Couples Counseling Articles

Dr. Anne Hancock

Uh Oh! Here We Go Again

03-08-15ArticleYou know it’s coming. The dreaded argument. Not with anyone but with the person you love the most in the world.

It’s happened before and it’s happening again.

Something’s triggered your internal alarm system.

Maybe it’s the way s/he moves, a tone of voice, a facial expression.

It can be as subtle as a single word.

It’s real. It’s powerful. It feels like a trap. Sometimes it feels like quicksand and you vow not to get sucked in. Not this time.

But before you finish the thought – it touches a raw spot in you the size of Texas.

In one split second everything inside collapses or bubbles up in frustration, confusion and anger.

This moment of vulnerability is in all of us and we will do just about anything to avoid it; ignore, get busy, leave, defend, work late – build walls around our hearts.

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A Relationship Check-Up In Six Questions

happy-couple01-25It’s risky to check-in and reflect on an intimate relationship because when it’s good, it’s very good. You don’t want to rock the boat.

When it’s bad, all you want to do is fix, hide or move on and hope things get better soon.

If you step back for a minute, these six simple questions will provide a panoramic view of your relationship.

What is its purpose and does it guide you?

Love is essential and love is grand yet not enough. A 21st century relationship also needs purpose to survive.

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The New Luxury Item and #1 Status Symbol

In a restaurant the other day I heard a man say, “I love my wife and we don’t have kids but it seems nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for this thing called marriage.” It was a moment of truth and took my breath away.

This Holiday Season, as I watch shoppers, I find myself reflecting on the rarest of gifts; the one thing people want most and money can’t buy:
A long-term, happy, not-perfect-but-relatively stress-free marriage (or long-term committed relationship) where they can feel valued, respected, appreciated and heard.

It sounds simple and perfectly rational, right?

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The Masters, The Disasters and Everyone in Between

key-to-happinessNow and then I reflect on something I heard John Gottmann say.

Gottman is one of the worlds leading researchers on marriage and I’m paraphrasing the man but, in essence, he said:

When it comes to couples and long-term committed relationships, there are the Masters, the Disasters……. and then there’s everyone in between…… brailling their way through.

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What’s Your Relationship Worth?

Most people would never consider assigning a value to their relationship. Just ask. The answer: It’s priceless. happy-coupleC

But make a mess of things, add an eye-roll, some resentment, ignore, criticize, throw in some run-around-crazy-busy-ness, the daily tasks of living and the constant, insistent lure of electronic devices – – it’s remarkably easy to damage something we consider priceless.

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Are You Stuck in a Downward Spiral?

happy-mature-coupleLook in the dictionary and the word ‘stuck’ has many meanings. Here’s one:

To be at a standstill.
To become fastened, hindered,
checked, or stationary by
some obstruction.

It’s hard to imagine, but for distressed couples, the biggest obstruction is a negative pattern they know is there but can’t change. People almost always refer to it as a loop, a cycle or a downward spiral.

The biggest indicator that you’re in a downward spiral is a recurring argument that starts slowly at first and usually gets ignored or shoved under the rug.

When that spiral gets momentum, it shreds your relationship and sooner or later you and your partner…..loving people who once felt safe and secure….suddenly feel distant and defensive.

You build walls around your heart and wonder – How did this happen to us?

Couples usually try to strike bargains; asking, negotiating, even demanding that the other person change. If you would just do this…then I’ll to do that…. for example.

Problem is, bargains don’t work and the cycle has you both locked in a pattern of negative emotions, thoughts and behaviors……

Demands and promises turn out to be a set up for disappointment and almost always make matters worse.

What drives this villainous pattern? FEAR

F-false
E-evidence
A-appearing
R-real

couple-fireIt’s a challenge to acknowledge fear at first but once you see it – you can’t NOT see it anymore. And once you see it, you can feel it, talk about it….even do something about it. That’s when everything starts to change.

There’s a shift happening and change is in the air. This might be a great time to take a look around and see how you might be stuck.

Everybody fears something.

What do you fear?

 

 

Are You There For Me?

Are You There For Me?Like most folks, you probably thought having a safe, secure base and being dependent on another human being should be limited to parents and children.

Growing up, you were probably taught, explicitly or implicitly, that the most desirable option for any self-respecting adult was independence; that needing someone… relying on someone… and needing reassurance was a sure sign of weakness.

Fortunately, there’s a new paradigm emerging and the science is clear.

  • Effective dependence is optimal and loneliness is a greater risk to your health than smoking.
  • Having a close, loving relationship and a partner who provides a safe-haven and secure base – especially in difficult times – calms the central nervous system and soothes the brain.
  • Emotional closeness enables you to do more, be more; live more fully and take more risks.

It turns out, effective, healthy and mutual dependence is an extraordinary advantage in life.

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3 Things Happy Couples Do (Almost) Every Day

3 Things Happy Couples Do (Almost) Every DayHappy couples aren’t perfect the way you might imagine. They fuss and disagree just like everyone else. What’s unique about these couples is that partners are able to step out of negative situations fairly quickly and they do it together. They don’t brood, attack or stonewall each other.

Partners are available and engaged in affirming ways. If there’s a misunderstanding or hurt feelings, they tend to the hurt rather than blame or defend. Partners are able to reach out, connect and repair even when things are difficult.

These aren’t sweeping gestures. They’re tiny, courageous acts of love that have huge impact and bring lovers close.

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For Your Relationship Toolbox – Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson

The books arrived!

And, we’re excited about gifting this extraordinary relationship tool to our scheduled clients during the month of May.

We’re doing this because we understand that when someone you love is stressed or overwhelmed, you want to help and may not know how.

A well-intentioned word or attempt to fix the problem can be misunderstood and then …
it’s downhill from there. If you and your partner get caught in a negative cycle, the argument can go on for hours….sometimes days. Its a painful way to live.

Enter, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnsona wonderful book that helps couples understand their negative cycle. It brings insight and logic to the world of emotions and supports your work with us.

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3 Sure Signs That Signal A Distressed Relationship

Couple before coming to Wellness Counseling Center - Charlotte - North CarolinaWhy would anyone want to look at a troubled relationship when it’s so much easier to look the other way? Denial can be a wonderful thing, for a while.

In a distressed relationship, you do your best each day…to put the hurt away…hoping things will be better tomorrow.

When times are tough, you braille your way through the difficult terrain – sometimes with the advice of co-workers or girlfriends…but mostly…it’s a solitary journey and folks go it alone.

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