is okay.

I’m glad you’re still thinking about how to get your partner to come to couples therapy or marriage counseling with you, even if they say they won’t go. Many times, the reason why people won’t go to couples counseling is because they are feeling anxious about it. When you know how to alleviate their fears about marriage counseling, it really helps.

Furthermore, even though it can feel disheartening to be the one who is pushing for couples therapy, it’s worth it because great things can happen once you get them in the door.

The truth is that even the most reluctant partner will often open up in the first marriage counseling session. Why? Because a competent, expert marriage counselor is going to help them feel safe, heard and understood. They might have the opportunity to say things they’ve been holding in for a looonnng time, and it feels good. Having a productive conversation with a marriage counselor about issues that have been hard to talk about makes people feel hopeful and excited about the future of their relationship. It can be an incredibly positive, validating and reassuring experience for them — as well as for you.

It’s been my experience that often the initiating partner is blown away by how much their formerly “anti” partner winds up sharing in the first meeting. We’re both bemused to see the person who had their arms crossed and a frowny-face at the start of the session hanging onto the door-knob eager to tell me “one last thing” before we have to end.

But the tricky part can be getting them into the office in the first place.

Why People Are Reluctant To Go To Marriage Counseling

First of all, please set aside any stereotypes you may be holding on to about this being a “man thing.” At least 50% of the people who call us for a free consultation are men, eager to get their wives in to marriage counseling with them. Women can be reluctant to go to marriage counseling too.

Whether men or women, the root cause of marriage counseling reluctance is that people often have preconceived ideas about marriage counseling that hold them back from taking the plunge. (They may also have already decided what is and is not possible for your relationship in advance of the first meeting, regrettably. But that is the subject of a different podcast).

THIS episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is all about understanding the common anxieties and misperceptions at work in people who are reluctant to try marriage counseling.

Listen, and get insight and new understanding for a partner who says things like:

I’ll be helping you understand your partner in a new way, so that you can speak to their concerns. I hope this advice helps you help YOUR partner take the first step forward with you, and start growing back together again.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: One of the resources I encourage people to use is our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz.” You can take this quiz with your partner (or take it first and send them an invite) and use the experience as a safe feeling, low-key starting point to discuss your relationship and how to make positive changes. If you submit your email (below) we can send you a link to the quiz. LMB

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When Your Partner Refuses To Go To Couples Counseling

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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How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby

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Becoming Parents, Together.

Welcoming a new baby into the world can be one of the most exciting and joyful times for a couple… and also one of the hardest. It’s unfortunately very common to have marriage problems after baby. As marriage counselors and family therapists we often see that most couples spend so much time and energy preparing for the birth, and how to take care of their newborn, they neglect to think about how they’ll keep their relationship strong after baby.

The relationship issues they experience after having a baby can therefore catch them by surprise, and feel all the more challenging to resolve in the stressful weeks and months following the birth of a child.

Just like we encourage couples getting married to get premarital counseling to prevent future problems, we encourage pregnant couples to proactively prepare their relationships for life-after baby. Today, we’re here to help provide some guidance for preventing relationship problems after having a baby, or for healing your relationship if it feels like things have gotten harder since becoming parents together.

Common Marriage Problems After Baby

Many couples report relationship issues after baby. Why? It’s because having a new child to care for together is uniquely stressful, and it requires you two to work together as a couple in a different way than you ever had before. Furthermore, you’re likely both feeling depleted, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed. Plus, when your baby needs something, it feels like an emergency!

In this emotional, hormonal, and circumstantial pressure-cooker frustrations flare, and resentments simmer, particularly when things are feeling out of balance between you and unspoken expectations are going unmet.

Many women report feeling disconnected from their husband after having a baby, often due to feeling overwhelmed, overburdened, and because it’s difficult for their partners to know how to support them — physically, emotionally, and in terms of practical help. Men too can experience disconnection from their partners after the birth of a child, often due to feeling suddenly secondary to this new little being who needs so much care and attention.

Having a new baby requires couples to renegotiate boundaries, establish new ways of doing things, and enter brand new emotional territory together — all while sleep-deprived and stressed. It’s a a new chapter that involves a great deal of personal growth work, both for each partner individually, and as a couple. It’s no wonder that many couples struggle as they make their way forward, together.

Relationship Changes After Baby

In addition to the new challenges couples face around how to work as a team to care for their baby, they may temporarily lose many of the fun bonding activities they once shared. Many couples need to rebuild their sexual relationship (slowly!) after the birth of a child. It’s also generally much more difficult to spend time alone doing fun things than it was in the past. (You’ll find very few brand new parents at a weekend-music festival, for example).

However, strong couples learn how to find new things to enjoy together. While having time alone is still important (date night, anyone?) it’s extremely helpful to find ways of having fun and connecting around your parenting role too.

Building a Strong, Happy Family  — Together

The good news is that through preparation and communication, couples can not just avert marriage problems after baby but enter a new era of strength and satisfaction in their relationship. Yes, things change, but many couples report feeling more deeply committed to each other and their new life as a family together in the months and years after their first child.

The early stages of new parenthood require working out kinks, and learning how to work as a team in a whole new way. Having a happy marriage after parenthood means learning new ways of communicating, connecting, and enjoying life together.

Because this transition to parenthood can feel so challenging for many couples, we’re devoting a whole episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to supporting you through it. Marriage and family therapist and parenting coach Jessica Small will be sharing her tips for how to not just keep your relationship strong after baby, but set yourself up for success in the years to come.

Listen now to get Jessica’s advice for how to:

  • Prepare your relationship for a baby
  • Have crucial conversations that will help you work through issues as they come up
  • How to support each other emotionally after having a baby
  • Practice practical strategies to make things easier for both of you
  • Keep a compassionate mindset
  • Create a happy new chapter for your marriage

We hope that this information helps you successfully transition from being a happy couple to a happy family!

Sincerely,

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT and Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT

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Music Credits: Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star,   “Blister in the Sun” (New Wave Lullabies Vol. 1,)

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Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

In addition to working with private clients, Jessica leads our Online Postpartum Support Group.

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Let’s Talk About Date Night

If you’re in a long-term relationship the time will come when that burning flame of romance and passion dims to a comfortable warmth, it’s inevitable. This doesn’t mean that the romance and passion are over, it’s a new era of your relationship. If you welcome this era with an open mind and a willingness to experience this stage with your partner – you will find that this warmth is not only sustaining to your relationship but welcoming.

I know it can feel discouraging to think back on how alive and in love you once were before the chaos of life, work, and family obligations became primary conversations at the dinner table. Maybe you’re even asking yourself “can it ever be like it once was?”

The truth is, if you’re both willing to put in the effort to keep your relationship “lit” then YES you can have those rekindling experiences in your relationship! In fact, research by love gurus Dr. John and Julie Gottman has even shown that couples on the road to separation were able to rekindle the flame in their relationship. So what’s the secret? You guessed it…date night.

How To Get The Most Out Of Date Night

It’s easy enough to go on a date if time and circumstance allow. However, it can feel like there’s just not enough time in the day for dating, and if you are like most of my couples clients you have a lot going on. It can feel like your only conversations together happen in passing after a long day at work or at the dinner table with the kids. This means that you have to be intentional about date night, and you need to get the most out of your time together (yes, I’m talking quality over quantity).

So, How Do You Do This?

First, it’s important to choose a time that works for both of you. It might feel silly scheduling each other in, but I promise if you schedule your date together you’re both more likely to make it work. So sit down, get those phones out (or paper agendas, whatever works for you!) and pick a time where you are either both free or available to move your schedule around. This might mean getting a babysitter, rearranging less important plans, or simply saying “no” to lesser obligations. But remember, you don’t have to force a date for the sake of dating. Sometimes an hour at the nearby coffee shop can be just as fun — do what works best for you!

Next, be deliberate about the activity you choose to do together. Since time is limited, what you do with that time is important. Try to orchestrate a date that is both fun and meaningful for both of you! The more thought you put into the date, the more you’ll get out of it. Before this starts sounding like a chore, I’m not talking about an itinerary that has every little moment planned out. Think about what you both like to do? Where do you like to go? What have you done in the past you’d like to do again? What are some new places, food, or experiences you would like to try?

Number one rule – make this time about the two of you. You don’t have to stick to any version of a date that isn’t appealing to you. However, the more time you spend together, the easier dating becomes. If this means staying home and watching a movie together, sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine, going out to an upscale restaurant, or checking out the “hottest” club – do what’s right for the both of you.

Looking for some great date night suggestions? Take a look at these simple to elaborate ideas you can implement into your new date night routine.

Fun Simple Suggestions:

  1. Pizza & A Movie Marathon— whether you like the DIY method of making your own homemade pizza or you like someone else to do the work for you (aka…ordering delivery), this is a staple date night. You can choose a movie that has a special meaning to the two of you, or maybe even take turns showing your current or childhood favorites.
  2. Build A Fort or “Camp” Indoors—sometimes laying down together in a new place can be exciting and spark some old feelings you thought were lost!
  3. Go On A Long Walk Together—use this time to hold hands, talk about life, or even get to know each other more. Did you know that exercise helps release brain chemicals that can make you feel happier? So by simply doing something active together can create positive feelings between you and your partner.
  4. Desserts and Discovery—make your favorite desserts together and ask one another questions to get to know each other again. There are various apps that supply questions to ask your partner (I recommend the “Gottman Card Decks” app). You could even get creative and use this desserts and discovery date to spark some sexual intimacy as well!

More Elaborate Suggestions:

  1. Surprise Date Night—if you and your partner have similar schedules, surprise your partner with a spontaneous date (to a restaurant, bowling alley, movies, etc). The excitement of the surprise may spark some long-awaited affection.
  2. A Mini-Vacay—find a babysitter and book a hotel room for the night! A night away from home can be especially rejuvenating for a relationship, especially if you have children.
  3. Take A Class Together—some communities offer classes to the public. Register for a local class together such as art, culinary, dancing, or exercise classes. Some classes may even be free!
  4. Recreate Your First Date—think about your very first date together and recreate it.  Reminiscing on the past may help reignite passion in the present. It can also be helpful to talk through all of the obstacles you have overcome as a couple over the years and take time to appreciate how your partner has contributed to the strengths in your relationship.

Date night can be a helpful tool for relationship health. Whether you’re wanting to stick to something simple or splurge on an elaborate night out, there are many exciting ways to get to know your partner and rediscover the excitement in your relationship. Try some of these suggestions and share your experience with me below in the comments section!

Wishing you the best on your date,
Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT

Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT is a warm, compassionate marriage counselor, individual therapist and family therapist who creates a safe and supportive space for you to find meaning in your struggles, realize your self-worth, and cultivate healthy connections with the most important people in your life.

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How to Improve Communication — Fast

How to Improve Communication — Fast

How to Improve Communication — Fast

Turn Conflict into Connection

“Why do we keep having the same argument over and over again? How do we move past this?”

As a marriage counselor, I hear this all the time. Whether I’m sitting with a couple in my office for marriage counseling in Broomfield, or meeting with a couple for online marriage counseling, the struggle is real: Couples get stuck in predictable cycles of conflict, and once there, it’s hard to get unstuck.

 

I’m here today to give you a roadmap for how to stop the cycle of arguing, and improve communication in your relationship.

 

First, let’s talk about predictable cycles of conflict. A predictable cycle is when you know that the conversation or the action taking place leads to “the conflict zone,” and yet feels impossible to stop. These moments are not unfamiliar, and often in my couples therapy sessions, these conflict patterns show up in dialogue between partners.

 

Know that you are not alone; Your relationship is not broken. These cycles of conflict are common, but they are also an opportunity for personal growth and growth within your relationship.

 

Research-Based Couples Therapy For Real-World Relationships

 

Dr. Sue Johnson, the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy (an evidence based approach to marriage counseling, and the one I practice), wittily describes these communication patterns as “Demon Dialogues.”

 

Dr. Johnson shares that we most often fall into these ways of communicating when we are feeling disconnected from our partners. I bet that is true for you, too.

 

To interrupt and overcome this pattern within your relationship, you will both need first to understand what it is, and how you can work through it together to cultivate a healthy relationship and connection.

 

Here’s a real-world example of what happens when a negative cycle of conflict takes over your relationship:

 

Joe and Angie sought couples counseling with me after months of “miscommunication,” frequent arguments over reportedly small matters, and lost intimacy. Joe would shut down and withdraw, and Angie would try and try to get him to talk, and get increasingly angry with him when he didn’t seem to listen or care.

 

Angie voiced in their first session the struggle she had getting Joe to communicate within the relationship. She was really frustrated by the lack of emotional intimacy they shared. She felt really disconnected, and she was hurt and angry because it seemed like Joe didn’t care or understand her. Angie felt like she was the only one fighting for the relationship.

 

Joe felt differently; it wasn’t that he didn’t care about the relationship. He cared a lot, and was inwardly upset when Angie was upset (even though you couldn’t always tell from the outside).

 

He felt as though his efforts were overlooked and even when he tried it was never enough to make Angie happy. Deep down he was worried that he didn’t even know what would make her happy, or that he would ever figure it out.

 

Joe found it easier to retreat from his wife’s complaints than to get drawn into an argument that neither of them could win. So he shut down, in part to protect himself but also to protect the relationship.

 

However, as Joe retreated, Angie became more persistent, which led Joe to withdraw further, which made Angie more upset… creating an unending negative communication cycle. This cycle, or dance, continues to grow stronger the more frequently it occurs. (And it occurred more and more frequently as time when on.)

 

Can you relate? Has this happened between you and your partner?

 

If you have, you know that when you are in this dance with your partner, it can feel like a revolving door – one that you both get stuck in and that whirls you around and around. It feels like everything happens so fast, and before you know it you’re in that same argument again.

 

What we often forget when we find ourselves in these patterns is that a revolving door can slow, and we can exit. When we exit this dance with our partner, we can create a new one fostered by empathy, compassion, and connection.

 

Five Steps to Improve Communication In Your Relationship

 

Interrupting this dance and creating one that is increasingly harmonious, liberating, and compassionate is possible for you and your partner. Here are five practical steps you can take together to move into new healthy patterns within your relationship.

 

1.       Name It to Tame It

In order to improve communication in your relationship, you must first see how what you say and do impacts your partner. We cannot change or heal that which we are not aware of. Begin working to notice and increase your awareness of the moves you make in the dance so that you can create a path out. Once you are aware of the dance, you can deliberately choose to not proceed in the usual pattern.

 

Once you are clear about what YOU usually do when you’re heading towards an argument with your partner, you can say so. This way, you can signal to your partner when you notice the conflict cycle, and instead of getting wrapped up into the dance, you can work together to move in a different direction.

 

Need help identifying your dance? Try completing the following exercise by Dr. Johnson: “The more I _____, the more you _____, and then the more I _____, and round and round we go.”

 

For example, once Angie had more self awareness around the feelings that came up for her when Joe shuts down she was able to own them. She could say, “I know I’m getting angry, and I can see that this is shutting you down. The more you shut down, the more upset I get. Let’s do something different this time.”

 

She broke the pattern, and they could finally have a different conversation. (Instead of a conflict!)

 

2.       Stay Present Focused

I know, you hear this all the time but staying focused on the present will allow your relationship to evolve with time. If you remain rooted in the past, you will continue to struggle with past conflicts. If you want to interrupt this destructive dance, then you have to open yourself up to what’s happening at this moment and share it with your partner.

 

If our friend Joe said, “You always yell and criticize me!” in a moment when Angie is calmly talking about her feelings… that’s just not helpful. Staying rooted in the present moment gives you the chance to notice when your partner is trying. Let them be different, and your relationship can change for the better.

 

3.       Be Specific

When you speak vaguely about what is happening in your relationship or expect your partner to pick up on subtle cues (maybe even read your mind) you are not setting yourself up for success.

 

Being explicit about your experience and your needs when speaking to your partner will give them a helping hand in understanding what it is that you need. It can feel overwhelming when we are unsure of what our partners are asking of us – which often leads to a disconnect or emotional shutdown.

 

When Angie started to ask Joe things like, “I would like to tell you about my day and have you ask me questions (but not give me advice.) That would help me feel more connected with you.

Can we do that even for just fifteen minutes?” Joe was very happy to sit with her and listen. That was a much better strategy for both of them than her slamming cabinets in the kitchen.

 

4.       Dig Deeper, Go Beneath the Surface

Anger and frustration are the most readily voiced emotions my clients share in our sessions. I often say that anger is the low hanging fruit – it’s easily accessible, it can protect us, and it signals to others that something is wrong.

 

While anger serves an essential purpose, it often is a sign that other emotions are lingering beneath the surface. These emotions are known as primary emotions. When you identify and share these emotions with your partner during the conflict, you can often grow closer and strengthen your bond.

 

It changed everything for Joe and Angie when Angie could say, “You know, I’m not even angry right now. I’m actually hurt. I feel so sad when it seems like you’re not interested in me, or you don’t seem to care about how I feel.” Joe had a completely different reaction to hearing Angie say she was sad. It made her seem softer, and more approachable. And Joe really loved Angie, and cared that she was hurting. When he could communicate that to her, in a moment of softness, their relationship started to heal.

 

5.       Give Yourself Time and Patience

Above all else, permit yourself to be human and to error as you work hard to interrupt this pattern. This process takes time, patience, continuous effort, and vulnerability. But I believe it is worth all the hard work because it is possible to find a new way to be in a relationship. I believe you can find your way out of a dead end and back into a meaningful connection.

 

Wishing you peace, love, and connection

Brittany Stewart, M.A., LMFT

 

Brittany Stewart, M.A., LMFTC is a couples counselor, individual therapist, family therapist, premarital counselor, and a life and relationship coach. She works with her clients to build connected relationships. Brittany is an attachment-based therapist, and she incorporates models of therapy focused on the emotional bonds between people.

 

Brittany has advanced training in evidence-based models of couples therapy such as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and Gottman Method Couples Therapy.

Available In: Broomfield, CO | Online Video

Read Brittany’s Bio | Schedule Now

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