Category Archives: Couple Relationship

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How to Have a Better Conversation and Connect With Others

When we think about the ways in which we communicate with others on a daily basis, the act of actually speaking and sharing conversation with people may not be as high on the list as it once was. Instead, we find that most of our communication is digital – text, email, liking or commenting on status updates. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with staying connected though technology, it does leave gaps in our human connection – without speaking with someone face to face, how close can we really be to them?

In the below video, Celeste Headlee tackles this issue head on by bringing to light the problems we have directly talking to one another and maintaining non-offensive and worthwhile conversation. Watch below and come back for an exploration of the ten tips she describes for being a better conversationalist – we’ll be exploring these though the lens of how they apply to our most personal relationships.

Now that we’ve heard about these tips, let’s consider how they work in our closest relationships – those with our partners, children, and dearest loved ones.

  1. Don’t multitask – This means that in order to truly connect, we must dedicate ourselves to focusing on the conversation and only that. It can be hard to do, especially when we live busy lives! What we don’t want is for our partners to think that they aren’t a priority – we need to make sure those we care about know that we care enough to invest our time with them.
  2. Don’t pontificate – Meaning holding back opinions that we feel are right, and being open to learning. This may be one of the most important tips in the context of personal relationships, because it allows us the space in a conversation to see potential for compromise and a willingness to hear the opinions of others.
  3. Ask open-ended questions – This is a wonderful tip for bringing out more fruitful conversation with someone whom we are trying to build (or rebuild) a relationship with. By giving someone else the space to think carefully about their responses with who, what, when, where, why, and how questions, and for us to listen to their answers, we dive much more deeply into their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
  4. Go with the flow – Don’t stop listening because you’ve thought of something you’d like to say or ask. Let your loved one talk. If it’s that important, bring it up in a later conversation. Don’t disrupt the flow of speaking to someone else with your own agenda.
  5. Say “I don’t know” – Maintain your credibility with loved ones by being open when you don’t have the answer to something. Better yet, make a commitment to finding answers if possible and working through unknowns together.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs – When a loved one opens up to you about something they are experiencing, they aren’t seeking an understanding of the circumstances – they are seeking an acceptance of their feelings. Focus on the feelings and provide support to those when you feel the urge to compare stories.
  7. Don’t repeat yourself – At best, this can make it seem as though you aren’t paying attention; at worst, that you are being condescending. Trust your loved ones to hear you the first time and only repeat yourself when it’s clear that hasn’t happened.
  8. Stay out of the weeds – Again, when it isn’t needed, avoid oversharing details that someone doesn’t really care about. Focus on the big picture and answer questions about “the weeds” if they arise.
  9. Listen – Pay attention to the person speaking. Carefully think about their words until they are done speaking, and give them time to finish their thoughts without cutting them off. Give your energy to this and avoid “filling in the blanks” with your own thoughts and beliefs.
  10. Be brief – While this may not always be the case, your time with loved ones may be limited – make sure you spend your time in conversation wisely, using it to build deeper connections and help them to feel the support you provide them.

When couples come to therapy, one of the greatest complaints is the feeling of lost connection, often as a result of not taking the time to have conversation. With the above, you can start rebuilding this in your own relationship or prevent lost connection in the future.

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Commitment in Modern Relationships

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

With all of the benefits of technology, the ways in which we can meet others and remain connected to those we care about, we still face the negatives – the instant gratification, the temptation of considering what else might be out there in terms of romantic partnerships. In this video, we see this negative in action and what it means in terms of commitment when we have so much access to what might be on the other side of the fence.

When we use technology to build relationships with others, we need to understand that it empowers us to find and meet people for as long as we continue to use it. In terms of commitment, it means that once we’ve started developing a relationship with a partner, we will never really be able to fully dedicate ourselves to investing in that relationship until we set boundaries around our use of technology. In practical terms, it means we need to assess the commitment we want and that our partner wants and come to agreement around how we should or should not continue to use social media.

For yourself, consider the following questions for your own relationship, whether or not this partnership started through social media or otherwise:

  • How much time do both of you spend using social media? Have you discussed together the boundaries you should set around this usage, especially for apps or sites specifically dedicated to matching people for romantic partnerships? Both partners need to agree to and abide by these boundaries, or there won’t be any real way to build trust.
  • How much time and energy do you spend investing in your current partnership? When you start to see the imperfections of your partner, are you at a place where you are committed to working through these? Or do you turn back to “grass is always greener” thinking? How can you force yourself to remember that no one is perfect, especially those we might match with on social media?
  • When you and your partner have committed to a dedicated and monogamous relationship, how do you hold yourself accountable to avoiding the temptation of social media? Have you deleted or frozen your accounts on these websites and apps? If not, what is holding you back from doing so? The answer is often that we’ve still left one foot out the door, holding onto the desire to keep ourselves available should a “better” match appear. If this is the case, how can we really be present in our own partnership if we are still on the look-out for someone who comes along and appears to be a better potential partner?

Without stepping back from social media and stepping into commitment, it’s impossible to truly develop the lasting connection needed for a meaningful partnership. As you look at your own circumstances, reflect deeply on your reasons for continuing to use social media. And remember this key point from the video – the other fish in the sea? They’re only showing their best selves. Once we get to know someone, imperfections become clear. Unless we accept this truth and the reality of who our partner is, we will always be on the search for a perfection that simply does not exist.

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When We Blame First: How Do We Let Go of This?

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

When we experience a negative event in our lives, how many of us find ourselves reacting immediately with placing blame on others? Why do we do this and what are the negative impacts of this on ourselves and our relationships? In this post, we’ll be exploring the blame process and why this reaction comes so easily for people, the detrimental impacts of this, and what we can do to shut this reaction down more readily over time.

To understand why we blame others, let’s take a look at this brief video featuring Brene Brown. Here, she openly shares her own struggles with blaming and provides valuable insight as to why we do this.

From this, we see two important points about why we blame:

  1. It is a way that we attempt to find some reason for why something unexpected happens; therefore, we are creating a semblance of control for our minds in uncontrollable circumstances.
  2. It is a projection of our anger and pain, a quick way of expressing these emotions without the trouble of holding ourselves or someone else accountable.

There are a few problems with the “quick-to-blame” mentality. First, we aren’t addressing the root of our problem – by first blaming others when something bad happens, we are putting a stopper on reasonable and effective communication. Second, we put others in the position of dealing with the mental hurdles that we’ve navigated to place blame on them, hurdles that may not make sense to anyone but ourselves. When we don’t clearly explain why we are upset about something, and instead point fingers at our loved ones for things seemingly out of their control, we further reinforce the walls we have in our relationships. Both of these things have the potential to contribute to more and more relationship problems, such as stonewalling, anger, and a refusal to hear our partner’s side of things.

If you find yourself jumping to blame first, consider the following strategies to prevent this reaction:

  • Stop and breathe: When something unexpected happens, take a moment to process before saying anything. Analyze your thoughts. Are you already starting to place blame? Is the blame process logical or rooted in a place of anger and frustration?
  • Consider the source: If blame is coming from a place of anger, what caused this anger in the first place? For example, in Brene’s scenario, it wasn’t the spilled coffee – it was that her partner was late to return home. What might be happening in your relationship that’s causing negative feelings that you haven’t shared?
  • Discuss how you feel: While it may not be productive or enjoyable to feel the need to blame, it is a sign that there is something bothering you that you haven’t communicated. When this happens, take the time to engage in self-reflection and figure out what you need to communicate; then, do it without placing blame. Try to hold yourself accountable to holding others accountable in a respectful and empathetic way.

Through the need to blame, we are given the opportunity to peek into the issues facing our relationship – while letting go of blame, let’s commit to working towards more effective ways of communicating out needs and feelings with our partners.

 

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Bringing Home Baby: Easing This Transition for Couples

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

It’s hard to describe what bringing home a baby means to new parents – until you’ve experienced this transition, it seems impossible to really understand the changes your life undergoes, from long-term plans to the daily routines you’ve had. When parents bring home a baby for the first time, it can be a time of overwhelming joy – but with any new change, stress and feelings of disconnection can also be present. Without understanding what a new baby can do to a relationship, this can be an especially vulnerable time for marital discord. We love this article from Women’s Health Mag – it’s such an honest look at the most common relationship troubles during this transition. Take a look – when you come back, we’ll explore some questions to ask before you bring baby home that can help avoid these issues.

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The good news is that these issues can mitigated with some honest and thoughtful conversations with your partner. Ideally these would happen before discussing having a baby (or at least before the baby is born), but if these are things you are struggling with in your own relationship, start the conversation as soon as possible.

  • What role expectations do you both have regarding child-rearing, especially at the newborn phase? How do you expect your partner to support you? How will you communicate when you need more help or when you are feeling overwhelmed? If you are planning on returning to work, how will these roles shift at that time? What additional supports would you consider to help mitigate the stress of working and raising a child?
  • How prepared do you both feel to provide daily care to a newborn? How can you communicate with one another if you are concerned about the care provided by your partner to the baby? What are your expectations for care and are these realistic things to expect from your partner all of the time?
  • Your body will need time to recover after child-birth, regardless of yours or his sex drive. How can you embed intimacy during this time? How will you make time for this even after your body is healed? How would you prefer to communicate about feeling dissatisfied with the amount of intimacy during this time if it becomes an issue?
  • Do you and your partner spend quality time together now? How will you hold yourselves accountable to scheduling this time after the baby comes? What supports do you have that will allow one-on-one time without bringing baby along?
  • What are each of your parenting styles and philosophies? How were each of you raised, and how is that influencing how you intend to parent your child? When baby comes, how will you discuss parenting differences as they arise in a respectful way?

While these are a lot of things to consider before having a baby, they are essential to making this transition successful. Without having a conversation around these issues, problems like resentment, stress, and isolation can arise – things that quickly drive deep wedges in relationships. Above all, remember that effective communication, the willingness to be flexible and insightful, and placing your commitment to your family above all else is what powers couples through the new baby stage.

 

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Embedding Acceptance Into Your Partnership

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

Of the many things we hear about making a marriage happy, the goal of accepting our partners for who they are is often listed as a necessity. But what does this actually mean? And how will we know when we’ve reached acceptance? In this article, we explore what acceptance actually is and how it can shift the direction and nature of our partnerships to a more positive and healthy place.

Acceptance is defined as the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered; of being received as adequate or suitable. In the couple’s relationship, acceptance means inclusion, approval, security, safety, and being happy with one’s flaws. One of the biggest shifts offered by acceptance versus other partnership traits is the idea that we must be accepting of others as they are. This can be a challenge, because in order to do this effectively, it requires that we also admit that we are flawed and less than perfect. From this, we must be willing to take on our partner’s perspective and understand where they are coming from, realizing that we are not going to change our partners, that they are a different person that we are, and that those differences are okay.

The above video shares a fantastic example of building acceptance into the way you communicate with your partner. By approaching your partner with an attitude of “they are who they are,” without interjecting judgment or disapproval, it allows you to work together towards a more joyous and equitable relationship. Once we’ve achieved acceptance, we can establish togetherness, commit to agreed goals, improve communication, and feel calmer and worthier in the presence of our partner.

To move to achieving acceptance, consider the following questions:

  • What might be motivating the values that your partner holds?
  • How do the differences between you and your partner create struggles in your relationship?
  • How do the differences between you are your partner create strength in your relationship?

Remember, acceptance doesn’t mean always seeing eye to eye; it means approaching arguments with accepting that your partner is and always will be different from you, that they hold their own perspective, and that there is nothing wrong with how they think or feel. To truly move forward together, we must accept that our partner is a different person from us and that those differences are what give our relationship the balance and fortitude to last in the long-term.

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Conflict: Use It, Don’t Diffuse It

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

When you hear the word “conflict,” what are some of the images that come to mind? Fighting? Arguing? Anger? While conflict may not be most comfortable thing to deal with in a relationship, the truth is that it happens. Every couple will experience moments of conflict, of disagreement, of different perspectives. Conflict in itself isn’t a bad thing – it is how we deal with conflict that can make a situation positive or negative. Before diving into some self-assessment, take a look at the following video to learn more about conflict and how we can re-purpose this issue to work in our favor.

Now that we have a better understanding of conflict, let’s consider the following questions. This exercise can be done individually or in a conversation with your partner. The purpose is to learn more about your personal conflict styles and how these can be used to make conflict work for your relationship.

  • Reflect on your childhood and earliest experiences of conflict. How was conflict modeled for you growing up? What happened when you engaged in conflict as a child?
  • Think about a recent conflict you’ve experienced. What feelings arose in you during this?
  • What is your approach to dealing with conflict day to day? Do you prefer to avoid it, escalate it, or engage with it?
  • What are your personal triggers for the fight, flight, or freeze response? What kinds of situations cause these, and do you react in different ways in different circumstances?
  • In your relationship, do you or your partner actively avoid or diffuse conflict frequently? Has this resulted in disengagement from the relationship?
  • In what ways do you and your partner commit to being vulnerable and curious when experiencing conflict? How can you embed these strategies into future conflicts and hold each other accountable to trying them more often?

By taking the time to reflect and have an open conversation about conflict, you and your partner are already engaging in curiosity and vulnerability. What does that feel like for each of you? It probably isn’t as bad as you’d expect! Next time you see conflict rising, remember to keep your mind and heart open, communicate your feelings and needs, and be ready to hear a different perspective (and share yours as well).

Harnessing the Power of Seduction Within

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

Seduction as a skill often gets a bad reputation – some perceive it as manipulative, others as classless, and others as something we use strictly with our intimate partners. In this Ted Talk, Chen Lizra shares why she disagrees with these sentiments about seduction. As you watch the following video, consider your beliefs around seduction and challenge yourself to open your mind to this new perspective.

After watching the video, most people will have a new understanding and appreciation for the art of seduction and how we can use this in our everyday lives. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to successful seduction and how well you embrace these:

  • Desire: How in tune are you with the needs of your partner? How well do you communicate your desires to each other? How often do you pay attention to the triggers that activate desire in your partner?
  • Confidence: What messages did you receive about your body growing up? Are you comfortable and confident in your body? How can you work to challenge the beliefs you have about your appearance and sense of self?
  • Body language: How well do you project confidence in your daily interactions? How well do you tune into and read the body language of others?
  • Arousal: How often do you pay attention to the process of building desire in your partner? How well do you actively seduce your partner by engaging in the process and making adjustments as needed?

Through the use of seduction, we have an enormous power within ourselves to engage with all people, get what we want out of life, and build passion in our intimate relationships. Consider how often and how well you use seduction, and spend time every day working on this skill in your interactions with your partner.

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How Do You Fight For Love?

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

How do you fight for love? The question might put some people off – when you’re in love, aren’t you supposed to get along? But fighting as we often think of it – the hurt feelings, the anger, the pain – doesn’t need to be unproductive. In fact, conflict – the times when we don’t get along well with our partners – is necessary for a partnership to grow and evolve toward long-term, sustained happiness.

In this video, Bruce Muzik from Love At First Fight shares with us the myth that conflict is something to be avoided in our relationships. The truth, we discover, is that conflict is simply a natural power struggle that happens in every relationship. Watch the video below to learn more about how we can shift our perception of conflict and use this experience to strengthen our relationships.

To really embrace the change needed to make conflict a positive experience in your relationship, it requires both partners to take ownership, have insight, and trust that the other partner is “in the fight” with them, not against them. Consider the following questions for yourself and your partner as you reflect on the message of the video:

  • What messages did you and your partner receive about conflict growing up? How was handling conflict modeled for you by the adults in your lives?
  • What are the typical triggers for the conflicts you engage in the most? What are the underlying fears associated with these triggers?
  • What is your fighting style? What is your partner’s? (You can view the pdf hand-out on the fighting styles here)
  • How can you and your partner work together to prevent reactive conflict?
  • Practice having a conscious fight – how is that experience different from a reactive fight? How can you keep these conflicts productive and meaningful?
  • How can you remind each other to focus on the principles of conscious fighting when a reactive fight is happening?

With these keys in mind, couples can work together to ease the pain of conflict and move past the power struggle stage. Use the hand-out from the Love at First Fight page to explore this concept further and practice these principles in your day-to-day interactions. And remember:

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Falling in Love is Easy… Sustaining Love is Hard

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

In 1997, Art Aron and his team of researchers published a study outlining the effects of asking a series of 36 questions to a stranger and having a conversation around each participant’s answers. The goal was to increase feelings of interpersonal closeness, but what researchers found was much more – participants reported falling in love.

Since then, multiple researchers and love experts have examined the 36 questions, seeking how these can be used not just to build trust in new relationships, but to reestablish it for long-term partners, and how the effects of the questions can be sustained long-term.

In this TedTalk, Mandy Catron shares with the audience her experience with the 36 questions and the unanticipated consequences of publicizing this information.

Mandy emphasizes that there isn’t a magic formula that makes these questions so effective – it’s the experience of being forced to open up, be vulnerable, and be heard. No matter how easy it is to fall in love, keeping that love, sustaining that love, isn’t as simple as just learning about and listening to one another. Consider these questions for yourself:

  • How do you decide who deserves your love?
  • How to do stay in love when times get tough?
  • How do you know when to walk away from love when it isn’t healthy?
  • How do you live with the fear and doubt that eventually enters your life when you’ve made the decision to open yourself up to love?

To read more about the 36 questions, take a look at this New York Times article. While you may not be experimenting to create love with a stranger, these are still fantastic questions to build intimacy with your partner.

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Thoughts on the Six Keys to Relationship Success

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

When researchers look at the root of what makes some relationships successful and what causes others to fail, themes around life circumstances, personal qualities, and the nature of the relationship begin to emerge. In a brief video featuring Art Aron, Anatomy of Love has beautifully articulated the six keys to relationship success that research has shown again and again to work. Take a moment to visit their page and watch the video, then come on back for some thoughts on this.

Now that you’ve seen what the six keys are, let’s think about how they can apply in your own relationship. Review the below and answer the questions as honestly as you can:

  1. What levels of stress do you and your partner currently experience? What stress is caused by external forces out of your control, and what is caused by things you CAN control? Do you and your partner take circumstantial stress out on each other? Are you actively working to reduce and cope with your stress in healthy ways?
  2. Who supports your relationship? Who can you turn to for help or guidance when you need it? Are you and your partner actively sustaining friendships and relationships with important people in your lives? If not, how can you make the time and commit to doing this?
  3. Are either you or your partner experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns at any level? If so, how is this being treated? Are you engaged in taking care of yourself and supporting your partner to do the same?
  4. How satisfied are each of you with the others’ communication style? How do you feel when a conflict is resolved? Do you take the time to improve your communication together? If not, what is something you could commit to doing to work on this skill?
  5. Are you capitalizing in your relationship by taking the time to learn about and celebrate the successes of your partner? Do you make the time to be proud of your partner’s achievements?
  6. Do you and your partner make the time to try new things together consistently? What’s the last thing you did together that was a new experience for both of you? When was the last time this happened? How can you make the time to enjoy making new memories more often?

By answering the above, you should have a better sense of your relationship strengths and some areas that may need a little work. Consider next where your relationship is at: Have you achieved “okay”? Are you each ready to move beyond that and thrive?