How to Avoid Miscommunication in Relationships

How to Avoid Miscommunication in Relationships

How to Avoid Miscommunication in Relationships

Are You “Mind Reading” Your Relationship?

[social_warfare]

Miscommunication in Relationships: Can you recall the last time you felt confused in your relationship because you couldn’t find an explanation for the behavior of your partner? The last time you felt worried that things might not be going well because something happened that seemed like a bad sign? 

Miscommunication in relationships is more common than you might think. When there isn’t an open and honest conversation around what you’re feeling, expecting, or needing from your partner, miscommunication is bound to happen. Maybe you’ve even found yourself wrestling with some thoughts like these:

If she hasn’t returned my text message in the past three hours, she must be upset with me. 

If he isn’t very talkative during dinner, he must be wondering if we should keep seeing each other. 

It’s been a long time since we’ve been intimate. He must not find me attractive anymore. Or maybe he’s seeing someone else? 

In each of these scenarios, there is one piece of information that is clearly missing – the thoughts of our partners. Our own effort to fill in those gaps with what we assume they must be thinking is indicative of something therapists sometimes refer to as mind reading. And while that’s technically a superpower, it can be a major hindrance to our relationships, leading to severe miscommunication. 

Communication is Key in a Relationship

In my experience as a relationship coach, I would argue that some level of mind reading happens in every relationship. At its most basic level, it is simply the belief that we know what another person must be thinking or feeling at a given moment. This miscommunication in relationships comes from an innate tendency we have as people to fill in the gaps around things we don’t fully understand. Unfortunately, most of us have a bent toward filling in those gaps with the worst-case scenarios. We assume the worst so that we’re surprised when that’s not the case, rather than assuming the best and being disappointed when reality doesn’t measure up. 

While the impulse to do this is perfectly normal, the consequences of it can be incredibly harmful to our relationships. We end up in fights over problems that don’t exist. We attack the character of the person we love most because we misinterpreted an event. We assume that the worst-case scenario simply has to be true so that we can guard against being hurt

The impacts of these beliefs in our relationships are real because something is real if it is real in its consequences. It doesn’t ultimately matter if they are actually true or not. If we believe that our partner meant to hurt us when they truly didn’t, we will still treat them like they did. The impact on the relationship is real.  

This is where communication is key in a relationship: having healthy communication that connects you to your partner vs. assuming you already know what they are thinking.

Assume the Best of Your Partner

What if we didn’t fill in the gaps with the worst possible version of events? What if we made the intentional choice to assume the best about a situation when the information was missing? What if we went a step further and actually asked our partners to tell us what they mean rather than trying to read their minds? 

Here are three guidelines that I teach my online couples coaching clients that can help you and your partner do this on a routine basis. 

Couples Counseling Communication Tips to Avoid Miscommunication in Relationships

#1 Assume the best about what your partner means in a given interaction.

We are all guilty of running the instant replay in our heads after a conversation with our partner. Questions flood our minds as we reflect on what was said. What did he mean when he said this? Was she implying that I was responsible for all of this? This tendency to overanalyze leads us to walk away from interactions and only later decide that something happened that we should be upset by. When we find ourselves reflecting on a conversation and this happens, instead of believing that our partner’s comments or actions were meant to hurt us, we can choose instead to assume that they care about us and did not mean to cause any harm

#2 If you are hurt by an interaction, ask your partner (directly) to clarify what they meant.

We often want our partners to fully understand us, but it takes more effort on our part to invest the time needed to make sure we fully understand them. When we find ourselves hurt, we can allow the hurt to serve as an invitation to deeper understanding. We can reach for our partners and ask if they meant to be hurtful in what they did. This gives our partners the chance to tell us what they were thinking or feeling when something happened, providing additional clarity as we determine whether or not the injury was intentional, accidental, or simply the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. 

#3 Ask yourself if there might be other explanations for something your partner did that might give them the benefit of the doubt.

Sometimes, we are short with those closest to us because we feel animosity toward them. Oftentimes, we are short with those closest to us because we feel hangry. Could there be a more benevolent explanation for the interaction that has upset us? None of this is a denial of our right to tell someone that something they did hurt us; this is simply an invitation to not assume that our partner was being malicious toward us when it happened. Sometimes a text gets missed because it was opened in a meeting and they haven’t had a chance to respond – it doesn’t have to mean we’re being ignored on purpose. 

Create Space for Intentional Communication

The space we create for our partners to share their intentions with us is critically important. When we create internal narratives around what another person must have meant without actually asking them to share their intentions or perspective with us, we run the risk of expending valuable emotional energy being upset with them over something that is largely the creation of our own imagination. 

We would do well to leave the power of mind-reading on the shelf and instead choose to utilize one of the simplest but hardest to execute powers in our relationships – open and honest communication.

Warmly,
Benjamin Jones, M.S.

online life coaching online couples therapy online relationship coach

Ben Jones, M.S., is a life and relationship coach who helps couples and individuals activate their inner strengths in pursuit of their goals and passions. His collaborative, friendly style makes him easy to talk to. He can help you get unstuck, achieve new understanding, and create deeper connections.

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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Power Struggle In Relationships

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Power Struggle In Relationships: How to Break Through Gridlock

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Power Struggle In Relationships

Marriage Power Struggle… Solutions

What is a power struggle in relationships? Relationship power struggles grind into being when two people have very strong, opposing opinions, or conflicting desires about a particular outcome and cannot find a compromise. Both partners hold on tightly to their position, becoming more polarized and un-budging. Compromise feels impossible, empathy plummets, and frustration spikes. Not fun!

Also, what I know from years of experience as a Denver marriage counselor, and online relationship coach is that power struggle in marriage are so, so common. Problems — even perpetual problems — and arguments in a romantic relationship are inevitable. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, many times productive conflict can be really healthy.  But power struggles that become gridlock issues that feel unsolvable need to be managed with care, before they erode the emotional safety of your relationship.

That’s why I’m putting on my “relationship coach” hat today, and why we’re devoting an entire episode of the podcast to marriage power struggle solutions, as well as how to avoid power struggles in the first place.

If you’re finding yourself stuck in a battle of the wills and unable to move past a relationship hurdle, this relationship podcast episode is packed full of tips, advice, and help. You can work together to resolve your differences — even ones that feel big. I’m going to walk you through some steps that can help resolve gridlocked conflicts and power struggles in romantic relationships.

I discuss what they are, why they exist, and an example illustrating gridlocked conflicts. Additionally, I touch on personality differences between couples and why they can affect relationship dynamics and ultimately lead to power struggles.

If you and your partner often have unproductive conflicts that feel like they turn into a fight to the death about who’s way is “right” … this episode is for you.

Grow, Together.

Before we sought help from you, I was at a point in my relationship that I had really given up on hope... you have changed our lives.

— Couples Counseling Client

Understanding Power Struggles

First, we’ll start by digging in to what power struggles are, why power struggles happen, and what types of things you can do to start breaking down the walls.

  1. Discover the factors that may lead to gridlocked conflicts in a relationship.
  2. Learn how you and your partner can brainstorm productively to reach a solution.
  3. Know about personality differences that may cause power struggles in a relationship.

Episode Highlights

Gridlocked Conflicts in Romantic Relationships

  • Gridlocked issues happen when a couple argues and is unable to compromise.
  • These issues are common in romantic relationships.
  • It is vital to address these issues so that they don’t create too much negativity and resentment between the partners.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to get out of a gridlocked conflict that has turned into a power struggle.
  • Knowing what gridlock and power struggles are and how to walk them back and avoid them are essential relationship skills.

When Conflicts Start to Polarize, and Power Struggles Start

  • When you are not in agreement with your partner, you tend to dig more deeply.
  • Couples are pushed further apart when conflicts intensify.
  • It’s like struggling to untie a knot but you end up tightening it unintentionally.
  • One example of conflict is when parents have to make the decision to send their child to school despite the ongoing health crisis.
  • When couples campaign more actively for the other person to understand their side, they are unintentionally creating a dynamic where they will less likely resolve the conflict.

Overcoming Gridlocked Conflicts & Power Struggle in Relationships

While understanding why power struggles in relationships can happen in the first place (and how to, hopefully, avoid them) is an incredibly important relationship skill, it’s also necessary to understand how to resolve power struggles once they begin. This is because sooner or later, all couples encounter this. Knowing how to successfully work through a gridlock conflict without damaging the trust and goodwill in your relationship is vital.

Listen to this episode to learn more about how. Specifically: 

  • Communication strategies that allow you to find a path forward together and stay connected as a couple, even when you see things differently.
  • Why stepping away can paradoxically help you move forward.
  • How resolving power struggles can actually help you deepen the love, understanding, trust and compassion in your relationship.
  • Ways to utilize power struggles and gridlock conflict to increase the creativity and possibilities in your shared life together.

Real Help For Your Relationship

I share SO many new ideas, strategies and relationship advice in this episode, but the key to making it all work is by having productive, emotionally safe conversations with your partner that connect you rather than pushing you further apart.

If this is feeling hard right now, a structured activity like my free, online  “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz can be a starting place to have a productive conversation about how you’re both feeling, and what you’re each needing to improve your communication, feel more loved and respected, and get on the same page so you can work together as a team.

Enjoy this Relationship Podcast?

We discussed so many things in todays episode related to power struggles in relationships, how to avoid power struggles, and solutions for power struggles. I hope they help you. You can listen to the full episode using the player below.

If you enjoyed today’s episode of the Love, Success, and Happiness Podcast, then hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

Thanks for listening! 

Wishing you both all the best on your journey of growth, together.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Power Struggles In Relationships

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

Music Credits: The Coathangers, “Down Down”

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

 

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Power Struggle in Relationships

Episode Transcript
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. 

 

New topic, today we’re talking about power struggles and gridlock conflict. That was The Coathangers with the song Down Down, setting the mood for us today because downward spiral is basically what happens, in summary, when couples get stuck in these power struggles, gridlock issues. They’re butting heads, no one is compromising. No one is budging. And it’s a stalemate. Not a fun place to be in, but a very common situation in relationships. And believe it or not, a solvable problem. 

 

And one that I’ve been hearing a lot of you are struggling with lately. I’ve been hearing from your comments on the blog at growingself.com on Instagram at @drlisamariebobby that this is turning into a pretty major pain point in your relationship. So we are talking about this today on the show. And I hope by the end of our time together, you have some clarity, and some direction and maybe even some new ideas for things to try to break through the impasse and cultivate compromise and agreement with the one you love most. 

 

If this is your first time listening today, hello, I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. And this is the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. Every week we tackle topics that are important to you and that are helpful in your quest for love and exciting, happy, fulfilling relationshipsboth romantic and platonic. Happiness, meaning that you are feeling good about yourself and your life, and also success that you are being who you were put here to be and creating success according to your own definition. So, every week we are talking about something related to that often based on your questions. So if you have a question for me, leave it on the blog at growingself.com, or get in touch on Instagram at @drlisamariebobby or on Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby

 

And I really wanted to tackle this subject of gridlock issues today because, oh, you guys, it’s been coming up so much. And let me tell you where this has been coming up in particular, lately it is related to couples who are not on the same page about how to handle issues related to Coronavirus. Now, certainly gridlock issues are nothing new. I have been a marriage counselor, a relationship coach and a psychologist for a long time and frequently work with couples or individuals in relationships where there is just, both people have dug in around their individual positions. And it is often around a black and white issue. That’s kind of the definition of a gridlock conflict. One person wants to have a baby, the other does not. One person needs to live by the ocean, the other one needs to live in the mountains. Or they really want to live with their family of origin, back in the small town in Mississippi, and the other person must live in New York or they’re going to die. I mean, it’s like things that are difficult to compromise around. Yes or no. Black or white. This or that. 

 

And I wanted to address it because gridlock conflict is one of these things that almost all couples face at some point or anothervery commonagain. But it’s also one of those things that if you don’t have a plan to get through it, it will create so much negativity and hostility and conflict and resentment. And the relationship over time it can really, again, begin to eat away at the fabric of your positive partnership. And it’s very easy to get into a good gridlock conflict, we’ll certainly talk about why it is hard to get out of a gridlock conflict that has turned into a power struggle. But there is a path forward. 

 

So first of all, let’s talk about what happens to every couple when they get into a power struggle around a gridlock conflict where it feels like one person is going to win, and one person is going to lose. And each person starts fighting to the death to have their way of seeing things prevail and be accepted by their partner. And so, if you will, just enter into this mindset with me, right? Because we’ve all been there. I have done this, you have done this,  we’ve all done this. It feels like when things like this come up that are very important to you, it feels like you’re right. And you know, you’re right. You have 197 reasons why you are right, and why your partner is wrong. And if they could just see things from your perspective, and hear what you’re saying and like let it in, then they too would be able to understand the truth. And they would change their mind, their opinions would be swayed. And not only would they agree with you, they would get into alignment with what you want this to look like going forward. And not only that, but when they did, they would be so happy they did. Because as soon as they did, they would really understand even more deeply that your perspective was the right one all along. They will have great sorrow and remorse for fighting you tooth and nail. They’ll say, “You know what? You were right. It really is better this way. We did the right thing.” And you will smooch, and the credits will come on at the end of the sitcom and you will live happily ever after. If only they would listen, right? 

 

Okay, maybe not the credits part but that’s kind of how it feels when you are in this situation with your partner. I mean, they’re just being unreasonable, right? They are not taking in the facts, the truth. They just need to listen. And so we put all of our energy into explaining to them why we’re right and they are wrong. It may involve charts, graphs, pictures, outside sources, scientific journal articles. Exhibit A. They need to talk to your Uncle Joe, who is going to tell you the same thing that you’re telling them. It turns into a campaign, right? 

 

And as you are probably experiencing in your own life, what happens is that they seem to dig in even more deeply. And the more you try to explain to them why they’re wrong and why you’re right, they argue with you. They don’t listen. They even start avoiding and it just turns into this whole thing. Or they try to tell you why you’re wrong, and then you have to argue with them why they’re telling you that you’re wrong is actually wrong. And, right? It is a spiral down and it tends to intensify. And it tends to polarize, meaning that it pushes couples further apart. And both people dig in deeper, and over time, it starts to feel increasingly hopeless. Not fun, not fun for anyone. 

 

And I’ll tell you what, I actually, a lot of this is coming up as I mentioned around coronavirus. I met with a journalist for an interview recently as I sometimes do, and her question was, “Dr. Lisa, what do you do with a couple who, for example, Parent A really wants their kids to go to school this fall, doesn’t feel that the risk is that big, we can manage it, it’s going to be okay. And the benefits to the child of being in school, or the benefits to our family of the child being in school outweighs the risks of them getting sick or anybody else getting sick. So they should go to school. And Parent B is like, no, the risk is too high. The consequences are too severe. I am not willing to risk the health and safety of our child, of ourselves, of our community. And even if it’s gonna be hard on us, we will figure it out.”

 

That is real quickly turning into a big gridlock battle for a lot of couples in, you know, school is one thing but it can also be like, “Should we or shouldn’t we go into the grocery store versus online delivery? Is it okay to go over to our friends’ houses? Is it alright for our child to have playdates?” And sort of this like, “How are we as a couple managing the risk of coronavirus?” And oftentimes when a person perceives the threat as being more serious and real than the other, it can turn into big gridlock issues. But again, gridlock can happen around many, many different kinds of thingsfrom parenting to finances, to how we spend our time together, to major life decisions about what we are doing with our family, having more children. 

 

And so knowing what gridlock is, and what power struggles are, and how to not just walk them back but ideally avoid them is a very necessary and important relationship skill. So we might be talking about coronavirus stuff today, but please know that these are all very generalizable skills. 

 

And so one thing to know about gridlock conflict, it’s like, I think maybe a good metaphor here, it’s like struggling to untie a knot and you indirectly and unintentionally tighten the knot. The more that you like to try to untie it, something gets increasingly snarled. And this is a really good way of understanding what happens in power struggles and what to not do. 

 

When couples begin to fight with each other more vigorously and more actively campaign for the other person to listen and understand and respect their side, they are unintentionally creating a dynamic where it is less likely that the conflict will be satisfactorily resolved. And instead, it intensifies the power struggle underlying the conflict. And this is a hard one because it feels natural to fight. It feels natural to advocate for your position. And in this situation, it is the least helpful approach. 

 

Again, going back to the words of Dr. John Gottman, who is a researcher in the field of marriage and family therapy. He’s probably the most famous and well-founded researcher in the field of marriage and family therapy. His words of wisdom, which are hard to take in. Because I don’t want to get into a power struggle with you, my friend, but so I’m just gonna say this out loud and let you marinate on this for a second is thatsome problems are actually unsolvable in the sense that there will always be major differences between you, in the way that you see some things, in the way that you prefer things to be done in your values, in the way that you, I don’t know, the hierarchy of information and the way that you process things. There will always be these differences in a relationship. And again, this is hard to let in if you feel like, especially if you feel like a decision must be made, that the path through it is an indirect one. It is, let’s see, what is Dr. Gottman’s quote. He says, “Your purpose is not to solve the conflict completely. It will never go away completely. The goal is to ‘declaw’ the issue and try to remove the hurt so that the problem stops being a source of great pain.”

 

I know that is probably not what you wanted me to say right now. You wanted me to tell you, “Okay, here’s a communication technique that you can use to get your partner to actually hear you this time so that they can let in what you’re saying. And then finally agree with you so that you can both move on.” That is actually, again, not the goal. The goal is to take away the pain, to accept unsolvable problems, and find a path together that allows you to stay connected as a couple. And let’s talk a little bit more deeply about what achieving that looks like in practice. Because if you’re thinking, “I can’t do that, that’s hard.” It is hard, it is hard. And it’s unnecessary. 

 

So the first thing to do, instead of fighting, if you find yourself getting into a power struggle with your partner, is to very intentionally and deliberately step away from trying to find resolution. Stop trying to solve the unsolvable problem. And instead put all of your energy and attention into seeking to understand where your partner is coming from. Your only job in the first stages of this is towith your full attention and insincerity, no ulterior motives hereis to put yourself in their shoes. Seek to understand how they’re thinking, and how they’re feeling in a very respectful and authentic way. 

 

And I do mean this. It has to be sincere, it cannot be, “Well, if I understand them and I make them understand that I get it, then they will be able to understand where I’m coming from. And will finally see my point of view, and we can just do it my way and move on.” That can’t be the intention, it really has to be, “No. My job right now is to understand the person that I love and their point of view.” So what that looks like is saying, “We’re going around and around in circles about this, we are not coming to an agreement. And you know what? I think we’ve been going about this the wrong way. Let’s instead really put our full attention and just understand each other instead of fighting with each other. I’m going to go first, tell me more about how you’re feeling and how you see this.” And really, I mean over a series of conversations, ask your partner, “Tell me more.” 

 

When you think about the costs outweigh the benefits of our child going to school, what comes up in your mind? What do you imagine could happen if we do it the way that I’m advocating? And really make it an emotionally safe place for your partner to talk about their fears, their values, their concerns, their feelings, what it’s attached to in terms of their orientation to the world. And really help them know that you understand. 

 

And so you might hear someone saying things like, “Well, we don’t know anyone that’s gotten sick from coronavirus. And, when I think about how hard it’s been for our family this past summer, and kids are watching way too much TV. And I really feel very afraid of them falling behind academically. I worry that they’re missing big foundational things academically that will be very difficult for them to make up, and that they might struggle later in life as a result of this. I worry that our 12-year-old is at a crucial moment in terms of their social development. And if they don’t have kind of normal experiences with other kids, it’s really going to change the way they show up in relationships well into adulthood. Those things make me feel afraid. And so when I am digging my heels in about, ‘No, I think that kids should go to school,’ it’s really because I’m worried about what will happen to them if we don’t. And I also think, we’re strong, we’re healthy, we don’t have underlying health conditions.” I mean, it could be all kinds of things. 

 

And for someone who feels differently about this, this can be a very triggering conversation. As you sit with your partner and really, they’re talking about things that you don’t agree with, your job in these moments is to calm down. If your heart rate starts to go up, and you feel like you’re going into fight-or-flight trigger mode, you will not be able to hear anything they’re saying. And your job is to calm yourself back down, take a break if you have to. And really just remember that your only job right now is to listen to them and understand them, and in a respectful and sincere way. 

 

And it takes time to do that, particularly if you’re feeling triggered and flooded. And the things that they’re saying are scaring you to death, frankly. And, of course, then, once your partner’s feelings are really heard and respected and understood, the other step is to then give you the opportunity to have the same experience with themwhere they settle into understanding you. And you get to talk about your perspective around, “People are dying and even people who don’t die sometimes have severe and persistent health consequences. And yeah, maybe kids don’t get as sick as adults but they do get sick. And here’s what can happen if they do. And think about what might happen to us in our family if you and I get this. And what would happen to our children if you and I are incapacitated or hospitalized or not able to work or function as a result of being sick. And what could this mean.” And it could be anything from your point of view, and I’m again talking about coronavirus. 

 

It could be like, “This is what having another child means to me and this is what I hope about the experience. And what I’m afraid of is if we don’t…” I mean, like really unpack it. It doesn’t certainly have to be specific to this but really go deeply, deeply into it. And again, simply with a goal of understanding, we are not here to solve problems. We are just here to understand each other’s hopes and dreams, and fears, and values, and perspectives. And help each other feel heard and respected and understood.

 

And couples can absolutely do this on their own, particularly if they’re good at staying calm and shifting away from their own perspective to the degree that they can allow in their partners. If you find that it feels impossible to do this, that you can’t actually just let their partner talk about the way they feel without wanting to interrupt them or tell them why they’re wrong, or if they’re not able to do that for you and it just is turning into a conflict, and listening and understanding isn’t possible to happen—that is a great sign that you actually do need the support of a marriage counselor or relationship coach. Somebody who can keep you from getting into a fight and instead simply hold the door open to allow both of you to understand each other on a very, very deep level. 

 

And what you will often find when you do is that when you’re able to dig deeply down into core values, core feelings, and away from “what are we going to do to solve this problem” part, you’ll find that at the core, there are many more similarities and commonalities than there are differences. You both love your children. You both want to have a happy, satisfying life together. You both want meaning and purpose and joy and freedom and security, and all of these things. Like, there’s a lot of alignment at the foundational level. And coming into that place and reconnecting with all of the commonalities that you guys do have, in the context of feeling secure with each other—respected by each other, understood, really gotten on a deep level—then allows you to have the opportunity to begin crafting a middle path that is very deliberately taking into consideration, and prioritizing both of your hopes, both of your fears, and it turns into an entirely different conversation. 

 

And the other thing that’s really neat is that when people get into power struggles and gridlock conflicts, it really does feel like a fight. And all of your energy is going into why you’re right and why they’re wrong, and, you know, if only they were just XYZ, which makes each of you really entrenched in one particular worldview. Like the more you kind of tell yourself why you’re right and why they’re wrong, and the more often you try to explain to them what your perspective makes the most sense, you’re selling yourself on your view of the world. And also, unintentionally, limiting your ability to expand your thinking into creative problem solving. It’s impossible to be really creative and come up with novel ideas and solutions, and the playfulness that’s required to get really creative feels absolutely inaccessible when you’re stuck in a conflict. 

 

But when you can come back to a place of emotional safety and listening and understanding and respecting, you can generate novel ideas, be creative. You can play with each other. You can say, “Let’s play a game. If we were going to do this, and it was absolutely without any of the risks that we’ve identified as being a concern here, well, what could it look like?” And along those lines, being able to shift away from your fear, your concern, your hopes into “our fear,” “our hopes,” that you both take ownership for the perspective that each of you hold. And that it doesn’t become your partner’s fear, it becomes “our concern.” Because your partner’s feelings and perspectives in the stage of healing do actually need to be just as important as yours are. And when you use language like “our concerns,” “our hopes,” it communicates on many levels that whatever we ultimately decided to do about this is going to honor and prioritize your feelings as part of the solution, or we’re not going to do it. And that needs to happen both ways. 

 

But if that becomes the truth, that both of your feelings are actually equally as valid as important, and you’re tasked with finding a solution that respects both of those priorities, what could that look like? And the answer is often a final “solution” that may be very different than the one that either of you were campaigning for in the very beginning. It could look like all kinds of different things. I mean, there are 100 different ways that schooling and socializing a child can actually look like in the time of a pandemic, that may or may not involve them setting a foot in a school building, and may or may not involve them sitting in front of a computer all day. I mean, I won’t go into the dozens and dozens of plausible ways to educate and socialize children that are actually at all of our disposal because that’s for you to figure out, and be creative around, and dream, and brainstorm. 

 

And also, let me just—a little tip here. When you are brainstorming, it is very important to throw out any and all ideas specifically and especially the ones that seem absolutely ridiculous and not like anything anyone would ever do. Because when you allow yourself that kind of disinhibition and just creative kind of spelunking and splashing around, you’ll be amazed at what can come out of each of your head. And yes, 90% of it is going to be total rubbish and nothing that anybody would ever do, but there can be little diamonds and gems hidden away in all the mud and rubble. And your job is to create an environment of emotional safety and collaborative problem solving that is respectful, and that’s prioritizing each other’s feelings, and see what happens. Is this a fast process? No. It is usually going to take many days of intentional conversation and sincere efforts to understand each other first before we can change the emotional tone of a relationship enough to get into this nice place of collaborative understanding. And that can create anxiety for people, particularly if they feel that a deadline is looming. 

 

I will also say that—I think we’ve talked about this on other shows—there is a personality feature that’s pretty common, but that can be very different between people in a couple. So without going into way too much information, there are different facets of personality, and sort of the way that you measure in different domains essentially creates your personality as a whole. One way of getting into it is through a personality assessment called the “Big Five of Personality.” I think that Myers-Briggs has some utility, which looks at personality along four different basic dimensions. But one of the most prominent ones that can come to play when it comes to gridlock issues and power struggles is a personality difference, where some individuals really like to be thinking ahead, and planning, and problem-solving, and anticipating problems, and proactively solving problems that may happen in the future and like trying to figure out what is going to happen, and they have a very future orientation. These are the people who have all of the weekends of their summer vacations scheduled by mid-May. They know they are going camping on the weekend of August the 27th with John and Carla. They like to have stuff figured out mentally and kind of put into place. And there can be other personality characteristics that kind of cluster with this basic orientation. But you know, they’re planners, right? 

 

And at the other end of the spectrum is a personality type that is much more comfortable with leaving things open, with things being ambiguous. The personality tends to be confident that we’ll be able to solve whatever problems come up in the moment, and we don’t actually have to think about too far ahead because we’ll deal with it when it gets there. And they tend to be slower to arrive at solutions, and they also just have a much lower need to know what is going to happen. And they also can feel stressed when they’re kind of forced to be making decisions about things that maybe they don’t have all the information they feel like they need. That, in itself, can create anxiety, and it can also create resistance. And what it can look like in a relationship is somebody saying, “I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about this right now. It’s all gonna work out.” You know, which can be, as you can imagine, extremely frustrating to somebody who has more planning orientation who’s like, “No, we need to figure this out today. I need to know what we are doing when school starts three weeks from now because I can’t stop thinking about it.” And the other side of this, people with a planning orientation tend to feel a lot of anxiety when it feels like there are loose ends, when they don’t know what is going to happen. 

 

So this is a common dynamic that can also be at the core level of a lot of power struggles in relationships is people with differences in their decision-making style and their planning style. And so, also being able to have conversations about the way you make decisions and your anxiety level about leaving things open versus anxiety around making specific plans that may or may not be based in reality because it feels better just to have a plan. A plan—doesn’t matter. For a couple to be talking about those differences can also go a long way and just decreasing the overall level of annoyance because you’re understanding why your partner is the way that they are. And it can add a kind of context for the conversations and help you both be respectful of what each other is needing. And also, potentially, both of you, maybe as individuals, taking efforts inside of yourself to come a little bit more to the center. So maybe if you have a strong planning orientation, getting more comfortable with the idea that, “I don’t actually know what this is gonna look like a couple months from now. And so maybe we do need to take this a little bit more day by day, week by week.” And for somebody who has a more open-ended orientation to be able to come back to the middle and say, “We do actually need to figure out, generally speaking, what we would like this to look like. Let’s find out the best situation. You know, it may change in the future, but we do need to have some conversations around what we’re going to do.” Because the default in any power struggle is that the person who is digging their heels in and not doing anything often wins by default because it blocks action from taking place.

 

So anyway, I’m probably getting way more into the weeds about some of the psychological dynamics at the root of our conflicts than any of you care to listen to. But these can be some of the obstacles in the path of couples seeking to create alignment and just things for you to be keeping in the back of your mind. And again, I am talking about this like it’s easy—it is not. As a marriage counselor, as a relationship coach, I often have to spend a long time with couples over many conversations as we unwind all of this stuff. You know, talking about different ways of thinking, different values, different messages from one’s family of origin, about the way things should be, and goes into, “Why am I the way I am? Why are you the way you are.” And again, this is necessary pre-work and really is the work in many ways of successfully unwinding a power struggle, and eventually creating alignment and collaborative problem-solving. But it feels very, very indirect while you’re doing it because the goal is not to solve the problem, it’s to understand. Again, hard to do. 

 

For many couples, it requires support to be able to hold this space with each other, especially when it feels like you do need to make a decision, and you know, we also need to be respectful of external pressures. If you are a 38, 39-year-old woman who is married to someone who still isn’t totally sure if they want to have a baby, you guys actually do need to figure that out pretty quick because, you know, that clock runs out. And if you’re figuring out what are we going to do with the kids in two weeks when school is open, or we need to make a decision, and what’s that going to look like, that is a thing that does need to be figured out. 

 

And so, it is also okay to do an intensive when it comes to how we need to understand each other. And also, brainstorming and finding solutions that prioritize each other’s feelings, and being open to the possibility that the final outcome may actually look very different than what both of you had imagined it would look like going into it because the ultimate goal really is not to have this be exactly your way. The ultimate goal is to have a strong, healthy, happy relationship with someone who loves you and understands you, and respects you, and feels that your needs and rights and feelings are just as important to them as they are to you, and vice versa. 

 

And when you’re able to create that emotional space with your partner and have a relationship that is infused with respect and gratitude, and not just tolerance for your differences, but an actual like appreciation for your differences, all of a sudden, the big looming problems don’t seem like problems anymore. And it can be surprisingly effortless to work together, to create a new reality for each other, for yourselves that feels good for both of you. 

 

I know that it sounds a little crazy if you’re stuck in a power struggle. I know it’s so hard to think about letting go of your side and embracing the other. But what are your choices? I mean really, like, because this, continuing to fight, and campaign, and harass your partner into changing clearly doesn’t work. And if you wind up taking a unilateral decision that is made for both of you over their wishes, it can create massive damage and betrayal and can be a big emotional trauma that can be difficult to repair. 

 

So you might want to be arguing with me right now, but try it. Let me know what happens. If you have follow-up questions or comments, leave them for me on the blog at growingself.com, Instagram at @drlisamariebobby, Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby

 

And also, again, just with all of this with the understanding—that if it feels unnecessarily hard, if it is disintegrating into unproductive conflict, or if you need to arrive at a workable decision quickly, those are all signs that you may really benefit from enlisting the support of mediator who can help you create understanding and respect and collaborative solutions much more quickly. So just keep that in the back of your mind as a possibility and good luck with things. I know these are harrowing times, and there’s a lot of stuff to hash out together, but I do hope that these strategies help you create alignment and agreement in your relationship. That’s all for today. 

 

I’ll be back in touch next week with another episode of the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. And in the meantime, let’s listen to some more Coathangers.

 

Online Therapy: What You Should Know About Teletherapy

Online Therapy: What You Should Know About Teletherapy

Online Therapy: What You Should Know About Teletherapy

All Your Questions Answered

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Teletherapy is also referred to as Online Therapy, Telehealth, TeleMental Health, Telemedicine, and E-Health. Although it has many names, it serves one purpose: to make your physical and mental health services more accessible! The use of Teletherapy has become more common as technology has grown to make life more efficient. 

The truth is, traditional therapy (going to a therapy office) just isn’t always convenient or even possible. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt too busy to squeeze in one more “stop” on my drive home, and other times when I just wished I could conduct my day from the comfort of my bed. 

Even now, with social distancing efforts underway, it seems that we are forced to cut certain social interactions out of our life, and unfortunately traditional therapy may be one of those. However, with Teletherapy services you don’t have to wait to see a therapist in person.  

What Actually Is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy is essentially just a platform for your therapist to communicate with you. This can be through online-video, a phone call, and even sometimes texting or email. Here at Growing Self, we are advocates of teletherapy counseling via online HIPAA compliant video. I personally love to see my online therapy clients through online-video because I feel more connected with them when I can see their faces.

Here’s a Guide To Online Therapy if you’d like to learn more!

What Teletherapy Is Not… 

It is not a modality or a “type” of therapy. Basically, therapists will conduct their sessions, as usual, using their specific clinical training. In other words, I don’t switch to a new style of therapy just because I’m using technology. Instead, I allow technology to help me reach my clients so that I can use the clinical training I’ve already received. 

Teletherapy is also not a 24-hour crisis hotline. A therapist using telehealth may not be equipped to handle immediate crises. It is true that technology increases the accessibility of your therapist, however calling a 24-hour crisis line, such as 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Hotline), may be more helpful if you are in need of immediate assistance.

If you are looking for emergency resources, we have put together a list for you here: Emergency Resources

What Are The Risks And Benefits Of Teletherapy? 

One question as an online therapist that I receive from my online couples therapy and individual therapy clients is, “don’t you miss certain cues when you can’t see someone in-person?” The answer… yes and no. 

For the most part, I can read people’s facial expressions and body language as long as the video quality is good, yet there are times when I wish I could see someone’s foot-tapping, or when a couple reaches out to hold hands during a session. Despite some “missed cues”, video therapy can also increase the effectiveness of the therapy process because people seem to feel more comfortable in their own homes. 

Other benefits include the efficiency of Telehealth. Pulling out your phone and hopping on a video session takes much less time than getting in your car, driving to the therapy office, finding parking, and then walking through the door. Not to mention the cost of travel saved!

Overall, I find that most people are pleased with the convenience of Telehealth. 

One risk to note is privacy. As an online therapist, I strive to do all that I can to protect my clients’ privacy. However, I cannot control what happens on the other side of the screen. It could be harder for some people to find a safe and secure environment to conduct an online therapy session, especially if they have family members in the next room! 

Doing things like closing the door, using earbuds, or starting a sound machine outside the door can help. Also using HIPAA compliant software. Growing Self offers a secure business HIPAA compliant Zoom link to consultations and clients. Using a secured video platform can help provide extra security. 

Lastly, Telehealth may not be a good option for you if you experience serious mental health issues. In this case, seeing an in-person licensed therapist in your state may be a better option. 

In-person therapy may also be better for you if you struggle with extreme anger or emotional reactivity, especially for couples therapy. 

Is Teletherapy And Online Couples Counseling Affordable?

Here at Growing Self, we believe that you and your relationships truly matter. We care about YOU! This is why we provide affordable online therapy and work with your insurance when it is appropriate to do so. 

Money is never the most important thing. Not in life, not in love, and certainly not in good business. Money is never, ever as important as people. Just like you, we have values and integrity. Our values are centered around helping you.

Because your well-being is so important to us we will not allow money to stand between you and the Love, Happiness and Success that you deserve.

We will explore solutions with you, be flexible with you, and help you get connected with the right services to fit both your needs and your budget.

Does My Insurance Cover Teletherapy?

We can help you use your insurance for your sessions at Growing Self IF:

  • You are doing therapy (not coaching)
  • Your policy covers behavioral healthcare with out-of-network providers
  • You meet criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis
  • AND you are working with a clinician who is licensed in your state of residence.
  • For couples, we help you use your insurance if you or your partner has a diagnosis that your couples work is focusing on. (As well as the above criteria).

How Do I Find A Therapist For Teletherapy Sessions?

Overall, Teletherapy is effective, convenient, and easy to use AND can be an extremely helpful tool for those seeking psychotherapy from their own homes. 

Research consistently shows that the key component of meaningful and effective personal growth work is working with the right person.

Because the goodness of fit is so important, as part of our dedication to your success, we offer you a free consultation meeting with the expert of your choice so that you can meet them face-to-face, learn about their background and approach, discuss your hopes and goals, and talk about what your work together might look like.

If it feels like a good match, you can then continue meeting until you’ve achieved your goals.

Growing Self has an excellent team of therapists experienced in providing therapy services through online-video. If you’re interested in learning more or would like to schedule a free 30-minute online therapy consultation, our client services team is here to help you find the right fit for your individual and relationship goals. Please visit us here to get started: Powerful Online Therapy and Coaching.

Wishing you Love, Happiness and Success on your journey,
Georgi Chizk, M.S., LMAFT

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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.

Let’s  Talk

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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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What Every Couple Needs to Know About Emotional Flooding

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The Escalator Goes Up…

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When I first started working with couples who sought to improve their communication and relationship satisfaction, I noticed a pattern in their descriptions of conflict. It centered around escalations in arguments. They would describe a situation where the more verbal and communicative partner wanted to “get to the bottom” of a disagreement, and the other more pragmatic, “laid back” personality retreated in direct proportion to the escalating frustration of their partner. 

Many couples are unaware that this escalation is even taking place. The psychologist John Gottman, who several decades ago pioneered groundbreaking couples research, shares a wealth of knowledge that now informs our understanding. 

What is really happening when one half of the couple retreats in the face of escalating emotion? The term for this is “flooding”: it’s a nervous system that’s kicked into overdrive. Gottman defines emotional flooding as “a sensation of feeling psychologically and physically overwhelmed during conflict, making it virtually impossible to have a productive, problem-solving conversation.”

Where’s the Danger?

This biological reactivity was at one time adaptive and necessary for our very survival. But that was millions of years ago when our main concern centered around escaping the jaws of a hungry saber-toothed tiger. The stress reactions that enable us to fight or flee, in our modern world, can wreak havoc on our sense of well-being. Familiar and repetitive disagreements morph into something else entirely. 

A Disappearing Act

Most couples wouldn’t imagine that chemistry has anything to do with their partner’s disappearance, but it really does. And knowing this can help to defuse the escalation. Stress hormones are racing, and without a predator to escape from, the brain is essentially confused by the lack of “real” danger. It quickly appoints a new target as the perceived threat: the emotional attack. 

Throw in a few cognitive distortions (“He never cares what I’m feeling, he’s just punishing me by running away, again!” and “She is always on my back about something, I can’t get a word in edgewise, and I can’t think straight”)…and the die is cast. 

For the one left behind doing the yelling, it feels like deliberate abandonment, meant to punish. For the one who walked away or shut down and refused to engage, a retreat to a quieter safer space seems like the only choice to make. 

It comes as a surprise to the person who was on the attack that, far from being a deliberate punishment, the retreater cannot hear any more. They feel overwhelmed, and both partners’ sympathetic nervous systems have essentially shorted out. In order to reverse the emotional flooding, a time-out is essential.

Perception Becomes Reality 

It has been said that perception becomes reality. In the case of emotional flooding, this is clearly the case. If you believe your partner’s behaviors are purposeful acts meant to upset you or shut you down, your own reactions are going to be driven by those convictions. But what if your partner may not be able to handle another round of argument because their heart is pounding, their pulse is elevated, and they’re not processing the conversation anymore? 

If we take a moment to suspend the doubt about the other’s intention, to open up a space for the possibility that what we think we are seeing may not be accurate…then what other ways might we be able to engage during times of conflict?

A flood does not need to become a tsunami; you can learn to equip yourself with the tools to avert that disaster every single time.

Tips for Breaking the Emotional Flooding Cycle

As a Couples Counselor and Marriage Therapist I work with my clients through these cycles of emotional flooding. I want to share with you tips for breaking this cycle and moving forward into a healthier, happier relationship and life.

  • At a time when you and your partner are calm and communicating easily, make a plan for how you will call a time-out in the future when conflict is becoming heated. Decide how long the break will last. Then stick to the plan. As with all relationship growth, commitment and trust are essential ingredients.
  • Challenge and question the catastrophic narrative that is taking over your mind. Focus on self-awareness in the moment; become a friendly person who is sitting next to you, observing all your reactions and behaviors. What would you say to the you that is sitting next to you? Offer your best advice on how to calm down.
  • Create your own defusing routine. Mine is to count backwards by 7’s from 100; yours can be whatever mildly challenging cognitive task will distract you from focusing on your emotions.
  • Do some mindful breathing or a short meditation to break the flooding response. Make a commitment to try self-soothing…whether you are the retreater or the pursuer of conflict. 
  • Turn your attention to your five senses: what do you see, hear, smell, taste, touch? These are neutral (as opposed to positive or negative) focal points, and will allow your sympathetic nervous system some time to recover.
  • As you become increasingly aware of the cycle, stop as soon as you notice your elevated heart rate or blood pressure. If an apology is called for, offer it. Start again. Remember that all couples have conflict, and you don’t have to do it perfectly to make it better.

A Last Note About the Time-Out

A final thought about time-outs during conflict: the time spent away from your partner should not be spent planning your next responses, or fuming over what has transpired. A true time-out is meant to quiet the nervous system and return you to a place of peace, where you are ready to re-engage with your loved one. 

You will find once you understand the dynamics of emotional flooding, you will be far less likely to end up in that heightened emotional standoff in the first place. This will make it much easier to reconnect with your loved one after a disagreement. You can use your new anti-flooding superpower to create a more secure bond and know more about what your partner needs from you.

Wishing you all the best, 

Lisa Jordan M.A., LCPC

 

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Lisa Jordan M.A., LCPC, is an empathic counselor and coach who helps individuals and couples create healthy communication and connection, with greater confidence and self-knowledge. She can help you move beyond difficulties, to create meaning and life satisfaction.

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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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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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How to Keep Your Relationship Strong, After Baby

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

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.

Learn More About Jessica

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