The glue of relationships. Much of the research around couples therapy tells us what makes relationships stick, and as community we do hold a lot of wisdom intuitively. Stories are such a powerful way to communicate this, and the Glue Project delivers in an beautiful and engaging way. What I most appreciate about these videos are real people talking about real obstacles. Infidelity, a wandering eye, loss of a baby – all relationships will go through challenges at some point – and it helps to hear about how others got through. Here’s a rule to live by from a couple on the site: “Only one of us is allowed to be an asshole at one time.” No wonder that made it on a t-shirt!
Unfortunately, all the wisdom can fly out the window in a heated moment with your beloved. As therapists we’re taught how to make the wisdom stick when you are in your worst self. In our real lives and the real dynamic that you and your partner have it can be hard to implement what we know. In emotionally focused couples therapy we retrain the brain to come online when it’s going down an unwise path, increasing our ability to USE our wisdom!
I can get myopic about Mother’s Day, my mother, my mothering quest, my friends that are or aren’t mothers, that type of thing. This post from the Compassion Collective blows open that personal perspective.
“Mother’s Day IS about Love. But it’s not about commercial, comfortable love that snuggles up and stays home—it’s about love that throws open the door and marches out of our homes, beyond our fences and neighborhoods and into the hurting world to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the hurting, mother the motherless. Mother’s Day love is dangerous, revolutionary love that unites our one human family and reminds us that we belong to each other and that there is no such thing as other people’s children.
Mother’s Day was not created by Hallmark, but by a revolutionary warrior for peace. Julia Ward Howe — abolitionist, activist and poet — was the founder of the original Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Tired of war, tired of tribalism being valued above the lives of the vulnerable, her pain became her mission. She called out for revolution…Mother’s Day is that revolution.”
Under duress do you like to escape into your man or lady cave? Just to get away from…you know who. In emotionally focused therapy we might call la-la land a withdrawing, distancing or avoidant attachment strategy. Is going to la-la land healthy or unhealthy? Neither really, it’s usually a protective strategy that can sometimes work beautifully and sometimes reek communication havoc.
Jane: “Dear, you look stressed.”
Jack: “Yeah, I’m doomed with all my work pressure.”
Jane: “Let’s talk about it, tell me more about the stress.”
Jack: “Nah, lets go watch a sexy artsy film so I can forget about it.”
At this point Jane may just put her head on Jack’s shoulder and perhaps they do enjoy the movie, or she may feel irritated and shut out. The most important point here though is that we all have emotional strategies that aren’t right or wrong, it’s the awareness of if that strategy is working that’s key.
This is a funny spoof on prescription drug commercials and also a good reminder that while individual and couple therapy are awesome – wait I guess I’m biased (!)- there are other solutions out there.
Some couple clients have told me that have better conversations while walking or hiking. As spring approaches try some of the relationship conversations with a sweeping ocean view or in a meadow and see if it makes a difference. (Hey, if it worked for Edward and Bella a la Twilight it might work for mere mortals.)
We learn how to mirror at a very young age as shown here. As we get older it gets complicated, but all the basics are the same. As grown ups we might call it empathy, or recapping, listening, or curiosity, but basic verbal and non-verbal mirroring of another will get you far in developing communication skills.
Money, recognition and what comes along with them are nice, (Hello Prada) but they won’t help you live longer and be happier. It’s having meaningful and safe relationships that cause longer lives and happiness. “…social connections are good for us and loneliness kills” Says Robert Waldinger a Harvard psychiatrist who directs a groundbreaking 75 year study on adult human development and happiness. It’s not whether you are married or how many friends you have but the QUALITY of those relationships that matters he continues to say. They found people that were the most satisfied in their relationships in their 50s were the healthiest in their 80s.
Dr. Sue Johnson’s study, now 25 years in the making will be soon published. From her books and other research, we know that love isn’t a mystery, it’s a wired in survival code to keep those we depend on close. Her study shows that we can now isolate key elements in love, and systematically guide two disconnected people to a loving connection. Emotionally Focused Couple therapy is the product of this research. Re-mapping your relationship – it’s science.
What else would you want to do on a Friday night? Perhaps not a first choice, BUT we can’t always control timing. Changing how you feel is a process often involving small steps. If you feel it’s time to get out of that jealous slump you’ve been in about his 25 year old co-worker (for example), try reaching for a feeling that’s a little better, anger for example. After you’re good and angry, try for worry. You could move all way up to appreciating your partner, but if you can’t, go easy on yourself, one step at a time. Sometimes it’s good to indulge your state, and sometimes it’s time to move on from it. In emotionally focused therapy we spend time knowing when each option is most appropriate, but it may be safe to experiment with at home…
Why is blame so seductive and trapping? Brene Brown explains why.
Is finding fault part of your fights? If so what discomfort and pain might you be avoiding?