Couples Counseling Articles

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Experiencing Connection

‘Connection’ is a baffling concept for most of us and a word we use loosely these days.

It’s meaning is derived from Attachment Theory (developed by British psychiatrist John Bowlby in the last century). Attachment Theory explores the profound impact of early caregiver-child relationships on a person’s emotional development.

  • Essentially, secure attachment to a responsive and nurturing caregiver fosters a sense of safety and trust, leading to healthy emotional regulation and social connections later in life.
  • Insecure attachment may lead to difficulties in forming close relationships and managing emotions throughout ones lifespan.

Irrespective of our childhood experiences, human connection is something we all long for…deeply.

Please don’t confuse connection with a particular relationship, contract, family member or friendship.

Connection’s essence is self-arising’ and cannot be willed or manufactured into existence.

It’s either there…or it’s not. And when it’s there…you know it.

When it’s disrupted or threatened, emotional chaos reigns.

Mostly, we try to avoid the chaos. You know, that internal feeling of implosion and rage.

We problem solve, bat it away, suck it up or deny the chaotic feelings altogether. And, we know intuitively, that we can’t do all that…and remain physically and emotionally healthy.

Better to learn how to keep our precious human connections safe and secure.

We can do that by creating the conditions in which connection will flourish naturally and unfold in its own time.

Three simple tasks are the most direct path to connect and bring us closer to our intimate partner.

  • We can reflect on how we show up in our relationship.
  • We can refine our approach toward our partner and
  • We can step into the essence of relating to another human being by sharing; without demands or expectations.

When we do these three things consistently, we begin to realize the essence of connection is as it is.

It cannot be changed. It can only be nurtured.

When connection is broken perhaps irretrievably, we may have some difficult decisions to make.

The control we have around connection…is in creating the conditions in which we can experience more of this wonderful thing in our daily lives.

  • Am I taking time to slow down, pause and allow myself to focus on the important stuff?
  • Even if it’s just for 30 seconds….
  • Do I notice when I take my partner for granted and wander off into demands rather than requests?
  • Do I show up with expectations rather than appreciation?

Sure, we’re all in a hurry. We get caught up in the daily tasks of living, careers and calendars.

But unless we’re willing to nurture our environment and the people in it, it’s very difficult to cultivate the essence of connection.

Every now and then it will peek through the busyness of life and give us a moment to savor but then it’s gone and we may not know how to get it back.

Better to recognize the enduring longing for connection inside and the instability of a demanding world outside…and take nothing for granted.

Use a simple framework over time to refine your approach. Then connect with a calm, steady, open heart.

Tis the Season: Love, Resentment and Happiness

We all have decisions to make around careers, love, and partnerships.

And making good decisions makes us happy.

It’s a simple concept, but not easy.

Because when life is stressful, it’s hard to know where to begin. Good decisions can seem out of reach.

We might doubt ourselves or think of others as the source of our confusion and unhappiness.

Take a closer look and we can see why.

We are social creatures who are hard-wired to connect, and our happiness depends largely on our relationship with others.

Without love, friends, and community, it’s hard to be happy.

Continue Reading Tis the Season: Love, Resentment and Happiness

Stories That Connect Us

When we’re in a relationship, it’s easy to get stuck on the stories we tell ourselves.

When these stories are based in frustration and fear, they live inside us and are rarely spoken out loud.

We lose ourselves in them and the moment we do, we shut out the people we care about most.

Actually, we shut out everyone because once we get caught up in the story, we’re no longer present with people and the world around us.

We become overwhelmed or distracted and it’s hard to function optimally.

When these internal conversations get big enough, we can’t hold them anymore and we might feel compelled to share them with others (aka venting or gossiping).

When a relationship is in high distress, the storylines we tell ourselves are often disparaging and untrue. Because we’ve told them so many times, it’s hard to believe they could be otherwise.

Sometimes we resort to telling stories about our partner that include name-calling.

It’s a downward spiral and our brain finds it almost impossible to step out of that kind of thinking.

As long as we stay in this limited state, we miss out on authentic relationships with people…especially the ones we care about most.

It keeps us trapped and small. Of course, we can be polite, but there’s little room for the expansiveness of Love.

Recognizing and speaking our storylines out loud along with

the meaning behind them and

the emotions that fuel them

morphs into compassion, presence, and connection.

Young happy couple

Communication, Creativity and Contradictions

Reading any news headline makes me think deeply about the source of turmoil.

We can pretend things will get back to normal soon.

We can tell ourselves that our lives and the world are not forever changed. 

We can continue the exhausting human habit of resisting pain and bracing ourselves for (mostly) imaginary disaster.

We can even continue to relate to each other as before; tiptoeing around the under-currents of anger and tension. 

We have a choice; we can hold back or we can speak up. 

What keeps us from speaking up at home AND in the world, I believe, is fear. 

It also prevents us from loving well.

The moment we recognize our emotions as the organizing principle of truth and we’re willing to speak them out loud…..

We’re inclined to take more risks and make a ruckus.

That’s when our relationships are transformed.

Spoiler alert – speaking our emotions is not the same as venting, blaming, criticizing or acting out.

Rather, it’s a courageous and messy process brimming with creativity, communication and contradiction. 

One way or another, it seems we’re all headed in the direction of more truth-telling.

Either we embrace the shift or we keep doing things the old way.

Isn’t it good to know we have a choice?

Love, Loneliness and Connection

My attorney married his college sweetheart after she finished medical school.

They were married only a short time, which he describes as the loneliest three years of his life.

To this day, he has never remarried.

In 2018, loneliness emerged as a silent epidemic in North America.

In today’s almost-post-quarantine-world, we have a national health crisis on our hands.

Oddly, loneliness is not defined by our surroundings nor does it have a direct relationship to distance or geography.

We can feel lonely and emotionally alone even in beautiful space with people we love.

It’s an internal sense or comfort level and is distinct from solitude.

Solitude is an opportunity for rest and rejuvenation. It’s voluntary and tends to enhance our personal growth, creativity and well-being. It brings up emotions…but in a good way.

Loneliness feels heavy and is burdened with shame. Stigma surrounds it and creates an unconscious desire to escape. The brain says, “Anywhere but here.”

In research circles, there is an evolution in thinking about loneliness and its link to depression, anxiety and addiction.

Meanwhile, most people have become experts at suppressing loneliness with magical thinking and….let’s admit it….our over use of electronic devices.

When that doesn’t work, we withdraw, stay busy or self-medicate with something or someone.

As unrelenting as the state of loneliness may seem, it is reversible.

First, we can lift the burden of shame by recognizing and acknowledging that we all need human connection as much as we need food and water.

Then we can de-stigmatize loneliness by talking about our experiences and understanding it for what it is:

a near-universal human condition we can do something about.

New Normals Will Come and Go

Just for today, I’m unwilling to listen to noise about the new normal.

In normal times, most of us forget we’re even there.

We’re on autopilot and rarely give normal a second thought until a new normal wants to take over.

First, we protest. Then we problem-solve and adjust….over and over again.

That’s what we do and humans are really, really good at it.

We are natural-born problem solvers. And you could say, we take normal for granted until it’s gone.

Taking things for granted may seem like a harsh term…. especially at a time when people are searching for security and stability.

But step-by-step we know how to connect, share, problem solve and make change happen.

It takes focus and energy. And sometimes…. it takes an intervention.

Still, it seems important to remind ourselves.

Because it’s easy to forget the miracles and the smallest normals that make our lives extraordinary.

For example,

You swallow about 2,000 times a day or once every 30 seconds on average….

Blink about 14,000 times per day and touch your face 16 times per hour, on average.

All virtually invisible to us….

until we try not to blink, swallow….

or touch our face.