Couples Counseling Articles

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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.

How Do We Make Things Better?

We don’t think of it often but, culture defines nations, neighborhoods, families …and corporate entities.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ have different cultures, for example.

Families differ culturally too…

And, every marriage merges two cultures.

When we spent Thanksgiving with one of my relatives, my dad would grumble all the way home.

It makes no sense,” he would say with an eye-roll, “Why would anyone serve Jello at a holiday meal?”

Culture is a set of ideas that affect our behavior in certain ways.

It’s shared information and values….stored mostly in our brains.

(Yes, it’s also stored in libraries and museums.)

Some of these stored ideas are clear and explicit. Others, not so much.

They’re vague and few ideas last for long.

Most simply disappear.

But when an idea is exceptional (good or bad) it gets embedded and resistant to change.

Like long-lasting relationships, long-lived ideas start to shift too.

When the shift happens…and it always does…perhaps the most important question to ask is,

How do we make things better?

Couples, Communication and Confusion

It can happen while sitting around sipping an extraordinary Australian cabernet….

Or between episodes of Bridgerton…..

Or even while giving simple directions to someone you love.

Things can get awkward and frustrating because communication is fundamentally flawed.

Even the best communication involves abstraction and guesswork on the part of both people.

It’s filled with errors on the part of the communicator and misunderstandings by the recipient.

Messages shared and messages received are rarely the same.

And, over time…patterns develop.

Communicating with any human being depends on putting an abstraction, or thought, into words as precisely as possible.

At first glance the recipient thinks s/he understands….but take a closer look… and you’ll see that they have to guess.

Does s/he mean exactly this? OR Does s/he mean exactly THIS?

The brain gets confused and it happens so fast that we don’t notice.

Even if we do….we rarely take time to check things out …because we’re not doing scientific research here…right? Instead, we move on.

The brain makes a quick interpretation and we make our decision from there.

Seems simple enough, right? But hold on.

We also ‘make meaning’ out of these new interpretations.

If there’s a meaning or interpretation we don’t like….well….the brain can take us on a harrowing roller coaster ride full of emotional ups and downs.

That’s when we develop a false sense of certainty….and the brain makes up even MORE stories we believe to be true.

It all happens in seconds and when the stories fit our narratives and beliefs…

…we get frustrated… rarely show mercy….and find someone to blame.

Sometimes, we even blame ourselves.

Perhaps…these self-created interpretations get in the way for all of us.

These Essentials Are The Solution… But They’re Not For Everyone

Problems are conflicts of ideas and perception.

I may have an idea and see things one way. That means something to me.

My partner sees things another way….. that means something to him.

There’s a good possibility we’ll fuss over it.

This kind of conflict happens to all couples and most often…..we move on.

Because most problems are uninteresting and work themselves out.

But there are times when a couple gets stuck in a conversation that goes around in circles.

It’s a never ending cycle and can be about something major….or seemingly insignificant.

A negative pattern can develop in the relationship that is so profound, it brings up dread.

Oh, no. Here we go again!

Once embedded in the relationship, this cyclical pattern can go on for years, even decades.

Try deflecting it with silence or politeness and it works for a while.

Then comes the inevitable jab.

It hurts.

For lots of people, it’s easier to just take the jab; stay quiet and wait.

It keeps things tidy. It also keeps things from getting better.

The ultimate solution requires courage; taking off the mask and stepping into possibility.

It involves taking risks and speaking up….simply….creatively.

These are the essentials that get us UNSTUCK and move things forward.

And this is where we find passion, connection, emotional safety and trust.

I’m Betting on The Future

My team and I built this Word Cloud to recognize the New Year and start fresh in a changing world.

We used words that best embody who we are and the work we do. We trust they’ll guide us as well.

I share them with you because….I’m betting on the future.

2020 gave us a history-accelerating crisis, dysfunctional politics, ineffective governance, amplified inequality, explosive social tension, isolation and an unspeakable sense of helplessness.

It also gave us businesses that shuttered as cardboard boxes, with smiles on them, landed on our doorstep….one after another.

2020 shined a spotlight on our unshakable ideal; that ‘more’ and ‘bigger’ are better.

It left some of us wondering how we’ve changed…..how some of us absorbed the trauma of lockdowns and others revolted….

While others still risk their lives every day, working harder than ever, supporting themselves and their families….helping those who need it most.

We get weary of bad news. I know. Sometimes it’s just too much so we look for distractions.

Anything to help avoid the unfathomable tragedy and enormous loss of life….fellow Americans….over 350,000 to date and more to come.

I think we have to distract ourselves…..not because we don’t care…..but because it’s too big.

No one really knows how to access that level of compassion and empathy.

Yet, here we are, in the New Year….each of us, doing our best to maintain equilibrium.

I believe we will come out of this crisis remade both individually and as a culture…. and no one knows what that will look like.

Still…I’m betting on the future.

There will be so much NEW to get used to; how we live, work, heal, communicate and learn.

The differences may not be obvious at first.

What’s likely to become obvious….pretty quickly….is how much we need each other.

We’ll witness a sped-up version of the world we knew and, most of us will try to keep up.

This will amplify our fatigue, frustrations, our vulnerability and…our fears.

If we cover our eyes as the pace accelerates…..and pretend like it’s not happening….even our denial could get bigger.

All of this might make you want to hit the snooze button!

But you won’t.

Instead, consider this your wakeup call and an opportunity to transform…..to tap into the transformative stuff you are made of.

It’s an opportunity to choose…..to be creative and harness some of the forces that have been unleashed…..and help move this accelerating world toward a more compassionate and more appealing destination.

Here are some of the things we’re doing and YOU can do too:

  • Slow down before speeding up.
  • Identify your most deeply held values and beliefs.
  • Prioritize.
  • Focus on what’s important; leave the rest.
  • Identify your genius…your superpower.
  • Approach with new commitment.
  • Be trustable.
  • Speak truth.
  • Love more.
  • Commit to do creative work every day that connects people and builds peace.

This is our commitment and why I’m betting on the future.

Truth be told….I’m betting on you too and I would love, love, love to hear from you!

Love and Loneliness

Creating emotional balance and safety in a topsy-turvy world seems impossible some days.

Intuitively, we know love, attention and connection are are key; everywhere present and scarce at the same time.

So we seek it. Crave it. Demand it.

While the essence of it all might just be about mastering how to give and receive it.

What we believe matters… now more than ever.

Moment by Moment / Grace and Gratitude

Just a simple reminder on how well you’re doing.

Those anxious moments you had a year ago are gone.

The problem was either resolved or it faded into the background. Something you live with but no longer think of as urgent.

Today there are other issues – for sure!

And, knowing you can get through every single overwhelming moment makes it easier to see what’s real.

When we give our attention to the important stuff instead of the panic within, we learn to build a cycle of goodness.

Continue Reading Moment by Moment / Grace and Gratitude

It’s been a tough year…

Yes. It’s been a tough year and here we are!

We’re well into November and it’s finally time to acknowledge the launch of the 2018 Holiday Season. (Delicious, stressful, merry and expensive!)

I get it….the big box stores started their holidays in August but we’re less than 60 days till the end of the year…..and it’s mind boggling how fast it all goes.

For me, 2018 has been a year filled with extraordinary growth AND extraordinary challenges. If it’s been that way for you too, I understand.

All year, one little phrase has kept me moving forward. I borrowed it from someone with a very wise mother…. (who said it often). It’s a phrase I journal, say to myself and say out loud, to anyone who needs encouragement….. the kind it takes to keep moving forward.

EVERYTHING is figure-out-able.

No doubt….you’re doing a lot. You’ve got a ton to be grateful for. And… you’re maneuvering through some BIG challenges.

If one of those challenges is relationship conflict, it may be time to take a closer look at how things work. Those difficult situations don’t come out of ‘the blue.’

They exist to teach us what we need to know in order to grow and love more deeply. Loving well will teach you (and your partner) how to be more of who you really are.

YOU are the very essence of Love. It’s who you are. You are also smarter and stronger than you realize. And you have what it takes to figure things out. (That doesn’t mean you have to do it alone!)

Continue Reading It’s been a tough year…

When Conversations Go Off The Rails – Bad Things Happen

Can you relate? It happens to all of us.

It’s that moment in your relationship when things are great and suddenly someone gets triggered.

The conversation goes off the rails and your partner makes NO sense.

Communication goes in circles and you both feel frustrated, hurt and confused.

Intuitively you know it’s a negative loop – one that’s almost impossible to stop.

You’ve been here 100 times before and you want to stop it………. but you can’t

You’d love to get your point across. But, what you want MOST is to be heard and understood.

Sometimes you’re left wondering what the heck the argument was even about.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

These negative cycles are UNIVERSAL and every couple has them.

Continue Reading When Conversations Go Off The Rails – Bad Things Happen

Do You Want to Make Life Better and Easier?

I’ve always been amazed at how much easier life can be when you have a supportive partner and a great relationship. At least that’s the way it is for most people and, YES, you can have that in YOUR life!

Recently we’ve had a ton of inquiries about our 1-Day Couples Intensives and we always make it a point to be straight-up and let people know who’s best suited for them.

The Wellness 1-Day Couples Intensive may be a perfect fit for you if:

  • You’re a busy couple
  • You live locally
  • You love each other and want things to be better (Not necessarily perfect; just better.)
  • You’re ready to take that huge and courageous first step
  • You like the idea of walking away at the end of the day with homework and a clear vision of what’s next

The 1-Day Couples Intensive covers 4-5 weeks of couples therapy in one day, completes our assessment/discovery phase and primes you for ongoing work with one of our amazing, caring therapists.

Continue Reading Do You Want to Make Life Better and Easier?