Monday, January 15, 2018

Are You Making These 4 Communication Mistakes?

Are You Making These 4 Communication Mistakes in Your Romantic Relationship?

Try to discover “what things look like from inside that person’s world...” Focus on listening, rather than formulating an argument in your mind that pokes holes in what they’re saying. “ Listen like a friend, not like a lawyer..."
We assume that communication should come naturally to us, and maybe we think it does, especially in our romantic relationships. After all, we communicate all the time. We talk to our partners all the time about a wide range of topics, from what’s going on with our jobs to what’s for dinner to why we’re feeling so upset.
But good—clear, connection-enhancing—communication takes work. It requires some education, effort and practice. You’ll likely still stumble from time to time. Because, of course, you’re human.
In fact, you might be unwittingly making certain communication mistakes right now—mistakes that actually ignite or exacerbate conflict between you and your partner. Below you’ll find four common communication mistakes, along with how you can fix them. 

Mistake #1: Using some version of “I totally understand”

According to Chris Kingman, LCSW, who specializes in individual and couples therapy, this is a toxic mistake he regularly sees couples make. We say, I get it. I completely understand where you’re coming from. I totally hear you. I appreciate what you’re saying.
Ironically, this makes our partners feel less heard and less understood and less appreciated, Kingman said. And it tends to deepen any conflict.
The reality is that you can’t decide if you’ve heard and understood your partner. Only your partner can. In other words, if they tell you that they feel heard and understood, then you’ve heard and understood them. This is why it’s important to do the work of learning how to listen effectively, Kingman said. This means validating and mirroring back what they’ve said about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, he said.
It means empathizing with your partner, which consists of two ingredients: First, be open like a “moviegoer who allows himself to be absorbed in a film and moved by the actors,” Michael P. Nichols, Ph.D, writes in his book The Lost Art of Listening. Secondly, “shift from feeling with a speaker to thinking about her. What is she saying? Meaning? Feeling?” 

Mistake #2: Using the word “But”

Using the word “but” discredits our partner, and it’s not helpful when you’re focused on your relationship’s well-being, said Rebecca Wong, LCSW-R, a relationship therapist and founder of Here’s an example: “I love that you helped with the dishes after dinner tonight but I’d like that sort of support every day.”
Instead she suggested substituting the word “and”: “I love that you helped with the dishes after dinner tonight and I’d like that sort of support every day.” It’s essentially the same sentiment, but this small shift instantly creates a meaningful difference. It sounds kinder and softer and more appreciative. It sounds like a request versus a demand.

Mistake #3: Getting defensive

Getting defensive is totally natural and normal. It’s an automatic response to feeling threatened or flooded, Wong said. For instance, your partner says they feel overwhelmed with household chores, and you automatically start listing everything you’ve done in the past week. Your partner says you forgot an important appointment, which makes them wonder if you really care. And you start saying they should’ve reminded you, and lately you’ve had too much on your plate and on your mind, anyway, and they’re being a bit ridiculous to expect you to remember under these sorts of circumstances.
The solution to reacting defensively? “This may sound awfully simple, but your first task is to slow down,” Wong said. Take a time-out. Tell your partner that you need to take a break, and will return to the conversation in _______ amount of time. Take this time to reflect on what’s triggered you. What caused your shield to go up? Then “notice what you can take responsibility for, be accountable for and own up to,” Wong said. “When you do that, what shifts?”

Mistake #4: Judging your partner

You might tell your partner any version of these statements: “You have no idea what you’re talking about” “You’re so unreasonable and illogical” “You make zero sense!!” “You’re so sensitive” “I can’t believe something this trivial is bothering you.”
These kinds of statements are insulting and make partners “feel foolish and shamed,” said Kathy Nickerson, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships. These kinds of statements inevitably impede communication.
Instead, try to see your partner’s perspective, she said. Try to discover “what things look like from inside that person’s world,” Nichols writes in the Lost Art of Listening. Focus on listening, rather than formulating an argument in your mind that pokes holes in what they’re saying. “[L]isten like a friend, not like a lawyer,” Nickerson said.
Nickerson also suggested avoiding these additional communication don’ts: Don’t attack or criticize. Don’t use profanity or call each other names. Don’t call each other “crazy.” Don’t make threats or give ultimatums. Don’t bring up every fight or issue you’ve ever had. Don’t bring in other people’s opinions. Don’t mention divorce.
These might seem like common sense. Of course, you shouldn’t insult your partner or fling four-letter words at them. But in the heat of the moment, many of us are guilty of doing at least one of these don’ts. Many of us are guilty of trying to win a conflict, instead of trying to understand each other.
After all, conflict can spark intense emotion—and you feel like you have very little control over what you’re saying. If you aren’t able to have a constructive conversation with your partner, again, it’s time to take a break, and, return after you’ve cooled off and calmed down.
How couples navigate communication (and conflict) makes or breaks their connection. The good news is that this is something you can learn and work on. The key is to start right now.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How to Cope When You Feel Lonely and Invisible in Your Marriage

by Sharon Martin 

...The scary thing to me, as a couples therapist who has spent 10+ years geeking out on the neuroscience of love + relationships and learning all I can about what truly makes EPIC relationships, it highlights this one fact: The collective idea of what’s required to have a fulfilling marriage is way, WAY off.
We are bombarded with theatrical images of what marriage + relationships should look, feel, and sound like.  For the sake of argument, I will share typical gender-stereotyped assumptions:
We’re taught that to be a good partner, women should …
  • Be patient and lower their expectations because men aren’t as emotionally evolved as they are.
  • Learn to ask for what they want so their man has the opportunity to step up and meet their needs.
  • Not expect their man to be their everything: spouse, friend, therapist, lover, etc.
  • And NEVER tolerate cheating, lying, or any emotional/physical betrayal if they want to be respected.
 We’re taught that to be a good partner, men should …
  • Be romantic, because that’s what every woman wants.
  • Be stoic, assertive, confident and ready to protect, provide + procreate.
  • Know how to be epic lovers naturally, without education outside of pornography.
  • And NEVER show weakness, vulnerability, or heaven forbid…fear.
Unrealistic expectations leave us feeling lonely and unfulfilled
While I don’t disagree with all of these “shoulds,” I will say that with all these messages, how can we NOT feel lonely and invisible in our relationships now and then?
Over the years I’ve figured out some strategies for coping with loneliness and invisibility that may be helpful to you and your partner as you master the messiness of couplehood, together.
1. Make time to reflect. How are YOU doing? Are you in a funk? Maybe hungry? Have you been more stressed than usual? Have you been experiencing poor sleep? Check in with YOU.  What’s happening in YOUR individual life outside of your relationship? And what is one small way you can take physical, emotional, nutritional, mental or spiritual care of yourself, that doesn’t involve your partner? (ie: go for a run, get a massage, take a day off, sleep in, take a bath, meditate, go dancing, take a painting class, etc.)
2. Be honest. There’s nothing more connecting than getting vulnerable with someone who loves you. Can you tell your partner how you’re feeling, free of criticism or blame? What if you said, “I’m feeling super lonely lately + I miss you. Can we make time for us this weekend? Let’s talk about what it would take to make that happen.” (ie: get a babysitter, reschedule meetings, plan an adventure, sleep in together.) Your partner doesn’t know how you feel or what you need unless you tell him/her.
3. Connect to your tribe. Back in the day we literally had tribes. All around us, at all times, just so we could function. Too often I hear couples who want their partners to be their EVERYTHING: their co-parent, cycling buddy, confidant, lover + primary source of intellectual stimulation. And this leads to disappointment. Reach out to your tribe. Your friends, family, and even therapist feel valued when they can say YES to a request to chat, hang out, or support a struggle. And if you don’t have a tribe, it’s time to create one.
4. Give yourself (and your partner) a break. In relationships, we all suck sometimes. Which means at times you’re not going to get your needs met. And neither will your partner. Knowing that this is the nature of being an imperfect human, with faults, irritations, and limitations in a relationship with another imperfect human enables a little more empathy + kindness. Take a breath, and return to #1. Check in with you.
Yes, it’s awful to feel lonely + invisible in your relationship, but sometimes it’s going to happen and having the tools to cope will greatly reduce the pain associated with your experience. Remember, you’re just two imperfect humans trying your best to not suck at being together. 
by Sharon Martin

Monday, November 6, 2017

How Women Really Feel About Sex

Sex begins in the mind.
Men are often disappointed that she doesn’t crave it in her body as much as he does. But her body is very different hormonally. Testosterone does cause physiological desire in both genders, but to differing degrees — proportionately, male hormonal drive is a loud scream, and hers is a whisper. For her, it’s the fantasizing, remembering, and imagining that revs her engine. So, in times of infatuation or falling in love — when she is constantly thinking about being together — her sexual appetite is high, and arousal is easy.
Sex is about being desired.
Sex researcher Meredith Chivers says “being desired is the orgasm” for women. While seeing an attractive man might cause a small spike of excitement in a woman — some women are more visual than others — it’s the thought of his reaction to her (“I wonder if he thinks I’m hot?”) that hits her brain like a lightning bolt. Knowing that her man is hungry for her engages her imagination and ignites sexy thoughts in the brain. Just as men often expect abundant sex after marriage, women have expectations of lots of continuing romance that assures her of her sexual desirability.
Sex is a mixed bag.
Most women do love sex, but desire can easily be derailed by tiredness, resentment, or the physiological problems of pain or menopause. In fact, without the physiological driver of testosterone, a main task for women is to turn off the inner "brakes," says sex therapist Emily Nagoski — the distractibility of the laundry, children, and work, or the inhibiting voices inside that tell her no because of her history or religion. Women often come to bed willing to have a good experience, but not really wanting or craving sex until aroused. And sometimes getting to the peak of arousal can be a bumpy climb; for many women, it may take up 45 minutes...
Sex is contextual. 
...Often, relationship ups and downs cause women to withdraw desire and protect their heart in a way that men don’t or can’t, given their biological drive. Her need to feel emotionally safe before the sexual moment cannot be overstated. Romance and seduction are ways that both men and women can co-create a context for sex that helps her separate from the cares of her day and her mental checklist of things to do, and brings her to a place of vulnerability.
Sex is an aspect of love. 
Sex, talking, hanging out, working together, managing a home and family as a team, feeling appreciated, celebrating holidays, giving and receiving gifts, and affection may all comprise love for a woman; sex is part of the whole, not the defining factor. Making love may flow from the warmth she feels in the relationship, but it’s not necessarily the source of the heat.
Sex is a way she gives love
I am absolutely not implying that women are obliged to give sex when they don’t want to,but sometimes, she may recognize her partner’s need for sex and, despite her own lack of inclination, she may want to meet his need. If there is relational warmth and good will, this offering can be a real gift of love. It can frustrate her efforts when her partner insists, "But I want you to want it!" because he discounts her motive of love, insisting that sex drive should be her real, if only, impetus. But because she often feels desire after arousal, she often also finds herself glad that she started making love. Some women find deep satisfaction in sexual intercourse, even if it comes without her orgasm. While most of the time we want to feel like we’re on the same page with our partner before having sex, sometimes it’s having sex that gets us on that same page.
Men and women both need to feel deeply attached to their partner for happiness. But our starting place is often different. Emotional intimacy combined with sexual intimacy is the combination that creates a passionate marriage or partnership.
Read More:
by Laurie J Watson

When a Woman Isn't in the Mood [But her Man Is]

Incredulity is certainly the reaction most women have when first being told that a man knows he is loved when his wife gives him her body. The idea that the man she is married to, let alone a man whose intelligence she respects, will to any serious extent measure her love of him by such a carnal yardstick strikes many women as absurd and even objectionable.

But the question that should matter to a woman who loves her man is not whether this proposition speaks poorly or well of male nature. It is whether it is true. And it is true beyond anything she can imagine. A woman who often deprives her husband of her body is guaranteed to injure him and to injure the marriage —no matter what her female friends say, no matter what a sympathetic therapist says, and no matter what her man says.

This is a major reason many husbands clam up. A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.
When first told this about men, women generally react in one or more of five ways:
1. You have to be kidding. That certainly isn't my way of knowing if he loves me. There have to be deeper ways than sex for me to show my husband that I love him.
2. If this is true, men really are animals.
3. Not my man. He knows I love him by the kind and loving way I treat him.
4. You have it backwards. If he truly loved me, he wouldn't expect sex when I'm not in the mood.
5. I know this and that's why I rarely say no to sex.
Let's deal with each of these responses.
1. You have to be kidding. …
The most common female reaction to hearing about men's sexual nature is incredulity, often followed by denial. These are entirely understandable reactions given how profoundly different — and how seemingly more primitive — men's sexual nature is compared to women's.

Overreacting in Your Relationship: Reasons and Remedies

Anyone is a relationship knows that partners have the uncanny ability to bring out the best and worst in each other. Accordingly, whether newly married or celebrating many years together, partners can find themselves overreacting in a way that rarely happens anywhere else in their lives.

“ I can’t believe he got me so upset that I was screaming in front of the kids.”

“ She doesn’t stop until I walk out and slam the door.”

“ He insulted me-how did he end up the victim?”

Overreactions are like flashfloods—all of a sudden they are there, be it from a deliberate or unintended provocation or the build up of unrelated feelings that let loose over something as simple as, “How did you forget the milk!”
In the moment, it is very difficult to untangle what has happened; much less consider remedies to handle personal and interpersonal triggers and overreactions.
When physical violence is involved there is no question about change as safety comes first and professional help is warranted.
While often just as emotionally corrosive, verbal overreactions often become blurred in terms of provocation.
Most partners simply blame the other and want the other to change.
What we know about change is that we are much more successful changing ourselves than anyone else. 

Reasons and Remedies for Overreactions
Physical Realities
Physical realities of fatigue, hunger and pain compromise our functioning, particularly our capacity to regulate anxiety and anger. In a culture that gets too little sleep and demands multi-tasking, the stage is often set for overreaction.
  • Self-vigilance that includes self-care as well as disclosure to your partner about your needs can avert overreactions.           
 “ I think if I can just unwind and change before I respond…”             
“ I’m exhausted and we never do well discussing these issues late at night…let’s pick it up tomorrow.”            
When partners can take a moment to disclose their needs, hear each other and try to work together– the chance of an overreaction based on basic needs is lowered.           
 Sometimes that is not as easy as it sounds!
  • Self-vigilance must also include regulating anxiety as it bears on regulating angry overreactions.
Are you the partner who feels such urgency that you cannot wait 10 minutes and insists on talking no matter how the other feels?
Are you the partner who becomes enraged by the other’s inability to contain their anxiety?
  • Reconsidering situations from individual and couple perspectives adds the step that reduces acting without thinking. For example,
  • Taking 10 minutes to write down your thoughts so you don’t lose them or doing something for yourself for a short time while your partner catches his/her breath may actually give you a sense of mastery about waiting and improve the discussion.
  • Put words to your anxiety. If postponing discussing an issue until the morning feels like a “ gag order” that fuels your anxiety, make that feeling known. Reasonable disclosure often invites finding a middle ground solution.  Sometimes, for example, simple acknowledgment of a problem offers enough relief that discussion can be postponed.
“ So the boys want to drive to Maine with their friends…we will face that one tomorrow.”
  • Mutual respect and flexibility are invaluable.
 A presumption is an act or instance of taking something to be true or adopting a particular attitude toward something, although it is not known for certain.
“ You never like spending time with my family.”
“ You have no interest in doing anything.”
Presumptions are triggers to overreactions in partners, because in most cases, they are critical and overgeneralized leaving the partner feeling unfairly attacked and judged.
  • Robert Allan, author of Getting Control of Your Anger, suggests that one of the major hooks to anger is injustice.
  • It is not surprising that negative presumptions provoke partners to counterattack with anger and often a defensive screaming litany of proofs.
  • Often the accused becomes the more aggressive and feels doubly incriminated by his/her overreaction.
  • The trap that pushes the overreaction is the need to get the other to agree that he/she is wrong.
  • Becoming Assertive -If presumption is a negative pattern in your relationship, and inquiry and conversation have simply fueled the fire, believing in yourself and asserting what you know to be true is a powerful alternative to overreaction.
“ I have always enjoyed spending time with your family. They live very far away but I enjoy their company.”
  • Avoiding Defensiveness-Stopping the back and forth with the assertion of what you know to be true is the most important thing you can do. There is power in certitude that needs no defense.
  • Ignoring the Bait-If you partner continues to pursue the presumption in an accusatory way – Don’t take the bait. If you have to stop the pattern by getting up to make a cup of coffee or walk the dog, you are walking away from a negative pattern that hurts both of you–not your partner.  Come back prepared to proceed normally with the day or evening. The subliminal message is “ I am here but I will not participate in negative interactions.”
Mutual Contempt
Sometimes there has become so much shaming and demeaning in a relationship that overreaction has taken the form of matched provocation.
It becomes the type of situation where children and friends are the captive audience to endless put-downs and blow-ups between partners over minor things or human error. The partners are as stuck as the people around them.
“ I no longer like who I have become.”
“ I am always angry because I feel so disrespected.”
It is important to recognize that in his consideration of predisposing factors to divorce, marriage expert, John Gottmanidentified contempt as primary.
  • Disengagement -As soon as one or both partners disengage from the predictable reactivity to question what is happening, they bring time, cognition and self-control to their future reactions.  Each partner is in a better position or is modeling a better position. Interpersonally the pattern has to shift.
You can’t fight or exchange expletives with someone who won’t participate.
  • Motivation for the Children -Sometimes at the suggestion of one, both partners are motivated to call a “ halt” to the put-downs for the sake of their children. I have often invited parents to consider that anything negative they say to each other—they are also saying to their children. Research has shown that marital strife is physically and emotionally harmful to children. While perhaps just a first step, motivation to stop is a necessity for the children and a gift to parents.
  • Self-Help Behavior –Books, videos, on-line material, and groups that invite questions about co-dependency, fear of intimacy, hidden resentments, anger management and re-kindling love, can be invaluable in supporting the disengagement from overreaction patterns. Identification with others, who have changed, both supports and sets the stage for seeking help.
Mutual concern and interest in changing is very different from mutual disdain.
The day that partners who are caught in a contentious and painful relationship seek help, be it from a couple therapist, a spiritual counselor, a marriage workshop etc., is the day they take a step toward changing the negativity, reducing the overreactions, and finding a way to find each other again.
By Suzanne Phillips

6 Reasons Most Divorces Are Filed by Women

Women want an intimate and emotional connection with their husband. They want communication, togetherness and a husband as driven to meet their needs as they are to meet his needs. The problem? Some men still view their wives as “the little woman” and fewer and fewer women are willing to be put in such a role...

Some wives spend so much time focused on raising children, helping their husband further his career and putting their needs last that they lose sight of who they are and what they want out of life.

It is not unusual for a woman to hit middle age and go into a midlife crisis. She will begin to question the life she has led and wonder, “is that all there is?” She may file for a divorce in order to explore life on her own in the hope of finding out who she is and what she wants out of life.
There are a myriad of reasons a woman will file for divorce. Whether it is to seek her own happiness, escape from an abusive marriage or midlife crisis the one thing most who divorce have in common is a new sense of empowerment. Women view themselves as equal to men and for some marriage takes away that power instead of promoting it...


What Hidden Agenda Are You Bringing Into Your Relationship? By Bloomwork

To the degree that early unhealed wounds and unmet childhood needs are carried into adulthood we may see our partner as having the power, even the responsibility to rescue us from the residual pain from these experiences by providing us with the kind of love that we had never received. What we deeply desire is love that is healing, affirming, redemptive, and unconditionally accepting. In short, salvation. Not only is this expectation unrealistic, it’s unattainable. Still, the desire for love can be so compelling that it frequently blinds us to this reality.

When we feel ourselves to be incomplete or lacking a sense of wholeness, we often seek out others to fill our emptiness, someone who seems to possess the power to restore us to wholeness. Generally such a person embodies inner qualities, character traits and ways of being that are similar to those of one or both of our parents or caregivers. This sense of familiarity is one of the things that make this person attractive to us.
Such a person often inflames the desire for redemptive love, the kind of love that can heal our hearts and souls. When we are redeemed, we feel “right” with ourselves and relieved of feelings of unworthiness, doubt, anxiety and shame. “This time,” we tell ourselves, “this person will love me in the way I really need and deserve to be loved, and their love will remove the pain and suffering from my life.”
This then is the redemptive longing; the hope of being saved once and for all from the suffering inherent in a life in which we feel ourselves to be undeserving of love. When we fail to recognize the illusory nature of this expectation, relationships that began with dreams of divine bliss, can deteriorate into unrelenting frustration, and the person whom we had hoped would be our salvation becomes the source of more emotional pain.
It’s in our ability to see the true source of our attraction and attractiveness to others that we can begin the real healing work that can free us from relational patterns that no longer serve us. With this awareness we can learn how to put out the fires of suffering at their source.  When we do this we diminish the inclination to compromise ourselves in order to gain love and acceptance from others. Looking for wholeness and security through another is like seeking relief of a toothache from a painkiller. There’s nothing wrong with doing it and it will temporarily alleviate the pain, but it is not an effective long-term solution.
When the source of the problem has to do with an unwillingness to honestly face ourselves, the solution involves the ability to remember (literally, to put back together again) our essential selves and claim all of the parts that comprise the fullness of our being, including those parts that are in need of attention and healing.
This doesn’t necessarily require us to reveal our deepest darkest secrets to the world, but simply to honestly acknowledge and experience the truth to ourselves. In so doing, those aspects of our personality that we have tried to conceal gradually become exposed to the light of awareness and compassion. This process of gradual awakening is the essence of the work that over time will set us free. And freedom, isn’t just having nothing left to lose, it’s the foundation of fulfilling relationships and fulfilling lives.

Are You Making These 4 Communication Mistakes?

Are You Making These 4 Communication Mistakes in Your Romantic Relationship? By  Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.   Try to discov...