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

Archive for the ‘Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates’ Category

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Friday, September 6th, 2013

No one gets married with the intent of getting divorced, but statistics show that once-blissful couples can turn into bitter enemies over the course of time.  Wouldn’t finding an antidote for that bitterness and preventing divorce be potent medicine?  We actually do have information on what prevents divorce thanks to world renowned relationship researcher John Gottman.  He studied over 3,000 couples and the data collected has been useful in predicting the trajectory of relationships with 94% accuracy.

If you do a Google search of what causes divorce you will find many sources that cite infidelity, growing apart/falling out of love, finances or addiction as the reason(s).  But that’s not what Gottman’s research showed.  He found four clear patterns that lead to relationship demise and he aptly named them The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The first Horseman is criticism.  When our partner criticizes us it feels anything but constructive.  Criticism fuels fights and escalates conflict.  While it might momentarily feel good to give our partner a zinger, it’s hurtful and destructive.

The second Horseman, defensiveness, swiftly gallops in on the heels of criticism.  When we are attacked we naturally defend ourselves.  But defensiveness is really just blaming or criticism in disguise.

Gottman calls the third Horseman contempt, the sulfuric acid of love and the best predictor of divorce.  Contempt is about having an air of superiority over our partner and belittling their character.

Stonewalling, aka the silent treatment, is the fourth Horseman.  When one is angry and ready to fight but their partner is shutting down, it truly is like hitting a stone wall.  Anger gets more inflamed and shutting down turns into running away.

The Four Horsemen are toxic to any relationship and unless couples learn effective antidotes, relationship demise may be on the horizon.  If the Four Horsemen are hanging around your house it may be time to get rid of these unwanted guests.

 

How Building a Sense of Community Enhances Relationships

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Relationships can be enhanced in many ways, one of which is building a sense of community.  When couples, families or work groups come together to participate in their community, positive feelings abound.  A sense of community gives us a feeling of belonging and that what we do matters to others.

When two or more people in relationship work towards something meaningful in their community, whether it is for the benefit of a school, civic organization or by volunteering, they share an emotional connection.  Not only do they feel positive about their good-deed-doing, there is a sense of reward for their efforts and a deepening of their roots in the community.  By socializing within the community and working with others towards a common goal, couples, families and groups can feel more closely connected.

DSCN0937Building Community With a Work Group

On the Fourth of July, Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates built a sense of community by participating in the Kingwood Civic Club annual parade.  Our families joined in the fun by helping in various ways.  Not only did we feel more closely connected as a group, but we got to meet many other parade participants, deepening our roots in Kingwood.  We distributed stress balls (of course we did, we are therapists), magnets, candy for the wee ones and a special discount for our upcoming Art & Science of Love Weekend Workshop.  We shook hands and waved and felt the warmth of our community.

Building Community as a Family

On a more personal note, my family and I build a sense of community by volunteering at  Greyhound Pets of America.  A few Saturdays a month we head into Houston to work with greyhounds that are former athletes or surrendered pets, all waiting for a loving home.  Admittedly, I am the dog lover in our home, but my family gladly joins in because it feels good to help.  We follow this community building activity with another ritual . . . going out for brunch afterwards.  When it is all said and done we feel closer and it sets the tone for a great day.

When we work with couples who are struggling, one of the things we assess is how they build a sense of community.  Working together towards something you both believe in can be a great way to add some much needed connection.  For example, my husband and I recently volunteered to work together on creating an athletic booster club at my son’s school.  This simple activity has generated great conversation and we feel united in our efforts.  In addition to dates and working on better conflict management, think outside the box when trying to enhance your relationship.

How are you doing on building a sense of community in your relationships?

 

 

 

Couples Counseling for Affairs – What To Expect

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

If your world has been shattered by the discovery that your partner is having an affair, you may be wondering if your relationship can survive this, or maybe even wondering if you should bother trying.

The word affair conjures up an image of a sexual tryst but that is not the only type of betrayal we are seeing these days.  Emotional affairs, sexting, online or virtual romances can be equally, if not more, destructive to partnerships.

Most think that infidelity stems from availability . . . . a husband on an overnight business trip has opportunity or a wife with a hot personal trainer while her husband is at work.  But that is not generally how the path to a cheating heart is travelled.

Affairs arise from emotional dismissiveness and emotional avoidance in relationships.  These couples avoid expressing their true feelings to their partners in an attempt to avoid conflict. Over time these couples become very emotionally distant and feel very neglected in their relationship.  It is this isolation and loneliness that primes them to make room for an attentive affair partner in their life . . . someone who will listen, give them compliments and laugh at their jokes.  And eventually this leads to make negative comparisons about their partner and permission to stray.

Of course all hell breaks loose when an affair is discovered.  The betrayed partner has a knife jammed in their heart, feeling the deep wounds of broken trust, blindsided by someone they thought they knew.  The traumatic nature of this discovery leads to symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) that include intrusive thoughts, depression, anxiety, emotional numbing and flashbacks.

Often this is the juncture where couples seek relationship counseling.  They are in such crisis that I liken it to an anaphylactic reaction in need of an Epi-Pen . . . they want immediate relief.  Remember, these are a couples that hate conflict and they are at a loss on what to do or how to heal.

A skilled couples therapist will complete a thorough assessment of the current situation, their history as a couple and their individual backgrounds.  In Gottman Method Couples Therapy we follow the Gottmans’ Trust Revival Method for dealing with affairs.  This three phase approach involves:

The Atonement Phase:  This phase involves full confession, expression of remorse and apology, verification that the affair is over and dealing with the betrayed partner’s PTSD.  The couple begins to explore what went wrong in the relationship and why it culminated in an affair, but the cheating partner must take 100% responsibility for the breach of trust.  The most difficult phase of therapy, this stage will last as long as it needs to last, and the cheating partner must have infinite patience while their partner deals with his their emotions.

The Attunement Phase:   In this phase the couple begins rebuilding their relationship.  They recognize that previous relationship wasn’t meeting their needs and it cannot and should not be resurrected in the same manner.  They need to build skill in developing deeper emotional bonds, better communication, conflict management skills, friendship and romance.

The Attachment Phase:  In the final stage we work on forgiveness having real meaning, deepening their commitment, building a shared meaning for the future and re-establishing a strong foundation.

Some couples can survive affairs and some can’t.  The likelihood of survival increases if they can openly talk about the affair, their pre-existing problems and have infinite patience while they work through the three  phases of recovery.

 


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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