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Couple Counseling DC
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English trained Couples and Sex Counselor in Washington DC
English trained Couples and Sex Counselor in Washington DC

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I’m in a relationship but I have a crush on someone else, what should I do?

Developing a crush on someone when you’re already in a long-term, committed relationship can leave you feeling guilty and confused.

You may think it’s a betrayal of your partner but you might also be wondering whether your feelings are trying to tell you something.

If this is how you feel right now, try not to worry. This is far more common situation than most people realize. You might like to think of it as a warning sign that something needs addressing within your relationship or in your life: an opportunity to make things better.
Crushes vs finding someone attractive

It’s worth stating right away that it’s important to differentiate between developing a crush on someone and finding someone outside of your relationship attractive.

If we’re being realistic finding other people attractive is inevitable. Entering a relationship doesn’t mean we stop being human. It’s entirely natural for this to happen from time to time – just as it was before you became part of a couple. As long as you don’t act on it, there’s nothing wrong with it.

We tend to think of crushes as different because they usually involve imagining what it would be like to be in a relationship with this person. They go a level deeper – from the physical to the emotional.
What is my crush telling me?

We often develop crushes on people because we feel they might fulfil a need that isn’t otherwise being fulfilled. This might be a need for love, attention, sex, friendship or any number of other things.

Because crushes can happen for so many different reasons, and often start without us realizing –which is why developing a crush on someone when you’re already in a relationship can often take you by surprise and leave you wondering whether something isn’t seriously wrong.

It might be something has changed in your relationship recently that means you feel less connected to your partner. This could be a new job meaning you can’t spend as much time together. Perhaps you have young children and don’t have the energy to prioritize each other as much. A breach of trust may have made you feel more distant: perhaps you’re worried about allowing yourself to become vulnerable again.

Or it may be that this is simply part of the ebb and flow of connection and disconnection that takes place naturally in long-term relationships: sometimes we feel closer to our partners, sometimes less so.

It’s a good idea to think about whether your crush does seem to represent something that’s gone missing from your relationship. This will help you understand what you’re feeling, and is the starting point for thinking about what to do next.
How can I work on my relationship?

If you’re serious about your existing relationship, it will then be a case of trying to address the issue. It can take courage to do this, especially if what’s missing has been missing for a long time.

One question people often ask is: should I tell my partner about the crush? There’s no easy answer to this. If you feel it would be necessary to help them understand how you’re feeling, then you may need to find a way to do this gently. But be aware there’s a high risk that their feelings will be badly hurt.

One way to address this is by talking about it with someone you trust and who will keep it to themselves. This could be a friend or family member. You may find that the act of telling someone how you’ve been feeling is enough to help you begin to understand what’s missing in your life or specifically in your relationship.

If you do think there are problems in your relationship that need to be addressed, you’ll need to find time to talk to your partner.



How, when and where you have this conversation is as important as what you say – you may find it very useful to read our article on communication tips to try with your partner. This will help you think about ways to broach difficult topics without things turning into a row and how you could communicate effectively and clearly.

What you need to talk about will depend on your situation, but you might like to think about the following:

Do we spend as much time together as we used to, and if not, why not?
Do we make time to have fun together or just relax together?
Are we listening to each other’s needs and communicating our own, or simply saying ‘I’m fine’?
Have we been taking each other for granted?

Moving on from the crush — practical steps

We develop crushes on all kinds of people. Sometimes it’s just someone we see momentarily in the street. Sometimes it’s someone closer to us: a colleague, an employer, or a friend.

As part of the above process, it’s generally a good idea to try to avoid regular contact with the person you’ve developed a crush on. Depending on who it is, this can be quite straightforward or it might require some bigger changes.

If it’s someone we don’t see all that often, we can simply avoid running into them when possible. But if it’s someone who is closely linked to our lives, it can be worth thinking about whether certain changes will need to be made – whether you’ll need to stop seeing a certain group of friends quite as regularly, for instance, or not putting yourself forward for certain projects at work.

However necessary this will be depends on your situation, but you may find it’s easier to focus on your relationship if you’re not still seeing your crush week in, week out.
How we can help

Making changes in your relationship is rarely a short process. It usually takes a willingness to keep working at things consistently over time.

Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t able to get to the root of things straight away – or if it doesn’t always feel like things are heading in the right direction. Progress is rarely a straight line.

If you think you might need help, counseling is a great way of keeping yourself on course – or just beginning the conversation in the first place. Contact Couple Counseling DC for a session with Trina Dolenz.

Posted on July 17, 2017 in Relationship Issues



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Love in the time of Tinder: why you can't blame technology for a rise in affairs.

CEO of Relate, Chris Sherwood, discusses on 'Wired' why our dependency on technology is blurring the boundaries between digital and non-digital relationships:-

"Technology has revolutionized our relationships, changing how we find, organize and even finish them. As a 36-year-old gay man living in London, I’ve had a front row seat in this revolution. I started my dating life in the 1990s, responding to personal ads in my local newspaper. In the 2000s I started exploring internet dating. More recently apps like Grindr and Scruff have become a dater’s best friend.

My day job is CEO of Relate, the UK’s largest provider of information and support around relationships, so you may think I have all the answers. In fact, Relate is encountering new and different ways that technology impacts out relationships every day, so we, too, are learning how to navigate this new digital world. Technology is one of the top reasons people come to us for counseling, whether it’s the couple where one partner’s had an affair via Facebook or the individual who’s struggling with an addiction to online porn.

It’s interesting that 62 per cent of our counselors say technology has had a negative impact on relationships, compared to just 13 per cent of the public. However, we also see that technology has brought huge benefits to relationships, from the serving members of our armed forces who can now rely on video calling and email to stay connected with home, to young gay people who can much more easily connect with one another in less liberal parts of the world – something I discovered myself recently whilst traveling through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

""One of the challenges we see in this 'swipe generation' is the commodification of people""
Chris Sherwood, CEO of Relate

There’s no denying, though, that technology is disrupting our relationships in ways that previous generations could never have imagined. There are more than 1,400 dating sites in the UK alone and finding a partner online is the fourth most common way to start a new relationship. Could this be changing how much value we place on our fellow daters? One of the challenges we see in this "swipe generation" is the commodification of people. Research tells us that the key ingredients to a successful, long-term relationship (something that the majority of us continue to aspire to) are honesty, commitment and communication – characteristics that are hard to deduce from a Tinder profile picture. Quite simply, if we don’t like what we see in the first few seconds, we swipe left and it’s gone. It’s easy to forget we’re talking about real people with real feelings.

We’re also navigating this new digital world without a roadmap. People used to date, become girlfriend and boyfriend and get married. Today, announcing your relationship on Facebook or agreeing to take down your dating profile are new staging posts on this more complex relationship journey. We know from the counseling room that many of these staging posts only become clear when an unspoken rule has been broken.

Couples tell us that they like being able to send romantic and flirty messages to one another. But are we becoming too dependent on technology? Can we turn it off? According to a survey by the Science Museum in 2012, four out of five under 25-year-olds report feeling lost without the internet and the vast majority of smartphone owners reach for them within 15 minutes of waking up. The 2013 Mobile Consumers Habit survey in the US found that nine per cent even admitted to checking their phone during sex.

This “dependency” could also be affecting how we form intimate relationships in the real world as the boundaries between digital and non-digital become increasingly blurred. A study by Essex University in 2012 found that: “Merely having a phone visible in the room — even if no-one checked it — made people less likely to develop a sense of intimacy and empathetic understanding during meaningful conversations.”

Technology is additionally changing the nature of affairs and blurring the boundaries. We used to think of an affair as an intimate or sexual encounter between two people. Does sending sexualized and flirty images to another person count as an affair even if the people don’t meet? What about watching livecam porn, using remote-controlled sex toys with another person, or, in the future, sleeping with a sex robot?
""Does sending sexualized and flirty images to another person count as an affair even if the people don’t meet?""
Chris Sherwood, CEO of Relate

There’s a danger in this debate that we end up blaming the technology but that isn’t necessarily the problem: it’s how we use it.

We can’t stop the digital revolution but we can learn to better integrate technology into our lives, in ways that enable us to form and sustain loving and supportive relationships as well as to better navigate the dangers out there. For example, we’d encourage people to talk to their partners and family about how to handle the technology in their lives. Work out whether you need regular tech time out, like no phones in the bedroom or turning all screens off an hour before bed. There aren’t any hard and fast rules but communicating what works for your circumstances will make it easier for you to stay in control of technology and not the other way around.

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What is emotional abuse?

Most people know what physical abuse is, but when it comes to emotional abuse, people tend to think there’s much more of a ‘grey area’.
They might know it has something to do with treating your partner badly – name calling or making them feel small – but not be clear on what’s actually classed as emotional abuse, or whether it’s really as serious as other types.
But if you’re on the receiving end, it can be just as damaging and upsetting – and this is reflected in the law.

What constitutes emotional abuse?
There are a variety of types of behavior that could be classed as emotional abuse. These include:

Intimidation and threats.
This could be things like shouting, acting, aggressing or just generally making you feel scared. This is often done as a way of making a person feel small and stopping them from standing up for themselves.

Criticism.
This could be things like name calling or making lots of unpleasant or sarcastic comments. This can really lower a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

Undermining.
This might include things like dismissing your opinion. It can also involve making you doubt your own opinion by acting as if you're being oversensitive if you do complain, disputing your version of events or by suddenly being really nice to you after being cruel.
Being made to feel guilty. This can range from outright emotional blackmail (threats to kill oneself or lots of emotional outbursts) to sulking all the time or giving you the silent treatment as a way of manipulating you.

Economic abuse
such as withholding money, not involving you in finances or even preventing you from getting a job. This could be done as a way of stopping you from feeling independent and that you’re able to make your own choices.
Telling you what you can and can’t do. As the examples above make clear, emotional abuse is generally about control. Sometimes this is explicit. Does your partner tell you when and where you can go out, or even stop you from seeing certain people? Do they try to control how you dress or how you style your hair?

How do I know it's abuse?
Sometimes, people wonder whether ‘abuse’ is the right term to describe any relationship difficulties they’re going through. They may feel like their partner shouts at them a lot or makes them feel bad, but think ‘abuse’ would be too ‘dramatic’ a word to use.
But the point of whether behavior is abusive is how it makes you feel. If your partner’s behavior makes you feel small, controlled or as if you’re unable to talk about what’s wrong, it’s abusive. If you feel like your partner is stopping you from being able to express yourself, it’s abusive. If you feel you have to change your actions to accommodate your partner’s behavior, it’s abusive.
There may be many reasons for partners behaving in this way. They may have grown up in a family environment where there was lots of shouting or sarcasm, or been in relationships in the past that made them feel insecure. Sometimes in couple counseling, we are able to consider those behaviors, and the impact in your relationship. But while this might help us to understand, it can never be used as an excuse – so whether it’s on purpose or not, it isn’t OK. If you feel like you’re being subjected to abusive behavior, remember you deserve to have a voice, and you don’t deserve to be made to feel scared or small.

What now?
One of the most helpful first steps if you feel you’re in an abusive relationship is to speak to someone outside of it.
If you can talk to someone who isn’t involved, they might be able to lend you a little perspective. This can be a particularly useful if you’re not sure where you stand – sometimes, behavior we’ve become used to can seem quite clearly unreasonable to an objective outsider.
This person might be a member of your family or a friend. Or it may be a Relationship Counselor. Counselors are trained to unpick situations like this, helping you and your partner to understand where any abusive behavior might be coming from and how you can work together to move towards a more mutually respectful and healthy relationship.
You may want to come along by yourself at first, especially if you don’t think your partner would react well to the suggestion. We can then help you figure out what’s happening – and whether inviting your partner along so you can work on things together would be a good idea.
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Why communication isn't always the most important thing in a relationship

There is a popular belief that ‘communication’ is the most important thing in a relationship.

When couples come to counseling they often say their problem is with ‘communication’. And the thing they want to fix about their relationship is their ‘communication’. And if only they could ‘communicate’ everything would be so much better between them.

However, often communication isn't really the cause of their problems.
Connection is often the most important thing in a relationship

Yes, communication is important, but it’s not always the most important thing. The most important thing is often actually connection. Connection is that feeling of being on the same team, of understanding each other, that inexplicable warm happy feeling of being in love and together.

This concept is really important to get our heads around, because so often it’s the key issue we are really fighting about.
‘A relationship is a state of being connected’

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of a relationship is ‘the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.’

If this is so, with no connection, there is no relationship; one defines the other. It would make sense then that being disconnected from our partners can bring up some really painful, scary, insecure and lonely feelings for us.
The big mistake

Which can lead us to the ‘big mistake’. If we are struggling with connection in our relationships and feeling any of those difficult feelings above, it’s only be natural that we would want to reconnect with our partners to regain a feeling of love and wellbeing with them.

However, the big mistake we can make when we are not feeling connected, is to put too much focus on the problem and ‘over-communicate’ from a disconnected place.

It can be very difficult to communicate effectively and respectfully when we are feeling disconnected. Disconnection and difficulty go hand in hand, as you might be feeling frustrated or threatened, which can drive you both to fighting your own corners.

Then when you still can’t connect, you believe the problem is that you can’t communicate, when actually it’s just that we aren’t able to get our need for connection met. Unwittingly, we can then become trapped in a vicious cycle and communication breaks down further.
Why can connection be the most important thing in a relationship?

At the heart of it, we are only communicating to try to make a connection and it is having a strong connection between you that will make you want to communicate with each other and make communication feel more open, honest and safe.

When you feel connected and united in your relationship, as if by magic everything, including your communication will begin to flow much more easily and effortlessly. It’s ironic that communicating from a connected place, will build on your connection, and the connection will build on your communication.

In truth, the two things are closely intertwined - you can't put all your energies into one and ignore the other.
Shift your focus

If you’re feeling disconnected and unable to communicate with your partner, the best thing you can do is shift your focus back to rebuilding your connection. Bring the fun and goodwill back into your relationship to offset your conflicts. Remember why you care and want to communicate with each other and why it’s important to you.

The good news is that working on your connection is fun. All you need to do is relax and enjoy some time together again, because when we are feeling loved and supported, we will naturally want to work on our communication as a result and it will all feel much easier and more connected!
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“They fuck you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to, but they do / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.”


So begins Philip Larkin’s famous poem, This be the Verse. Larkin’s representation of familial inheritance here is clearly overly pessimistic and cold in the extreme, yet it alludes to a kernel of truth now supported by a wealth of evidence from neuroscience: family relationships have a significant impact on children’s outcomes.

This makes relationships a clear social justice issue: the sheer contingency of our birth determines so much of what makes us who we are in a completely arbitrary way, long before we are even able to even know who we wish to be or what we want to do.

Parenting, we have come to realize, cannot therefore be a purely private matter. And parenting support was a key theme in the Prime Minister’s recent speech on life chances, in which he announced a new focus on the ‘Troubled Families’ programme on parenting skills and child development, as well as an expansion of universal parenting support as part of the forthcoming ‘life chances strategy’.

However, what has yet to be grasped fully by policy makers is the enormous influence of inter-parental relationships on children’s outcomes. The evidence is clear that:

Children growing up with parents who have good relationships and low parental conflict enjoy better physical and mental health [i], better emotional wellbeing [ii], higher academic attainment [iii] and a lower likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors [iv].
Children whose parents have poorer relationship quality exhibit more ‘externalizing’ behavior problems (e.g. hyperactivity, aggression).[v]
Inter-parental conflict which is frequent, intense and poorly-resolved is detrimental to children’s development, [vi] and can result in increased anxiety, withdrawal and depression, and behavioral problems including aggression, hostility, antisocial behavior, and even criminality.[vii]

And the evidence also shows that parents’ own relationship quality affects their relationships with their children, and hence parenting:

Almost every study examining parental relationships and parenting has found the quality of the relationship between parent and child to be linked to the quality of the relationship between the parents [viii].
Parents who report greater intimacy and better communication in their relationship tend to be more attuned to and affectionate toward their children [ix].
Parents whose relationship is troubled are less likely to have a more effective, authoritative parenting style with their children [x].
Parental conflict can lead to a reduced capacity to parent effectively, which results in impaired parent-child relationships and a higher likelihood of anxiety, behavior problems or withdrawal in children [xi].

And there is also good evidence that parenting support which focuses on the inter-parental relationships rather than simply parents’ skill and behaviors are effective – resulting in parents’ parenting styles being more responsive, appropriately structured, and less harsh; parents enjoying better relationship quality; and their children also showing fewer academic, social and emotional behavior problems over the next 10 years [xii].

What’s more, there is even some evidence from several longitudinal, randomized controlled studies indicating that parenting approaches that incorporate a focus on the quality of the parental couple relationship are more effective than those that maintain an exclusive focus on individual parent-child relationships and behaviors at maintaining couple relationship quality, reducing harsh parenting, reducing academic, social and emotional behavior problems in children, and reducing parenting stress [xiii].

However, parenting support tends to predominantly focus on parental behaviors, skills and techniques, rather than on the quality of parents’ relationships and their effects on children’s wellbeing and outcomes. Yet since evidence indicates that interventions that simultaneously aim to improve parenting skills and relationships within families, rather than focusing on parenting skills alone, are likely to have the most positive impact on families and children [xiv], we need to see a focus on the inter-parental relationships become a central focus of parenting support.

[i] Meltzer , H. Gatward, R., Goodman, R., & Ford, T. (2000) Mental health of children and adolescents in Great Britain. London: TSO

[ii] Harold, G. T., Rice, F., Hay, D. F., Boivin, J., Van Den Bree, M., & Thapar, A. (2011) Familial transmission of depression and antisocial behavior symptoms: disentangling the contribution of inherited and environmental factors and testing the mediating role of parenting. Psychological Medicine, 41(6), 1175-85; Cowan, C. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaption. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20 (3), 275-288

[iii] Harold, G. T., Aitken, J. J. & Shelton, K. H. (2007) Inter-parental conflict and children’s academic attainment: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48

[iv] Coleman, L. & Glenn, F. (2009) When Couples Part: Understanding the consequences for adults and children. London: One Plus One

[v] Garriga, A. & Kiernan, K. (2013) Parents’ relationship quality, mother-child relations and children’s behaviour problems: evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Working Paper

[vi] Harold, G.T., Aitken, J.J. & Shelton, K.H. (2007) Inter-parental conflict and children’s academic attainment: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(12), 1223–1232

[vii] Harold, G.T. & Leve, L.D. (2012) Parents and Partners: How the Parental Relationship affects Children’s Psychological Development. In Balfour, A., Morgan, M., & Vincent, C. (Eds.) How Couple Relationships Shape Our World: Clinical Practice, Research and Policy Perspectives. London: Karnac; Grych, J. & Fincham, F. (1990) Marital conflict and children’s adjustment: a cognitive contextual framework, Psychological Bulletin, 2, 267-290

[viii] Lindahl, K.M., Clements, M. & Markman, H. (1997) Predicting marital and parent functioning in dyads and triads: A longitudinal investigation of marital processes. Journal of Family Psychology, 11(2), 139 – 151

[ix] Grych, J. H. (2002) Marital Relationships and Parenting in Handbook of Parenting, Volume 4, Social Conditions and Applied Parenting. Ed. Bornstein. M. H. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

[x] Cowan, C., P. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaptation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20(3)

[xi] Grych, J.H. and Fincham, F.D. (1990) Marital conflict and children’s adjustment: a cognitive contextual framework, Psychological Bulletin, 2, 267-290

[xii] Cowan, C., P. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaptation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 20(3)

[xiii] Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2000) When partners become parents : the big life change for couples. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Cowan, C., P. & Cowan, P. (2005) Two central roles for couple relationships: breaking negative intergenerational patterns and enhancing children’s adaptation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy. 20(3)

[xiv] Cowan, P., & Cowan, C.P. (2008) Diverging family policies to promote children’s well-being in the UK and US: Some relevant data from family research and intervention studies. Journal of Children’s Services, 3, 4–16
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10 Tips for a Happy Relationship

1. Talk constructively
How you say things is as important as what you’re saying. If you and your partner are having a disagreement, don’t just attack them or go all-out criticizing. Why not try using ‘I’ statements? By saying  ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You always…’ you’re taking responsibility for your emotions and your partner won’t feel like they’re being blamed for everything.
2. Listen to each other
Listening is such an important tool in relationships. Sometimes, we find it hard to hear what our partner is saying because we’re so wrapped up in our own emotions. Remember that  communication works two ways. Listening to your partner is the only way to know what’s really going on with them.
3. Don’t bottle things up
If something has upset you, you’re not doing yourself or your partner any favors by keeping it to yourself. This is only likely to cause resentment to build up that will come out in other ways. If it’s something that really matters to you, talk about it.
4. Keep things fresh
It’s a cliché, but making the effort to keep things fun and interesting in your relationship can really make a big difference. It’s easy to get complacent about having someone in your life, but this kind of attitude can also lead to boredom and dissatisfaction. Let your partner know you appreciate having them around  by surprising them occasionally.
5. Let go of the little stuff
Although it’s good to talk when you’ve got something on your mind, your relationship is going to be like a battleground if you can’t ever let things slide. If it’s something that, all things considered, doesn’t actually matter that much, why not just forget about it? Nobody’s perfect – and you probably do stuff that your partner finds annoying too!
6. Appreciate what you have
Many people end up looking outside their relationship because they think there’s someone out there who is ‘better’ for them. Relationships aren’t about finding the ‘perfect partner’ – whatever that means. They’re about allowing the connection you do have to develop and grow. The strongest relationships are usually the ones that have been given the time to flourish.
7. Give each other space
Although it’s great spending quality time together, don’t forget you both need to nurture your interests and friendships. Couples who spend every moment in each other’s pockets can easily begin to feel unfulfilled when they realize that their personal interests have started to slip. Allow each other to spend time on the things you enjoy separately. When you reconvene as a couple you’ll be pleased to see each other and have lots to talk about.
8. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
It’s easy to worry about whether your relationship is as good as it ‘should’ be. Just as we can get wrapped up in having the best clothes or latest gadgets, we can worry about having relationships that are as exciting and passionate as the ones we see depicted in movies or hear about in songs. Relationships aren’t about constantly feeling butterflies – we all have our own unique ways of experiencing them and you’ll know what’s right for you. Enjoy yours for what it is – and be grateful that it’s there!
9. Avoid jealousy and build trust
Jealousy can destroy relationships, and nothing is less attractive than the green eyed monster. If you’re worried your partner isn’t giving you enough attention, try the open, honest approach rather than acting out or accusing them of looking elsewhere. Building mutual trust is the key to banishing unhealthy emotions and remaining strong together.
10. Work on it
It’s not always the most popular way of thinking about them, but relationships can be work. They need to be nurtured and given the space and attention they deserve. Communication isn’t something to do only occasionally – it should be a constant. It’s only by not taking your relationship for granted that your connection will stay strong. But the rewards, as anyone in a happy relationship knows, are more than worth the effort.

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Is Arguing with your Partner Always a Bad Thing?

Relate’s new survey The Way We Are Now 2015 reveals that 50% of us rarely or never argue. It certainly seems like encouraging news. But is conflict really something we should avoid? Or is it just part of a healthy and communicative relationship? The answer really depends on the kinds of arguments you’re having.
Different types of arguments
Arguments can be like storms – enough bad ones over a long period of time and it can really start to weather away at things.
If, when you argue, you find you’re returning to  the same topics over and over again – neither of you willing to hear each others’ point of view and sometimes losing your tempers and saying things you regret – it’s not likely it’s doing any good for your relationship.
You may have got stuck in a conflict loop – repeating the same negative behaviors until they risk causing permanent damage. It’s important to break out of this, as it’s likely to cause resentment to build to a point where it’s hard to focus on anything else.
But if your arguments are only occasional – and they don’t spiral out of control – then you may not have anything to worry about.
Many counselors agree they’re more concerned about couples who say they never argue than ones who say they do occasionally – if a couple is never bickering, there’s a chance one of them is simply bottling everything up and making themselves very unhappy.
Although it may not be the most productive way of sharing problems, arguing can serve a useful purpose – in that it does usually involve both sides of a couple saying what’s on their mind.
Avoiding arguments
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every time you’re annoyed with your partner, you should shout at them. If you can avoid getting into a fight, you should.
So if you feel that a disagreement is about to escalate , you might find the following tips useful:
Take a moment. Sometimes it’s a good idea to just walk away from the situation until you’ve both calmed down. You may be able see things more clearly once you’ve had a bit of time to think. It’s usually a good idea to talk over differences when you’re not already feeling emotional or upset – and especially not during other arguments. This can minimize the risk of saying something hurtful and just making things worse.
Use ‘I’ phrases, not ‘you’ phrases. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Rather than phrasing your comments as attacks, talk about how you feel. That way, you’re taking responsibility for your own emotions rather than blaming everything on your partner. It can also be a good idea to comment more generally on the situation than on the people involved – that way, you can look at it as something to solve together.
Let go of things. A lot of conflict is caused by one or both partners being unwilling to forgive minor transgressions or holding onto things that have annoyed them. Adopting a generally forgiving attitude in your relationship can make things so much easier. This doesn’t mean letting your partner walk all over you – just letting bygones be bygones rather than allowing them stack up over time.
Communicate openly in general. The best place to head off an argument is before it even begins! That’s why open and honest communication in relationships is so important. If you want to talk to your partner about something, do it – don’t keep it hidden and expect them to know what’s wrong. Nobody is a mind reader, no matter how much we would like them to be.
How I can help:
Is arguing a problem in your relationship? Talk to Trina, call 202 657 6919 or email: trina@couplecounselingDC.com
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