281-812-7529
A group of independent counselors serving Kingwood and Houston
Specializing in Gottman MethodTM Couples and Marriage Counseling

How Couples Can Deal with Gridlocked Issues

“When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.”  Daniel Wile, After the Honeymoon

Truer words have not been spoken.  Most couples have the same arguments over and over and over again. In his research, John Gottman found that these perpetual problems account for 69% of the issues couples face.  In long term studies, the date on the calendar was the only thing that changed.

The reason these hamster wheel arguments occur is because compromise fails to work on some issues.  Take religion for example.  When one partner is Catholic and the other is Jewish they may not have an issue before they marry and have children.  But once the kids come along they may deeply desire their children to practice their faith.  They dig their heels in because they think their views are correct and their partner’s are misguided.

Then the fighting begins.

Over time these hot button issues can become gridlocked.  When this happens both partners refuse to budge on their position and dig their heels in further. The more they defend their position on the issue, the more they feel criticized and disliked by their partner.

Just like deeply held convictions, personalities also don’t change over time.  An extroverted husband will never make his introverted wife morph into a social butterfly, no matter how great a case he makes that extroverts are better.

So what’s the answer?  In a word, dialogue . . . talking with the intent to understand and accept your partner rather than fighting and criticizing in an attempt to make them see how deeply flawed they are.

Recently in our Art & SCIENCE of Love Couples Weekend Workshop we drove this point home by teaching several techniques to better understand one another (see video above).  It’s amazing what a little listening and understanding can do.  Here’s what they said on exit surveys:

1.  Came to epiphany on key area of conflict, which helped us move forward.

2.  It gave me the tools to address major conflict area and confidence to use them.

3.  Gave me hope that my husband will understand that he can have a perception of a situation and mine may be different.

4.  Perpetual issue discussion…we need improvements in this area and I think this helped us take steps in the right direction.

5.  Processing past regrettable incidents was very helpful in talking and being heard on an issue we had felt bad about for 2 years.  It gave us hope that we will be able to gently take out the garbage.

6.  More understanding on both sides of gridlock issue has been established.

What these couples describe is not unusual for Art & SCIENCE of Love workshop participants.   Exit surveys show 86% of couples experience positive results similar to 6 months of marital therapy.

When couples can accept one another’s differences, they tend to mellow over time and can often find amusement in the situation.  It’s like the movie When Harry Met Sally.  Throughout the movie it drove Harry nuts that Sally ordered everything on the side.  But by the end of the movie he came to accept it and said I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. 

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Certified Gottman Therapist

Power, Respect and Influence . . . How Does Your Relationship Rate?

IMG 8We are just a few years short of the century anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. A lot has changed for women in the last 100 years and that has spilled over into changes in relationship dynamics.

For example, in the early 60s men were not allowed in the delivery room to see their children born. But now 91% not only watch, they actively participate in that special moment. When my son was born by C-section, I was being stitched up and my husband was the first to hold our bundle of joy . . . now I was the one that felt left out. Yes, the times have changed.

It’s no surprise that two income families are becoming the norm. Women outnumber men in higher education enrollment and that means they now vie for higher paying jobs.  While women still lag behind men in equal pay, men are losing their status as sole breadwinners.  A recent Pew Research analysis showed that of all married couples 24% had women as breadwinner, and that number is 30% among newlyweds.  This is up from 6% in 1960.

In his research of couples, John Gottman found that men who accept these changes are way ahead of the game in the world of parenting and relationships. They are sharing power and allowing themselves to be influences by their partner’s point of view.  Women who feel respected in this way are happier in their relationships.  And as many men say, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

But accepting your partner’s point of view is a two-way street.  Women must allow themselves to be influenced by their husband’s point of view, especially in the area of parenting or other traditionally held female roles.  But the truth is women generally do a far better job of accepting influence from men than men do from women.

Developmental psychologists have found the roots of this  in childhood.  Girls accept influence from boys, but boys almost never accept influence from girls. This is most likely due to the fact that boys and girls are raised to manage emotions differently.  Boys learn to deal with emotion quickly and “to keep the ball in play”.  Girls “play house” and nurture baby dolls in their play, and they love playing with others. This means that when both genders come together at puberty, girls are more experienced about relationships.

Gottman’s work suggests there is a new kind of male partner that is emerging, one that is adapting to these changes.  The new male has reset his priorities and is turning towards relationships.

When men have a hard time accepting influence they say “no” and try to hang onto their power.  They become obstacles in the relationship.  They dismiss their wives needs and emotions and become righteously indignant.  And they also become lonely.

We are living in a world-wide revolution that is trying to correct the imbalance that has been historically there for women.  As women become more psychologically and economically empowered they no longer accept feeling powerless or stuck in unfulfilling relationships.

How are you doing with accepting influence in your relationship? If your relationship needs some overhauling in this area, work with a Certified Gottman Therapist or attend a Gottman Couples Workshop (our next workshop is February 15-16).

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

(281) 812-7529

Houston (Kingwood), TX

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What To Do for Valentine’s Day When Your Relationship Is on the Rocks

broken heartbroken heartbroken heartbroken heartThere’s no avoiding it . . . heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, a sea of red and pink greeting cards, ads for diamond jewelry and tents of roses are assaulting us at every turn.

To those newly in love, Valentine’s Day is a day full of sweetness and romance.  For long-term, stable couples it’s usually a pleasant but perfunctory gesture.  But for those in struggling relationships, it is a painful reminder of what is no longer.

For couples not exactly “feeling it” but not ready to throw in the towel, searching for the right Valentine card is overwhelming.  Mushy cards are out.  Humorous cards mock your struggles.   Blank cards to write your own loving sentiment make your stomach tie up in knots.  ”Forgetting” to get a card feels like a slap in the face.

Just this morning I read an article by a so-called marriage expert on how to handle the Valentine’s day-struggling-couples issue.  He suggested finding the right card that doesn’t gush but says I love you, a token of that love (truffles, perhaps) and avoid trying to win over your partner over with your gift.  He said you know your partner well, so get exactly the right thing that will remind them of the love you once shared.  Oh and one more thing, put aside your feelings about how your partner handles cards and gifts . . . after all this is the day to express your love.

The problem with advice like this is that is suggesting that avoidance is the route to coping with loss of romance and passion.  It implies that a token can transmit your deeper thoughts and feelings, that you don’t need to communicate your wants and needs because you and your partner are so connected that you will select the right gift  to tug at their heartstrings.

Ok, maybe if you are from a Vulcan blood line you can do the whole mind meld thing and words are not necessary, but trust me, if friendship, passion and romance are fading, the kids or co-workers will get the truffles and he or she will run over that token of love with the SUV.

Let’s be honest, what struggling couples really want is their friendship back, because it is through friendship that the flames of passion and romance are re-ignited.   They want to be heard, understood, appreciated and emotionally connected to their partner.  They want the fights and negativity to end.  They crave physical affection.

So if you are struggling, what is so wrong with reaching out to your partner and saying “Valentine’s Day is hard for me, it reminds me of how we used to be.  All I really want is to feel connected to you again.  Would you be willing to work on that?”

Sure, it feels risky to make yourself vulnerable and ask your partner to work on things.  But doing nothing means that the relationship will continue to erode . . . and that’s not what you really want.

If you or your partner are resistant to the therapist’s couch, a couples workshop may feel safer.  In our Art & SCIENCE of Love Couples Weekend Workshop, there is artscience-300x223no public disclose of your issues.  It is not therapy, yet you still work on skills to build friendship and manage conflict.  The workshop yields similar results to six months of couples therapy and 86% of couples who have attended the workshop report positive outcomes.

Two days spent communicating and connecting with your partner could change the trajectory of your relationship . . . and end the Valentine’s Day struggle once and for all.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Certified Gottman Therapist

 

Do All Couples Fight?

What’s in a word?  Well, plenty when we are talking about conflict in couples.

According to the dictionary, the definition of conflict is a struggle, strong disagreement or difference that prevents agreement.   Synonyms listed in the same dictionary range from friction to warfare.  That sure leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

While I haven’t done scientific research on how couples describe differences that prevent agreement, my experience shows me that they use words such as fight, argue or disagree to describe their disharmony.   So I am choosing to use the vernacular when I talk about conflict.

Some couples fight a lot and some try to avoid it at all costs.  When we see couples arguing we assume their relationship is in trouble.  Are anger and arguments the path to unhappiness and divorce?

John Gottman’s research on relationships has shown us that conflict is inevitable in ALL couples.  There are two minds, two sets of values, two sets of opinions and the probability they will be in sync at all times is low.   Really, really low.  Ok, not just improbable, but impossible.

That means we should expect miscommunication to be par for the course in love relationships and we should expect regrettable incidents to occur over time.  Instead of trying to avoid fights (which means we are suppressing our feelings) we need to find ways of dealing with those inevitable moments when we hurt our partner’s feelings or they hurt ours.

It also means we need to change our attitude about the  negative emotions that lead up to fights.  Negative emotions (anger, sadness, disappointment etc.) serve a purpose.  They make us take stock of what we want and what we need.  In fact, we learn far  more from negative emotions than we do from positive ones.

Negativity is unavoidable so it’s wise to view  conflict with our partner as an opportunity to learn more about them.

Instead of viewing negative emotions as the bane of relationships, understand that behind every negative emotion is a longing or need.  In other words, we need conflict to grow in our relationship.    For example, when we are angry we are trying to express what we want and need.  Anger tells us and our partners that we want things to be different.  Negative emotions are like a GPS, guiding us to where we need to go.

The first step in conflict management is better understanding our partner’s wants and needs.  When we have an argument we need to be asking What do you need?  What’s bothering you?  What’s behind your negative feelings?  And our partner need to reciprocate and understand our negative emotions.  Understanding is a key ingredient in the recipe for success in conflict management.

Of course there are many other ingredients in that recipe, but when we are able to follow it, disagreements become very functional rather than disastrous.   They serve a purpose in relationships and are not an indication that our relationship is going to hell in a handbasket.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

 

 

This is Your Brain in Love

Who doesn’t love the feeling of falling in love?  The newness of love relationships is like no other feeling . . . when we are in love, all is right with the world.  We see things with greater appreciation, we are highly motivated and we never want that feeling to end.

Biologically speaking, many changes occur in our brains when we fall in love.  Hormones (oxytocin, DHEA, testosterone, etc.) are released and make falling  in love very pleasurable, almost addictive.  Oxytocin is sometimes called the cuddle hormone because it is associated with bonding.   It helps mothers bond with their babies but it is also secreted during orgasm.  Having an orgasm with someone changes how you feel.

Oxytocin also creates bad judgment.  It shuts down the amygdala and we are not as afraid to take risks.  If you have a lot of orgasms early in relationship, before knowing someone, it can lead to bad decisions.  There was actually a Swiss study done where they sprayed oxytocin or saline in people’s noses.  Study subjects were given the option to invest money through an anonymous trustee.  Typically investors are cautious with their money, but this study showed that the oxytocin group threw caution to the wind.  In other words, when we are falling in love we think we can trust the other person!

The second phase of love is actual trust building.  All arguments early in relationships are about building trust.  Can I trust you will be monogamous?  Will you be good with money?  Will you put me first?  Trust is all about being able to say my partner has my back and is there for me.

Once trust is developed then we can move on to the third phase, commitment.  This where we stop comparing and thinking we could do better.  We cherish what we have rather than focus on what we don’t have.  Commitment is believing (and acting on the belief) that this relationship is one’s life journey . . . for better or for worse.

In long term, happy relationships what we find is that couples fall in love over and over again.  ALL relationships have rough spots and they traverse through time, but the key is to continually renew the relationship and keep the love alive.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

 

Rituals of Connection Strengthen Relationships

Sound houseThanksgiving is upon us and that warms my heart.  Over the past 20 years my husband and I have unwittingly developed  rituals around this day of gratitude.  We honor his family tradition of tamales and football and my love of Brussels sprouts and my friend Mary, who has spent 18 of the last 20 Thanksgivings with us.  When any of these things are missing from our day, it simply doesn’t feel right.

And that is how rituals go.  They are routines that create shared meaning in relationships and strengthen emotional connections.  Notice that Creating Shared Meaning is at the top of the Sound Relationship House, the model we use in Gottman Method Couples Therapy.  Rituals are important in relationships because we look forward to them  . . . they symbolize who we are as a couple or as a family.  They have the power to smooth over rough spots and transitions that we all naturally experience over the course of time.

We tend to think of rituals on holidays, especially ones that honor cultural heritage, faith or family values.  But rituals on a smaller scale are equally important.  How couple and families routinely come together creates a sense of belonging.  Rituals demonstrate that we take time out of our busy schedules to make one another a priority.

Here are some examples of rituals from my own family, as well as ones I have heard from other couples and families:

  • Six second kiss when you wake up, when you say goodnight, and when you come and go
  • Family dinnertime where everyone talks about their day
  • Walking the dog every evening
  • Making a cheesecake for your partner on their birthday because it is their favorite dessert
  • Going for pancakes every Saturday morning
  • Weekly date night
  • Returning to your honeymoon destination every year on your anniversary
  • Leaving love notes by the coffee maker for your partner to find every morning
  • Training for a distance bike ride together
  • Watching a favorite TV show together
  • How you approach your partner for sex
  • Family game night
  • Going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve
  • Snuggling for 10 minutes every morning after the alarm goes off
  • Parents and kids volunteering once per month at an animal shelter
  • Planting a vegetable garden every year
  • And my son’s favorite . . . serving his “lucky” foods (Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino and shrimp cocktail) before he plays a football game

Rituals create positive memories and are like glue in relationships . . . they keep you connected. What are the rituals in your relationships?

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

 

 

 

How Does Weight Gain Affect Couples?

“You’ve gained so much weight . . . I am no longer attracted to you”.

More than 34%  of Americans are now obese and it has become a national epidemic.  Co-morbidities related to obesity, like diabetes, often take the spotlight but weight issues have deleterious effects on relationships as well.

Weight gain often accompanies marriage.  Couples can become couch potatoes, watching TV instead of being on the go.  Working out may take a backseat now that one is no longer on the prowl for a mate.  Nurturing your loved one with delicious meals, celebrating with food and frequently enjoying cocktails together can pack on the pounds.  Couples can influence one another with eating patterns, often to their detriment, and this can boost caloric intake.

Much to my chagrin, weight and body shape changes can and do occur over time.   Pregnancy, menopause and the aging process all contribute to changes in size and shape.  Couples who support each other through these transitions tend to be the happiest.  Change is inevitable and it is best to accept that some change in weight and physical attractiveness will happen for both of you over time.

Unfortunately for many couples weight issues take front and center stage in marital unhappiness.  When one partner gains weight, the other often doesn’t know how to handle it.  Sometimes they try unsolicited advice like “Go to the gym with me” or “Maybe you should give Weight Watchers a try”.  Advice giving can morph into nagging or ultimatums, and this constant pressure adds conditionality to the relationship.

Derogatory remarks about weight are devastating to a relationship.  Name calling, telling your partner you are no longer sexually attracted to them or saying oink oink every time your overweight partner reaches for seconds all cut to the core.  Being critical of your partner is toxic and according to John Gottman is one of the predictors of divorce.  We all want to feel loved for reasons beyond the number on the scale or our clothing size.

Attacking the overweight spouse compounds the problem by adding layer upon layer of shame and humiliation.  Making negative comparisons or ogling a sexy stranger makes the overweight partner feel worse, more insecure and vulnerable.  Instead of feeling cherished, one feels disrespected and devalued.  Using shame as a tool to motivate always backfires.

Shame is different from guilt.  According to Brene Brown, shame researcher from University of Houston, shame is very painful and focuses on our self worth and sense of belonging.  Shame says “I am fat and unworthy of love”.  Guilt focuses on behavior and says “I overate and feel miserable”.  Shame interferes with our connection to self, as well as to our partner.

Women who have engaged in lifelong battles with their body are especially prone to shame when they plump up after marriage.  They feel big and unsexy and often dress to hide their curves.  Whereas they once pranced naked in front of their partner, now they dress and undress in private.  They often avoid sex in order to avoid rejection.  They simply feel “not good enough” or unworthy.

We used to think that men were less prone to body image issues, but the truth is their issues were present but off the radar.  They often share the same feelings of shame when they gain weight.

Secrecy is often a component of shame and weight issues.  This wreaks havoc in relationships, especially if the overweight partner has binge eating disorder (BED).  People with BED eat salads in front of their partner and gorge on junk food in private.  Bingers are not only grazers and chocolate cravers, but they feel out of control with eating.  They avoid eating in front of others to avoid judgment and in the process destroy intimacy and emotional connection.  It’s like an affair, only the affair partner is food.  Not only does the couple need marital counseling, but the binger will also need individual therapy to deal with their issues.

Many other dysfunctional patterns arise in couples where eating issues or BED are present.  Chronic dieting to compensate for overeating affects how couples approach food in social situations.  It also affects rituals of connection like family dinnertime and holiday food traditions.  Sometimes we see issues of codependency or enabling by placing the responsibility of the eating issue on the normal weight partner.  Other times we see sabotage through the form of temptation, especially if the binger loses weight and there are underlying power struggles in the couple.  And sometimes couples abuse food together to promote a sense of closeness.

But is the excess weight or the presence of BED to blame for plummeting marital happiness and sexual intimacy? Not so according to Gottman.  In his extensive research of couples he found that 70% of both men and women report satisfaction with sex, romance and passion when the quality of their friendship was good. Additionally he found that couples whose sex lives go well after the birth of a baby stem from the man keeping his mouth shut about the changes in his wife’s body.

Friendship, fondness, admiration and deep emotional bonds are what keep couples connected as they traverse changes over time.  Attraction to your partner has more to do with what’s in the emotional bank account than the number on the scale.  Physical changes are not at the heart of deteriorating marriages.  Happy couples see their partner as worthy of honor and respect.

In couples where weight has become a weighty issue, there are underlying problems that are being overshadowed by the weight gain.  It is easy to point the finger at the obvious, but loss of the friendship system, emotional avoidance or problems with conflict management are more likely the root cause.  Weight loss alone will not change the trajectory of a troubled relationship.

As we say in Gottman Method Couples Counseling, every positive thing you do in your relationship is foreplay.  Never comment adversely about your partners weight or your attraction to them.  Instead be affectionate and appreciative.  Focus on their positive attributes instead of dwelling on their weight.  Kind comments reassure your partner that you love them no matter what their body looks like.

As for dealing with shame, the antidote is empathy.  Replacing shame talk with positive self talk is crucial.  In other words, if you are overweight talk to yourself like you would talk to your child.  When shame is present it grows by leaps and bounds when it is stuffed.  Release shame by talking to your partner . . . their job is to express empathy and understanding.

Couples need to maintain positive regard for one another to cope with the changes that time brings, and that includes changes in weight and physical attractiveness.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Story: Brooks Roll Talks about Domestic Violence

brooks (2)October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  This annual observance brings our attention to the tragic effects of abusive relationships.  The goal is to support unacceptable number of victims of domestic violence who live in fear daily.

Brooks Roll, LCSW has years of experience working as a domestic violence counselor.  I asked him to share some of his insights to bring domestic violence out of the shadows.

MBG:  How would you define domestic violence?

BR:  Domestic violence is the abuse of power in order to control the other person. It can take the form of emotional abuse, belittling, putting her or him down, name calling, destruction of the others property. It can and is more often recognized when it takes the form of physical abuse. The latter often heals more quickly than the former.

MBG:  What makes it hard for someone to leave an abusive partner?

BR:  People are often asked, “Why don’t they just leave?”.  In abusive relationships, it was usually not immediately abusive and the abuser has often ingrained in the victim of abuse poor self-esteem. (I would often ask the abuser if they got into the relationship to have someone to beat up. That was never the professed case.) They will often tell you that they love the abuser, this does not by any stretch of the imagination mean they love the abuse. They have invested a great deal of time in this relationship and often see walking away as another failure and character flaw on their part. They are often fiscally and emotionally dependent on the abuser. The major reason that it had been hard to stop the abuse is because the victim did not want their spouse in jail and not out earning a living so they would refuse to testify.

MBG:  What is “The Cycle of Violence?”

BR:  The “Cycle of violence” is a spiral where the build-up to violence may be very gradual and very long. Once it starts there is then a ‘honeymoon phase” where the abuser is ashamed and does special favors and works to regain the favor of the victim. They may buy flowers, or other special gifts. Then something happens and tension starts building and there is another incident of violence/abuse. Then the honeymoon phase. The honeymoon phases become shorter and the violence often escalates with each incident.

MBG:  What is the impact of domestic violence on children?

BR:  The effect on children is often devastating. With higher rates of violence at school (it is a viable alternative), higher rates of teen pregnancy, more incidents of sexual assault, food addictions, substance abuse, runaway, and truancy. Young children misperceive and see themselves as the cause of the perpetrator’s violence against the intimate partner. Male children have a greater propensity to have a battering relationship with their intimate partners as they become adults. Many children are put in the position of pervayers of what the partner is doing when the partners are separated or divorced. Violence becomes an acceptable norm in intimate relationships.  The most frightening statistic though is that more than 50% of the young men between the ages of 15 and 21 who are in prison for murder, killed their mother’s abuser.

Domestic violence can only be eradicated if we have a zero tolerance policy. For more information contact National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE(7233) Texas Council on Family Violence (800) 525-1978.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

7 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Teenager

IMG_0715My son has always had a good balance of being stuck to us like glue and being fiercely independent.  He was the kid who could easily leave us for a week long camp and also the kid who wanted to climb in bed with us, not because he was afraid but because he wanted to be close.

Now that he’s a teen the same balance still exists, it just looks different.  Staying connected is not as hard as some may think, but it does require a shift in parenting.

To Stay Connected with Your Teen:

1.  Go with the flow and change your parenting style as your teen develops.  It is during this critical time that parents need to shift from managing their child’s every move to being their consultant.  Micromanaging your teen will create emotional distance in the relationship, not to mention some rebellion.  The developmental task of the teen years is to become increasingly more independent and parents need to facilitate this process.  Our job is to be their coach, guiding them through their emotional and social development, without trying to do it for them.

2.  Get to know their friends.  Make your home a welcome environment for your teen and their friends.  Offer to be the chauffeur.  You will learn a lot about your teen by observing how they interact with their friends, and from that you can generate some great conversations.  A word of caution about interacting with their friends online . . . . if you have a presence on their social media sites, simply read and DO NOT comment.  Your teen will think this is a boundary violation and quickly unfriend you.

3.  When your teen comes to you with an issue, be sure to listen to what they are saying and validate their feelings before jumping to advice giving.  They may just need a sympathetic ear.  Trying to solve their problem can send the message that they aren’t capable of solving them on their own.  Try asking “What do you want to do about that?” and then generate discussion from there.

4.  Develop rituals of connection with your teen.  Try to find activities that you and your teen can share, such as walking the dog together, baking cookies, going to Starbucks, watching a favorite show or playing catch.  You may need to be flexible and join in activities your teen likes, but it is important to come together a little bit each day.  Be sure to keep these rituals positive so both you and your teen come to value the time together.

5.  Take advantage of times your teen may be more open to talk.  Circadian rhythms change in the teen years and you will find that your teen is wide awake in the late evening and may be more willing to open up.  Hang out in the kitchen once in a while (even if it is past your bedtime), knowing your teen will wander there for a snack, and share a bowl of popcorn or polish off the rest of the pie together.  Being available to them when they are ready to talk is half the battle.

6.  Be conscientious of how you say Hello and Good-bye.  Setting a positive tone with separations and reunions conveys your desire for connection with your teen.  Be sure to say Good Morning when they wake up.  Before they leave for school find out what is happening in their day and give them a hug before they go.  When they return home greet them with a smile and talk about what happened during their day. Barking out orders as soon as they walk in the door is harsh, so avoid saying things like “Take the trash out” or “Put your bike away” before you’ve had a chance to positively connect.

7.  When your teen is moody, don’t take it personally.  Understand that everything seems like a big deal to them  They are dealing with cheerleading tryouts, chemistry tests, dating and many other pressures.  They are still not adept at managing their confusing feelings so their emotions ooze (or explode) out.  Being in the line of fire is equally confusing for a parent, but don’t match their mood and tone.  When your teen is emotionally flooded, give them some time and space to calm down and then address it with them.  Validate their feelings and tell them it is OK to feel whatever they are feeling but at the same time set a limit on them being disrespectful to you.

While your teen may drive you crazy at times, having a positive connection with them with help them feel more safe and secure as they move towards adulthood.  And best of all it will be filled with mutual respect for one another.

 

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We Need Couples Counseling and My Partner Won’t Go” – 5 Strategies to Try

We are on the brink of divorce and I can’t get my husband (or wife, or life partner) to go to marriage counseling?  What can I do?

Believe it or not, distressed couples wait an average of SIX years before seeking the help of a marriage counselor.  Unaware of the slow erosion that is taking place, they don’t notice the Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse have set up camp in their home.  Oh, they may know they have some degree of unhappiness, but they keep waiting for the other person to change to get the relationship back on track.

When the fog begins to lift and one partner accepts that the relationship simply is not working, they have an AHA moment and begin googling couples counselors.  Finding a few names they are sure their partner will want to dispel their pain with the help of an experienced therapist.  When they are met with There’s no way in hell I am airing our dirty laundry in front of a therapist.  I had a previous bad experience in counseling and I don’t believe in therapy, a sense of panic sets in.

If your partner is resistant to therapy, all hope is not gone yet.  Try the following:

  1. Stop making your partners flaws the main reason you need counseling.  Take ownership over your feelings and say things like I am so sad that we have become so distant.  I miss who we used to be as a couple.  Please go to counseling with me so we can get our happiness back.
  2. Ask your partner to go to ONE session.  Many times resistant partners will relax with an experienced therapist and agree to join in the process.
  3. If your partner is using the cost of counseling as a reason to not go, check with your insurance company.  Many plans cover marriage/family counseling.  It is possible that you have this as a covered benefit and will only have to pay a copay.  Or your employer may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and you can get a few free sessions.  Check with your Human Resources Department.
  4. Consider a couples workshop or marriage retreat, like The Art & Science of Love.  This Gottman Method workshop is ideal for resistant partners because itimage004 (2013_06_02 20_47_53 UTC) is not therapy, although the effects are like having six months of couples’ therapy.  The workshop is educational, research based and there is no public disclosure.
  5. Go to counseling on your own.  While nothing replaces the dynamic setting of couples counseling where both partners are working on issues, individual counseling may be of some benefit.  You will have a safe environment to explore your feelings.  If you are truly willing to work on the relationship, you will begin to take ownership over how your behavior has contributed to negative patterns.  A word of caution though, individual counseling that is just used for venting or trashing your partner will not be effective, and in fact, can be harmful to the relationship.

If after trying these things and your partner is still unwilling to get help, you might be faced with the fact they are unwilling to work on the relationship.  Not only are they avoiding the therapist’s couch, they are avoiding working on it in any form or fashion.  This can be a painful realization and you may want to seek individual counseling.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist


Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates provides service to Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, Porter, Fall Creek, Summerwood, North Houston and surrounding areas.

Couples Counseling & Psychotherapy Associates

2330 Timber Shadows Drive
Suite 106
Kingwood, Texas 77339
Ph: 281-812-7529

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