Couples Counseling Articles

couples therapy

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.