Communication Skills and Our Adaptive Child

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

PSA for Us Men

Hey, what’s up everyone? Jason Polk here, relationship counselor and expert, coming to you with a quick PSA for men. So us men, we are great at providing. It is wired in us to be a provider. However, what I urge us to do is to be more than just a provider, to be emotionally available and to be interested in our partner’s life. And, so you know what happens when we don’t, when we don’t do these things? It’ll create resentments for our partner. And these resentments will come back to us in some manner, whether that our partner… 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

addiction counseling

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

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

Couple Therapy is a Sign of Health, Not Failure

A couple was in my office recently and they expressed a desire to handle their relationship difficulties “in-house.” They conveyed that since they were unable to do so, they felt like failures. However, because relationships are difficult, we often need help. Insanity means doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Thus, getting help with your relationship is a sign of health as you two have taken stock and realized that problems are not going to improve without a trained professional. A purpose of couple therapy is to help you two avoid the same old, worn out… Continue Reading This Article