Date Nights are Self Care

date night

My wife and I recently had a date-planning service arrange a restaurant and a hotel in our home city. Without any great interruption in our schedules (we didn’t want to drive far, and we both had to work the next day), we were pulled out of monotony and into a shared experience of connection and novelty. It was a date to remember.¹ Our brains are drawn to and shaped by such experiences. First we shared the excitement of picking a new restaurant we could walk to, and then staying in a hotel we had never been in before. We had… Continue Reading This Article

Boundaries and Walls: What’s the Difference

Jason: Hey, what’s up everyone? Jason Polk giving you some coffee shop relationship advice. Hang on one second… That’s actually green tea and not coffee, full disclosure. I want to do an outtake just so I can show you how awesome my socks are. And shout out to my little bro Steven for the Christmas socks. Beignets and coffee mugs. Jason: So anyway, today I want to talk about the difference between a boundary and a wall. And examples of walls are anger and shutdown. Coffee shop Guy: Hey, man. Why are you recording a video in a coffee shop?… Continue Reading This Article

Three Ways to Mitigate Anger in Relationships

angry couple

When we are upset, our anger protects our hurt, our vulnerable feelings, and can lend us a momentary sensation of strength. This sensation can be intoxicating; when hurt, the impulse to reach for anger can be as strong as an alcoholic’s impulse to reach for a drink. And unfortunately, like alcohol, anger doesn’t provide lasting relief or solutions. In fact, when we indulge in anger, it creates problems that we’ll have to clean up once we come to our senses. Thus, it’s in our best interest not to reach for the “bottle” of anger, but to find ways to calm… Continue Reading This Article

Plans for the Holidays: Two Ways to Help Your Partner During Family Visits

healthy couple and holidays

We often derive great meaning and a sense of belonging by visiting with our family of origin during the holidays, but it’s not always the same for our partner. However, with proper planning you can successfully maintain healthy relationships with both. Planning with your partner before holiday events conveys that you two matter most. It signifies that you two are the priority and that familial stress is not going to negatively affect the relationship. #1 Identify difficult individuals and plan for them. You and your partner may agree on who the difficult individuals are in your family, or you may not…. Continue Reading This Article

6 Principles for Secure Functioning Relationships

marriage counseling

The following list is adapted from my study with Stan Tatkin and from attachment research. A secure-functioning relationship allows us to be the best we are as individuals. It doesn’t mean we will be consumed by the relationship, or will lose our freedom and voice. Ironically, we will have more of those as trust (synonymous with secure-functioning) puts several relationship insecurities to ease. 1) The purpose of a serious relationship is not what you can extract or gain from it. It is about the safety, security, and mutuality you create with your partner. 2) Know your partner’s vulnerabilities, also know… Continue Reading This Article

Reconnecting with the Consequences of Anger

couple therapy to reconnect with consequences of anger

Sometimes a partner in a relationship will say, “I’m unable to control my anger.” On the surface this sounds reasonable enough, but if you really think about it, it’s an excuse – an excuse to separate you from the consequences of your behavior. However, in life and relationships, you are responsible for the consequences of your behavior. Author and thinker Terry Real points out that if you really couldn’t control your anger, you would be in jail or an institution. If that’s not the case, it means you can control and limit your reactionary instincts. Such control arises from the… Continue Reading This Article

What Makes a Healthy Relationship? Four Core Principles

healthy relationship principles

Core principle #1: It’s not about you A seemingly paradoxical relationship axiom is that the more you convey (through action and speech) that the relationship is your priority, the more autonomy you will likely have. Perhaps you fear — consciously or unconsciously — that you’re going to have to do everything your partner wants, that you will lose your voice and your autonomy. But in fact, if your partner intuits and trusts that the relationship is a priority, the less insecure and anxious they will be about you spending time away. Vice versa, no one likes to feel like a… Continue Reading This Article

PSA for Us Men

counseling for 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

Bringing I Feel Statements Back

relational harmony

Almost every communication curriculum I’ve read encourages us to to use statements that begin with “I feel…” It’s so often repeated that we might dismiss it as just something that therapists say to their clients — not something we actually do in real life. But like Justin Timberlake brought sexy back, I want to bring “I feel” statements back. Such statements are especially important if you are giving feedback to your partner (for example, “I feel that you’ve been spending too much time at work”). “I feel” statements give you freedom to say what you really feel and in a… Continue Reading This Article

Fix it by Listening

listening and marriage counseling

Perhaps the most important ingredient for a harmonious relationship is active listening. However, some of us are prone to a reflex of “fixing it”– that is, when our partner is upset, we move into fix-it mode instead of simply listening. Frequently the best way to fix a problem is by listening to your partner and relaying that you’re doing so. An example: Rachel, Mike’s wife, came back from work and was upset that her boss was being mean again. Mike went into fix-it mode and promptly said, “Why don’t you set up an appointment with HR and tell them how… Continue Reading This Article