Communication Skills and Our Adaptive Child

Couple working together

In sessions, partners often ask me for tools to help with communication. In our formal education we are never really taught effective ways to communicate, and such tools are very important; if we practice communication skills, our relationships will improve significantly. However, if just learning communication skills was all it took for healthy relationships, then we wouldn’t have so many relationship problems.  But when we are live with our partner, sometimes there is a part of us not interested in using communication skills. This part of us has been referred to as self-protection mode or the adaptive child. The adaptive… Continue Reading This Article

Six Ways to Fight Fair: Keeping the Smart Parts of Our Brain Online

learn ways to fight fair

Conflict is unavoidable and it’s counter-productive to try to avoid it. So how do we manage conflict, i.e. fight fair? It is very simple: We need to keep the smart-parts of our brain active for as long as possible. Stan Tatkin has dubbed the smart, slow parts of our brain as ambassadors. Our ambassadors reside in the higher regions of our brain and they are what make us human. They give us the ability to effectively manage a complex society. Here is a link to Stan’s TED talk. He refers to the dumb parts of our brain as the primitives. These… Continue Reading This Article

Managing Conflict Vs. Shaking the Bottle

Couple talking productively

In any intimate relationship, conflict is unavoidable. Conflict can even be seen as a sign of health, as it demonstrates that both people are unique individuals. I do not suggest avoiding conflict and letting resentments fester. This is called much like shaking a big bottle of soda. If the pressure in the bottle is not released, it will eventually explode. However, the pressure can’t be released all at once, or there’ll be a mess. It needs to be opened gradually and skillfully. In your relationship, if your partner is doing something that is annoying to you, you need to address… Continue Reading This Article

Sobriety is a Sign of Health, Not Failure

Mr. Hyde

A male in his late twenties — let’s call him Jim — was recently in my office to inquire if he is an alcoholic. While I did express some thoughts on the matter, I replied that that designation was ultimately for him alone to decide. Jim came to me because of unsavory experiences with alcohol. Often he would drink too much, black out, then do things he would later have to apologize for — although he has no recollection of doing those things. His conundrum was that he did not want to give up alcohol. He thought that would mean… Continue Reading This Article

Couple Therapy is a Sign of Health, Not Failure

A theme has recently been occurring in my practice. That theme is failure. A couple was in my office recently and they had expressed that they had hoped to handle their relationship difficulties “in-house.” They conveyed that since they were unable to do so, they had felt like failures. There is no denying that relationships are difficult. Because of that, we often need help. Insanity means doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. Thus, getting help with your relationship is not a sign of failure, but a sign of health. It signifies health as you two have taken… Continue Reading This Article

Connection is the Best Remedy for Addiction

Couple connecting

It is hardwired into our DNA and nervous system to bond and attach with a “stronger, wiser other” for our survival. In fact, severely emotionally neglected infants cannot thrive and eventually die without a nurturing other even if food, shelter, and water are provided. Philip Flores, PhD., author of Addiction as an Attachment Disorder states that individuals who have difficulty establishing emotionally regulating attachments [connecting] are more inclined to substitute alcohol and drugs for their deficiencies in intimacy. What is an emotionally regulating attachment? That is a relationship where you can share your humanness. It is a relationship where you… Continue Reading This Article

Ways to Rebuild Trust after an Affair

upset couple

The most basic benefit of being in a relationship is the confidence you derive from having a teammate you can rely on to help with the vicissitudes of life. Below is a chart of life: If we have a companion, confidant, and lover along the way, these unexpected dips and turns are easier to manage because you are not going alone. You know and trust that they will have your back through the inevitable pitfalls of life. When you have this trust, a sense of security is created. Affairs usually occur because one or both partners have gotten squirmy and… Continue Reading This Article

First Things First: The Primacy of Partnership in Blended Families

secure-functioning relationship

There is no magic bullet to maintaining and raising children within a blended family (a family with children from multiple relationships), and I am no expert in the finer points of day-to-day interactions in a blended family. But while working with couples who have blended families, I have observed that they do better when they follow one basic principle: they hold each other as primary in the relationship — or we could say, as the king and queen of the household. This may sound straightforward enough, but it is not always easy to put into practice, especially because overt and covert… Continue Reading This Article

Is Your Relationship Riddled with Substance Abuse?

addiction in marriage

Dealing with a partner who has substance abuse issues can be hugely complicated. It is as if you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. You love them deeply, but you cannot maintain the status quo. Every time they use it causes significant pain. You feel as if they are choosing their substance over you, and you are less important than their drug of choice. Even if he or she does get sober, or significantly reduces their use, past hurts have accumulated, making it difficult to go back to the way things were. So the emerging question is,… Continue Reading This Article