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

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 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

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

Practicing Mindfulness in Relationships: Creating a Bigger Container

mindfulness and happy relationship

Every moment offers opportunities for truth. One opportunity is to simply be aware of the external reality – sights, sounds, and sensations. Another is awareness of our internal reality – thoughts, feelings and emotions. This is mindfulness: being aware of the present moment on purpose. So why is mindfulness important for relationships? When we are practicing mindful awareness, it is as if we gain an ally for our relationship. Mindful awareness is as close as we can come to a third-party observer in our relationship, without actually having an “objective” third-party observer such as a marriage counselor or couple therapist…. Continue Reading This Article

Patterns from the Past: Relational Implications of Avoidant and Anxious-Ambivalent Cultures

patterns from the past

When we are in an intimate relationship and feel vulnerable, defensive or shameful, usually it’s our old stuff that is being triggered — patterns of interaction that we developed with our parents. When we are young, we learn to act and respond in ways that optimize our attention and love from our parents. Some behaviors may be encouraged, while others discouraged. Here I want to illustrate two common examples and how they manifest in adult relationships: avoidant culture and anxious-ambivalent culture. Avoidant culture emerges if one or both parents seem to primarily value the idea of a “nice” family, and not… Continue Reading This Article

Buddhism, Spirituality and Dependency

marriage counseling

Recently I attended a six-day Zen meditation retreat, or sesshin in Japanese, which included the celebration of Rohatsu, December 8, said to be the day that Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, came to his great enlightenment. As a couple therapist and student of attachment theory, I cannot deny what seems to be inherent contradictions of this spiritual path and current research on healthy dependency. For one, Siddhartha left his home, his wife, his newborn, his parents, and his duties as a prince to go alone on a spiritual quest. Accounts also say that he left at night and did not say goodbye… Continue Reading This Article