The therapeutic relationship is a partnership between the therapist and the client(s). As in any partnership, there are roles that each partner must play in order for the partnership to work and results to be attained. While it is much easier to blame it on the therapist when “therapy did not work”, that is not always the reason. I will admit that not every therapist is great. There will be times when the therapist’s style does not work for a particular client. I’ve been known to let out a smile or two when people told me how they thought their therapist was supposed to be seeing a therapist instead of being one. I will express compassion when someone shares about a bad therapy experience. What many people don’t want to hear is that it is not always the therapist’s doing that kept them from benefiting form therapy. Very often, when therapy did not work it was because of something that the client did or failed to do. These five tips will help your prevent some of the more common hindrances to therapeutic success.
1. Set treatment goals with your therapist that you and your partner agree on
2. Show up with an open mind and forgiving heart
3. Follow through with homework and activities
4. Make counseling a priority not an after thought
5. Stick it through
We often hear how important communication is in a relationship, but the tip ends there. Very often people do want to be great communicators but are not sure where to begin. To strengthen communication in your relationship, remember to:
Set aside time to be together and time to talk
Talk about the good and the bad things
Learn and share each other’s cues
Listen to each other and respect your partner’s views
Talk about things when they come up
Forget who they are talking to- This is your spouse, you partner in this life journey, not an enemy. You have to take that in consideration even and especially when you are upset.
Make decision solo /with others then TELL them- If you fail to include your partner in discussions and decisions it’s not quite fair and may be a bit naïve to expect that they will simply buy in. Communication focuses on a discussion not dictation.
Quiet Forgiveness / Suffer in Silence- If you are going to let something go you can still tell your partner that there was something that bothered you. When you just let it go and don’t make them aware, you risk a repeat that you may not be as willing to let go.
Forget the difference between communicating & Arguing/ Fighting- Having a discussion and communicating are not the same as arguing or fighting. You have to be careful not to allow your fear of getting into fight to prevent you from communicating.
Failing to listen / HEAR your partner- Communication is more than hearing the sounds. You must listen to your partner and take in the messages they share. It is important to value and validate the things they share to encourage continued communication.
Find out what the catalyst to infidelity was- Was there an unmet need or is the person not ready for a monogamous relationship?
Take time to process and experience your feelings and then express them- Don’t throw yourself into action and ignore what you are feeling.
Determine what it will take to make you feel safe and trusting in that relationship again.
Decide what you as a couple are prepared to do to repair your relationship.
Make a joint decision on the future of your relationship.
We often hear about the emotional affair, but another one gradually making its way into the mix is the social media affair. It may not necessarily mean that you are going to connect offline to do more than chat, but getting too involved online can and often do cause real life relationship issues. There are times that the person involved may believe that they were not doing anything wrong, but if they only thought about it, they may have noticed that something was afoot. Before you fing your own relationship in trouble here are a few things to keep in mind.
Adding friends that you would not have offline or that your spouse would not agree with?
Most people on social media do have some friends that they would only connect with online. It’s when you start having that special friend that you know you would not keep offline or that your spouse can’t know you are chatting with that you start falling into that danger zone.
Sharing things that you would not share offline?
It never fails that someone sends an image that ends up where it wasn’t supposed to and then the problems start. Anything that is too private to reveal in person is too private for your message box. If you were going to share some “For Your Eyes Only” type images, they should only be with your spouse. Given the nature of privacy on the web just don’t do it at all.
Meeting up in private chats at odd hours?
When you start getting into private chats people that you are looking forward to a little bit too much, or chats that have to take place at certain odd hours of the night you really need to look at what you are doing.
Having discussions you wouldn’t want your spouse to know about? With someone you don’t want them to know about?
People get very comfortable and open behind the safety of a screen. That distance allows people to say things that they may not be able to say with another pair of eyes looking directly at them. If conversations are getting too personal – you may want to start pumping the brakes.
Are you having relationships that make you feel guilty, sneaky or different about your spouse?
If you are thinking or feeling guilty or like you may be doing something wrong, chances are—you are doing something. It may have started out innocently, but once you get to that point where you are wondering or questioning, you have probably crossed a line that could be damaging to your relationship.
Many of these behaviors could be innocent enough to be explained away, but what really becomes the issue is the perception of your spouse. You may say or even believe that your actions are above board, but if your spouse feels that there is an issue, then at that moment there is an issue even if there wasn’t one before. Be conscious of who and what matters to you and take care of them. Your actions online can and very often do have real life consequences.
It is true that social media is a big part of life today. You have to be careful not to allow it to seep into places where it does not belong. Many couples find themselves in relationship troubles because they failed to set limitation. Here are a few things you can do to Social Media Proof Your Relationship.
Respect your relationship and your spouse – Even online you still are in a relationship despite what your relationship status my read. Carry yourself as such. Even when it is easier to do certain things behind the safety of an electronic screen, you should still carry yourself as someone’s spouse just as you do offline. If you wouldn’t do it offline probably shouldn’t do it online.
Do not vent about, criticize, or chastise your spouse on social media– Don’t put your partner on blast like that. Don’t embarrass or bring them shame online. That type of shaming spreads wider and you are less able to take it back. Even if you apologize when you calm down, you still have all those people who know about it- including your primary victim
Avoid living your relationship online– When you tell every little good thing in your relationship, people will be able to tell when things aren’t as hot because you are not posting. That lets people in on your weak spots. You are also allowing people to be involved in parts of your life that should be private. It can also let someone who’s been waiting know that the time to temp has come- maybe for you or your spouse.
Avoid comparing your actual relationship to what you see online. Remember, social media is the poor man’s reality show. People are posting mostly things that make them look better. The posts are more a highlights than actual reality. You don’t know the back stories behind these highlights. You don’t know the sacrifices that are made or what is endured in order to arrive these brief envy-producing moments.
Do not share things about your relationship that your spouse is not comfortable sharing. That is part of respecting your partner. When you are in a relationship it’s no longer just your privacy. Where your lives intersect your privacy becomes shared. If the there is something your partner does ot want shared with others, you should respect that.
Communication is one of the most common issues reported by couples who present for counseling or are experiencing relationship issues. While many people do a great job learning and developing their communication skills in times of tension, they have a tendency to forget to uses great new skills. In moments of calmness people have time to think and make conscious decisions and efforts to do what is in the best interest of their relationships. When people are upset, the tendency then is to turn to what they know and are comfortable with. Very often that is off-the-cuff speech and actions that at too often more intent on inflicting hurt or retaliating. At the very least, these methods are intended to have the speaker be heard, or make a point, not giving much attention to hearing the other person and nurturing/repairing the relationship.
Still, it’s hard to blame the individual since most of the development of communication skills is focused around everyday conversation and not as much on communicating in tense situations.
Use soft tones- When conversations get tense that tension is often reflected in voice tones- They get dryer, and may be elevated- Even if your partner gets to that point make a conscious effort to speak calmly. Your calmer tone encourages your partner to come back down. When one person raises their voice the tendency of the other person is to do the same, thus leading to a test of the wills. When one person intentionally keeps calm it takes some time and greater effort but it can have the same impact of causing the other person to lower their voice.
Stay in close proximity and maintain eye contact (that’s provided that it is safe to do so and they are not throwing and hitting things). When you speak with a partner no matter how tough the situation, continue to remind yourself that this is a person you love- this helps you be able to see them positively even when you are angry at them. When you look into their eyes as you speak, you want to relay that caring- Your words will say that yes you mean business but the gentle way you look at them will remind them that despite the situation you still care. Again, provided that it is safe, use soothing touches. Gentle touches such as touching or holding the person’s hand, softly touching their arm- if you know your partner’s personal weak spot- a place they like to be touched- not in a sexual way, use that.
Acknowledge the person and the issues. Allow the person to speak, and actually listen to them. Validate what they have to say. Not everything needs an explanation, and you don’t have to agree with them to acknowledging what someone has to say. It’s ok to let your partner know that you hear them. When a person feels heard, they are more amenable to a lot of. They will be more apt to listen to you or be more open to working something out.
Use carefully selected words to state your piece or make your point. Employ the use of I The word you can often have an accusatory tone that quickly sends people into defense mode. When you start a sentence the other party quickly gets the message that they are about to be blamed or held responsible for something. The normal reaction to that feeling is to mount a defense –This is not my fault or This is why this happened-. While this is happening, the person pretty much stops listening to the speaker When you need to address your partner’s actions or words, use I Statements “I feel______ when you_______. It would help me more if you______.” That way you are not accusing them but simply acknowledging your own issues with something.
Accept responsibility for your own parts in issue and be willing to verbalize it. A disagreement involves at least two people. While one person may have been the primary agitator it is very likely that other parties involved also played a part. Be willing to take responsibility for the role you played in the issue and more importantly be prepared to make amends for and rectify your contribution to the issue. This reassures your partner that you are going to be a part of the solution as well. It says that you are in to fix the issue, not just pass blame.
Doing these 5 simple things will help you communicate more effectively during times of tension and increase your chances of actually resolving disagreements. Remember, when two people are yelling no one is listening, and if there is no listener there is no communication and nothing can get resolved. Your relationship with your partner is one of the most important relationships in your life. It is also one of the most fragile. Maintaining and protecting it takes conscious thought and action.
A relationship is a growing living unit. It is constantly evolving and adjusting to the people in it even if the subtle daily changes go unnoticed- as they often do. What we look at the relationship changing is often largely the individuals in the relationship having changed. We grow in change every day, but over the years these subtle unnoticeable changes culminate into major differences. The needs of the individuals in the relationship evolve as they grow from where each of them were at the time that they met to who they are in the present and will be in the future. This is why it is so important for couples to continue to stay in touch with each other- so that as they grow they are growing together.
You have to keep the romance. Keep the spice in the relationship. As couples get into the comfort of everyday life it’s easier for that romantic feeling to be set aside. While the comfort of the relationship is nice, the need to feel that excitement and affection that is experienced in the earlier days is still there. Individuals who are not in long term relationships can experience that elevated high each time they meet a new person, but a person in a long term relationship does not have the excitement of the first dates and first kisses to look forward to. Their highs (and lows) are more level and steady, which makes it more important that there is constant infusion of these higher points. Doing so also helps with reducing the need to look for this elsewhere.
Dating your spouse (future spouse, significant other, whatever you call eachother) is important at every stage of the relationship. At the beginning you are dating and getting to know and falling for each other. Every year as you each grow you still need to do this to stay on that same trajectory. By the time you have been together for a good while (7-10 years) you have two people who are significantly different from the two who met, making it critical at this time that you really focus on knowing and loving each other as your new selves. When kids enter the picture it becomes easier couples to drift apart while seaming connected as the children become the rubber band that is keeping them connected as they drift. This is one reason that so many couples find themselves separating in their empty-nesting stage.
1. Be deliberate about it.
Date nights keep things exciting, especially after children enter the picture. Many couples find themselves in situations where it’s always about the kids or something to do with t hem. Date night gives them an opportunity to intentionally leave the children out. When this is not planned and things come up the couple gets set aside. When it is planned, arrange for all the things that can come up to make sure you have that time for and with each other. While date night can culminate with sex, because it is often more difficult to set a time to really go out on a date I recommend that couples set intimacy schedule as well, which will likely be more frequent than actual date nights. It’s great for busy couples who often find themselves too tired by the end of the day. Whether a couple is doing well or they are experiencing relationship issues I still recommend it as part of setting aside time for each other. Since people respond more effectively to things that are in writing, be sure to add these to your calendar. So having couple time on the calendar ensures that it is added to the priority list and gets taken care of. Ideally the couple would determine how many times they want to intimate, and identify the ideal days and times to make this happen. In addition to scheduling it in their calendar, they will also be doing things throughout the day that will make that portion of the day better. Couples who have done this have noticed that they make more efforts to nurture their relationship. Couples who have done this have found that their partners dress sexier, are more affectionate, and do more cozy little things on intimacy days. In a way, they are setting the mood and end up making the day itself a form of foreplay. Couples have that to look forward to together, as opposed to one person hoping that tonight will be the night and then falling asleep disappointed. It should not kill the romance because the goal is to increase the romance. Couples can do things throughout the day that build up the romance. Even when there is a schedule in place, moments of spontaneity should not be ignored. Just because you have scheduled 2 intimacy nights a week, if an opportunity presents on a different afternoon, you can still take advantage of that. If the kids are out and the moment feels right- go for it! That can be a bonus, but not a replacement of one of the scheduled days.
2. Plan Your Dates & Prioritize Your Dates
Whether you plan them together or take turns planning for each other, make sure you plan activities for your dates. Having a plan prevents lull and confusion that could come up when you set the time and don’t know what to do with it. Plan things that are fun and new. Thing such as ice skating in a park, a gallery opening or even backyard camping for a night. Your dates don’t need to be things that are costly- you can plan simple and free things that you will enjoy. A day at the beach, evening in the park- anything will work as long as you both enjoy it. You can also look at your community calendars for ideas and events that are going on nearby that you can partake in.
Planning also helps keep your date a priority. Many couples schedule dates but still allow life to get in the way. Once a date is scheduled, add it to your calendar just like you do all other important appointments. Mark the time unavailable just as you would if it was a meeting with your boss or your biggest client. Scheduled dates should only be missed in case of a true emergency- Like Johnny’s in the hospital- not Johnny got a booboo. When a scheduled date has to be missed, it should be rescheduled right away. Treat the time and commitment to your relationship with the same high level of importance that is placed on your most important career or other responsibilities.
3. Be Fully present
When you are on a date, it’s important that you leave the kids behind mentally as well. That means that they should not be all that is talked about. This is a time to focus on each other and your relationship. Issues involving the kids should be addressed when you are at home. Set aside time to have those discussions and come up with solutions. Where there are differences, I recommend not taking the conversation to the bedroom so as to not bring tension into that sacred space. You can still talk after the children go to bed- just pick a different part of the home.
Set phones and other gadgets aside. If you have children at home you can set a signal that will let you know that there is an emergency (ie: call 2 times back to back) that way if you hear your phone vibrating you don’t have to check it every time. Be sure to clarify what constitutes an emergency such as after you call 911, and discourage the constant calling for things that can wait until you get home.
4. Appreciate & Express It
When you enter a relationship and get comfortable, people have a tendency to switch to expectation mode, where you may see some of the things that your spouse does as part of the deal. You may say thank you, but you don’t make as big a deal about it anymore because it’s part of their duties. Go back to that time at the beginning when you called your new sweetie the next day to thank them for how good last night was.
Don’t just say the rote “I love you”. Take care to notice and pay specific compliments. Remember how you responded when she opened the door when you picked her up for a date? Or maybe the way you looked at him when he took his shirt off? You need to remind your partner that you still see and feel some of these things- even if there are a few more curves or bulges which can make that need even greater.
5. Court and Flirt
Do the things that say “I think you’re hot”. Remember way back when men and women used to take time to write loving letters to each other. As long as the mail system still works those little things are still grate options. Send a love letter to your mate and just hide in a corner to see the facial expressions that come as your letter is read. It’s worth much more than the 49₵ stamp- It’s priceless. Pick a flower outside or pick up a card while at the store. These little things go a long way. Take time to flirt. Your spouse has no more first dates or first kisses to look forward to, but you can give a little taste of it. Now there are other options that can add to playful flirtation with your mate. E-mails that pop up on the phone in the middle of the day. Flirtext, a cleaner version of sexting where you can talk about some “grown folk stuff” but not so racy that if your phone got lost you’d be panicking. Rated PG to maybe even a little R but this should ONLY be ON PERSONAL PHONES. DO NOT SEND THESE MESSAGES TO COMPANY ISSUED PHONES.
Spontaneous moments like an unexpected lunch date or meeting up after work to ride home together are also nice. The key maintaining lasting relationships is to treat your life together as though you are looking you have your spouse to say yes again.
While we cannot always predict the course of relationships, research has shown some trends that we have come to anticipate and as such, can prepare for or safeguard against. Relationship maintenance is one of those. While many people know of the 7-year itch, many don’t realize that there are steps that can be taken to help your relationship survive or even thrive through what can for many couples be a turbulent period.
Many couples spend much of their adulthood together and then later find themselves separated. This frequently happens because couples get caught up in life and don’t notice that they are growing apart over the years. The proverbial 7 year itch is something that happens several times of the course of a relationship (every 7 to 10 years). This is the amount of time it takes for the minor changes and growth that happens in the individual every day to become notable changes and the reasons couples find themselves at odds.
One of the primary issues that couples encounter after a long time in relationships is a disconnect. When people get together they generally meet specific needs for each other. As these needs are met and people grow, there is a need for a sort of renewal of their agreement or purpose. Most times people see these changes but don’t quite acknowledge or recognize them. The couple continues operating as the couple who met instead of who they are or have grown into. Individuals continue to grow and evolve to the point where a major change can be noticed over a period of 7-10 years. If as they are growing they are not making continuous efforts to stay in emotional touch with each other they can find themselves one day so different they don’t recognize this partner. As the couple’s life changes (like when children come in or they go through crises or changes in careers) there are also adaptations that each makes to accommodate those and that is another place where they may change in different directions. If a constant effort is not being made to continue to make the changes match they are at risk.
A couple who wants to survive their individual growth as a couple must realize and address the changes that are happening in them every day and make the necessary adjustment so that they continue to be the ideal partner for their more evolved and more mature partner.