Posts tagged couple counseling rancho cucamonga
It’s not about the F*%$&@ Dishes
Resentment

In the last 10 years in my work as a therapist I’ve heard couples argue about some of the most serious issues. I’ve also heard an equal amount of arguments over the most ridiculous things. The most common, yet benign argument, is over housework. 

John Gottman says that 69% of marital problems are perpetual issues that will never be solved. This means that you really need to figure out a way to keep the peace and ride the waves of the perpetual problems.

When couples come to my office and I bare witness to their arguments over minute things like housework it can be incredibly telling about the state of their relationship. It’s rarely about the dishes, the dirty clothes, or your partner’s decision to move the furniture around without consulting you first. 

When people dig their heels in and fight tooth and nail over who doesn’t clean up after themselves I think to myself, 1) who cares about the dishes?? and 2) what’s this really about? And those are things that I will quickly verbalize.

99.9% of the time when I call couples out on what they’re arguing about they will admit to me that it’s really not about the dishes.

In order to get there I ask questions like, what’s really under your ager over the dishes, why is this so important to you, and what feeling or thought comes up for you when you see your partner’s dirty dish in the sink?

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That’s when I hear the translation: “you’re not on my team,” or, “you don’t have my back,” or “I feel like I’m just here to clean up after you (which translates to: we aren’t spending any quality time together).”

I’ll be honest with you – for the last 8 years of my marriage one of our perpetual problems has also been housework (which is why I finally hired a housekeeper).

I call this the dirty sock test (because that’s our issue): On any given day as I am picking up around the house I can find my husband’s dirty black socks strewn around like I’m on an Easter egg hunt. I know this about him – he sits down, removes his socks, and kicks them to the side, and there they stay until he or I come around and clean up. I’ve spent 9 years living with this man, I know that’s his habit, we all have them and I know I’m far from perfect – we said for better or worse, right?

But if I happen to be picking up the house and I bend down to pick up a few dirty socks and also happen to find myself whispering expletives under my breath, I know that my love tank is empty and he hasn’t been speaking to me in my love language, and I it’s time to ask for what I need. What I might think I need is for him to pick up his damn socks, but what I truly need is much more than that (it's usually quality time). 

Nobody gets that angry over a pair of dirty socks (or dishes, or furniture, or tardiness) unless there’s something under that anger - the socks just happen to be the blister on the surface.

So when you’re ready to snarl, retreat to your corner, send a snarky text or give an obvious eye roll, it’s time to check yourself and ask, what’s this really about?

Another way to think about this is to ask yourself, “if my best friend left their socks behind, (left a dish in the sink, or was late for plans) would I blow up?” More than likely it would just roll off your back and you wouldn’t think twice about it.

We give our friends a great deal of grace. But when you aren’t nurturing your friendship with your partner its easy to fight about the little things.

So what’s it really about? Are you resentful over something that’s missing in your relationship? Those conversations might be more difficult to have, but I’m happy to help. You might not get over those perpetual problems in marriage, but when you’re free from resentment it makes it so much easier to be friends - even if they don’t get around to washing their dishes a couple times a week. You can click here to book a consultation with me and we can talk about how couples therapy might help. 

To ask, or not to ask?
 
Infidelity
 

“Every time she asks me who I was talking to it puts me on the defense.”

“I can’t do anything without being questioned!”

“He has the password to everything, I am an open book.”

These are some of the things I hear in sessions with couples who are trying to rebuild trust in their relationships. They come to me after they’ve discovered their partner has been unfaithful, and they are devastated and wanted to know what the next steps are.

After I help them through their initial crisis phase, we talk about rebuilding trust, and what that’s going to look like going forward. I’ve heard many creative solutions to this from wary spouses who have been cheated on, and sometimes they are exhausted with the constant checking they are doing.

Checking the emails, checking the texts, checking the location of their phone and making sure it matches up to their story. How long should it take to get home from the grocery store? Is that story about having to stay later at work even true?

This can become the reality in the aftermath of an affair, and quite frankly I too become exhausted just listening to all the extra lengths people go to in order make sure their spouses are being truthful.

But the honest truth is, if your partner wants to cheat, they will cheat.

You can’t affair-proof your relationship.

I know that can be incredibly difficult to hear for some.

But it can also be relieving when you really break it down. The truth is, no amount of checking is going to keep them faithful, so you can stop driving yourself crazy doing so.

In the initial stages after an affair has occurred it is important to negotiate boundaries. No contact with the affair partner, checking in frequently, and giving up passwords for devices if that’s what makes you feel better at the time.

However, trust is truly built on the interactions you have with one another after you decide to stay together. Trust is built on faith, and faith must sometimes be blind.

I often tell partners who have strayed, if you place even a tenth of the energy you put into your affair into your marriage, imagine the happiness you can have in this relationship. There’s a good amount of reconfiguring, time stolen, and effort put into meeting an affair partner. Imagine if you did that with your partner?

It’s easy to get defensive as the questions are asked over and over, but if you’ve strayed then you need to understand it’s not necessarily about your partner wanting to get a different answer from you. It’s really about them having gone through trauma and wanting to regain some sense of normalcy.

The person they trusted most and likely didn’t think was capable of cheating broke their trust, and so they are trying to regain their bearings and in some ways, their sense of control.

If you are the partner asking the questions, I suggest you ask yourself this: Do you want to know the answer to that question, or do you want your partner to know that you have this question?

Those two things are very different. It may seem like you want the answers to all your questions, but if you take a step back and really think about it, are the answers really helpful to you? Once you receive the information you can’t go back, and you can’t “un-see” the images that will float through your mind.

I’ll ask you again – do you want to know the answer to your question? Or do you just want your partner to know that you have this question?

You may want your partner to know that you have questions about how they were able to sneak away and make time for their affair. This question is different then, “when did it happen?” or “did you do it in the car? In the office? In our home?”

Similarly you may want to have access – phone, computer, and email passwords. Having access doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be checking daily. It’s really about your partner’s willingness to give you the passwords and access that means all the difference.

If you’re having difficulty navigating your way through reestablishing trust with your partner in the aftermath of an affair, I’d love to help. You can click here and schedule a phone consultation that’s totally free and we can talk about how therapy might help one or both of you through the recovery process. 

5 Signs You Need Couples Therapy in 2017
 
 

The New Year is a time to reflect on the year that’s passed, and the start of planning goals for the upcoming year. I personally love the thought of a clean slate, new goals, and sense of, “out with the old, in with the new.”

But I also know that it’s really only a façade. Things that have been occurring all year don’t just stop because the ball drops, and we scream, “Happy New Year!”

But it’s a marker of time, and that’s what I love about it. It marks a time to create change. I take a look at my business, my personal, and professional relationships, and I think about what I’d like to do more of, and what hasn’t been serving me, and I use the New Year to mark the start of changes that need to be made in order for me to live the fullest, healthiest life I can.

Whether you love to make resolutions, or to just reflect, I want to urge you to take an inventory of your closest relationships. Those are the ones that impact you the most.

Have you been waiting a while to approach your partner about couples counseling? Has it been something on your radar for a while, but you haven’t wanted to rock the boat and dive in?

Initiating that conversation can be scary, and it’s totally normal to feel apprehensive about it, but using this New Year as a marker, it may be the best time to have that convo, and here are some signs that couples therapy should be on your to-do list in 2017:

1. Communication has dwindled.

In long-term, committed relationships it's easy to fall into routine, and get into ruts. If you're a parenting couple, it's also easy for kiddos to become the center of your world, and your relationship, but when communication dwindles, and you're more like 2 ships passing in the night, and communication becomes only about the logistics, it may be time to look at your relationship and get some help to open up those lines of communication.

2. Sex has decreased significantly.

Just like with communication, life can get routine, and sleep often gets moved to the top of the list of priorities along with work and parenting. There is no magic number for the amount of sex you should be having per week, but when you start to notice that it's becoming much less frequent than it was previously, this is a sign that things need to be spiced up.

Conversations about sex can be difficult to have, and that's where therapy comes in. Working with a couple’s therapist inevitably leads to convos about sex, as it's a huge part of intimate relationships. A couple’s therapist can get you talking and sharing more intimately than you may be able to on your own, and having a space dedicated to focus on your relationship for one hour each week is not something that happens naturally in most relationships.

Many couples tell me that they try to have conversations about sex, but it always leads to an argument, and both partners feeling like they aren’t being heard, and like neither is getting their needs met. A lack of sex can be also be a sign that something else is missing in the relationship, and therapy can help uncover what’s keeping you stuck.

3. Fights are becoming more frequent or escalating more than before.

Just like with the other two items I shared – this can also be a symptom of something bubbling beneath the surface. Frequent fights about minor issues are usually a sign of resentment, or someone feeling as though their needs aren’t being met.

In my practice one of the first things I do with couples is to learn about their relationship – how they met, how it’s evolved, and what they think has led them to frequent fights.

Next, I have them complete a Relationship Check-up, which is an in-depth assessment about various aspects of their relationship. This tool is amazing! I love that it breaks everything down for the couple and for me so that we can take a look at areas that are working, as well as those that are leading to dissatisfaction for one or both partners.

From there, we dive in and talk about those areas that need some extra attention, and I work with the couple to provide interventions to help them get past those road blocks as they are typically what’s causing the frequent arguing.

4. Trust has been compromised.

This might seem like an obvious one, but a lot of couples tend to wait it out and hope things repair themselves on their own, and this often leads to more issues in the long-run.

If you feel like your trust has been violated in the relationship, reaching out and getting in to see a therapist early can be the best thing you can do to repair the trust, and other aspects of your relationship that you didn’t see as relating to this one issue.

Couples counseling can also help to prevent further violations of trust from happing in the future and open up necessary lines of communication and intimacy between you and your partner.

5. You feel lonely.

We can’t get all of our needs met from one single relationship, but when you begin to feel lonely and like there’s a lack of connection between you and your partner, this is a major red flag.

Work, kids, and other commitments can get in the way of having the deep connection you’d like to have, but the sooner you address the issue, the less likely things are to continue on a downward spiral.

According to Dr. John Gottman, world-renowned couples therapist and researcher, couples wait an average of 6 years until they get help. That’s a long time to be unhappy, and it’s a long time to keep up bad habits and build up resentments. The longer a couple waits, the more difficult it is to make repairs in the relationship, so my advice is to start out strong this New Year. I’m happy to help, you can reach me at (909) 226-6124

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The Perfect Gift for your Partner this Season
 
couples counseling
 

Tis the season for giving.

You can spend endless hours shopping for the perfect gift for your partner. Scouring the Internet for that gift that will knock their socks off, but the greatest gift you can give is the one of true giving.

We all like to say that giving is better than receiving, but sometimes this very principal is one that often gets taken for granted in long-term relationships.

Give the gift of true giving this season.

What is true giving?

It is giving without the expectation of anything in return. It’s giving for the pure aim of making the other person happy, and fulfilling their desires.

This seems to be easier for couples to do in the early stages of their relationship. Dating is passionate and emotions can be so overwhelming that it’s difficult not to truly give. Love letters, mixed tapes (or iTunes playlists for the current generation), late-night text messages – it’s easy to profess your love in the beginning without the expectation of much in return.

In the early stages, you just want to make your partner smile and let them know that you love them. It doesn’t matter if that means you wake up at 5am to make them breakfast and pack them a lunch for the day (I totally used to do that for my husband when we first got married).

As time passes you begin to settle into routine, and many people have children and their resources become limited. Time, energy, and sleep are depleted, especially when you’re raising babies and young children. The thought of staying up to finish a movie after 10pm starts to feel insane, so getting in bed and making love on a work night can feel equally draining.

So what does this have to do with giving? And what the heck are you supposed to give your spouse this holiday season?

It has everything to do with giving. True giving.

True giving means that you give even though it may cost you resources. Not necessarily monetary resources, but other resources that may be spread thin during this time in your life – time, energy, sleep, etc.

The perfect gift is the one that your partner truly wants to receive.

You might think you know what they want, but it may also just be what you want to give – it may be coming from your perception of what love is.

This brings me to one of the principals that I generally share and teach the couples I work with in my practice – The 5 Love Languages. If you’ve never heard of this concept, be sure to click here to take the quiz online, and find out what yours and your partner’s love language is, it will truly change your relationship if you apply it.

In case you’ve never heard of the 5 Love Languages, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version: We all have specific ways that we show love, and ways that we perceive that we are being loved.

Gary Chapman breaks this concept down into 5 different languages, which are: gift giving, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and words of affirmation.

Which one best describes what’s most important for you to receive? Which one truly makes you feel loved? Is it receiving a small thoughtful gift? Spending an evening at home, talking and having quality time with your partner? Or is it hearing how much they love you, and having them express gratitude regularly for what you do around the house? Do you feel most loved when your partner sends you out the door with a lunch in hand, or folds your laundry?

And which one best describes your partner?

The complication that many couples get into is that they don’t always have the same love language. So, if yours is quality time, and your partner’s is physical touch, you may be continually trying to talk at him or her, when they just want to be cuddled.

I often use the analogy that your partner tells you, “I’m thirsty,” and so you go to the kitchen and bring them a glass of orange juice.

To your dismay, your partner doesn’t want orange juice, and they respond with, “I just want water please.”

But you’re so taken aback, and think, “who doesn’t want OJ?? It’s so tasty, and tangy, and has some essential nutrients in it.” You continue to try to get your partner to see your point of view, but alas, they just want water, and you feel like they’re completely missing out on your favorite drink.

Here you have two choices – you can either keep trying to get them to love OJ as their go-to thirst quencher, or you can just give in, and give them the water they so desperately want.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean just bring a glass of water instead of the OJ and your partner will be happy.

So why, when we are talking about love languages, is it so difficult to speak you partner’s love language? I think it’s because we sometimes forget about the true gift of giving.

If all your partner really needs in the relationship is to feel your physical touch, why keep trying to talk? When you begin to feel disconnected, reach out, speak their language, and get physical.

Your love language may be quality time, and so having in-depth conversation may totally be your jam, but when you start to give without the expectation of receiving, and stop waiting for your partner to fulfill your needs before you take that step, you’ll see a change in him or her.

When you speak your partner’s language, they’ll be more likely to speak yours in return, and your relationship will improve.

Give your partner the gift they really need this season. The gift of love - in a way they can truly interpret.

If you’re stuck on this whole love language concept, please reach out to me! I love working with couples and helping them have the relationships they truly desire, you can reach me at (909) 226-6124, or learn more at www.ranchocounseling.com.  

When Good People Cheat: The Unmet Needs Affair
 
 

“I never meant for this to happen,” is what I typically hear when I sit down with someone who has been unfaithful to their partner.

I genuinely believe them when they tell me this because doing this work, I’ve heard from plenty of partners who have strayed in some fashion, and this is a common thread. They are good people, and they’ve made a mistake, and it’s not my job to judge, but to help them understand what lead to their behaviors so that they can prevent it from happening again.

There are many types of affairs. The most common one that I see is what Mira Kirchenbaum calls, the “unmet needs” affair. In her book, When Good People have Affairs, she outlines many types of affairs and I often recommend her book to clients who have or are having an affair because it can really help them understand their behaviors better, in conjunction with the work we do in session.

The unmet needs affair happens when you feel as though there is something missing in your relationship with your partner.

It could be sex, intimacy, or intelligent conversation. But focusing on one aspect of the relationship that is missing is a trap, and many times people only come to realize what they’ve been missing after they’ve already crossed the line.

When you look outside of your relationship for that one unmet need, you are essentially negating all of the many other positive aspects that likely exist in your relationship.

A whole, healthy, relationship only includes sex or conversation as a very small piece that makes up the relationship, however the trap occurs when you begin to see this piece as a gaping hole – it has the potential to become everything, and with the help of an affair partner, you begin to negate the many other positive aspects that you once based your relationship on.

Getting involved with someone else in order to fulfill this unmet need is typically clouded by the electrifying rush that happens in new relationships. It’s quite normal for people to see their affair partner as the most amazing person they’ve ever met, however an affair relationship is only a façade – it exists in a vacuum, and lacks much of the other important aspects that secure, long-term relationships need to survive.

Using another person to fulfill that one aspect that was missing from your marriage is fundamentally flawed because without fully knowing your affair partner, you are unable to see all of their true characteristics, as this relationship will also have missing aspects to it.

If you think back to the beginning of your marriage, I’m sure there were fireworks. Things in the beginning of relationships tend to be intense and full of passion.

I once read that falling in love has the same impact as a drug on the brain. It’s easy to become addicted to that feeling, and those intense emotions cloud your judgment.

The beginning of a relationship is when you go out of your way for that other person – you stay up all night talking even if you’ve got to be at work at 7am, you write silly love poems, and drive an hour both ways just to spend an hour in the arms of your love.

If you’re stuck in the difficult spot of having already crossed the line and engaged in an affair to fulfill a need that was lacking in your marriage, you’re not alone. I know that there is a great deal of shame and pain that comes from making that decision, but there is also support for you to right your wrongs.

Although the road is long and difficult, I’ve seen some wonderful things come from those who are willing to look at themselves, their decisions, and learn from their mistakes.

Relationships can be repaired, and that shame can go away, but the first step is asking for help. If you could use some support and want to begin the process of understanding your behavior, give me a call at (909) 226-6124, and we can talk about ways therapy can help.