Archive for April, 2013

Spring Cleaning

April 30, 2013

We’re thrilled to feature a guest-post by Lisa Brooks Kift, MFT this week. Read on for some great tips for “spring cleaning” your relationship.

Having an hour more daylight and feeling spring in the air (in Northern California anyway), I can’t help but think about the meaning of spring. For many it’s a time of renewal and recharge, a sleepy-eyed yawn and waking up from a winter slumber of sorts. Many clean their homes, their cars and their work environments.

Marriages can also “fall asleep” and get into a rut. So let’s dust out the cobwebs and do some spring cleaning there too!

  • Take a walk down memory lane.  Do you remember when you met? Can you recall what drew you to each other? Take some time to reflect upon this time. Research shows that happier couples are the ones who can recall pleasant earlier memories. It can be an anchor for the relationship, a reminder of what you might have forgotten. ”Oh yea, that’s what I fell in love with…”
  • Get back to checking in. At one time you likely talked a lot, especially in the early stages of your relationship. As time goes on and life gets peppered with kid related responsibilities, family, social obligations and work, it’s easy to let the communication between you and your spouse get tossed out the window. Re-prioritize a daily relationship check-in, even if brief. ”How are you?…How are we?…Is everything ok?”
  • Look under the carpet for hidden resentments. One problem that can be a consequence of insufficient communicating in marriage is the build-up of negative emotions towards each other. If anger, disappointment or sadness go unchecked they can become toxic. Resentment can undermine the very fabric of the relationship. If there is something bothering you, bring it up. It’s useful to begin with “I statements” rather than using attacking language.
  • Check your assumptions. What if you were upset with your partner because you misunderstood what he/she said or meant? What if you never clarified this? Well, you’d be suffering for no reason. One of the best ways couples can avoid distress is to simply ask the other what they meant rather than assume you know. Otherwise, you will likely have a negative emotional response towards him/her, followed by a negative behavior – and all for nothing.
  • Create happy memories. If boredom, “same ‘ol, same ‘ol,” and a lack of fun has permeated your marriage, it’s time to have positive experiences together to lay down over the other. It’s kind of like the negativity bias of the brain; the more you internalize positive emotions, the more you can ease your brain away from the negative. Plan date nights, go out and play, take a walk or do something totally new and invigorating
  • If you broke it, fix it. We all make mistakes and can inadvertently hurt our partners. The important thing for the health of relationships is taking ownership when it’s appropriate.  John Gottman, PhD refers to successful repair attempts as “the happy couple’s secret weapon.”
  • More gratitude, please. There is a lot of research out there now on the power of gratitude, individually and in relationships. Express appreciation for each other when possible. Notice the good rather than focusing on the not so good. It’s easy for couples to slip into negative cycles together.  Make the effort to shift to a more positive (and reinforcing) cycle of support and gratitude for each other.
  • Take it up a notch if needed. If your marriage feels particularly “dusty” and in need of some TLC, get proactive and get access to the many tools available to help couples do just that; a local marriage weekend workshop or going through a marriage workbook or book might be just what you need.

It would be nice to imagine being able to do these things 365 days a year but this probably isn’t realistic for many.  At the very least, adding your marriage to your spring cleaning to-do list every year is one consistent way to put the focus back on you and your partner again. If you’ve slipped up and “fallen asleep” during the winter, you can get back to prioritizing your marriage again…and maybe make up for some lost time.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com, with tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health.  She is the author of The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples.  Lisa has a couples counseling practice in Marin County, CA.

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Three stages of Relationship

April 12, 2013

This post is written by Joe Kort and re-printed here with permission. Imago Couples Therapy teaches partners that every relationship goes through stages. In this blog post, Imago therapist Joe Kort provides a tongue-in -cheek way to remember them! View a quick video of Joe Kort.

Couples Therapy Secret Stage #1—Call of the Wild

You see your partner-to-be across a crowded room, and the attraction is immediate. You want to be with each other; you can’t see enough of each other. The experience is a wild ride boosted by a pharmacy of natural chemicals flooding your system. Actually, you find yourself falling for familiar love: your partner reminds you of positive traits of your parents or whomever was important in raising you.

In this stage, you say:

“Something about you seems so familiar.”
“Have we met before?”
“Feels like I’ve always known you.”

Call of the Wild Alert:  People in couples counseling know that this stage won’t last. The call of the wild—a transient positive emotion designed to come to an end—lasts for between 6-18 months. Its purpose is to connect and bond two people, making them willing to stay together when things become more difficult in the relationship—as they inevitably will!

Couples Therapy Secret Stage #2 — Call of the Child

Where did our love go? Your partner’s charms are replaced by little differences that annoy you. Soon they aren’t so little. You hope to dispel them, or at least cope with them by arguing and defending yourself. But trying to change or “train” your partner won’t work. You consider couples counseling.  During this stage, unresolved issues from childhood resurrect. Couples project onto each other feelings from the times their parents acted poorly and disappointed them.

In this stage, you say:

  • “You’re so different! What happened to you?”
  • “If you loved me, you’d know what I need!”
  • “You tricked me. I was a fool to believe in you!”

Call of the Child Alert:  Every long-term couple goes through the call of the child. This stage is also supposed to happen and supposed to end, but lasts longer than the call of the wild. Even though the call of the child makes you feel like you’re with the wrong person, if this is happening, you are in fact with the right one.

Couples Therapy Secret Stage #3 – Call of the Mild

You value each other as you are, not as you might become. Even though you may wish that differences and disagreements would go away, you begin to understand that some will always be there—and you accept them. In this stage, ideally, you learn to give unconditionally, relate non-defensively, and relate with empathy and compassion.

In this stage, you say:

“I love you—warts and all!”
“We are different—and that’s okay!”

Call of the Mild Alert:  To revive the love of call of the wild and bring romance back into your relationship, your couples counselor might suggest you surprise your partner by doing the same things you did during the beginning of your relationship. That will remind you both of the old times when things were new and exciting—and let you feel how your love has endured.

A note about the author:

Dr. Joe Kort is a certified sex addiction therapist, certified Imago Relationship Therapist and a certified Sex Therapist providing mental health outpatient services for individuals and couples needing sex rehab as well as those struggling with depression and anxiety issues in the Rochester, Bloomfield, Birmingham and Novi areas. The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health – www.CRSH.com – provides this information written by its founder, Dr. Kort, in order to educate interested readers. (248) 399-7447