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

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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