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Relationship

3 Revealing Requirements To Save Your Relationship

 

After years of counseling couples and hearing multitudes of stories, I’ve come to believe three revealing requirements to save your relationship. These requirements not only save your relationship, they nurture it throughout the seasons of life. The story begins with my learning to dance.

Relationship Patterns Are Like Dance Movements

Having grown up in a faith tradition that doesn’t believe in playing cards, smoking, drinking, and engaging in pre-marital dancing, I began to explore a part of me I hadn’t previously developed. It wasn’t the smoking and drinking I was drawn to. Instead, I began to integrate freedom, movement, creativity, music, and emotionally safe partnership through taking ballroom dance lessons. I quickly discovered dancing was like sparks of light into deeper places of my soul.

The light-hearted atmosphere of learning to dance helped me take myself less seriously. And it was a contrast from the crisis counseling work I was doing at the time. I was energized. It provided joy and the lighter side of life.

After a few group and private lessons, I became more aware of how the same dance moves felt different with the style and frame of various partners. As we switched partners often during group lessons, each dancer carried their own unique energy, rhythm and frame.

We relate to our spouses or significant others through relationship patterns similar to dancing.  We all have learned behaviors and styles from childhood that carry over into our adult relationships. When chronic conflict begins to take over in a relationship, it’s time to re-evaluate those dance steps.

Reason # 1 – Your Relationship Requires Reciprocity 

During the romantic phase when we feel the connection, both partners make time to be together and have fun. When the chemistry wears off, our default patterns take over. The ease of the relationship dance works for a while until normal life stressors enter. Child-rearing differences, financial habits, careers, moves, in-laws, attitudes, and resentment wears off those early romantic feelings. What began as exciting and bigger than life becomes boring and irritating.

It’s time to consider the relationship dances and change those steps and styles. It takes two to make that happen.

Reason # 2 – Your Relationship Requires Change

Every stage of life is an invitation to knowing parts of your relationship that were previously hidden. For example, the transition from couplehood to parenthood opens up new and different roles. Research indicates a 70% drop in marital satisfaction within a baby’s first year of life. The husband/wife roles change to dad and mom. One parent may become jealous of time and attention a young child requires. Or new anxieties arise from the magnitude of being solely responsible for the development of another human being.

Added financial pressure, household chores, and caring for a baby requires a shift in perspectives. Expectant parents should consider couples’ counseling to be pro-active as they anticipate necessary changes.

Not only in the child-bearing years, but the dance of a marriage changes with each season of life. What may have worked early on in your relationship may not be relevant now.

Reason # 3 – Your Relationship Requires Fun

Negativity, limited beliefs, and ruminating on the past takes away the fun-loving energy we all need in our partnerships. In Dr. John Gottman’s longitudinal studies of couples, those who don’t recover quickly from conflicts are likely to divorce. It’s not a matter of having less conflict than the average couple. Happily married couples still experience 67% of unresolved conflict. But they’ve learned to shake it off quicker than troubled couples.

Just as the mind absorbs negativity on the neurons, we need to be intentional about light-hearted laughter and fun activities.

What’s Your Next Move?

My husband and I met through our ballroom dance community and we had a great couples dance teacher.  As we move to the rhythm of our lives together, we’re still learning to change what comes natural from the patterns we know so well.

To find out what your relationship needs now, ask about taking the Gottman Relationship Checkup.

Sign up to schedule your free consultation. 

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Counselor Support

How To Find The Right Counselor

With a splotchy red face and tears dripping down my cheeks, I had just shared intimate details of my life. An hour later, having used lots of tissue and now less money in my purse I wasn’t going back. The therapist was competent and reputable. But the chemistry wasn’t there for me. It’s important to know how to find the right counselor before your first counseling appointment.

Before you bare your soul to a counselor, it's important to find the right fit for you. Click To Tweet

Some clients feel cheated paying counseling fees at their first session if it’s not a good fit.

Here’s things to consider before you hire your mental health counselor or relationship therapist. Some may be more important to you than others. These items will help you get clarity for the therapist that’s right for you.

Do your research before contacting a licensed professional counselor.

Of course, it’s always helpful to get recommendations from your friends, family, or doctor. But do your own research as well. What may be a good fit for your sister’s marriage, may not be a good fit for yours. Each individual and relationship is different.

Many therapists advertise on Psychology Today, Theravive, or other counseling platforms. Start with a google search in your area. If you’re looking for marriage counseling, just type in marriage counseling in or near your city.

  • Read counselors profiles, specialties, and blog posts. Some even have introductory videos.
  • Find out how long they’ve been in practice.
  • Discover whether they’re “general practitioners” or if they specialize.

Make an initial connection with a counselor through their online presence or profile.

If you’re just too anxious to make that initial phone call, send a short email. You can say something like this:

I’m interested in counseling. Do you offer free consultations? 

Or you can say this:

I’m interested in counseling. Would you please call me at (your phone number) on Monday afternoon? I have a few questions to ask. 

Don’t assume you’re obligated to schedule a counseling appointment with that first connection by phone or email. It’s OK to shop around.

Here’s things to consider at a first encounter with a counselor:

  • How long does it take to receive an email reply? You should hear back within 24 hours.
  • The counselor may not offer free office consultations, but may spend 15 minutes on the phone with you. If so, pay attention to how you feel on the phone with them.
    • Do they sound rushed?
    • Is their voice warm and inviting?
    • Is it fast or slow?
    • Abrupt or calm?

Some counselors choose not to have contact with clients before meeting them at their first appointments. Their assistants may be the only initial connection. Decide if that’s acceptable to you. You are the one who decides what’s best for you. Your preferences matter.

It’s proper and necessary to interview two or three before hiring the right counselor for you.

Whether you’re choosing a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, or a mental health therapist, you’re the one doing the hiring for their expertise. Just as you would hire a contractor or mechanic, mental health professionals are providing you services.

View yourself as a client or patient who is making an informed choice. It’s easy to be intimidated by a person’s title or initials after their name. You are just as important as your provider. They just have issues you don’t know about. We are all human beings worthy of respect, dignity and worth.

Avoid anyone who makes you feel “less than.” Whether you’re struggling with substance addiction or a mood disorder, you’re no less than the doctor or therapist who is treating you.

Don’t leave your first counseling appointment feeling cheated. Save your tears for the right one.

Sign up for a free 20 minute consultation.

Improve your marriage

How Long Does It Take To Improve Your Marriage

When it comes to couples counseling, we all want to know how much time, energy, and money it will take for lasting improvements. A common question is: How long does it take to improve your marriage through relationship counseling?

It takes more than 21 days to improve your marriage

The 21-days-to-make-a-habit advice has been a myth all this time with no scientific backing. Through Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever program, he quoted that it really takes an average of 66 days depending on the particular habit.

In my work with clients, I tell them it takes 90 days for new neuro-pathways in the brain to form new associations. Different ways of thinking, behaving, and relating takes consistent practice. Just as regular workouts in the gym train our muscles, our intentional thoughts and behaviors train our neuro-connections.

Whether you’re learning a foreign language or ballroom dance steps, it takes about 90 days to learn a new skill. Click To Tweet

Your idea of empathic communication with your spouse may be as challenging as learning a foreign language. If you can’t keep a beat to a radio pop song, you may initially be just as clumsy when you learn dialogue skills with your partner. But you can learn. Your brain is designed to learn new things.

Muscle memory and mental associations in our brains are made to connect.

We are all wired to grow, connect, and continue growing in relationships. Click To Tweet

Beyond the counseling stereo-type to improve your marriage

My work with couples is different than the stereo-type of what you see on movies or TV. You may imagine a couple sitting on the couch together side by side, looking to the counselor to equally hear both partners’ sides. The therapist is neutral, balanced, and unbiased. (sounds a bit un-human to me)

Although a first session may look like that, Imago Therapy is different. Instead, the couple sits across from each other face to face. The therapist sits “outside” their relationship, coaching them with speaker-listener skills. With gentle guidance, encouragement and awareness, they learn how to make the space between them emotionally safe.

How many counseling sessions to improve your marriage?

“How many sessions does it take?” you ask.

The answer varies. For some it’s twelve weekly ninety minute session. For others, it’s weekly for the first month, and twice a month for the next 90 days. Beyond that, ever other month check ups are a great plan. Some may only need six month check-ups similar to regular dental cleanings.

Beyond the neuro-pathway factors other considerations are these:

  • Are you in a crisis or just need a tune up?
  • Do you both have an attitude of I’ll-do-anything-it-takes?
  • How motivated are you as a couple to follow through in-between session?

In order to begin dialogue skills to improve your marriage, keep in mind it takes about 90 days. It will take additional time to master it for continual growth, intimacy, and connection. And don’t forget the periodic booster sessions to keep growing toward each other.

Questions to improve your marriage

On a scale of 1-10 how full is your love tank?

How do you feel in each other’s presence?

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