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Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 13

Therapy, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Lafayette, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, San Ramon

Relationship therapy helps people risk being vulnerable

Want a crash course in how to improve your relationship? Based on my experience as a relationship counselor, the quickest way to have a better relationship is to acknowledge the hurt you’ve caused your partner and admit to the hurt your mate has caused you.

Validate the Hurt You’ve Caused Your Partner

People are usually surprised to discover in couples counseling that when they validate the hurt they’ve caused their partner, their relationship takes a dramatic turn for the better. When one person admits that they did something hurtful, the other person usually does as well. In other words, when one partner risks being more vulnerable, the other person is likely to take a similar risk.

Admit that You Feel Hurt by Your Partner

Another way to risk being vulnerable is to admit that you feel hurt by your partner rather than continuing to get angry at him or her. If you look closely, you’ll probably discover that hurt is the root cause of your anger towards your mate. Often in relationship therapy I see people expressing anger towards their partner rather than revealing the hurt that gave rise to their anger. The problem is that anger tends to make people defensive, so approaching your partner with anger will probably not yield the results you want.

In couples therapy, I help clients get in touch with the underlying hurt that ignited their anger, and guide them in telling their partner why they feel hurt. This usually causes the other person to stop bristling and feel saddened by the hurt they caused their partner. This can lead to a sincere desire to avoid hurting their partner in that way going forward.

Finding the Courage and Humility to Risk Being Vulnerable

It may sound counter-intuitive to make yourself vulnerable with your partner when you’re feeling hurt and angry. But things are unlikely to get resolved in your relationship unless someone takes this risk first. Making yourself vulnerable with your partner is an act of strength, not a sign of weakness.

When you’re already feeling hurt by your partner, the “knee-jerk” reaction is to put up walls, such as coldness and anger, to conceal your hurt and prevent further hurt. Based on my observation in relationship therapy, self-righteousness and fear of being hurt again are the main reasons why people avoid being vulnerable with their partner. But this simply creates a vicious cycle in which both partners avoid being vulnerable with each other and, instead, put up cold and angry walls.

The antidote to fear and self-righteousness are courage and humility, which will allow you to risk being vulnerable and pave the way to a great relationship. As a couples counselor, I’ve noticed that when one partner finds the courage and humility to admit how their mate hurt them and how they hurt their mate, the other person tends to take similar risks and the relationship improves exponentially.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such.

Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 12

Therapy, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Lafayette, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, San Ramon

Relationship therapy helps people acknowledge the hurt they caused their mate

I often notice in couples therapy that one person feels hurt by the other’s behavior, but downplays the hurt they caused their mate. In these situations, I help couples realize that acknowledging how much they hurt their partner is actually a key to resolution.

Why People Often Downplay the Hurt They’ve Caused Their Partner

Based on my observation in relationship counseling, people tend to minimize how much they’ve hurt their mate for a couple reasons. One is that they feel hurt by their partner, and this causes them to feel angry. Because they feel angry, it’s hard for them to feel empathy regarding the hurt that they, in turn, caused their mate.

Another reason why people tend to invalidate their partner’s hurt feelings is because acknowledging the fact that they hurt their partner would mean that they’d become more aware of their own mistakes. And looking at our own errors can be painful. But in my experience as a relationship therapist, it can also be very instructive.

Anger May Be Covering up Hurt

When we feel hurt by someone, a common reaction is to feel angry. I’ve discovered in relationship counseling that people tend to be keenly aware of their anger at their mate, but not very aware of the hurt that’s driving their anger. Hurt is a very vulnerable emotion, so we often cover it up with other emotions such as anger that feel “safer.”

Don’t Minimize Your Partner’s Hurt

People often start couples counseling because they can’t figure out how to stop arguing. It never occurs to them is to validate the emotional pain they caused their mate. Psychology tells us that human beings have a strong need to feel loved, especially by those whom we’re closest to. When something happens that causes us to feel that our partner doesn’t care about us enough, this causes deep hurt because it symbolizes not feeling loved enough in general as a human being.

If we seem rather indifferent to the hurt we caused our mate, or suggest that they’re over-reacting or that their hurt is trivial, we’re not grasping how essential it is for each human being to feel sufficiently cared about, particularly by their partner. This human need will never change, so I tell people in relationship therapy that we have two choices. We can recognize this cardinal need and acknowledge the hurt we caused our mate. Or we can repeatedly dismiss the emotional pain we caused our partner and brace ourselves for never-ending conflict. Take your pick.

In relationship counseling, people often say that their mate shouldn’t feel hurt by x, y, or z.  But, it doesn’t really matter if we think our partner is justified in feeling hurt by something. The bottom line is that they do feel hurt, and nothing will get resolved until we validate their emotional pain. Can we acknowledge that, for them, something we did was hurtful – without judging whether or not they should feel hurt by this? Remember, your partner is not you.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such.

Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 11

Therapy, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Lafayette, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, San Ramon

Relationship therapy helps people express their needs effectively

Does your loved one react negatively when you express your preferences? In the last blog post, I described a method I teach in relationship therapy that can help you communicate your needs to your mate. But your timing and delivery are just as important as the words you use to convey your preferences.

Timing Makes All the Difference When Communicating With Your Partner

It’s essential to take into account your own mindset as well as your partner’s when you initiate a conversation about a touchy subject. Let’s say you discover a trail of clothes on the bedroom floor, and you feel angry about this. A common mistake I’ve noticed in relationship counseling is that people impulsively give their partner feedback without first allowing themselves a “cool-down” period. Although it’s tempting to do this, your partner is unlikely to consider your request if your approach is hostile, critical, or nagging.

In relationship therapy, I recommend that clients only broach a difficult subject with their mate when they’re certain they can do so in a pleasant manner. It could take anywhere from a few moments to a few weeks before you’re in the right frame of mind to talk kindly with your partner about some issue. Try to be honest with yourself about your state of mind rather than telling yourself that you’re ready when you’re still seething. Otherwise, your mate will pick up on this and a conflict could ensue.

How to Achieve the Right Mindset before a Difficult Conversation

Here are some suggestions I give relationship therapy clients to help them “cool-down” before bringing up a sensitive matter. Breathe deeply. (We’re not talking about angry, exaggerated breathing here). If needed, respectfully let your partner know that you need a “time-out.” Specify what you’re going to do (e.g., take a walk) and when you’ll be back so it doesn’t seem like you’re punishing him or her. Exit graciously without stomping or door slamming. Punishing behaviors usually create backlash, and will most likely cause your mate to discount your request.

I also suggest in relationship counseling that people write down how they’d like their partner to feel by the end of the dialogue and what outcome they hope to accomplish. Imagine the expression you’d like to see on your partner’s face when the conversation is over. You can also envision your partner’s angry face in past arguments to discourage you from starting a new argument. Remind yourself that your mate probably won’t be interested in your perspective unless you’re in the right space. Journaling and talking to a therapist or friend about what’s on your mind can also help you avoid speaking to your partner in a way you’ll regret.

Once you’re in the right mindset, your choice of words, tone, facial expressions, and body language are likely to be pleasant. But if you’re still feeling upset, your mate will probably pick up on this through your choice of words and delivery, and the conversation is bound to be a bumpy ride.

Stay tuned for part 12.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such.

Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 10

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Do you avoid telling your partner your preferences? I’ve discovered in relationship counseling that when people avoid standing up for their needs, it’s often because they dread a negative reaction from their mate. But here’s another way to look at it. People who tip toe around their partner’s needs tend to harbor resentment towards him or her. As a result, they vacillate between stuffing their resentment in order to keep peace in the relationship, and suddenly getting angry at their partner when they can’t contain their resentment anymore.

These angry outbursts generally elicit very negative responses from their mate, which is exactly what they were trying to avoid in the first place. So suppressing your preferences in order to maintain harmony in your relationship could be causing disharmony. For this reason, I teach relationship therapy clients how to stop the pendulum swing between silent resentment and unexpected blow-ups at their partner, and find the happy medium between these two extremes.

How to Let Your Partner Know Your Preferences – Step 1

Here’s a three-step communication strategy I teach in relationship counseling so that clients can effectively convey their needs to their partner. Step 1 is to use a lead-in statement or question that will signal to your mate that there’s something important you’d like to talk about. This gives your partner a chance to “switch gears” before you share what’s on your mind. An example of a lead-in question is: “Do you have a few minutes to talk right now?”

Therapy, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Lafayette, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, San Ramon

Relationship therapy teaches people how to convey their preferences

How to Let Your Partner Know Your Preferences – Step 2

Step 2 is to make an “I statement.” I’ve observed in relationship therapy that most people are good at making “you statements,” i.e., statements in which they blame their partner, but are less familiar with “I statements.” An “I statement” has nothing to do with blame. Why would anyone want to take our preferences into account if we make a blaming statement?

An “I statement” expresses how your partner’s behavior makes you feel. A common error I’ve noticed in relationship counseling is that people often tell their partner what they think about their behavior rather than how it makes them feel. When someone cares about us, they may be willing to adjust their behavior when they learn how it makes us feel. In contrast, what wethink about that behavior is not likely to move them nearly as much. The following is a sample “I statement:” “I feel stressed when you leave your clothes on the floor.”

How to Let Your Partner Know Your Preferences – Step 3

Step 3 is to follow your “I statement” with a request. I recommend this in relationship therapy in order to help clients clearly communicate what behavioral change they’d like their partner to make. For example: “I’m wondering if you’d be willing to put your clothes in the hamper or on hangers after you take them off.”

Of course, your delivery and timing are essential, too. I’ll address this in part 11.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such.

Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 9

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In the course of relationship counseling I sometimes notice that one person accommodates his or her partner too often in order to avoid “rocking the boat.” If this describes you, it might be time to consider whether you’re really helping your relationship by doing this.

Is “Going Along to Get Along” Really Helping Your Relationship?

When someone makes too many sacrifices in their relationship, they often think it’s helping to “keep the peace,” and don’t realize that they’re actually having a very negative effect on the relationship.  When we override too many of our needs, we tend to start feeling resentful, angry, depressed, and dissatisfied. I’ve observed in relationship therapy that people who go along with their mate’s preferences too often harbor a lot of resentment and anger towards their partner. And they obviously have to find outlets for these feelings.

For example, they may make passive aggressive comments and engage in passive aggressive behaviors with their mate. They may sometimes have unexpected, angry outbursts at their partner. They may talk to others about the resentment and anger they have for their mate, and, hopefully, may seek individual or couples therapy because of these built-up emotions.

I’ve also noticed in relationship counseling that people who cater too much to their partner’s needs may feel depressed because they’re neglecting many of their own preferences. Depression makes their life difficult and causes the relationship to go from bad to worse.

And, sometimes people who accommodate their mate too much experience general dissatisfaction with the relationship. This can cause them to feel attracted to other people, have an affair, and/or secretly consider ending the relationship. If they’re getting relationship help, this added layer of complexity has to be sorted out.

Therapy, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Lafayette, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, San Ramon

Relationship therapy helps people stand up more for their needs

Do You Make Too Many Sacrifices in Your Relationship Due to Fear?

Some people continue to “go along to get along” in their relationship, even though this is harming their relationship and causing them to feel more and more unhappy. So why would anyone continue doing this? In my work as a relationship therapist, the answer I repeatedly encounter is fear.

Most people I work with don’t think fear is a big issue for them. They’re surprised to discover that they’re afraid of standing up more for their needs. Once I give them the tools to do this in relationship therapy, people often tell me that they’re afraid their partner will get upset with them for stating a preference or request. In other words, they’re afraid of the tension that may arise if they try to get more of their needs met. However, if they continue to give in to this fear, they can expect their mental health and the health of their relationship to continue declining. This is a high price to pay for so-called peace in the relationship.

Fortunately, relationship counseling can strengthen people enough to stand up more for their own needs. I’ll discuss how to let your mate know your preferences in part 10.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such.

Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 8

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As a relationship therapist, I often notice that people either over-emphasize their own needs at the expense of their partner’s, or cater too much to their partner’s preferences at the expense of their own. In both scenarios, the person whose needs are taking a back seat tends to feel resentful, angry, and unhappy.

Do You Put Your Personal Interests Ahead of Your Partner’s, or Vice Versa?

In my experience as a relationship counselor, when one person regularly puts their personal interests ahead of their partner’s, this has a very negative effect on the relationship. Psychology tells us that the normal course of development for human beings is to become less self-centered as we mature. Think about how hard it is for little kids to share something that’s important to them. We may feel that we’ve matured far beyond that point, but we could be more self-absorbed than we realize in our relationship. And this could true of our partner as well.

Rate How Self-Absorbed or Altruistic You and Your Partner Are With Each Other

Here are some questions to ask yourself with total honesty so you can determine how self-absorbed or altruistic you are in your relationship. Although you can answer these questions with a “yes” or “no,” I recommend to relationship therapy clients that they rate these questions on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. If you write down these ratings, they’ll give you a clearer sense of where you are on the continuum between self-absorbed and altruistic behavior than “yes” or “no” answers will.

The questions are as follows: Do I honor my partner’s needs as much as my own? Do I listen respectfully when my partner states a preference or makes a request? Do I seek win-win resolutions rather than the no-win position of “being right?” Do I frequently compromise with my partner? Do I go along with his or her preference if I realize that it makes more sense than my original preference in that situation? I also suggest rating your partner on these questions in order to get an even better snapshot of the relationship, but I don’t recommend sharing any of your responses with your partner unless a relationship counselor is facilitating the exchange.

Therapy, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Lafayette, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, San Ramon

Relationship therapy helps people to be less self-absorbed

Is Self-Absorption Causing Your Relationship to Wither?

Your ratings of yourself and your partner may go a long way in explaining why your relationship is or isn’t thriving. This has often been my experience as a relationship therapist. The reason is that relationships need sufficient love to survive, and love can be likened to the light a plant needs to flourish. Since self-absorption is contrary to love, too much self-absorption causes a relationship to wither from insufficient love, similar to a plant not receiving enough light.

By the same token, I’ve observed in relationship counseling that some people don’t over-emphasize their own needs, but instead, harm their relationship by making too many sacrifices. I’ll discuss this in Part 9.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such.

Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 7

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Do things start going downhill when you and your partner have different points of view? As a relationship therapist, I’ve discovered that people often think they’ll get what they want by discounting their partner’s perspective. But the truth is that they’ll probably get more of what they want if they acknowledge their partner’s way of looking at things.

Disagreeing with Your Partner is a Dead-End

When we invalidate another person’s opinion, that person tends to disagree with our point of view and we reach an impasse. Think about how you feel when someone negates your perspective. In relationship counseling, people say they feel angry, hurt, sad, and rejected when this happens. This may prompt them to react by getting angry, arguing, and even ending the conversation. As you can see, resisting your partner’s outlook is a dead-end, and may cause added problems in your relationship.

Resolution is the Merging of Two Roads

Imagine that you and your partner are world leaders convening for negotiations. The more open-minded you are regarding the other leader’s viewpoint, the greater the chances that he or she will consider your perspective. You both must freely voice your differing opinions so those opinions can eventually merge. This is what I’ve noticed over and over again as a relationship therapist.

Therapy, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Lafayette, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, San Ramon

Relationship therapy helps couples reach resolution

The Steps to Resolution

Here are the steps I teach in relationship counseling to help people communicate in a way that leads to resolution. Step 1 is listening to each other’s opinions with respect. Step 2 is acknowledging each other’s viewpoints in a sincere manner. (Acknowledging your partner’s perspective in a patronizing manner won’t work).Step 3 is reflecting in your responses that you’re making an effort to integrate your partner’s outlook into your own. In Step 4, the two roads of your conflicting opinions gradually merge. This occurs naturally as couples follow the other steps.

An Example of How to Reach Resolution

Here’s an example of how to reach resolution that I share in relationship counseling. Let’s say a couple is comparing paint swatches in order to decide what color to paint a room. Partner A says she likes a bright yellow paint swatch. Partner B says in a sincere manner that that’s a nice yellow but that he’d prefer a more neutral shade. He points out a gray tone, but adds that she would probably prefer something more cheery. Partner A authentically acknowledges his love of gray, and says she would find gray walls rather drab, but is willing to go with something more subdued than a bright yellow. Partner B says sincerely that he sees her point about the gray possibly being too drab, and suggests a warm taupe as a compromise between yellow and gray. They agree on that hue.

As a relationship therapist, I see this conversation as a success because they followed the four steps to resolution, and neither of them gave in to something they would be unhappy with. Striking a balance between both people’s needs is very important.

Stay tuned for part 8.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such

Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 6

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As a relationship therapist, I’ve noticed that people sometimes act younger than they are when their partner’s opinion differs from theirs. In the language of psychology, they “regress” to a younger age. I believe this happens when people perceive their partner’s perspective as a “threat” to their emotional well-being.

Acting Younger Than Our Age When We Disagree

Let’s say, for instance, that your partner asks you not to leave dirty dishes in the sink from now on, whereas you feel it’s fine to clean them later. You might feel stressed by your partner’s request since you often feel pressed for time. This stress is a “threat” to your emotional survival, so you might not respond well since “threats” to our well-being can send us to a very primal place. This is why people often say in relationship counseling that they’re “not themselves” when they disagree with their partner.

If our emotional or physical welfare feels threatened on some level, we’re at risk of reacting from a primitive part of the brain. This can cause us to act younger than our biological age. As a relationship therapist, I’ve observed that these “threats” to one’s emotional survival are usually what cause people to respond negatively to their partner.

How Can We Act Our Age When We See Things Differently?

Relationship therapy helps people act like adults when they disagree

Relationship therapy helps people act like adults when they disagree

I often tell clients in relationship counseling that awareness is the first step to change.Knowledge is power. You now realize that you’re at risk of acting childlike when your partner’s viewpoint doesn’t match yours, so you’re less likely to step in that ditch.

With this awareness, you can talk yourself through challenging moments using phrases like this: “Wow, the moment he/she said something I disagreed with, my knee-jerk reaction was to feel tense. I really see how the primitive part of my brain feels threatened and wants to resist, but I’m not going to give in to that impulse. Deep breath… Respond from the rational part of your brain… Your survival is not really at stake here, as the primitive part of your brain imagines. We’ll figure out a resolution that works for both of us.” If you can’t do this in the moment, consider respectfully letting your partner know that you need a “time-out” so you can be at your best for this discussion versus arguing. Time-outs and effective self-talk are tried-and-true forms of relationship help.

The Keys to Success

As I often tell clients in relationship therapy, we all have a child, an adult, and a parent inside. The trick is responding to our partner from the adult part of us, since responding like a child or parent probably won’t go over very well. The rational part of our brain is much more developed than in any other species, so we have the capacity to favor that part of our brain. There are two keys to doing this. One is using our will to override the primitive part of our brain. The other is simply practice.

Stay tuned for part 7.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such.

Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 5

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Ever wonder what would help your relationship improve the most? Based on my experience as a relationship therapist, mutual respect seems to be the cornerstone of a great partnership. Think about it. We tend to gravitate towards people who treat us with a lot of respect, and often harbor negative feelings towards people who have disrespected us.

The Many Faces of Respect and Disrespect

Our tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, words, behavior, and the timing our communications speak volumes about how much we respect or disrespect someone. And I’ve noticed in relationship therapy that just one drop of disrespect can “spoil the broth” in a relationship. For instance, if you roll your eyes when your partner is speaking, that’s not going to go over very well even if the rest of your demeanor is respectful.

Why is Respect Such a Big Deal in a Relationship?

The bottom line is that people don’t feel fully loved when their partner treats them disrespectfully, and when they don’t feel fully loved in their primary relationship, then, according to psychology, they essentially feel as if the foundation of their self-worth is being threatened. This “threat” often causes people to react negatively, e.g., with anger, sadness, and so forth. For this reason, people often describe times when they felt disrespected by their partner in great detail and with a lot of emotion in individual and couples therapy. It’s because feeling disrespected, and therefore not fully loved, pulls the rug out from under us since a big part of our self-esteem is based on feeling that certain people in our lives deeply love and care about us.

Therapy, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Lafayette, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, San Ramon

Relationship therapy can increase mutual respect between two people

Respect 101 to the Rescue

Early on in individual and couples counseling, people tend to be fairly unaware of certain ways that they’re treating they’re partner disrespectfully. In a sense, they need a crash course in respect in order to improve their relationship. Once someone starts treating his or her mate with respect on a more consistent basis, it’s as if a light went on in the relationship and many problems quickly get resolved. Sometimes people are surprised that their relationship improved so drastically in such a short amount of time.

Making Respect a Priority May Be Easier Than You Think

When couples habitually treat each other with disrespect, this tends to be a slippery slope that leads them downhill over time. Similarly, I’ve observed in individual and couples therapy that when people start treating their partner with more respect, the “snowball effect” kicks in here, too, and they find themselves making respect a priority in their relationship more and more. A big step in the right direction is simply deciding to come from a place of respect in your relationship. If that’s your intention, then it’ll probably be apparent in the way you speak and behave most of the time. Another step forward is to adjust behaviors that cause your partner to feel the most disrespected, since you’ll reap big dividends for making those changes.

Stay tuned for part 6.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such.

Relationship Help for Couples in Conflict – Part 4

Specializing in Relationship Help

Dating and Relationship Help

Do you remain in your relationship for the wrong reasons? As a relationship therapist, I’ve noticed that people sometimes stay in a relationship because of fear and guilt. For example, they may feel fear and guilt when they consider the impact that ending the relationship could have on their kids, their partner, their financial situation, and their living situation. Or they may be afraid that they’ll be lonely and will never find a better relationship if they leave.

Sadly, some people stay in a relationship to avoidnegative feelings such as their fears of leaving the relationship, not because the relationship providesenough positive feelings such as love. Within the context of relationship counseling, clients sometimes say they’re no longer in love with their partner, but feel it would be too inconvenient or scary to end the relationship.

Which Weighs More, the Fear of Leaving or the Fear of Staying?

In my work as a relationship therapist, I’ve observed that people are often keenly aware of their fears of ending a relationship, whereas they seldom consider what’s scary aboutstaying in a not-so-great relationship. There’s a tendency to “sweep beneath the carpet” how miserable the relationship is making them, and how they’ll continue to feel if they remain indefinitely in a relationship in which a lot of things aren’t going well.

In relationship counseling, I encourage clients to also consider what could be potentially scary or worrisome about remaining in a relationship that’s causing them unhappiness. This helps them achieve a more balanced view of whether to stay or go. Here are some sample questions to get you thinking more about your fears of staying in a troubled relationship. If you remain in your current relationship, how do you think you’ll feel 10 years from now? How will you feel if your partner’s behavior never improves? What impact will your partner’s behavior have on your kids over time? How do you feel about the fact that you’re modeling to your kids that one should remain in a relationship even if it’s an unhappy one? If you could weigh your fears of ending the relationship in comparison to how the relationship makes you feel on a daily basis, which would weigh more?

Therapy, Couples Counseling, Relationship Counseling, Lafayette, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, San Ramon

Relationship therapy helps people decide whether to stay in a relationship

Is Negative Thinking Preventing You from Seeing What Your Life Could Be Like?

I’ve also noticed that people tend to have a rather contracted view of what their life could be like if they were to leave a dysfunctional relationship. For example, they often don’t believe they could have a much better relationship, or that they would ever meet someone who’s well-suited to them. This limited view of what’s possible stems primarily from negative thinking about oneself and one’s life. Fortunately, individual and couples therapy can go a long way in helping people improve the quality of their thoughts and feel better about themselves. This, in turn, can help them realize that there’s a strong possibility that a better relationship and a better life are within their reach.

Stay tuned for part 5.

By Cynthia Mansur, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE CONTENT PROVIDED IN THIS BLOG IS NOT MEDICAL or THERAPEUTIC ADVICE: This blog is not provided for purposes of consulting, evaluation, treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis or professional services of any kind. The content of this blog does not incorporate discussion of all known therapeutic techniques, and is not intended to apply to any specific individual, specific condition or specific clinical situation. The content of this blog is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified, state-licensed and practicing professional who is providing you with professional services based on a written agreement between you and that professional. All  content in this blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice, including but not limited to medical advice, nor is the content of this blog to be relied upon as such.


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