changes in partner Articles

Renovate Your Relationship: Replace Unsafe Couple Dynamics

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Regardless of how new or old your relationship, most couples can benefit from changing relationship dynamics that cause marital deterioration.

In a recent study in The Journal of Family Psychology, researchers, Lavner, Bradbury and Karney found in surveying 251 couples every six months for the first four years of their marriage, that despite the wish for marital fulfillment those whose marriages deteriorated were dealing with unsafe dynamics like verbal aggression, repression of feelings and denial of needs. Left unattended, such dynamics compromised the bond despite commitment, personality strengths or stress level.

In a similar way, no matter how beautifully a couple might decorate a home; a leaking roof or cracking foundation can not go unattended without consequences.

A closer look at a three “ unsafe couple dynamics” may invite mutual consideration of your relationship and the possibility of some renovations.

Verbal Aggression

“Living like this is like living in a minefield.”

  • Verbal Aggression is toxic to relationships because it destroys communication, trust and intimacy. Usually taking the form of taunts, personal insults, accusations, threats of separation or divorce, it locks the partners in pain.  Nothing changes. Nothing is learned about self or other.
  • The person who is verbally assaulted may retaliate or withdraw. At the worst, studies of intimate partner violence find that verbal aggression is a predictor of physical aggression.
  • In an atmosphere of verbal aggression, real connection is impossible. Often one or both partners go through cycles of guilt and fear. With time, emotional and physical health is compromised

Appropriate Assertion of Anger

The hallmark of a viable relationship is the ability to feel anger and express it in a way that communicates a problem, disappointment, conflict, or feeling without frightening, threatening or verbally assaulting one’s partner.

Renovations that make the healthy assertion of anger possible:

Stepping down by one or both in the face of verbal aggression is not giving up – it is protection for both. No one can fight alone. The mutual call for a “ Time Out” or the individual message, “ I can’t really respond if we are screaming,” …


Enhancing Your Sexuality: Six Important Strategies

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Anna Freud invited us to consider that “Sex is something you do, sexuality is something you are.”

Building on this, we can define sexuality as the way we experience and express ourselves as sexual beings. What makes sexuality a complex dimension is that it is determined by many factors including our body, gender, age, culture, history, media, religion and family.

What makes our experience of our sexuality important is that it affects our overall sense of self, our relationship with others and the life we live.

The most important factor enhancing our sexuality – one that is often overlooked but can out-trump age, culture, prior history, and body type is ATTITUDE.

  • The man or woman with an accepting sense of self is most often the most attractive person in the room….
  • He/she is not necessarily the person with the classic looks, the newest car or the best paying job; but rather, the person smiling, making eye contact, enthused with others and enthused with life.
  • The positive way we think and how we feel about ourselves plays a major role in our sexuality and in the pleasure we have in expressing it.

Developing a positive attitude will enhance sexuality. Here are some strategies.


Are You Invalidating Your Partner – Without Realizing It?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Probably the hardest things to change are the things we don’t realize we’re doing – like invalidating our partner.

Thanks to a plethora of self-help books on relationships, most partners, whether dating, committed or long married, have become aware of the value of listening for improving understanding and connection. Most recognize or are reminded by their partners when they are not listening.

Validation is much more than listening or even active listening. It is a verbal affirmation of another’s right to think or feel a certain way.

“I can see why you felt embarrassed when I said that in front of our friends.”

Most people would feel betrayed in that situation.”

Invalidation

The problem with invalidation, and the reason it is so caustic to relationships, is that it is not simply the absence of validation.

Invalidation is actually the disqualification of another person’s thinking or feelings. It carries the implication that you must be crazy, bad, over-sensitive or inept to feel a certain way.


Who Says ‘I Love You’ First? Unexpected Findings

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

If you were asked whether you think men or women are the first to say, “ I love you” in romantic relationships, what would you say?

Most people – both men and women – believe it is women.  Such beliefs are congruent with those who have studied gender differences. For example,

  • Women are generally thought to be more interested in and willing to express love and commitment than men.
  • Women are considered to have an easier time than men expressing vulnerable emotions such as love.
  • A content analysis of emotional expression in Valentine’s Day cards, for example, found that women were more likely than men to express love and fidelity.
  • A questionnaire study of 55 men and women walking across a college campus which asked, among other questions, “Who normally says they are in love FIRST in romantic relationships?” found that both men and women believe that women are more likely to be the first to confess love in relationships.

REALTY suggests something different. MIT researchers Joshua Ackerman, Griskevicius & Li (authors of the questionnaire study above) found across a series of studies that what men and women believe and what they actually do is quite different.


Strategies for Healing the Psychological Impact of Medical Illness

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

In the preceding blog, we considered the importance of recognizing medical illness as psychological trauma.

In this blog we report on an interview with Michele Rosenthal, author of the trauma recovery memoir, BEFORE THE WORLD INTRUDED, survivor, and host of ‘Your Life After Trauma’.  

Diagnosed with a rare disease, Stevens Johnson Syndrome, at age thirteen, Michele journeyed through two decades of undiagnosed PTSD to eventual recognition, recovery and support of many as the founder of www.healmyptsd.com.

What she offers in lessons learned is of value for parents of children who have faced illness, as well as adults who wonder how they will ever reclaim their bodies, heal their sense of self and take a new self into the future.

Michele, your journey from illness started when you were only thirteen. Parents suffer so much when they see their children suffer. How did your parents respond?

My parents were phenomenal! They were there in a very active way. Their presence next to me, their translation of what was happening to me, their role in helping the staff understand me in a certain way were all crucial to my safety and comfort.


Medical Illness as Psychological Trauma: Overlooked Pain

Friday, April 20th, 2012

In this era of advanced medical detection and intervention, the medical care of patients and the reduction of mortality for life threatening illness has never been greater.  Against this backdrop of success, however, what is often overlooked by professionals, family, even patients, is the experience of medical illness as psychological trauma.

  • While some efforts like the emerging field of Psycho-oncology are starting to address the totality of the patient and the American Psychiatric Association now officially considers “ being diagnosed with a life –threatening illness” a potentially traumatic event, it is perhaps most important that patients and families understand why and how medical illness often brings with it- anxiety, anger, depression, panic and post-traumatic stress symptoms.
  • Understanding, normalizing and validating common stress reactions can demystify and lower anxiety at a time when so much feels beyond understanding or out of control.
  • Given that the experience of trauma is a function of many variables including age, nature of trauma, duration and personal meaning, people will differ in their psychological response to medical illness.
  • Some may experience a few symptoms which abate within months, others will deal with a delay in the experience of depression or anxiety until well after the medical crisis, and for others the persistence of emotional distress may warrant professional help.

Enhance Willpower: Change Your Inner Dialogue

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

A recent survey reported by the American Psychological Association of 566 adults revealed that most people(93%) made a resolution to change some aspect of their behavior in 2012. Many did not succeed. The top reason most gave for failing in their efforts to lose weight, save money, exercise or make other lifestyle changes was lack of willpower.

What Accounts For This Lack Of Willpower?

Willpower is defined as the inner strength that enables us to make decisions and carry them out. What many may describe as a “lack of willpower” may actually reflect a tendency to overlook an important factor that influences our determination to make something happen – our inner dialogue.

Inner Dialogue

Our inner dialogue is actually the fabric of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Sometimes the inner message is very conscious; sometimes it is so automatic that we hardly know we are thinking it; and sometimes it is without conscious thought.

Often if it is negative, we may just feel down, hopeless, unmotivated, angry or anxious – the associated feelings to defeating messages sent to self.

“Outing” the Internal Dialogue

Stopping to consider your inner messages – what you tell yourself about yourself – is invaluable in harnessing willpower. It involves:

  • Recognizing and understanding your inner dialogue
  • Altering the negative messages
  • Accessing the positive ones.

It makes the difference between heading to your goal with an inner critic or a positive internal coach.


Midlife Dating: From Solution to Evolution

Monday, December 5th, 2011

middleaged coupleFew people have a long range goal of dating in midlife. To the many who find themselves faced with the possibility, midlife dating can seem like a mystifying, even overwhelming, journey to find a partner.

The reality is that despite the horror stories of friends or the fictional depictions of perfect couples repelling down snowy peaks, the experience of midlife dating really depends upon your goal.

When you expand the goal of midlife dating from finding someone to finding and re-defining yourself, the experience changes. Instead of a solution to being alone – midlife dating becomes an evolution of self.

Why Midlife Dating?

Usually something has or has not occurred in the lives or personal relationships of people ages 40- 65 that makes midlife dating a consideration. Some have left a troubled or contentious marriage; some feel they have been the one left; some have never looked up from a career; some have weathered the illness and death of a partner; and some have decided they are finally ready  to settle down.” Most don’t want to be alone.


Do You Thank Your Partner? Recognizing Resistance-Understanding Benefits

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

thank your partner“ Why Can’ t You Just Say, Thanks?”

If this sounds familiar it is because most of us have said it or heard it.

  • Most people want to feel appreciated, particularly by the person closest to them but too often the expression of gratitude gets lost in the fabric of couple’s lives.
  • Recent research in the field of positive psychology informs us that feeling gratitude, the awareness and appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself, has many benefits including positive mood, enhanced physical health and optimistic outlook. Actually expressing gratitude has proven to have even greater benefits in terms of personal happiness and relationship enhancement.

Then… Why is it difficult to express gratitude to a partner?

People are complicated. Add in couple dynamics, prior history, unconscious factors, cultural context and you multiply those complications.

  • Most partners don’t consider how often they thank their partner or if not-why not?
  • Few are aware of the proven benefits of expressing gratitude on their personal feelings, their view of the partner, the patterns and value of the relationship.

Consider Recognizing Your Resistance and Understanding the Possible Benefits of  “Just Saying Thanks.”


Marriage and Midlife Crisis: Challenges and Transitions

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

midlife crisisGiven that there are now 81 million baby boomers in this country ranging from ages 46 to 66, there are many people navigating the transitions of midlife. When you add to that the fact that 80% of the male boomers and 77% of the females are married the journey gets more complicated.

Amazon lists over 2,000 books dealing with midlife with titles as different as Awakening at Midlife, Midlife Meltdown, Thinking about Tomorrow: Re-inventing Yourself at Midlife, How to Survive Your Husband’s Midlife Crisis, Midlife Crisis For Men: Male Menopause, My Favorite Midlife Crisis etc. The message is that against the backdrop of mortality and a story half told, men and women navigate their midlife passage in different ways with different challenges and different needs. When married, the impact they have on each other is inevitable.


 
Healing Together

Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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Recent Comments
  • RexDoctor: This is good, sound advice in the “less-is-more” school of thought. Thank you! P.S. Also, just...
  • dawn: And I am the other woman as well. Have been for 3 years now. I was made to believe in that he was separated in...
  • Stegner: Clearly you do not experience empathy for his wife. You actively deal in lies and deception and yet you...
  • Lin Agostinacchio: Great writing. You pinpointed so much about divorce. I know many friends and relatives that are...
  • Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP: Becky: Thanks for adding these. My intention was to mention some as examples of the...
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