We Have Nothing in Common!

There are certain attributes that initially attracted you to your partner and kept you with him or her for the duration of your relationship.  Yet some couples find that at times it feels like they have nothing in common. This can be a lack of shared interests/hobbies, incongruent views on politics, religion, or parenting philosophies (to name a few.)

Tracing your steps back to the beginning of your relationship can be a helpful reminder of your strength as a couple.  Have you or your partners’ views shifted radically during the course of your relationship, or did these differences always exist?  If these differences were present from the beginning, then there must have been other connective factors to create “positive sentiment override” – a term John Gottman coined to mean that the positive perceptions of your relationship outweigh the negative. 

Perhaps you have dramatically differing views on your standards of household cleanliness, but you have a shared love of travel and a fantastic sex life! 

While some differences may cause distress, having opinions that differ from your partner is not necessarily a bad thing.  You may be able to enjoy healthy debates that challenge one another and facilitate mutual growth, or you may play off of one another’s strengths for mutual benefit.  For instance, if you love a clean home but are poor with managing money, you can allocate the tasks that you each do best. 

As for shared interests, try out something completely new!  Join a book club, painting class, or yoga studio together. Whatever it is- just make sure that it is a novel experience that you can both encounter for the first time together. 

Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

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Polyamory and Open Relationships

Some couples prefer a traditional monogamous relationship, while others may seek out alternative options that deviate from the path of a culturally-defined “ mainstream” lifestyle.  Any of these consensual relationship arrangements can be healthy, and they can also go awry. 

As with any relationship, open communication, clear expectations, and firm boundaries are key elements to successful non-monogamous pairings. Just because the relationship is nontraditional does not mean that it is without limits; couples should set guidelines and periodically revisit these throughout their relationship.  These guidelines vary widely for each couple; for instance, one couple may only feel comfortable with their partner sleeping with a member of a specific gender, while another may require a detailed account of all interactions. 

Some couples may begin their relationship with an understanding that it is open or polyamorous, while others may choose this path down the line as their values and desires shift with age. If you are considering opening your relationship or are currently engaged in non-monogamy, a key aspect to consider is whether you are capable of experiencing compersion.  Compersion is a term that means one derives pleasure or joy from the knowledge that their partner is receiving love or pleasure from another individual.  Understanding this about yourself can assist in deciding whether or not it would be good fit to enter or sustain a polyamorous or open lifestyle. 

To learn more about maintaining a healthy relationship, reach out to one of our licensed couples counselor by clicking below:

Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

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Household Tasks

Performing household tasks- such as washing dishes and doing the laundry – are an inevitability of adult life.  Every individual has different preferences and standards for the levels of cleanliness that he/she upholds. When a couple chooses to cohabitate, they must also reconcile any differences in the performance of household tasks.  

It is not uncommon for couples to become stuck in a pattern of frustration surrounding the division or completion of menial tasks. If it goes unaddressed, what was seemingly small can- over time- feel monumental.  Here are some pieces of insight to help prevent or remedy this issue in your own relationship:

  • Keep in mind that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to divide household tasks; what works for one couple may be ineffective for another.  For example, there are some couples who may function best with a 50/50 split, while others may prefer a more fluid approach, and still others may have an arrangement where one partner completes the lion’s share of all household tasks.  All of these arrangements can work, as long as the situation is agreeable to both partners.
  • Getting help means relinquishing control. If you like tasks to be completed in a specific way, it may be challenging to allow your partner to take over.  If your partner is unfamiliar with a task, it may be appropriate to provide some amount of guidance if this can be done while maintaining a stance of mutual respect.  Once you have agreed to divvy up tasks, however, it is important that you allow your partner to have autonomy in completing his or her share; otherwise, you may be inadvertently signing up to complete more tasks than you would prefer.

To learn more about navigating household tasks with your partner, contact one of our couples counselors by clicking below:

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Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

Creating and Maintaining Emotional Intimacy

Couples who come through our office often cite communication challenges and a lack of physical intimacy as main areas of concern.  An important third element in the relationship equation is the concept of emotional intimacy. Being able to communicate effectively and productively is a must, but it does not necessarily equate to emotional intimacy.  

So what exactly is emotional intimacy?  One could argue that a definition of this abstract feeling is highly subjective–but for the purpose of this blog, I will establish two main components:

  • An interest and in-depth understanding of each others’ internal worlds.  Effective communication is essential, but if it is only being used to discuss superficial aspects of your lives together, it will not do much to bring you closer together on an emotional level.  Asking questions and exploring one another’s passions, dreams, fears, and future aspirations are examples of topics that will lead to connection on a deeper emotional level.
  • Being vulnerable. Vulnerability precedes intimacy because it opens a pathway to your inner world that only a select few individuals are allowed to access.  By making yourself vulnerable, you are creating the opportunity for yourself to be fully known and accepted–and inviting your partner to do the same.

Both effective communication and physical closeness can exist without emotional intimacy (but rarely do!)  Without it a relationship loses its foundational strength. If you and your partner need assistance to locate or re-establish your ability to be fully present with one another, contact one of our couples counselors by clicking below:

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Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

Mind-Reading: Why Doesn’t My Partner Just Know?

Rationally, we all know that our partner is incapable of reading our minds and anticipating our needs.  And yet, holding fast to this expectation is one of the most common blunders that we see in couples counseling.  

How can your partner know that you need more physical affection, or that you are bothered by the way she loads the dishwasher, if you never tell him/her? And what repercussions does this have on the relationship?

Here are some simple tips to improve communication and avoid this trap:

  1. If something bothers you, speak up! While few people enjoy confrontation, getting into the practice of airing your concerns in the moment will prevent both the continuation of the offense and residual resentment that builds over time.
  2. If you are looking for support, let your partner know how they can provide that.  Every person and situation is unique; sometimes you may need to talk, while other times you just need to be held.  Letting your partner know exactly what you need in the moment will ensure that your needs are being met.
  3. Catch yourself in the act.  If you find yourself feeling frustrated with your partner, ask yourself if you have done all that you can to express your needs and concerns. The more that you can recognize these mind-reading tendencies, the sooner you will be able to resolve them.

To learn more about improving communication with your partner, reach out to one of our couples counselors by clicking below:

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Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

When Arguments Escalate

It may have begun with a heated conversation that progressed from yelling to slamming doors or throwing items across the room.  Maybe there was alcohol involved, or maybe one partner criticized the other so harshly that it sliced through them like a bullet wound.  Regardless of how it began, at some point it becomes clear to you that this is not a safe, productive, or healthy situation.

Perhaps you are able to remove yourself from the setting–leaving to take a walk or spend the night with a friend.  Or perhaps you aren’t.

When arguments escalate to the point of yelling and screaming at one another, this is a big red flag that poor communication with your partner has reached a critical mass.  The fundamental tenets of mutual respect, compassion, and understanding are missing–leaving the relationship vulnerable to a vicious cycle of criticism and contempt.

Without intervention, some couples may continue to escalate, even to the point of domestic violence. If conflicts become so heated that they reach the point of actual or threatened physical violence, both your relationship–and safety–are in dire jeopardy.  

Working with a licensed couples counselor to address any past relationship traumas or ineffectual patterns of communication can help prevent and safeguard both yourself and your relationship. If you or your partner continues to struggle with emotional regulation, supplemental individual counseling may be indicated.  

If you or someone you know is in danger, call the confidential, toll-free 24-hour state of Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline by dialing 877-863-6338.

To learn more about de-escalation during times of conflict, contact one of our licensed couples counselors below:

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Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P

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:

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Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P