Being at Home in Relationship: Taking Care of Your Side of the House

establish home via couple therapy

Intimate relationships are like a house. When partners are able to create a supportive and secure environment, they can love and be loved for being as they are – perfectly imperfect. We can call this home. Home provides the opportunity for intimacy to grow, as deep intimacy can only grow when partners feel supported and secure. In order to establish home, both partners need to tend to their part of the house – their responsibility in developing trust. How do they do this? One way is to lead with vulnerability. For example, instead of saying, “You are never here with… Continue Reading This Article

Sex: Connecting, Not Performing

sex and couple therapy

Like most human interactions, sex is complex. We tend to assign a great deal of meaning to it, and may face an array of sexual dysfunctions, not to mention differences in libido. At the same time, we often think it should be natural and easy, and here we get into trouble. In particular, we get into trouble when we put too much emphasis on performing and not enough on connecting. As humans, sex is linked to our identity. For males, we learn that we are supposed to be able to perform (get an erection) every time, while avoiding premature ejaculation…. Continue Reading This Article

Relational Heroism and Revising the Family Playbook

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I come from a family where we didn’t talk much about emotions. There wasn’t much of, “You seem sad, Jason — let’s talk it through.” In our family playbook, one move to get someone to initiate repair was by withdrawing. The basic idea behind this move is, “I am going to pout so you see that I’m upset, and if you’re lucky, I will let you know what you did.” Unfortunately, I have repeated this behavior in my intimate relationships countless times in my adult years. Sometimes withdrawal can also be used as a mean of retaliation: “I am going to withdrawal… Continue Reading This Article

Creating Harmony with a Healthy Filter

benefits of couple therapy

Having a healthy filter is important for partners in a relationship, as well as for our day-to-day interactions with anyone who has a proclivity for pushing our buttons. So what is a healthy filter? It’s our ability to filter what is being said or not said to us through our healthy self-esteem — through our ability to hold our self in warm regard amidst the feedback or the withdrawal we encounter from others. For example, if my wife is expressing her upset and frustration at me for forgetting to pay a bill I had said I would pay, I know that although… Continue Reading This Article

Avoiding Projections Through Appreciation

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A common way we get into trouble in intimate relationships is through projection. We project onto our partner how we think they should be or act, usually through the lens of how we learned to be and act from our parents. We may have a fantasy of the ideal partner, or ideal behaviors we want from our partner, and we hold them to these unattainable projections. The result of this is disappointment for both parties. Your partner only knows how to be themselves and will resent you if they are seen in and treated through idealized expectations. Thus, there needs… Continue Reading This Article

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… 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 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 it… 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