Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

Communication Skills For Couples Under Stress

As an experienced online marriage counselor and therapist who has been doing Denver marriage counseling for many years, I know that couples communication can feel challenging under the best of circumstances.

Couples Communication Can Be Challenging Anyway

Many couples struggle with effective couples communication that helps each person feel heard, cared for, and understood. Couples always come to the table with different communication styles, attachment styles, and ways of relating that can lead to misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. It’s hard to communicate with a withdrawn partner, and it’s also hard to connect with someone who is emotionally flooded.

All married couples and cohabitating couples face these issues, and need to intentionally learn how to practice positive communication strategies in order to achieve the kind of “love your relationship” experience they want to have.

Couples Communication is Harder When You’re Both Stressed

This is true for all couples under the best of circumstances. As we say around here, “Great relationships don’t just happen — they’re grown!” But as lives, relationships, jobs and families have been upended due to the mental and emotional reality of coronavirus quarantine… these are not the best of circumstances. 

Just the opposite. Couples all over the world are suddenly in a situation where they are together 24/7, and having to reconfigure everything including their daily routines, re-work boundaries, wrangle suddenly ever-present children needing to be homeschooled, re-organize their homes to accommodate seven cases of canned soup, cope with a sudden loss or significant drop in income, and, oh yeah, figure out how to stay physically safe from the invisible threat wafting through the air. (How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety, right here.)

Others among us are coping with even harder things like a loved one who is on the front lines as a medical professional, first responder, or grocery store worker at risk of contracting coronavirus as they work to serve their communities. Still other families are now grappling with loved ones getting sick, becoming gravely ill, or losing their lives to coronavirus. 

I could feel my shoulders tense up as I just sat here typing the words, and — friends — this is now our shared experience. 

Don’t Let Coronavirus Ruin Your Relationship

Going back to my first point: Good communication can feel hard for couples anyway, but when you’re both grappling with enormous amounts of stress it can make positive communication even harder…. And at a time when you both need it the most. 

Communication can build your relationship up, or it can tear it apart. Today’s podcast is all about helping you turn towards each other right now, and it starts with the way you talk to each other.

Couples Communication That Connects

It’s exactly at times like these that you need to be able to turn towards your partner and feel that they care about you, are listening to you, and are an emotionally safe person for you. It’s vital that you feel like your partner understands you, and is responsive to you — showing you that they love you, in the ways that matter the most. The world may be crazy, but as long as you have the love and support of your number one person, it can all seem more manageable. 

Men and Women Handle Stress Differently

However, here’s the rub: Stress, predictably, makes it harder for any of us to be the compassionate, patient, unconditionally loving person our partner needs us to be. We all cope with stress in different ways. Sometimes it’s along gender lines with men and women handling stress differently, but these differences can lead to emotional mis-matches and a communication gap between couples. This can lead both partners to feel disconnected from each other at the time they need each other the most. 

Communication Tips For Couples Under Stress

To help you improve your communication during this stressful time, I asked my colleague, online marriage counselor and relationship coach Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFT-C to join me on the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to share his couples counseling communication tips, and some of the communication exercises for couples that he does with his clients. 

Actionable Relationship Advice

Silas was incredibly generous with his relationship advice and his perspective. He is uniquely situated to provide fantastic relationship advice for any couple having communication problems right now, because 1) he’s a man, with great insights into how to understand men and how they deal with stress and 2) Silas is trained in the evidence-based Gottman Method of marriage counseling, which emphasizes couples communication training and positive communication skills for couples.

He discussed:

  • How some people (often men) tend to internalize stress and withdraw
  • How some people (often women) tend to exernalize stress and need to talk
  • How this (predictibly!) creates a communication gap and emotional mis-match
  • How to stop the ensuing pursue / withdraw cycle and start connecting again
  • How couples can understand each other so they can be more compassionate with each other
  • Exercises that couples can do to improve communication
  • How to get on the same page and create agreements and understanding
  • Ways of communicating with your partner in tense moments so that you can grow closer as a couple, instead of creating conflict

 

Communicate To Connect

I was so grateful to Silas for sharing so much really useful information for how to improve your communication when you’re both stressed. Better communication between couples leads to emotional safety and a more secure emotional foundation for both of you, and for your families too. We’re all powerless to change our current harrowing circumstances, but having a safe harbor of support and comfort in your marriage can help you get through this — together. 

I sincerely hope that the excellent, actionable communication tips Silas shared are helpful to both of you right now.

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LP, LMFT, BCC & Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFT-C

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Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

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

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

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Real Help For Your Relationship

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

 

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

 

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

Relationship Advice: Love in The Time of Coronavirus — With Katie Couric

Relationship Advice: Love in The Time of Coronavirus — With Katie Couric

Relationship Advice: Love in The Time of Coronavirus — With Katie Couric

Relationship Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relationship Advice To Save Your Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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

Let’s  Talk

Real Help For Your Relationship

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

 

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

 

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

Premarital Counseling Questions… and Answers

Premarital Counseling Questions… and Answers

Premarital Counseling Questions… and Answers

Relationship Advice From a Premarital Counselor

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

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

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

How To (Accidentally) Ruin a Marriage

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

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

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

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

Myths About Premarital Counseling

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

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

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

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

Questions About Premarital Counseling?

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

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

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

Your Premarital Counseling Questions, Answered

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

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

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

Wishing you all the best,

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Relationship Advice From a Premarital Counselor

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

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Please Rate, Review & share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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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 Be More Vulnerable in Relationships

How to Be More Vulnerable in Relationships

How to Be More Vulnerable in Relationships

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

Is It Time To Let Down Your Walls?

Not too long ago I shared some advice on Bustle.com about “What to do if you’re having a hard time being vulnerable in a relationship.” I thought this was such a great topic, and one that so many people struggle with, that I should share more advice on how to use the power of vulnerability to transform your relationships here too.

It’s easy to think of “vulnerability” in negative terms, because it conjures images of being open to hurt. However, what I know from many years as a couples therapist and marriage counselor, is that when it comes to your relationships, vulnerability is (paradoxically) the key to having closer, more intimate, and ultimately more satisfying connections with other people. Conversely, if you keep your guard up all the time, you’ll be missing out on having truly meaningful and authentic connections with the most important people in your life.

What does it mean to be vulnerable in your relationships? 

As Brene Brown discusses in her amazing TED Talk about the power of vulnerability: Being vulnerable means sharing the most important, authentic parts of yourself with someone who matters to you — and risking rejection.  Being vulnerable means “being seen” for who and what you are, and exposing yourself to the potential for hurt. While this may sound intimidating, the alternative is often worse: Being closed off can lead to loneliness, and feeling unseen, and unknown by others.

Do You Keep Your Guard Up in Relationships?

If so, it’s understandable. It is much safer, emotionally, to manage your image, keep the mask on, and not let yourself care. Particularly in the hyper-curated era of social media, there’s a strong pull to only show what is perfect or enviable about your life. But being vulnerable means showing someone else that maybe you’re not perfect, maybe you’re not always okay, and maybe you do have some worries, insecurities, or pain.

The scariest thing about vulnerability for many people boils down to this: When you really, really care about someone else, and want them to love you as much as you love them, it can be terrifying to allow yourself to be truly seen by them. Because… what if they don’t want you anymore, after they know the whole truth? Or what if you allow yourself to lean on someone else emotionally, and they fail you, or reject you?

Being vulnerable does mean exposing yourself to the potential for hurt or rejection. And, at the same time, risking vulnerability is also opening the door to the kind of relationship you long for: One built on authenticity, emotional intimacy, and a deep connection.

Why It’s Important To Open Up To Your Partner

Another thing to consider, in addition to YOUR feelings of closeness and connection, are those of your partner. As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, one of the relationship issues I most often hear about from couples having problems is that at least one person feels that their partner is closed off, and uncommunicative. They want to understand how their partner feels, what they think about, what they care about, and their hopes and dreams… and yet feel cut off from that.

I can tell you that many, if not most, relationship fights are really not about the things that people are fighting about, like how much money was spent, or whether or not someone wants to have sex, or “the tone” being used, or whether or not someone followed through with whatever they said they were going to do. Relationship fights are about not feeling cared for, feeling unheard, feeling disrespected, and feeling disconnected.

When couples are emotionally intimate and feel close to each other, they are much more resilient, more tolerant of each other, and generally kinder and more respectful. When true, deep connection is present, there’s just nothing to fight about. (Instead, you can have constructive conversations about how to get on the same page and solve problems together).

That’s the power of vulnerability in relationships.

On the other hand, when people are not able to be vulnerable in relationships and trust themselves and their partners enough to allow themselves to truly be seen, relationships remain superficial. Yes, you may have a companion and a social partner, but the core of your relationship — emotional intimacy, empathy, and responsiveness — feels barren.

Over time, these types of relationships tend to become stagnant. Or, if people have feelings inside of themselves that they are not communicating about vulnerably (and consequently, the needs they have are not getting acknowledged or met) they can also start to believe that the relationship itself is not sustainable.

It’s such a bind: On the one hand, in order to have a better relationship, you need to talk about how you feel and take emotional risks with your partner. That feels scary, and many people avoid it. On the other hand, not saying things out loud feels safer in the moment, but in the absence of communication, relationships grow strained and fights start brewing under the surface… which makes it feel less safe to talk about your truth in a vulnerable way.

The Consequences of Keeping Emotional Walls Up

Over time, in the absence of vulnerability and emotional intimacy, relationships become increasingly dissatisfying for both partners. This makes it less likely that either person will feel safe and secure enough to have heartfelt conversations that will bring them back together again. Instead, people make cutting side comments or show each other their distress through behaviors. (Behaviors and comments that are often angering or unattractive to their partner, pushing them further away as opposed to drawing them closer).

One of the primary benefits of marriage counseling or couples therapy is that the presence of a compassionate, knowledgeable couples counselor creates a “safe space” where people can be more vulnerable and open. With a third party holding open the door to communication, and shielding both parties from the emotional reactivity that will turn a heartfelt conversation into a vicious fight in a matter of seconds, couples can start seeing each other, hearing each other, and understanding each other at a deeper level.

By moving back into a space of vulnerability and authenticity (or for some couples, creating that kind of emotional intimacy for the first time) partners can then establish a stronger connection, empathy, and emotional safety that will help them solve problems together and increase their love for each other.

6 Tips To Help You Be More Vulnerable In Your Relationships

1: Self Awareness. The most important first step in creating a more emotionally intimate relationship, based on authenticity and vulnerability, is knowing yourself. You cannot communicate your truth if you yourself don’t know what it is. It sounds odd, but many people are awash in nebulous feelings or have core beliefs or automatic thoughts that never fully enter their consciousness as coherent thoughts. They just react. Understanding how you really feel is a prerequisite for being able to communicate it to others.

2: Clarity.  Until you have language for your inner experience, it remains unknown — even to you. If your relationship is currently in a space where it feels fragile, it may not feel safe enough to talk through your feelings with your partner until you arrive at the truth. In these cases, you might consider journaling, letter writing, or talking with a counselor or coach until you’re clear about how you’re feeling. Then, you can express it to your partner in a way that they can hear.

3: Timing. If you are already clear about how you’re feeling and what you want to express, the next most important step in helping yourself be vulnerable is, believe it or not, timing. Too many people experiment with vulnerability at a time when their partner is not expecting it, in the same mindset, or even in a place where they are present enough to be responsive. For example, someone might see their spouse in the kitchen, alone, unloading the dishwasher, and take that opportunity to start talking about something really important to them (often to their back). The preoccupied spouse may not understand the importance of this disclosure, or respond in a thoughtful way. Consequently, many people feel rejected and hurt, and come away thinking that their “vulnerability experiment” was a bad idea.

4: Be Explicit. If you want to talk about something important, make it known. Invite your partner to sit down with you, without distractions, and then let them know that you want to talk about some important things. Let them know that you feel apprehensive about being vulnerable before you start sharing. Talk out loud about your emotional process, and how important it is to you to feel emotionally safe with them. Say things like, “Just the fact that you’re sitting here looking into my eyes while I’m talking to you means the world to me,” so they know how to be present with you in a way that feels good to you.

5: Fight The Fear. If you start feeling apprehensive or like shutting down when you’re talking about your feelings, you can say that out loud too. Remind yourself (and perhaps, even your partner) that as hard as it can be to “go there” it is also the path to a deeper, more intimate connection. Be brave and honest. You might even consider saying out loud that what you’re saying feels scary or hard. Even disclosing that to your partner can make you feel less alone, and help them help you be more vulnerable.

6: Help Your Partner Be a Good Listener.  Most importantly, ask for what you need. (As much as we’d like to wish that our partners could or should “just know” how to respond to us perfectly… they won’t unless you tell them.) When you share your feelings, let your partner know that you don’t need to be “fixed” or have your problems solved. The goal is not resolution, but connection. Communicating openly with your partner about what helps you feel safer to share will pave the way for easier, more heartfelt communication and the emotional security that you both desire.

How To Get Your Partner To Open Up To You

Sometimes in relationships, you’re not the one that needs to open up. Instead, you’re feeling frustrated because your partner feels closed off to you. You try to get them to talk to you about important things, or share their feelings… and it’s like talking to a wall. Here are a couple of tips to help your partner feel safer and more comfortable to talk authentically to you. [Also read: How to Communicate With a Withdrawn Partner]

If someone isn’t “opening up” with you, one of two things is typically happening:

1: They don’t feel emotionally safe with you. This is a hard one to consider, but it’s easy to unintentionally come across as an emotionally unsafe person, especially if you’ve been feeling frustrated or hurt by your relationship. When your partner does tell you about things that are true for them, are you meeting their disclosures with caring and empathy? Or is there a chance that you are judging them, and imposing your values on them? (This can be true if their truth is something that you disagree with, or wish were different.) Show your partner that they are safe with you, by accepting them for who they are.

2: Their inner experience is not the same as yours. People differ in their personalities, in their emotional awareness, in their desire for emotional intimacy, and propensity for psychological-mindedness. Not to bring gender into this, but many times women feel frustrated with partners who they perceive as “not opening up.” When truthfully, men don’t relate the same way women do. Women establish an emotional connection in relationships by deepening, reciprocal layers of personal disclosure. Men don’t always do that. [More info: “Understanding Men,” on the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast]

Furthermore, many men are socialized out of having feelings and thinking too deeply about their emotional process. They may therefore, genuinely, not have as much to say about their inner experience. They may be happy and content in “doing” life rather than talking about it. In order to have an emotionally safe relationship, that needs to be okay too. Emotional intimacy and vulnerability can be expressed in many ways besides face-to-face conversations. Sexuality, sharing finances, making sacrifices for each other, developing shared priorities, and committing to your partnership are also all expressions of vulnerability — many times, even more powerful than vulnerabilities disclosed in words.

When you practice tolerance and acceptance for the way your partner shows vulnerability and intimacy, it increases the emotional safety in your relationship. Emotional safety creates an environment that cultivates vulnerability and intimacy, helping you continually grow closer and more connected.

I hope these ideas help you and your partner create the kind of strong, satisfying relationship that you both crave.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Denver Marriage Counselor Denver Life Coach Denver Therapist

Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, BCC

"Hi, I'm Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. For over a decade, I've been helping people all over the world create Love, Happiness and Success in their lives through positive, compassionate and effective Marriage Counseling, Therapy and Life Coaching. I'm so pleased to be able to help you, too. There is help for you here, and I'm glad you've found us.

This website is devoted to your wellbeing, and offers loads of free information and actionable advice that you can start using today to create positive change in your life. Browse around to meet our experts, get free advice on our blog, listen to a podcast, or take our "How Healthy is Your Relationship" quiz. Or, if the time is right, you can schedule a free consultation with any of us to talk about your situation -- and, most importantly -- your hopes for your future." -- Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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My passion is helping people just like you reach their highest potential both individually, and in their most important relationships. 

Whether we work together in couples counseling, family therapy, individual therapy, or life coaching, my focus will be understanding your deepest desires for your marriage, your family, and yourself so that I can help you create your most gratifying life. Our work can help you heal, gain understanding and compassion for yourself and others, and live with intention.” 

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I became a therapist, life coach and marriage counselor after a career as an educator, and I believe I still have the heart of a teacher. My approach emphasizes learning and practicing new skills, so that you're not just talking about change — you're living it.

I'm available to meet with you for therapy, marriage counseling and coaching in Denver, Broomfield, and also online."

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“Hi, I’m Brenda. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach with almost twenty years of experience in helping my clients strengthen themselves and their marriages.

I use positive and effective individual counseling, for both adults and teenagers, marriage counselingpremarital counselinglife coaching, and dating coaching. I am here to help you enjoy your relationships with your partner; recover from depression and anxiety be able to live a more fulfilling life and cultivate meaning, joy, and love in your life.” 

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“Hi, I’m Anastacia. I'm a Couples Counselor, Colorado-Licensed Therapist, and Life Coach with years of experience in helping people heal and grow. My approach is holistic, and helps you connect your mind, body and spirit. My compassionate, non-judgmental way of being will help you feel understood, and safe enough to talk about the most vulnerable things.

Whether you're struggling with hard feelings, coping with a breakup, or facing a big life transition, I can help you move confidently and authentically forward into a joyful and satisfying new future. I'm available to meet with you in our Denver Colorado office and our Denver Tech Center office,  as well as through online video."

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I use a blend of thoughtful, insightful counseling and strategic, solution-focused coaching to get you unstuck and moving forward again. I am licensed as a therapist in Illinois, and available to meet with you online."

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Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFTC

"I'm Silas, a therapist, life coach and couples counselor with Growing Self. I've had my therapy and coaching clients share that my down-to-earth style and sense of humor help them feel comfortable, and like they can talk about anything with me.

If we work together, I'll help you understand yourself more deeply so that you can heal, grow, and make positive changes. I'm available to meet with you for therapy in Broomfield, Colorado and for online life coaching.

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Georgi Chizk, M.S., MFTC

"Hey there! I'm Georgi. I specialize in marriage counseling, premarital counseling and therapy. I have a very warm, gentle approach that helps you feel safe, comfortable and understood. I can help you heal and growth through compassionate, evidence based therapy that helps you cultivate self-esteem and feel good about yourself.

I am available to meet with you for therapy or marriage counseling in Bentonville, Arkansas. If you are a resident of Arkansas, I'm able to meet with you for online therapy or online marriage counseling."

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Tomauro Veasley, M.A., MFTC

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I am available for online therapy if you live in Tennessee, but I work with people across the US and internationally as a life coach online."

Emotional Safety

Emotional Safety

Emotional Safety

The Most Important Part of a Healthy Relationship

EMOTIONAL SAFETY: Here’s some real-deal, bottom-line relationship advice from an experienced marriage counselor:  If you want to feel more connected, improve your communication, have more emotional and physical intimacy, and create a secure, satisfying relationship, there’s one irreplaceable ingredient that you must have for everything else to fall into place…. Emotional Safety.

Emotional safety is so important that it’s the foundational goal of one of the most widely researched, effective evidence-based forms of marriage counseling and couples therapy, called “Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.” Here at Growing Self, most of the Denver marriage counselors, online couples therapists, and relationship coaches on our team use Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy to guide their work with couples… because it works.

The easiest way to understand the importance of emotional safety is to reflect on what happens between you and your partner when you don’t have it: If you’re feeling angry, hurt, frustrated or disrespected… you’re not going to behave well with your partner. Even if you know, intellectually, what you should do to show them love and respect… you don’t. And understandably! Until you feel emotionally safe, and learn how to help your partner feel emotionally safe with you, conflict and miscommunication is inevitable.

This is exactly the reason why many attempts at marriage counseling and couples therapy doesn’t work — is because the majority of couples counselors out there aren’t trained in evidence based forms of couples counseling like EFCT. Consequently they don’t know how to help their couples focus on their foundation of emotional safety first, before attempting to make bigger changes in their relationship. Without that, couples counseling doesn’t work. Couples try to make changes, and they don’t stick. Couples can’t make real and lasting change when they’re not focusing on what really matters: Emotional Safety.

How to Create Emotional Safety in Your Relationship

YOU deserve better. You deserve real relationship advice, that will help you improve your relationship, and that’s what you’re getting on this episode the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. I’m putting on my marriage counselor hat, and I’m sharing the secrets behind how to create emotional safety in your relationship. We’ll be discussing:

  • What is emotional safety, and why it’s important
  • How to determine if your relationship is emotionally safe or not
  • How to begin increasing emotional safety in your relationship
  • The emotional intelligence skills that will help you increase emotional safety
  • Using the principles of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy to improve your relationship
  • The emotional-safety crushing behaviors to absolutely avoid
  • The most important things YOU can do to transform your relationship

This episode is my very special Valentine’s Day gift for YOU. I hope you listen, and that it helps you love your relationship.

xoxo, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: One of the “conversation starting” tools I mentioned in this episode is my free “How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz.” If you’d like to take this, alone or with your partner, you can get the link here. 

 

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How to Create Emotional Safety

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

Music Credits: The Days, “Make My Love Your Home”

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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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