Leading Parallel Lives

At some point in your relationship, you may realize that you and your partner have grown distant–so distant that it feels as though you are leading parallel lives.  Maybe you both work stressful jobs, are raising young children, or lack shared interests. Maybe it’s all three.

Regardless of the circumstances, you find yourselves in a position of having little to no quality time together each week, and communication may be limited to scheduling carpools and paying bills.  Over time, this disconnect can seep into every aspect of your relationship, such as your ability to constructively air grievances or be physically intimate with one another.

If you have reached this juncture, it will take time and effort to find your way back to one another.  Through a practice the psychologist Dr. John Gottman has coined “building love maps,” you can become reacquainted with your partner by taking an interest, asking questions, and building your knowledge about the ins and outs of each other’s lives.  In doing so, you can regain a sense of compassion and understanding for your partner. With mutual understanding, you are far more likely to work together as a team to overcome future hurdles.

To learn more about how to reconnect with your partner, reach out to one of our couples counselors by clicking the button below:

Book an appointment with Artemis Counseling and Creative Life

Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

When There’s Problems in the Bedroom

Sex is an undeniably important aspect of any romantic relationship.  Alongside emotional intimacy, it is one of the hallmark differences between a friendship and a romantic partnership.  Thus, it is understandably distressing if your once passion-laden romps in the bedroom begin to feel stale, stagnant, or cease altogether.

While there can sometimes be medical factors contributing to libidinal changes (and it is always a good idea to rule this out), sexual disconnect often arises from emotional and intellectual “blocks,” both within and outside of the relationship.  Some common contributing factors include: performance anxiety, body image concerns, lack of emotional/intellectual intimacy, traumatic experiences, feelings of doubt or insecurity, boredom, or resentment.

Although it may be an uncomfortable topic to address, communication surrounding intimacy is the key component in fostering a mutually satisfying sexual relationship.  After all, neither of you are mind-readers! Couples counseling can serve as a safe space to begin this dialogue with your partner.

To begin the process of addressing your intimacy concerns, schedule a couples counseling appointment with one of our licensed counselors below:

Book an appointment with Artemis Counseling and Creative Life

Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

The “Good Old Days:” Finding Strength Through Your Relationship’s Past

By the time a couple comes to us for help, they have often reached the lowest point in their relationship.  The situation may feel so bleak that it is hard to imagine anything beyond the layers of resentment and contempt. At these darkest hours, it may be helpful to remember that it wasn’t always this way. At one point in time, you saw something in your partner that was special–so special that you decided to devote a large portion of your time and life to being with him or her.

In sessions I often ask, what was it about your partner that drew you to him/her? This question cuts to the root of a partner’s shared connection.  Maybe it was his laugh, her intellect, or the fact that you have a shared love of traveling.  Whatever the reason, something brough and kept you together. Remembering and honoring these attributes about your partner can help to re-establish and cultivate a sense of mutual respect and admiration.  

Couples come to counseling because they believe that their relationship is worth fighting to keep.  Taking a strength-based approach does not mean neglecting to address the concerns at hand, it means utilizing areas of strength to fuel the fight.  Your strengths and your values can serve as a flashlight on your journey towards recovery, guiding you back to the path you deviated from.

To learn more about using your strengths to repair your relationship, schedule a couples counseling session with one of our licensed counselors here.

Written by Joanna Aslanian

You’re Both Right

During a conflict with your partner, you may find yourself falling into the common “I’m right/You’re wrong” thinking trap. You are on the defense, concentrating your energy on “winning” the argument by proving to your partner all of the reasons why your position is the correct one.  Sound familiar?

When we switch into this mode, we are more concerned with “being right” than resolving the conflict at hand. In doing so, we tune out what our partner is feeling—using a metaphorical red pen to keep track of all the corrections we would like to make once he or she has finished speaking. At this point we are no longer listening.

To avoid falling into this trap, it can be helpful to remember that you can both be right. Each of you is experiencing your own subjective interpretation of events, and all of the emotions associated with them.  Even if you can use logic or deduction to prove your point, you can never disprove what your partner is feeling.  Everyone has a right to his/her opinions and emotions.  And even though you may disagree, you can still respect and validate those experiences.

Some helpful tips:

  • Give your partner your full attention. When you feel yourself starting to become defensive, shift your focus back towards what your partner is trying to communicate.  (And make sure that you are free from any outside distractions -television, cellphone, etc.).
  • Ask clarifying questions. Instead of responding quickly, stay with what your partner is trying to say by asking him more questions.  This will show your partner that you are interested and care about what he is saying.  It will also help prevent simple misunderstandings and save you both from unnecessary heartache.
  • Validate your partner. Everyone wants to feel heard, and a simple validation can go a long way towards preventing an argument from escalating. Let your partner know that you care about her emotions by making a statement about her experience, such as “I hear how frustrated you are.”

To learn more about improving communication with your partner, schedule a couples counseling session with one of our professional counselors:

booknow.appointment-plus.com/6mx5082x/

Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

Pre-Marital Counseling: What to Expect

If you are preparing to tie the knot, it is wise to take some time considering both the strengths and potential weak points in your relationship.  Engaging in pre-marital counseling is a proactive, preventative measure that you can take to safeguard your relationship during this stressful time of transition.  It is not necessary for you to have any outstanding conflicts or concerns in your relationship in order to benefit from pre-marital counseling (although it is also okay if you do!)  Pre-marital counseling is a form of future planning during which you and your partner will have open and honest dialogue about your concerns, hopes, and expectations for your future together.

At Artemis Counseling, we do not have a specific formula or timeline for pre-marital counseling.  Instead, we tailor treatment goals that are specific to the needs of each individual couple. Some common topics for pre-marital counseling include:

  • Family Planning: This can take the form of discussions about the desired timeline for having (or not having) one or more child.  It may also mean navigating how to make a smooth transition when introducing a step-mother/father, or integrating a blended family.
  • Finances: Getting legally married means that your finances will become joined.  Creating a plan for managing money, budgeting, and having joint or separate accounts are important considerations.  This can be particularly pertinent when there are large salary discrepancies, spending habits, or debts between you and your fiance.  
  • Division of Household Tasks: As a couples counselor, it a common phenomenon for seemingly simple disagreements about household tasks to flare into perpetual arguments over time.  Setting expectations for the division of household labor and acceptable degrees of cleanliness can prevent this topic from becoming a future point of contention.
  • Relationships with in-laws: Each family has its own unique culture, traditions, eccentricities, and dysfunctions.  When entering your fiance’s family, you may be traversing some new and uncharted territory.  In pre-marital counseling, you can address expectations about the amount of involvement that in-laws will play in your new family.  This may include issues such as holidays, living arrangements, child care, and financial assistance.

To learn more about the benefits of pre-marital counseling, schedule an intake session with one of our professional counselors:

https://booknow.appointment-plus.com/6mx5082x/

Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

The Power of Empathy

As couples counselors, we recognize common patterns of issues that couples tend to struggle with. One of these issues is a lack of willingness to understand the other partner’s perspective. When someone tries to understand where another person is coming from and an attempt is made to recognize how another person is feeling, empathy is developed. Empathy requires you to make a genuine effort to listen and understand your partner’s experience.

When we are upset, it’s not the easiest to pause and join our partner in their hurt or frustration. However, it is highly important to fully listen and attempt to understand your partner’s feelings. We are quick to minimize or try to soothe strong emotions. We don’t like to see our loved ones hurting so we try to make them feel better.

Instead, we encourage you to listen to understand your partner. Instead of telling them it will be okay, try to ask about how they’re feeling. Take it a step further and validate their feelings. This requires you to cast aside any judgment you might have about the situation. Statements like, “You must feel so hurt,” or “I hear you saying that you’re angry- I understand how you could feel that way,” are examples of how you can show empathy.  Statements such as these express that you hear your partner and are validating their feelings.

Empathy allows our partner to feel heard and understood. Empathy deepens our ability to see the world from our partner’s point of view. Ultimately, this allows for greater connection and understanding. Listen closely, imagine feeling the way that your partner does, and reflect that understanding back. It takes practice, but a little empathy can go a long way.

If you are struggling with empathy in your relationship, one of our couples counselors would be happy to help. Click below to schedule:

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Written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.

How to Apologize Effectively

As couples counselors, apologizing is a topic that we are highly familiar with. Apologizing is a crucial communication tool in healthy relationships. We often work with couples on how to apologize effectively. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a half-hearted apology that just doesn’t feel genuine. It takes a genuine apology to help us move forward in our relationships.

We recently listened to the Freakonomics podcast episode, “How to Optimize Your Apology” and were excited to hear about the research that has been done surrounding effective apologies. Cultural sociologist, Karen Cerulo, partnered with fellow sociologist, Janet Ruane, to study the effectiveness of an apology. They looked at the format and content of the apology to determine which apologies are most effective. Here’s what they found is the most successful apologies:

  1. Pay special attention to how you start and end your apology. What you say first and last in an apology is what people remember. The first thing you say is a “primer.” Show remorse at the very start of the conversation and intentionally end with how sorry you are.
  2. Avoid talking about yourself. The most successful apology focuses on the person that was hurt, not on the apologizer. Steer clear of talking about yourself or justifying your actions. The research shows that why you did it is less important than your regret or remorse. People don’t want context, they want to know you are sorry.
  3. Apologize for what you did. Cerulo points to many apologies where people say sorry for a misunderstanding. This does not show ownership of a mistake. Apologize for what you did, not what someone else thought. Highlight what you did to offend someone. (Read: “I’m sorry you thought I was being rude.” Compared to: “I’m sorry that I was rude to you.”)
  4. Apologize sooner rather than later. You should make an apology close to when the offense occurs. We know that waiting to apologize tends to build frustration in the hurt partner. Owning up to your mistake earlier rather than later allows for repair attempts to begin.
  5. If possible, commit to doing better*. Expressing a desire to do better next time shows true remorse. If you are unsure of how to do so, ask. Start with, “How can I do better next time?” This shows that not only are you remorseful, but you also want to grow and learn from the mistake.

*If you offer a solution or make a promise to do better, you must follow through. If you do not follow through, your apology becomes empty words and is ultimately ineffective.

As a general rule, exhibiting authentic remorse is the most important part of an apology. Let your partner know that you are sorry and you mean it. We are all going to mess up in our relationships- its par for the course. If conflict is inevitable, then so are apologies. Remember: be quick to apologize, keep the focus on who you’ve hurt, and be intentional about sharing your remorse.

If you or you and your partner would like to work on apologizing and other communication skills, please schedule with one of our counselors below:

Book an appointment with Artemis Counseling and Creative Life

Written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.