When your relationship is in crisis, it can become an overwhelming task to find someone who you can trust to help. You are feeling hurt, vulnerable, overwhelmed, and are looking for a stranger to care for one of the most precious relationships in your life. When a marriage is on the brink of divorce or facing any difficult situation, it can be hard looking to another party for help. Many of my clients have never been in counseling or therapy before, and they frequently discussed their experiences looking for the right couples or marriage counselor for their relationships. Patterns have emerged from my conversations with them and I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic of finding your own couples/marriage counselor.
Have you ever been in an argument with your partner and wondered at what point they went absolutely mad? The person you know as reasonable is no longer on the other side of the conversation, instead replaced by someone impossible to deal with in a rational way.
If you have felt this way before, you were likely feeling flooded. Flooding happens when you are in conflict with your partner and you stop thinking. You feel overwhelmed and respond by either attacking your partner or completely shutting down. At this point, in order for the conversation to be productive, it is important that you find a way to calm down.
In this quick video, Dr. Julie Gottman describes the research behind what is happening when you are feeling flooded and what you can do when this happens.
Harmful words. Secret texts. Secret lunches. Emotional Cheating. Affairs.
All of these situations can lead to a loss of trust between partners. Once a person realizes that they have acted in a way that has caused harm to their relationship they often don't know where to turn or what to do. How does one rebuild trust after causing so much pain? The research behind how trust is built is pretty clear. It takes small acts, one-by-one, over time to repair the damage that has been done. Finding moments to move toward your partner, instead of turning away.
In this video, Dr. Brene Brown describes the research around 'trust'. In it, she references Dr. John Gottman's research on building trust with couples. I hope you find this video helps you to focus on the things you need to do to build or even rebuild trust within your own relationship.
When conflicts arise in a relationship, it is often difficult knowing exactly what to do. Different personality types respond in vastly different ways. One person may freeze up and become distant, while their partner wants to clear the air immediately. Most of us are just trying the best we can with the tools we have at our disposal. Knowing that not everyone reacts to these stresses in the same manner, I'd like to discuss some helpful ways to deal with conflict when it comes up in your relationship.
The first thing to do (and sometimes the most difficult) is to get out of the details of what you were fighting about and discuss the process of what just happened during the conflict. Try understanding your partner's perspective instead of defending yours.
Talk with your partner about how you were feeling when the situation came up and listen to your partner explain how they were feeling. Remember to truly listen to your partner's perspective, you don't have to agree with it, but you need to understand what was happening for them that they were feeling that way.
Once you have really listened to your partner, it is important to validate your partner's feelings. Instead of focusing on where your partner is wrong, focus on the pieces that make sense to you. If you are at a place where you are feeling defensive and can't find any pieces that make sense, you need to take a step back. Listen. Ask questions to better understand them. This does not mean you are questioning what your partner is saying, you are asking questions to better understand them and what they are feeling.
Lastly, state what your role was in the conflict and take responsibility for it. We all have difficult days. Sometimes we don't always bring our best self to our relationship because we are focused on something else going on in our life. Let your partner know by acknowledging it and taking responsibility for not being your best self.
We all make mistakes and say things we later regret. Stopping the damaging process and acknowledging what happened will help to repair a damage before it becomes unmanageable. In addiction, this will for a more productive outcome for you and your partner!
If you have taken some time to look around on my website, you may have come upon the information regarding Discernment Counseling. The goal of Discernment Counseling is for you and your partner to gain clarity and confidence about a direction, based on a deeper understanding of your relationship and its possibilities for the future. The goal is not to solve your marital/relationship problems but to see if they are solvable. You will each be treated with compassion and respect no matter how you are feeling about your marriage or relationship at the moment.
Those considering divorce but are not completely sure if it's the right path for them.
Those who want to give their marriage another chance even though their spouse is moving toward divorce.
Those who have tried couples/marriage therapy before, yet are still stuck in the same situation and are thinking about making a change to leave the relationship.
Not appropriate for:
A relationship where there is danger of domestic violence
If there is an Order For Protection (OFP) from the court
One spouse has made a final decision to divorce and wants counseling to encourage the other spouse to accept their decision
One spouse is coercing the other to participate
How is this different than couples counseling/marriage therapy?
I will help you explore one of three paths for your relationship:
Path 1: Stay married the way your marriage has been - No change.
Path 2: Move toward separation or divorce.
Path 3: Work on reconciling by committing to an all-out effort of couples counseling over a six month period with divorce completely off of the table.
Watch this video to learn more!