Are your relationships just not working?
- Do you find yourself attracting unhealthy partners over and over again?
- Are you jealous when you see couples who seem happy together?
- Have you often missed “red flag” behaviors that are obvious to your friends?
- Do you want to share your life with someone, yet fear becoming too dependent?
- Is there a part of you that worries you will never find the right person?
- Do you feel hopeless – that things will never change?
Relationship counseling may help!<
I have helped women and men clarify their relationship vision, hone their communication skills, and heal the inner hurts that were blocking them from attracting and maintaining healthy relationships. Some of my clients are now happily married or in a long term committed relationship. I may be able to help you as well.
It’s discouraging when you would love to be in a committed relationship and nothing seems to work out.
Many people struggle to find a healthy, fulfilling relationship. Given the numerous factors that go into forming relationships, finding a good match may feel daunting, or even impossible. If you have had a series of failed relationships, you may believe you have to settle for a situation that isn’t fulfilling, or end up alone.
Things can get better.
Relationship counseling can help you heal the inner dynamics that may be blocking you from success in the area of intimate relationships. I can support you to:
- Clarify the needs and values that matter most to you in relationships
- Heal wounds that prevent you from forming healthy connections
- Transform core beliefs that lead you to make poor relationship choices
- Learn communication skills that support you in saying what you need, while staying centered in your heart
- Feel more confident and at ease with yourself
- Take conscious steps to make the right relationship choices for you
- Treat yourself with the same love and respect you would like from a partner
Questions & Answers
I’m still unclear about how relationship counseling can help improve my chances of finding a healthy partner.
Having a healthy relationship with yourself is a big key to attracting a healthy partner. In therapy you can develop a more authentic and compassionate relationship with yourself; one in which you are in touch with your deepest needs and inner wisdom, one in which you awaken to the beauty and gift that you are. When you relate to yourself this way, you tend to be happier and radiate that energy into the world. This opens the door for you to a healthy partner who naturally resonates with your energy.
Another important key is resolving our past relationship wounds. When we have unhealed hurts that we carry from childhood or earlier in our adult life, it can impact the quality of our relationships now. We may long for an intimate, committed relationship, but the hurt part (which is often unconscious), may feel unsafe when someone gets close. When this is the case, we may no longer see or respond to the other for who they are, but as a projection of the person who hurt us in the past. Therapy can help you understand and transform these patterns so that you are available to a healthy relationship.
What if I’m still not sure?
A trusting therapeutic relationship is an investment in yourself and your wellbeing. If you would like to get to know me and see if we are a match, simply click this link to contact me for a free 30-minute consultation.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions across the globe. It can present itself differently, depending on the person. However, the basis of anxiety is an irrational fear or worry. Some people experience it over specific things, while others deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.Even though anxiety is so prominent, those that don’t struggle with it often have a hard time fully understanding how it feels or how it can impact someone’s life. If you have a loved one with anxiety, you undoubtedly want to be there for them and help however you can. If you don’t understand what they’re going through, that isn’t easy to do. Unfortunately, you might even come across as cold or uncaring. So, what are some of the things your loved one with anxiety wants you to know? The more you understand about anxiety, the more you can do what’s best for the person you care about. 1. Don’t Talk Them Out of Their Feelings There may be times when someone with anxiety asks you if their fear is justified. In those cases, you can do your best to reassure them. Other than that, don’t try to relieve any negative feelings by talking that person out of them. That suggests that their feelings aren’t valid or that they aren’t real. For the person dealing with anxiety, those feelings are genuine and can be overwhelming. Instead, listen to their feelings, validate them, and work with them to alleviate worries without belittling them. 2. They Can’t Shake the Irrationality Most people with anxiety have at least some understanding that their fears are irrational. It can feel like a constant battle inside their head between the rational and irrational. Unfortunately, the irrational is hard to get rid of. So, it often takes over. With that in mind, you don’t need to remind them about that irrationality constantly. Reassurance is one thing. But, telling someone with anxiety that their fears aren’t “real” will lead to embarrassment and could impact their condition even more. 3. They Can’t “Turn It Off” Some people with anxiety often deal with triggers. There are times when their symptoms might be worse. That doesn’t mean that they’re only feeling anxious around those triggers. Anxiety isn’t something that can be turned on and off with a switch. People dealing with it don’t want to feel it all of the time — but many do. They’re not doing it to get attention or to make anyone else’s life more difficult. If you ever find yourself getting frustrated or even annoyed by a loved one with anxiety, remind yourself of this fact. 4. They Appreciate Your Kindness If you don’t have anxiety yourself, there is no way you can genuinely or fully understand what someone with it goes through daily. When you’re willing to do what it takes to help them calm down, reassurance them, or just be a listening ear, they appreciate it. You don’t have to understand the full scope of anxiety to know how much it’s affecting someone you care about. It can be a very lonely condition, which can boost the fear and worry people struggling with it already have. By showing kindness, patience, and trying to understand as much as possible, you can make a big difference in your loved one’s life. — If you have a loved one with anxiety, it’s a good idea to educate yourself. Feel free to contact me if you’re struggling to understand what they’re going through. Or if it’s causing you extra stress in your own life, and you need to know how to manage it. Please reach out today.
It’s been a full year. Last March, a wave of funny internet memes emerged. The topics often explored the woes of forced introversion and social anxiety. Dark humor can be quite helpful in dark times. But now, however, the laughs have long since faded. Even folks who never struggled with social anxiety are feeling buried under so many new stressors and unknowns.Yes, the quarantine itself can be the cause of social anxiety disorder. There is no clear end in sight. Thus it has become necessary for us to better understand this condition. We must recognize its triggers and identify self-care steps we can take before things get worse. What is “Social Anxiety”? One thing social anxiety is: the third most common psychological disorder in the United States (behind depression and alcoholism). Some individuals struggle with specific social anxiety, e.g. public speaking. Far more common is a generalized form of the disorder of which the hallmarks are: Chronic worry Indecision Fear of embarrassment Anticipatory anxiety Depression Self-blame Feeling inferior Physiological symptoms may include sweating, increased heart rate, trembling hands, dry mouth, muscle twitches, and blushing. These symptoms and above feelings are most commonly triggered by situations like: Any type of introduction Dealing with strangers and/or authority figures Getting teased or criticized Being made into the center of attention, e.g. when everyone is asked to say something about themselves in a group Any time you’re watched while performing a task Enter the Quarantine To bring things back to the memes mentioned above, social distancing would seem like a boon for shy or introverted people. But even the socially aloof thrive on some human contact. A sudden shift to isolation is enough to throw anyone off their game. Healthy socializing requires practice. Meeting with others can now inspire fears of getting sick and fears of embarrassing oneself. This reality has the power to drive people into further withdrawal. The cycle deepens. There are other recent factors — civil unrest, political division, economic crisis, etc. These increase the likelihood of developing social anxiety. How to Manage Quarantine-Induced Social Anxiety Back Away From The Screens This is foundational. There’s fake news, of course. But even the real news is enough to drive anyone into hiding. Put down your devices, turn off your notifications, and give your mind a mini-vacation. In this setting, you can reclaim the clarity you need to better assess what is and isn’t a risk. Separate Worrying From Problem-Solving There are genuine reasons for concern in the world. But, there are always genuine reasons for concern in the world. Worrying is a normal reaction — if temporary. The key, when trying to manage social anxiety, is to move into problem-solving before worrying becomes entrenched. Challenge your inner critic. Anxiety is an excellent liar so fact-check its stories before moving forward. From there, focus on solutions. Start Small No one should be expected to rush right back into anything resembling “normalcy.” Take calculated risks and be patient with yourself. Connect with trusted friends and family members and let them know how you’re feeling. Ask them to help you ease back into the swing of things. Build Some New Routines The idea of going back to the way things were before can be daunting. Create a new schedule. Fill it with fresh ideas. Re-evaluate as needed. Practice Self-Care Prioritize your physical health as you manage your mental health. Safeguard crucial daily functions and patterns, e.g. Stick to steady sleep habits Make healthy eating choices Engage in daily activity and exercise You Are Not Alone Plenty of people are struggling these days. There is no shame in needing to step back and reassess what matters to you. Consider therapy as a first step. Read more about anxiety treatment and let’s set up a consultation to talk about your situation and your recovery.
Word choice matters. We are all learning this more and more often — and it goes double in 2020. In psychological terms, it’s also essential that we properly identify our emotions. Along those lines, let’s do away with any belief that guilt and shame are “kinda-sorta” the same things. They are, in fact, two very distinct feelings and experiences. On top of that, the essence of guilt must be clarified because it can be either healthy or unhealthy. This is not merely semantics. It is not splitting hairs. Understanding the difference between shame and guilt is crucial to our wellbeing. Let’s Start with Shame Shame can be quite a challenge to accept and address. Shame, it is thought, is hard-wired in our brains when we are as young as 15 months. Once it is internalized, a sense of shame can dramatically influence how you see and treat yourself. Furthermore, shame is more based on belief than reason. The belief at its root is that you are inherently and uniquely flawed in your essence… even to the point of being worthless. The outcomes of this mindset are entirely negative and manifest in behaviors like: Avoidance Social withdrawal Intense fear of rejection Unchecked, shame has been shown to lead to more severe problems like depression and substance abuse. Strategies to Address Shame It is crucial that shame is acknowledged and compassionately addressed. How? The following steps are a productive start: Counter shame with relentless self-compassion Talk to yourself as you would talk to a loved one in crisis Challenge the validity of your internal monologue Ask for evidence when your inner critic lashes out Take steps toward widening your social circle Develop relationships and a sense of belonging Unhealthy Guilt Experienced as early as age three, unhealthy guilt is founded on some unreasonable expectations. You set irrational standards in our childhood, hoping to please the adults in your life. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, you can never reach those standards as you yourself grow into an adult. The resulting feeling is profound and debilitating emotional discomfort. Until you address these long-term irrational beliefs, unhealthy guilt will provide you with consistently negative outcomes. You are trapped by this self-imposed cycle. When unhealthy guilt strikes, you find yourself more likely to engage in self-punishment than in any kind of introspection. Rather than ponder what needs to be changed, you sink deeper into the pattern. Steps to Address Unhealthy Guilt Once again, two major steps are the cultivation of self-compassion and the development of healthy relationships Identify your strengths along with your weaknesses Recognize that everyone has strengths and weaknesses Clarify whether or not your expectations of yourself are reasonable or not Healthy Guilt Also called “helpful guilt,” this emotion arises when you’ve done something that is objectively wrong. Developed as young as 3 years old, healthy guilt is a mostly rational response to your own behavior and actions. Everyone messes up at times and it is natural to feel like you’ve disappointed yourself. You broke your own moral code and, as a result, you’re feeling some psychological discomfort. For the most part, this outcome is positive. Healthy guilt puts you in a position to repair any damage you’ve done and to seek forgiveness. Steps to Address Healthy Guilt Own up to your actions Take responsibility Authentically apologize Show remorse Do the work to change the mindset that led to the transgression Heal your connection with the people involved Talk to Someone You Can Trust Sorting out emotions like guilt and shame is very challenging work — especially in an age teeming with false information. It only makes sense that you would choose to seek out a trusted expert to serve as your guide. Working with an experienced counselor provides you with a safe space to explore emotions, their causes, and their outcomes. Regular therapy sessions can help you identify the thoughts and patterns that are shaping you. Please read more about possible therapy options and contact me to set up a free 30-minute consultation soon.
If you’re like most people recovering from infidelity, you’re likely facing an array of emotions.After all, being cheated on can shake you in plenty of ways. Sometimes, this emotional shaking can be so severe that you don’t even feel like yourself or recognize your own face in the mirror.No matter what series of circumstances ultimately ended your relationship, an affair can feel crushing. Unfortunately, it’s frequently more than simply feeling as though the relationship is “broken.”Meaning, many people who’ve undergone a marital breakdown internalize their partner’s betrayal—taking on the blame, shame, and loads of other negative (and unmerited) emotions.As you may have guessed, your self-esteem can take a huge hit. You may even feel as though a part of you is broken. But you’re not broken, and you can recover your sense of self-worth. Here’s how. 1. Accept That It Had Little to Do with You After discovering your partner’s actions, your go-to response was probably to ask why this happened. More importantly, you might have asked yourself what was so wrong with you that was so right about the “other” person. Here’s the thing about your partner’s affair: it wasn’t about you. Rather, it was a decision that other people made without consulting you. Consider that even many highly attractive and successful people get cheated on every day—Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston, Gwen Stefani, etc. Remember, there is no single finger pointing at you. And although you may have behaviors or attitudes that irritate your partner, you’re not innately flawed, deserving of such pain. 2. Give Yourself Space for Self-Expression Embracing self-expression during the aftermath of an affair can be completely life-changing. Of course, self-expression means different things to different people. For example, you might burn sentimental items from your relationship in a kind of grieving ceremony. Or perhaps you’ll dive into a beloved expression of art, such as painting, songwriting, or dancing. Keep in mind that plenty of betrayed partners have painted, crooned, or danced out their feelings. We see and hear the proof of these artistic expressions every day. Whatever your outlet, be sure to use it. Expressing yourself through a meaningful avenue bolsters your confidence in an unrivaled way. 3. Keep a Journal Keeping a journal might sound somewhat juvenile. However, journaling is far more than a “Dear Diary” sort of endeavor. Rather, journaling helps you to regulate and self-validate your emotions. It also clues you in to your emotional triggers. Knowing your patterns and the things that set you off will help you to focus your recovery efforts on those areas. Self-esteem is partly about feeling empowered. Unsurprisingly, the more power you feel over your own emotions, the stronger your self-esteem becomes. Mostly, because the major driver in journaling is a “know thyself” approach. 4. Quiet the “If Only” Thoughts Recovering your self-esteem after an affair also frequently means addressing your own thoughts. Let’s face it, you’re at your most vulnerable after a betrayal. With thoughts whirling and emotions in overdrive, it’s easy to take a wrong left turn in your own mind. Usually, these wrong turns lead you to a never-ending chorus of “if only.” If only you could cook better or were more attractive or made more money or were thinner, your partner wouldn’t have been tempted to have an affair. Sure, maybe you do want to learn to cook better, beef up your self-care, or ask for a raise at work. If so, you’re in a crowded boat because most of us are there, too. It’s okay, really! Unfortunately, these doubtful thoughts only spur on more doubtful thoughts—and they devalue who you truly are. Quieting them will allow your self-esteem to recover more fully. 5. Make an Epic “You” List Simply said, some days everything is going well and some days feel like the worst day of your life.. Experiencing an affair is undoubtedly one of the latter. There are probably lyrics that say it much better, but the point is that every day you are YOU. No matter what you face, you manage to come out on the other side in one piece. Why? There must be some grit to you because you’re a relentless, rebounding champ to have faced a cheating partner and still want to read this particular post. So, remind yourself every day of all the gifts and talents that make up YOU. Take it a step further and write down all the ways you are amazing. Go deep, and jot down every nitty-gritty reason that you are valuable. You may not feel 10-feet tall and bullet-proof yet, but your mind and body will soon catch up. Let it happen. — To find out more about relationship counseling, click here. For more support as you recover your self-esteem after an affair, please contact me today for a free consultation. I would like to support you on your journey of recovery.
How we bond or attach, detach, and re-attach is an essential part of who we are to ourselves and others. It impacts each and every one of our relationships—sometimes in very challenging ways. How we attach is something that is modeled for us from a very young age. This attachment strategy later influences everything from partner selection to conflict resolution to how you get your needs met (or not) and so much more. What are Some of the Different Attachment Strategies? Variations exist, of course, and there is always the inevitable blurring between the strategies but here are a few of the basic categories: Secure Anxious Avoidant Disorganized What is Anxious Attachment? Both avoidantly attached and anxiously attached children have caretakers who are perceived to be or actually are either: Indifferent Inconsistent Insensitive Unpredictable Children who have an avoidant attachment strategy fall into a defensive pattern of not showing much distress. This sour grapes-style tactic is designed to avoid having to deal with the rejecting caregiver. Anxiously attached children occupy the other end of the reaction spectrum. When expressing their discomfort they become extremely agitated and rely on an exaggerated response. Once they secure attention from their exasperating caregivers, children with anxious attachment also find it very difficult to detach from them to explore new surroundings. 4 Ways Anxious Attachment Affects Relationships 1. Every Disagreement Feels Like a Break-Up Reassurance is the norm. It’s a non-negotiable requirement. Those with an anxious attachment style often have trouble discerning a minor spat from an ominous crisis. As a couple, you wind up with a doubling down of sorts with each conflict. First, of course, you have the disagreement itself. But then, there are all the assumptions swirling around such a situation. What does it really mean? Is this the end? 2. Don’t Leave Them on “Read” No one likes sending a social media message, knowing the other person got it, but not getting a response. If your partner has developed an anxious attachment style, this might feel like torture. When they text, they’ll count the minutes until you reply. Forget to charge your phone and the outcome may feel like an emotional emergency. 3. There’s Way Less Room for Spontaneity Consistency is the goal. Unfortunately, this really puts a damper on spontaneity. Relationships thrive with some novelty but when change leads to anxiety, compromise is necessary. This is where couples counseling can be a game-changer. Both partners must assess long-term compatibility and the likelihood for changes on both sides. 4. You Become Communicators—by Necessity! This may, at first, feel like a heavy burden. In the end, however, this is a gift. The person with an anxious attachment strategy is, by definition, in need of steady clarification, reassurance, and context. Such a scenario is exhausting. But when we use it as an opportunity to hone our communication skills, everyone wins. Both partners become more attuned to the nuances of their unique connection. In addition, healthy communication makes it far more likely that conversations about one’s anxious attachment way of relating are productive. How Therapy Can Help Working with a couples therapist will introduce and/or reinforce some vital realities: We can all have more than one attachment strategy. Our brains are very plastic. Attachment strategies can be changed and adapted. Specific partners can have unique impacts on our attachment strategy. We can do the work to recover from childhood issues. Your weekly sessions are like an ongoing workshop. Ideas are introduced. Skills are learned. Patterns are exposed. Strategies are developed. We are empowered with the knowledge that we can regulate our emotions and change our behaviors. Therapy teaches those with anxious attachment to explore the roots of their patterns and apply new evidence as it emerges. To learn more about couples therapy in Longmont, CO, click here. If you’re ready to take a closer look at your relationships and the attachment styles involved please contact me to set up free 30 minute consultation soon.
There is no secret formula for relationship success. But there is a not-so-secret foundation for relationship satisfaction: communication. Developing healthy communication is an ongoing, never-ending process. It is also the closest thing we have to a universal truth for couples. Healthy Communication is Reality-Based Contrary to pop culture myths, even the happiest couples disagree and argue. The answer is not focusing on this fact. Rather, we need to examine how we interact and why. From there, we can grow and learn from even the most uncomfortable arguments. John Gottman is a noted and well-respected psychological researcher. His research indicates “relationship success is not dependent on whether couples argue not rather how they argue. “He believes, conflicts are “unavoidable in an intimate relationship and if they are handled well can contribute to growth rather than tension.” In everyday life, this translates into acceptance and openness. We accept that even “soul mates” don’t always see eye to eye. We remain open to exploring this reality and learning how it can help us improve individually and as a couple. 10 Expert Tips For Better Couples Communication 1. Active Listening We can and must listen with all our senses — and must make it clear we are doing so. From body language to facial gestures to verbal affirmations, we let our partner know we are hearing them. 2. Avoid Personal Attacks, Blame, and Criticism It’s important to bring up issues that are bothering you. But this must be done gently and without blame. The goal is finding a resolution, not declaring a winner. 3. Try to Understand First Before Trying to Be Understood In every disagreement, there’s a point where you feel you’re not being heard or understood. This is a good time to ask questions — in the name of understanding your partner’s point first! 4. Use “I” Statements Rather than, “You always make me feel like ___,” try: “When you do that, I feel like this.” The concept of blame has been removed and you’ve shared in a vulnerable way. 5. Accept Influence From the Other One of the least appreciated aspects of a disagreement is that it is a teaching moment. If your partner has a differing opinion, you can learn from it! 6. Share Appreciations Do not choose black and white thinking. No matter how uncomfortable the current conflict is, it doesn’t change how much you love and appreciate your partner. 7. Learn How to Apologize A big part of resolution involves forgiveness and apology. A proper apology occurs when you take responsibility, show remorse, and take steps to not do it again. 8. Use Humor Feel out the situation and see where you can gently lighten the mood. 9. Practice Patience In very rare instances, a conflict is so urgent that it must be settled ASAP. In most cases, you can and should take a break to cool off and contemplate. Social media has taught us to “flame” each other but that is an unproductive and immature form of interaction. 10. Acknowledge Common Ground Almost every difference of opinion includes grey areas. Seek them out, explore this common ground, and use it to ease tensions. Find a Couples Therapist Better couples communication is a skill. As with learning any other skill, it helps to have a mentor. What better coach than a couples therapist who is an expert in communication. Important skills, by definition, are tough to learn and even tougher to maintain. The improvement lies in the commitment and a willingness to learn. When partners commit to attending couples counseling, you are also committing to each other. Your love is not being questioned. However, your compatibility may need a fresh, new approach. Please reach out for a consultation soon. As your couples therapist and communication mentor, I can help guide this crucial, bonding process. Click for more information on couples therapy. About the Author Kate Kendrick is a psychotherapist and relationship counselor in private practice in Longmont, Colorado. Kate specializes in helping couples and individuals who are struggling in their relationship. She also specializes in treating anxiety, PTSD, depression and grief.
Healing your past can involve multiple approaches. At times, we might dwell far too much on perceived failures, letdowns, and missed chances. The common (and often best) advice is to try moving on. However, there are past events that need far more attention and work. Recovering from childhood trauma requires us to drag the past out into the light. What is Childhood Trauma? When contemplating our past, it’s crucial that we not believe we are alone in our struggle. Studies have found that as many as 78 percent of children experience more than one traumatic event—before the age of five. These may include: Domestic violence Sexual abuse Severe neglect Unhealthy control of thoughts and actions Loss/bereavement Injury/illness Traumas at such a young age dramatically impact our identity development. But such experiences can also take place throughout childhood into early adulthood. Inevitably, their impact plays out signifcantly in adult relationships. 5 Ways Past Traumas Can Impact Your Adult Relationships 1. A Sense of Something Missing/Loss of Childhood A healthy childhood involves some very particular markers, milestones, and events. Trauma can short-circuit any or all of them. 2. Avoiding Relationships If those closest to you cause you pain, it feels wise to avoid getting close to anyone else. We learn to avoid pain but can be traumatized into misinterpreting the underlying sources of pain. 3. Attracting Dysfunctional Relationships/Codependence As children, we witness relationship dynamics being modeled for us. Abusive family members not only have the power to traumatize. They also set negative but powerful examples of what seems to be the reality of relationships. 4. Dissociation from Self/Others Reality has caused us non-stop pain. As a result, our brain dissociates from a deep focus on day-to-day events. This gives us am an empty sense of “going through the motions.” 5. Feeling Like a Permanent Victim When subjected to abuse, we come to expect more abuse. Loss and losing feel normal. Rejection appears to be the norm. Self-blame is our default. What to Do in the Present to Address Your Past and Improve Your Future 1. Self-Care A huge first step is recognizing our individual worth and value. This can begin with a daily self-care regimen, e.g. regular sleep patterns, healthy eating, daily exercise, and stress management. 2. Embrace Acceptance As mentioned above, the ugly truth is that childhood trauma has become the norm. Remember: We did nothing to deserve it and are not alone in this struggle. 3. Learn to Set and Reach Goals This process is a universal tool for healing. Lost amidst the pain are our vision and self-esteem. Reclaiming our hopes and ambition is a giant step toward recovery. 4. Identify Your Attachment Style Incredibly valuable work has been done in the area of attachment styles: secure, anxious preoccupied, dismissive avoidant, and fearful avoidant. Learning more about this work will guide us and inspire us to not settle for self-destructive patterns. 5. Enhance Communication Your needs and boundaries are important. They matter and you matter. Hence, honing your communication skills will help you be radically honest with the people in your life. This includes, of course, those with whom you may enter into a relationship. You Deserve Help… No one asks for or deserves childhood trauma. No one. You are not to blame. You have every reason and right to seek help. Committing to regular therapy is a proven way to resolve and recover. You’ll learn more about your patterns and tendencies. Armed with that awareness, you and a skilled therapist can work on creating new perspectives and behaviors. All of this (and more) can and will put you in a better place to form and maintain healthy adult relationships.
In our culture, we’re aware of the divorce rate. We make plenty of jokes about divorce. But rarely do we really talk about divorce. There’s no shortage of relationship advice making the rounds. A lot of it is super helpful and we can learn plenty about what we should do. How much of this advice, however, involves what not to do? Continue reading to learn more about the four predictors of divorce. John Gottman and the 93 percent The renowned psychologist at the University of Washington, John Gottman has been involved with landmark research on relationships for decades. At the Gottman Institute, a study was done that enabled Gottman to predict—with 93 percent certainty—which marriages would end in divorce. It comes down to the four behaviors we are about to discuss. But first, an important disclaimer. All of these behaviors can be considered both normal and common. The conversation we’re about to have is about: Frequency of such behaviors How often these behaviors are replacing healthy interactions So, please, no need to panic as you read. Just the mere fact you’re exploring your behavior demonstrates a willingness to learn and grow. The 4 Predictors of Divorce 1. Contempt We all get mad at our partners from time to time. For a few minutes, we might even believe we don’t love or even like them anymore. Contempt is another level. To feel genuine contempt for your spouse is to no longer view them as an equal. Let’s say something happens to upset you. Let’s also say it’s not the first time this upsetting event has taken place. Contempt could lead you to: Not even listen to your partner’s explanation, no matter what they’re saying Judge their character based on this situation Believe you would never do something so stupid/mean/childish/etc. In other words, you are looking down on the person you claim to love. Their opinions are invalid. They are just not as smart/sensitive/mature as you. You refuse to imagine and respect their perspective. Gottman calls this the “kiss of death.” This is the first predictor of divorce. 2. Criticism Everyone is capable of bad behavior. Criticism occurs when you choose to see this behavior as a reason to judge their character. Forgetting to screw the toothpaste cap on or take out the garbage is human. To see it as a character flaw is a major step towards choosing contempt as your default setting. This is the second predictor of divorce. 3. Defensiveness There doesn’t have to be a “victim” when a problem occurs or disagreement happens. Playing the victim or blaming the other usually escalates an already bad situation. A major part of a healthy relationship is taking responsibility for our role when things go temporarily sour. So, rather than “it’s not my fault” or “you always blame me,” learn how to apologize. Own up. Hold yourself accountable. Show remorse. Make sure it doesn’t happen again. 4. Stonewalling You know it’s about to hit the fan. What do you do? If your default setting is to shut down and avoid, this is called stonewalling. It can be as toxic as contempt. In fact, some consider it to be a passive aggressive form of contempt. Stonewalling is the last predictor of divorce. The Role of Couples Counseling As mentioned above, this list is not meant as a final judgment. However, if you find yourself squirming as you read through it, you may need support. Working with a therapist is a proven path towards a healthy relationship. It’s never easy to see our patterns. It’s also not easy to be called out nor call out a loved one on their patterns. In couples counseling, you have a mediator. Your therapist will facilitate discussion and help identify blind spots. Certain behaviors may “predict” divorce. But the choice to seek counseling can help you learn what to do, and what not to do. Click for more information on couples therapy in Longmont, CO.
According to attachment theory, established by 1960’s relationship experts John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, children and their primary caregivers develop relationships that inform children’s adult relationships later in life. Essentially, adults have four general attachment styles that shape interaction with a partner. The first attachment type is simply: “secure.” The other three fall into the category of “insecure” and are described as follows: anxious avoidant disorganized Let’s break them down. 1. Secure As you might expect, secure attachments lead to secure relationships. This style is often based on a childhood in which your parents were present, consistent, protective, safe and tuned into your emotional states and needs. As a child, you felt safe to explore knowing you had a secure base. A similar feeling occurs when you feel safe and connected with your partner. 2. Anxious Due to caregivers who were inconsistent and intrusive, you have a hard time trusting in relationship. You expect the worst from your partner. You feel like you will be abandoned at some point. Constantly trying to please, you end up over-focusing on your lover and losing yourself. Your giving has strings attached-you hope it will make them stay. The issue takes form when clinging to a partner ends up pushing them away. 3. Avoidant You are (usually) physically present. But you are almost always emotionally distant. You downplay the importance of relationships in life and have learned to be super independent. Your default setting is to parent yourself. As a result, you may appear too self-centered or independent to fully connect. This attachment adaptation results when parents were absent emotionally or distant. They were unable to attune to you emotionally or left you alone a lot. 4. Disorganized Your childhood home environment was scary, unpredictable and chaotic. The parents you looked to love and protect you were also the source of your fear. You did the best you could to get your needs met, but you never knew what you would get. As as an adult, you long to be close, but intimacy feels dangerous. You long for independence but fear abandonment. You may experience unpredictable emotional mood swings. Added to this is the inability to know or ask for what you need. We’re fed many myths about relationships—from fairy tales to romantic comedies. In reality, situations vary and change often. If you recognize yourself in any of the insecure styles that are listed, it is important to both be compassionate with yourself and to realize that with a clear intention and some work you can change. 8 Clear Ways Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Relationships Secure You work like a team With security as the root, trust and respect blossom. You’re a team and that means mutual support and mutual respect. Competition is not an issue. You both celebrate when one achieves a victory. You work together to tackle struggles. Shared independence You don’t fear or challenge your partner’s independence. You see such freedom as attractive. It’s something to admire, in your partner and in yourself. And, you also enjoy the closeness when you are together. Anxious Clinging behavior “Needy” is not a positive label. No one wants to feel trapped. However, anxiety rooted in childhood or a painful earlier relationship can make this our default style of interaction. Paranoia The anxious attachment style leaves you feeling as if you are constantly wanting but never having enough. You never feel safe or secure. We might even miss signals or positive opportunities. Instead, we project our fears and create issues when none exist. Avoidant Living in delusion It’s an illusion to see yourself as an island. It may feel safe at times. In reality, it’s a recipe for relationship problems. You often shut down You often find yourself shutting down rather than facing your feelings. This sets up reactions like: Passive-aggression Silent treatment Cutting off a relationship suddenly when it starts to deepen Denial of root causes Disorganized “Drama” Emotional swings are common to disorganized attachment style. This results in what we often call “drama.” We’ve all known that couple. One day, they’re snuggling. The next day, it’s a screaming match. Increased chance of abuse Domestic abuse is more common than we’d like to admit. In many cases, the disorganized attachment style is present. The abuser keeps his partner guessing. The wrong guess, of course, often result in a violent reaction. How can your attachment style be addressed and/or changed? As you may have noticed, we don’t really fit neatly under one label. In addition, our attachment style can vary. It can be different for each relationship. This reality can be good news. The flexibility means we can move from insecure to secure attachment. An excellent first step is talk with a therapist. Together, you will examine past experiences that shape present patterns. Compassion and understanding are key here. As the therapist provides experiences designed to heal attachment wounds, you will awaken your own healthy attachment system. Another option? You and the partner with whom you’re “attached” can try couples therapy to reach productive solutions. Click for more information on couples therapy. If you would like skilled, professional support with your relationship or marriage, please click here for a free 30-minute consultation to learn about how I can be of service. To find out more about the services I offer click here: Kate Kendrick Psychotherapy and Relationship Counseling
It’s over. The relationship you thought was solid has crumbled. You feel confused, hurt, lost. You are telling yourself you failed and wonder if you will ever find someone else. Your attempts to “get over it” are not working, nor is trying to power through the pain. Inside, you know to heal completely, you’ll have to recover another way. Here are 10 ways to get started: Feel. Open to the presence of your loss. It’s okay to grieve. What’s happening inside you? Give yourself a safe space to experience your feelings. You hurt because your relationship mattered. The future you expected to have mattered. Healing happens best when you are honest and compassionate with yourself, instead of denying or pushing down the emotions that are arising. Giving yourself permission to fully mourn what happened opens you up to love again. Regroup. Give yourself a break. Play sad songs, do things that nurture you, cry. You need time and space before you can be functional again. It’s okay to take a step back from your usual obligations. Allow your mind time to switch gears. Share. Seek support. Depression, anxiety, and breakup-related stress are less likely to take root if you share your feelings. Find someone nonjudgmental, and prone to lovingkindness, who will let you pour out your grief. Being heard and understood often makes all the difference. Let go of false hopes. Be intentional about not trying to reconnect. It can be easy to fixate on old dreams, and hopes for “one more try,” when you know momentary relief is just a text message or Facebook post away. Gently, but honestly, tell yourself the truth about your breakup. There are reasons you separated. What were the deal breakers that made continuing on unrealistic? Focus. Practice remaining present. Mindful meditation may help you observe your feelings from a less intense place. Practice being still and quiet. Stay present. Direct your attention to your present uncomfortable sensations, without dwelling on past memories or future desire. If you can just be present to them, you will be aware that they change. Stay focused on breathing through your current feelings and viewing them clearly. Embrace. Love yourself unreservedly. Refrain from self-criticism. Self-compassion is a gift you need most right now. You don’t have to explain yourself, berate yourself, or punish yourself because your relationship ended. Check the harsh dialogue in your mind. Set your intention to be loving with yourself no matter what. The end of your relationship does not make you unworthy of forgiveness, love, happiness, or encouragement. Connect. Remember the other meaningful relationships in your life. Combat isolation and loneliness by reaching out to loved ones and friends. Get involved in activities you may have set aside in the interest of your relationship. Try to remain open to the love, care, and interest of others as you adjust to your single status. Restore. Your mind, body and soul deserve exceptional care. Use alone time to relax and reenergize. Self-care is not optional or expendable, though it may feel like you’re too hurt to eat, or sleep, or even breathe. Eat well, try yoga or take long walks in nature. Walking or listening meditation (You can download these meditations for free on the following website: www.mindfulness-solution.com) and deep-breathing exercises are also excellent ways to calm anxiety, and stave off unproductive thinking. Reflect. Take time to understand yourself better. Use this time to clarify what you most value in a committed relationship. What qualities did you long to experience in your relationship that weren’t there? Honesty, authenticity, caring, mutual understanding? You can learn a lot about yourself as you heal. Appreciate yourself for being willing to learn and grow even in the midst of loss and grief. Journal the journey. Relationship or divorce counseling can help you reach new points of clarity and release. As you reflect, you may begin a process of self-discovery and self-appreciation. Grow. Meaning and purpose are often the gifts of the grief process. It may be difficult to believe, but one day you may be grateful for the relationship you’re grieving now. You have to go through the grief to grow new understanding, strength, and confidence. To get through the grief of your broken relationship, you may need to go through a challenging process of self-awareness. It’s okay. Hold on. It’s all growth and preparation for whatever, or whoever, comes next. If you would like skilled, professional support with your relationship or have recently separated or divorced, please click here or a free 30-minute consultation to learn about how I can be of service. To find out more about the services I offer click here: Kate Kendrick Psychotherapy and Relationship Counseling Kate Kendrick, MA, is a holistic psychotherapist in private practice with offices in Longmont and Boulder, CO. She specializes in relationship counseling, couples therapy and anxiety treatment. Kate has training in Applied Existential Psychotherapy, Nonviolent Communication, Focusing-oriented therapy, somatic therapy and Gestalt. To find out more about Kate and the services she offers, visit her website at www.katekendrick.com.