See a Couple’s Counselor Sooner Rather than Later

unhappy

See a Couple’s Counselor Sooner Rather than Later

A lot of couples get defensive when confronted with the idea of seeing a therapist. They say they are fine. There is nothing wrong with them. They don’t think their problems are all that bad. Seeing a counselor is thought of as a defeat, or that the couple or relationship is defective. Though not as strong as it was in the past, people still have a negative association with therapy. The truth is people see a therapist for all different kinds of reasons. There is absolutely no shame in it. In fact, admitting you could use professional guidance is a show of great inner strength. Just as we all have our own physical health problems, so too do we have our own mental health aberrations. No one is perfect. We are all human and so intrinsically flawed. But that doesn’t make us any less brilliant, capable, mesmerizing or worthwhile. No one can fault you for seeing a doctor, even if the health condition is minor. You don’t want it to get worse. A small injury if left untreated can get infected, even become life threatening. The same is true with your mental health, and the health of your relationship. Seeing a couple’s counselor doesn’t mean that the relationship is on its last leg.  It could just mean you need some direction on certain issues that you haven’t been able to make headway on, some professional guidance.

Divorce counselor and post-divorce advisor, Ian Oliver says he sees one couple even though they have a seemingly perfect marriage. “She says she always learns something that nurtures their relationship,” he wrote in the Huffington Post. “She considers it maintenance.” So couple’s counseling is not only for fixing problems. We can learn how we love and how our partner loves. This will allow us to see ways to develop the relationship we hadn’t seen before, and make it more fulfilling. All it takes is a little insight. It may also help you to notice when things are right versus when they aren’t. Sometimes one or both members of a relationship live in denial of a problem that gets bigger and bigger, until it tears the relationship apart. But understanding what your dynamic looks like when it’s humming along, and when things started to go wrong, can help diagnose problems quickly and work in a more effective strategy to deal with them. Most of the time however, the couple seeks out a counselor when there are major issues. They have tried but are at an impasse. Seeking out a therapist when things first go bad can help stave off the further complications that come from a problem that has grown beyond control.

There are times when we grow accustomed to unwanted behavior, live in denial or fail to see it for what it actually is, damaging to us and our relationship. You may not know why they act like this, or why you do. It can be hard to trace back certain behaviors, reactions or emotions to their origins. A good counselor or couple’s therapist can help you see these patterns and trace them back to their origins. Once you see where things stem from, you can develop strategies to deal with them. Sometimes couples seek out therapy after lots of things have been said that can’t be taken back. The counselor, in addition to being a professional, is also impartial. They are trained to pick up on unhealthy habits and behaviors. They won’t get caught on one person’s side. You can trust their impartiality and their professional training to help guide you. We all need to see the things from a new angle on occasion to get some perspective. The most important thing is to keep communicating with your partner. Be honest with one another. Try to work through your problems yourselves. But if you can’t, see a couple’s therapist before things start spinning out of control. Don’t wait until things have gotten way out of hand. For more help, read the book, Counseling and Therapy for Couples by Lynn L. Long and Mark E. Young.

When an Ego Battle Replaces your Relationship

Dispute

When an Ego Battle Replaces your Relationship

Relationships can do funny things to people. The feeling of attachment can also bring confusion, fear of intimacy and the need to guard one’s self. This is due to past traumas during childhood or in previous relationships. So to protect one’s self this person will often lapse into creating fights, sarcasm, vengeful gestures, passive-aggressiveness, resentfulness, over-the-top competitiveness, self-doubt, frustration and aggression.

This person is afraid of letting their guard down or letting someone in for fear of being hurt. If you yourself think you have become stuck in an ego battle that has replaced your relationship, take a look at these signs. Ask your significant other or consider whether you are experiencing these symptoms. This person has a need to control things and situations. They may have a constant critic going in their head. They may be full of put-downs, sarcasm, criticism or ridicule. The ego tries too hard to control the situation. It is doing so in order to protect itself from love and so ironically becomes the very obstacle to what the person desires most, bonding with their love.

Some people go completely the other way. They give up everything to be with their spouse, their friends, family, hobbies, education and everything they value, just to be with the object of their desire. They lose themselves and this becomes their obstacle to their own pleasure, equal love. The last sign that you are in an ego battle is when one person is “Flat-lining.” This is behavior where one person in the relationship tries to disappear in order to not raise the ire of the other, and avoid conflict. They withdraw from their partner and stay in the relationship in name only. There is no engagement or intimacy. If the right relationship skills aren’t learned, even if this relationship doesn’t last, the person with commitment issues will bring the same problems into their next relationships.

Instead of using negative means to interact in your relationship, see the pattern and learn to dis-engage it. If this is your spouse or lover, teach them that they don’t have to act like this, that this isn’t what love is about. Whenever a problem arises, each side should take a deep breath, relax and manage the negative emotions that come to the surface. Both parties should consciously reach deep down inside and bring out the skills they need to make this relationship work; patience, understanding, openness and the desire to come to an understanding. Counseling or couples therapy may also be necessary. The first step is realizing the problem. The next is working through it. For more advice read, Why You Do the Things You Do: The Secret to Healthy Relationships by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy.

Use Boyfriend Log to Track your Relationship

boyfriend

Use Boyfriend Log to Track your Relationship

How do you feel about your relationship? Is it blissful, volatile, ho-hum or crammed full of turbulence and drama? If you don’t really know how your relationship is going, or just want to get some insight, use Boyfriend Log, a new app available on iTunes to track your relationship. By using this app, you can look at your relationship over the long term, marking the highs, lows and in-betweens. You can also see whether or not there are codependency habits. It can help you recognize those habits so that you can break them.

Self-help guru and New York Times bestselling author Linda Sivertsen is the creator of this app. You can use it to track any relationship. Each day you select how you are feeling about a particular relationship: blue is sadness, red is anger, orange is happy and green is amazing. You select your color for the day and you can track these feelings over time. You can also log in on more than one relationship at once. The impetus for this project was Sivertsen’s husband leaving her. She said in an interview with IBTimes UK, “Before my husband left, all I wanted to do was hide in my house and write with my cats and dogs. I had this quiet life. But when he left, I felt lost. I had never paid for anything by myself, but I had to. So I had to scramble as I needed to put my 17-year-old son through college.”

Soon she realized that she suffered from codependency. This is putting the needs of your partner ahead of your own, forgiving too much too soon. These relationships are often emotionally or even physically abusive and alcohol or substance abuse can play a role. Discussing her codependency Sivertsen said, “I kept a diary [about] my husband and I would make entries when he gave me clear indications that he was unhappy. But when he apologized, I would feel guilty and delete the diary. When my husband left me, I realized that no amount of self-help books and seminars were helping me to break my habit of co-dependency and I think my sister and therapist were tired of being on speed dial, so I started keeping the diary again.”

By writing about her feelings every day she didn’t have to talk to anyone else. She could see over time how she felt about the relationship overall. It was such a successful method of helping her get over her marriage that her assistant began using the method, and liked it too. Soon she found a developer and five months later Boyfriend Log was born. The app is gaining in popularity despite that it wasn’t launched too long ago. Sivertsen said, “Every relationship is really three relationships: The one you’re having, the one he’s having, and the real one. About 20 years ago when I got into the self-help field, people were saying that online information is going to be the new way [people wanted to receive help], but now I’m hearing that mobile apps will be the new way.” To learn more about Codependency read, Facing Codependence: What it is, Where it Comes From, How it Sabotages Our Lives by Pia Mellody.

Apps to help Rescue your Marriage, Maybe

Couple-CellPhones

Apps to help Rescue your Marriage, Maybe

Most people aren’t aware of all the apps available today to help with martial spats. Most of us are aware of the multitude of dating apps, the ones for intimate encounters, those that help plan a wedding or aid in conception. The trouble is it is usually only after this point that most marriages become strained and need help. Once again, we can say with confidence, there is an app for that. One such application is the PAIRS Foundation DTR app. PAIRS stands for Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills. The acronym for the app, DTR stands for Daily Temperature Reading of the relationship. Spouses using this app can take and share their DTRs. Being able to track your relationship and see the trend that is developing can help both of you consider carefully whether or not things are going the right way, light a fire under the lackadaisical and get you two more motivated to figure things out. Sometimes people don’t even know how far gone their marriage is. This app can show them. But that isn’t the only one out there for matrimonial disenfranchised. Do you or your spouse have trouble seeing how often you fight? Marriage Fight Tracker will alleviate this problem. Get to know how often you fight, what about and it will give you insight into your relationship, and perhaps what you have to do to make it better. Fix a Fight is another popular relationship app, offering solutions to marital problems couples often encounter.

The PAIRS DTR is one of the most popular apps. The DTR is really a little message couples send to one another indicating five different points including hopes, dreams, feelings and cares about their spouse. When using the app, PAIRS suggests, “begin by being fully present to the person you’re thinking about as you write.”  The app allows you to put your DTR on Facebook, if you choose, though more privacy minded couples are sure to opt out. An app that creates a more personal experience is Mind Over Marriage. You just email your marital issue to them. Their team ponders it and emails back advice. But while you wait, there is an online library you can browse, using keywords that signify common marital problems. One common theme is to communicate in a courteous manner with your spouse. For some topics, the generic advice offered isn’t the most stellar. For instance, under marital infidelity, it suggests the wife address the issue using the couple’s finances as an entry point. “Money is just flying out the window,” it says. But to many wives, this would be entirely missing the point.

Advice suggested by the app Fight Tracker includes, “Never Use Sex to Win an Argument [sic],” and “Never win.” Although the first one seems to make sense, our more competitive couples may take umbrage with the second. There are buttons that will take you to YouTube videos and other places for marriage advice.  Fight tracker gives you the ability to track a fight in real time. But who wants to record what is happening on their phone when in the middle of a heated argument? In terms of mitigation, Fix A Fight first makes you give your argument a funny name. This is a good way to calm things down, and recognize the silliness that inhabits most arguments. Next, it gives you a roadmap to recover from the argument using a specific metaphor. Steps include, “Letting the air out, preparing the patch, applying the patch…” and more. The tool could be used to help alleviate those types of spats that occur which really aren’t over anything important. Deep seeded issues however will probably need more than this to be resolved. All in all, these apps can be a good way to take the heat out of an argument, and approach problems with your spouse from a new vantage point. They aren’t problem solvers in and of themselves. But they can help get the ball rolling. It is important, if you are going to use one of these apps, to communicate this desire to your spouse, before using it. Don’t spring it on them or they may resist. Talk about it with them and see how they feel. Perhaps win them over or persuade them. If these apps won’t help or the problem is far worse than the normal marital squabble, pick up a copy of the book, Overcoming Anger in Your Relationship: How to Break the Cycle of Arguments, Put-Downs, and Stony Silences by W. Robert Nay PhD.

Are you in a Real Relationship or is it just a Fantasy Bond?

Happy Couple Cuddling

Are you in a Real Relationship or is it just a Fantasy Bond?

Many people fear intimacy. This is a self-preservation mechanism. But at the same time they also fear being single. So these two fears are at odds. To solve this dilemma many people form what is known as a fantasy bond. They can then keep distance emotionally while imagining that they are in a warm, loving and satisfying relationship. Fantasy bonds can be destructive to a relationship however as it becomes a major obstacle for the couple when they try to achieve real intimacy in their life together. Developed during childhood, those who would partake in fantasy bonds form relationships that are fantastical in order to replay acts that occurred to them or that they witnessed when they were children. These patterns and the illusion behind them become a barrier to experiencing equality, compassion and a real, true bond. Instead of trusting their lover, they always have their guard up and don’t allow their partner to get past their defenses. Since this person has been hurt before, they find that they cannot lower these defenses. But this inability to bond hurts their relationship and family relations as well.

When men and women first start forming serious relationships, it is at a time in their lives when they are first tasting independence and separateness from their families. At this time they look for someone who is most like them. They share with that person, become vulnerable and open even in the relationship’s earliest stages. This can be as frightening as it can be exhilarating. Some people feel overwhelmed by the rush of positive emotions. Others are stricken by a sense of abandonment. It may be too much for some, especially if they were neglected or felt unloved earlier in their lifetime. So instead of suffering from the intensity of this relationship, they form a fantasy bond to shield themselves from it. Personal relationships are considered healthy when both parties feel free to express themselves freely, their feelings, wants, needs and desires. It is a dangerous move therefore to give up who you are for the illusion of safety. To break a fantasy bond and supplant it with a healthy, satisfying relationship is not easy. First the person must admit that they have formed a fantasy bond, rather than loving their actual partner. Next they have to talk about the feelings they’ve been holding deep down inside and not letting out. They have to talk openly about their fear, decide to become independent from it and begin forming a proper, healthy bond with their mate. For more on this topic read The Fantasy Bond by Robert Firestone, Ph.D.