- At October 23, 2014
- By Allan
- In Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) in Marriage counseling & couples therapy, Conflict, Dialectical behavior therapy in couples counseling and marriage therapy, Difficult Emotions, Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) with Couples, Empathy and Vulnerability, Healing after an Affair, NEW BABY - NEW PARENTS, Relationship physiology
Some interesting thoughts on making a relationship and marriage last in this article in Men’s Health magazine
Worth a look…
- At July 08, 2013
- By Allan
- In Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) in Marriage counseling & couples therapy, Conflict, Dialectical behavior therapy in couples counseling and marriage therapy, Difficult Emotions, Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) with Couples, Empathy and Vulnerability, NEW BABY - NEW PARENTS
Our brains love and crave the familiar.
We so easily slip into automatic pilot, habitual ways of looking and making sense and reacting to our experience. Once in a while, we actually show up to the present … And before we know it, we’ve lived a life and barely shown up for it at all.
The EFT therapy approach provides down-to-earth, practical and often, transformative alternatives for couples.
This mystery of love, this mixture of sex and emotion – what happens in relationships that we are swept to the heights of passion and delight, to anxiety and anger, shame and rage.
EFT draws on contemporary research and findings and is enriched by understandings from interpersonal neurobiology.
Blaming our partners…
So much of the suffering and complaints in relationships are blamefully directed at our partners.
If only he or she were different. If only …then, then things would be perfect.
“Why can’t he ever be on time…it pisses me off?”
“If he just cleaned up after himself.. this relationship would be great”
“I’d be happy if he wasn’t just so chubby” … and the list of complaints goes on.
“I just wish she was more like my last girlfriend …”
Worth a few minutes of listening…
It’s so much easier to believe that we are right – and that our partner is wrong. Indeed, this is the basis for so much struggle in relationship: I’m right (and therefore one up) and you are wrong (and one down). Most of the issues which couples argue over have many perspectives – most issues have many shades of opinion and that evidence can be gathered to support these many different positions on any issue.
The key lies in being able to let go of our attachment “to being right” and opening to listen to the other.
A worthwhile TED talk by Kathryn Schulz …. “On being wrong..”
I invite you to take some time (with your partner or alone) and listen …
A NY-Times article on the chaos and pain and relationship scars which affairs inflict…
Healing after an affair takes time, commitment, perseverance, skill, dedication and empathy…
You cannot be in a hurry.
Worth a look…
I strongly recommend you read Judith Viorst’s “Grown-Up Marriage” (2003) – as a gift to your relationship, yourself and your family .
The book offers a fresh look at way in which the illusions and mirages which we all too easily hold onto shape our expectations – and can get in the way, suffocating our relationship. Letting go of these illusions, we adjust our expectations. Judith Viorst puts it like this:
“But if we imagine that marriage is where we can let it hang out day after day while continuing to excite and delight in each other, we are mistaken. If we imagine that marriage is where we can bitch, burp, snicker and snipe day after day without paying a price, we are wrong. We’re indulging in a fantasy of unearned, effortless love, the love an infant seeks from a perfect mommy. We are indulging in a fantasy that has little to do with love in a grown-up marriage.”
Indeed, deepening friendship and trust takes work – dedicated work over time. In a grown-up marriage, we come to tolerate each other’s limitations and imperfections. We aren’t our partner’s parent, teacher, editor, supervisor or home-improvement project. We don’t always have to be in love with each other – indeed we come to realize that we can’t always be in love with each other. But “a grown up marriage enables us, when we fall out of love with each other, to stick around, until we fall back in”.
Sometimes it can be difficult to go it alone. Nor do you need to. Support and skill-learning can make an enormous differences.
I invite you to check out the resources we have available at the Couples Training Institute, specifically the research-based approaches which are easily learned and practiced over time.
You’ll be glad you did…
Some couples experience high levels of conflict. Reactions are triggered, sometimes in an instant. They seem to move quickly to anger, harshness, blame, criticism and hostility. Flare ups are common. Out-of-control emotions appear all too frequently, dominating the relationship.
How I respond to my partner, how my partner responds to me shapes my emotions in very important ways. When I experience my partner understanding and validating what’s going on for me, I feel valued, cared for, even soothed. When I experience harshness, criticism and invalidation, its like salt on an open wound. Over time the pain and suffering which partners endure creates distance, isolation and loneliness. What was once a haven of caring and warmth now feels cold and toxic. No question about it, these hurtful and painful ways of relating are stressful and exhausting.
Reactive couples very much want to move out of what seems to be these inevitable cycles of painful escalation, yet seem really unable to do so. These couples need more than intimacy-building or communication techniques on how to improve their love relationships.
They need to get control of emotions first , to stop making things worse.
Only then building a better relationship becomes possible.
The good news is that marriage and couples counseling and therapy teaching dialectical behavior therapy skills can transform relationships in powerful ways.
Over the past years, I’ve been using “The High Conflict Couple – a Dialectical Behavior Therapy guide to finding Peace, Intimacy and Validation” by Alan Fruzetti in my couples counseling and marriage therapy with couples struggling with high levels of painful and unproductive conflict. This approach provides an outstanding set of strategies and approaches, drawing on dialectical behavioral therapy-based approaches which are taught in the couples and marriage counseling sessions.
The starting point is getting a better handle on what we call “emotions”. From here the Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) derived skills of Mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, effective communication can be learned and practiced.
Our emotional system is complex… involving many components.
Lets look at the following scene. When Susan, tired and hungry following a day’s work, notices that Bob hasn’t changed the toilet roll – again, she experiences a tightness in her stomach, tension in her throat and clenching of her jaw muscles. She labels this flow of sensations, this experience “anger”.
The experience also includes her thoughts about Bob. Her thoughts produce a story which goes like this: “ I can’t stand how selfish he is… what a jerk… and really just like his useless brother”. As the emotions get bigger, her thoughts unfold, all this while she is looking at the empty toilet roll. Her stomach tightens, tension in her throat intensifies. “ I don’t know why I married him “ she continues to herself, “and when we made love last night, he didn’t really care about me. Why do I even bother to talk to him…It’s useless’” More “anger”.
Bob comes into the living room excited about the vacation he is planning. He reaches out to Susan, eager to give her a hug and share travel details with her. She pushes him away with her expression and he blurts out “What the hell is the matter with you .. I mean you really need to chill” and she retorts with an insulting name and he retorts with a slightly more complex insulting name and the volume increases by about ten decibels and their heart rates, blood pressure and adrenaline increase culminating in Susan storming out of the room crying and Bob clenching his jaw, frozen and unable to talk and both in great pain. Whew! And most amazing of all, this all happens in a couple of seconds sometimes even less.
Emotional Arousal affects what we do and how we think
It is well established that emotional arousal affects what one does and how one thinks. Research from about one hundred years ago points out that while low or moderate amounts of stress and arousal help keep one focused, alert and on task for example, a job interview or making a presentation – however, when the arousal increases beyond a moderate level, reactions change dramatically.
With higher levels of arousal generally, attention is focused on escaping or getting away from the high level of emotion.
Alan Fruzetti in “The High Conflict Couple” has researched high-conflict couples extensively and makes the point that when a partner’s attention is reoriented to escape, that may be considered the moment at which what is called “emotional dysregulation” begins.
Emotional dysregulation gets in the way
When the emotional system becomes dysregulated, it gets in the way of being able to respond effectively to the situation.
This is simply because parts of the brain are activated which interfere with effective problem solving and strategic thinking. What happens typically, is that one’s perspective becomes more narrow and tunnel-like with an emphasis again on escaping or getting away from the uncomfortable or painful situation. It becomes almost impossible to see things from the point of view of one’s partner. In this state of emotional arousal, validation of one’s partner, essential to communicating effectively, becomes impossible.
Skills which support emotional regulation..
Skill-based approaches such as Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can support effective communication, especially under stressful conditions. These skills can be learned and practiced and can transform the way in which you and your partner deal with emotional intensity in powerful ways.