Category: Help for Relationship Trouble

Tips for when a partner is defensive

7 Helpful Ways to Deal With a Defensive Partner

Does your partner get defensive? When you try to discuss something, do you think:

“I can’t talk to him without him getting mad”

“Why is my wife so defensive?”

“My husband gets defensive when I tell him how I feel”

When you’re in a relationship, you have an extra powerful influence on each other’s emotional life. One look from you partner can send a jolt through your nervous system like nobody else can.

Intimacy gives you extra power to trigger of triggering highly charged defenses. You can also spark a deep sense of security too.

Why You Need to Address Defensive Behavior

When a problem persists, and couples can’t fix it, conditions are ripe for a toxic pattern you’ll want to avoid. Defensiveness is part of a sequence that get couples into trouble.

Defensive behavior is the second step of the four horsemen of the apocalypse for relationships according to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman. Unless you fix them, these negative cycles have a track record of driving couples apart:

  • Criticism – blaming the whole
Come Read the Rest
difficult conversation

What to Do with Unresolved Issues in Your Relationship

Are you seeing signs that unresolved issues are hurting your relationship? When you don’t know how talk about relationship problems, you’re left:

  • Feeling shut down when he touches you, because you feel angry, put-off, resentful, rather than affectionate
  • Fearing a bad outcome if you bring up your trouble, such as a full-blown fight
  • Feeling unheard when you do try to discuss why you’re angry
  • Thinking you don’t have enough influence in your relationship, which can lead to frustration

Love needs rebuilding, attention and care. Here’s how to tend to anger in a love-safe way.

First, Deal With Your Fear

Why are you holding back? Maybe you’re afraid of speaking your mind and doing it wrong. You worry, “What if he thinks I’m upset over nothing? What if things blow up and we have a big fight? What if he just shuts down? What if he gets really angry and defensive?”

First, think about why you’re afraid to speak up. It takes courage to handle your own deeper feelings. You may be afraid of his reaction.… Come Read the Rest

how to deal with blame in a relationship

7 Steps to Banish Blame From Your Relationship

What usually happens when couples fight? It’s tempting to think, “It’s my partner’s fault.”

Finding fault may seem normal and natural. We do it without knowing it. But there’s a problem with faulting your partner when you disagree.

Blame gets in the way of seeing each other clearly. It blinds us to our own part in the conflict. And it makes problem solving almost impossible!

Fighting with your partner sets off strong emotions, like fury and fear of rejection. How can you calm down when your relationship is threatened? How can you explore strong emotions, without getting swept up in them?

Blame happens. But it doesn’t help solve relationship problems. You can shift that energy into something better.

Here are 7 steps to banning blame from your relationship:

1) Know That Blame Is Really Based In Fear

Why are people so quick to point fingers sometimes?

Blame is a defense against the threat of danger. In some families blame is learned in childhood. A sense of danger might come from feeling unheard or judged. You … Come Read the Rest

Avoid contempt to stop constant arguing

4 Horsemen in Relationships and How to Stop Them

Every relationship hits rough patches. But there are four toxic patterns many couples fall into when they argue. They’re called the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They’re common, and they predict divorce if they hang around. Find out how to recognize and stop them.

The key to a better relationship is how well you recognize these 4 toxic blocks to emotional connection, and fix them.

Recognize Bad Advice

Most well meant advice on how to handle conflict doesn’t help you deal with emotional disconnection.

When you were growing up, how many times did you hear someone say:

“If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all!”

“If you are right, you never have to say you are, “Sorry.”

“Just ignore them, and they will stop.”

 “Stick and stones can break your bones, but names can never hurt you.”

Sometimes we put too much emphasis on being “nice,” at the expense of saying what you need. Too often, we’re told to disregard our human pain when in conflict with others. In relationships, we … Come Read the Rest

Love is like a safe harbor for you and your partner

Finding Safe Passage to Emotional Connection

What are we looking for in our most important relationships? It’s that feeling of a safe, dependable, steady connection with another person. It helps us stay on an even keel despite whatever is going on around us.

What we’re looking for — what we are wired for — is secure emotional connection. Without it, we’re like storm-tossed ships at sea. Much of what keeps us afloat during the tumult of life, and anchors us to a sense of purpose, is a strong enough awareness that we matter, that we are important and valued by someone we care about.

We hear popular love songs and see books and movies full of love stories. Yet for many of us, real-life emotional connection is hard to find. People are everywhere, but still many of us feel isolated, afraid, and alone. It’s like the passage to connection is hiding in plain sight. Why does this happen?

Why Is Emotional Connection So Hard Sometimes?

Many of us may have missed the chance to learn by experience what secure love and … Come Read the Rest

emotions below the surface

What’s Below the Surface of Arguments with Your Partner?

emotions below the surface

I work with many couples who are upset that they fight all the time. They wonder why they can’t solve problems like disagreements about cleaning up the dishes, or how to parent their kids, or whether one works too much. They think that if they solve that content issue, they’ll go back to feeling close again.

In fact, it’s hard to get back to feeling good without looking at what’s underneath. The argument is what’s happening on the surface. But what’s underneath is usually a very real fear of not being loved or appreciated, or being seen as “not good enough.”

NEW Hold Me Tight workshops are coming soon to Mount Vernon Family Therapy. Get details privately by email (no spam!).

Why Arguments Escalate with Loved Ones

When an argument heats up, often there is an unmet need for more emotional connection. One or both partners is feeling emotionally starved.

The person who is upset about dirty dishes, for example, probably thinks, “I’m not appreciated, my partner doesn’t care; I’m just being taken for … Come Read the Rest

How Couples Can Stop Fighting and Grow Closer

Couples can stop fighting and grow closerPartners can stop fighting so much, and turn conflict into safety with a new focus on emotions

Often, when counseling begins with a couple experiencing a lot of conflict, they notice after a few weeks that they are arguing less.

As couples stop fighting so much and find a little bit of peace in therapy, a little less stress at home, they sometimes think, “okay things feel better, so we must be fine now.”

But I want couples to know there is so much more to a healthy relationship than just not fighting!

While things are better — and that’s great — we have not yet built that secure emotional connection that is the essence of healthy love. We are just at neutral.

The next stage is to learn to go from “not fighting” to making the relationship a strength.

Couples therapy, specifically Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), gives couples important skills to move from negative to neutral to positive. It helps couples actually use new skills to learn from their conflict so they can draw … Come Read the Rest

Depression support for couples

Could Depression be Wreaking Havoc with Your Relationship?

Depression support for couples

Sometimes the greatest stress in a marriage or partnership isn’t about poor communication or a loss of love and affection.

The hidden issue for many couples is depression.

This condition often plagues couples who come to therapy confused and distressed about changes in their relationship that they don’t understand. Neither one realizes that a mental health issue has developed behind the scenes.

When one partner is struggling with depression, the other frequently feels overwhelmed and hurt, and does not know what to do.

It is good to finally know what is troubling someone you love. But now you have a new challenge: How can you help yourself and your partnership through this incredibly tough time?

Why Depression Often Goes Undiagnosed

Depression can take hold without notice, often because it has no clear onset. About two-thirds of people with symptoms of depression never seek treatment, says the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).

Depression has no single cause, but several factors can bring on symptoms. It can be situational – following an event that has turned … Come Read the Rest

10 ways healthy couples fight fair

10 Healthy Ways Partners Fight Without Hurting Their Relationship

10 Warnings Signs that Arguing is Hurting Your Relationship and How to Fight Fair

As we grow up, each of us learns that there are many ways to approach an argument. We can try our best to fight fair. We can persist, badger and raise the volume — until we get our way. We can try to avoid it entirely by giving in, or keeping mute about issues. Some couples may find themselves stuck in a pattern of ‘fighting all the time.’ When arguing doesn’t solve anything, withdrawal can set in — a habit of turning away from each other for self-preservation.

It is sad when couples see their partner as someone to avoid, someone to change or someone who is on the ‘other side.’ But there is real reason to believe couples can shift from opposition to kindler gentler problem solving that has powerful positive outcomes. Deep down, each of you most likely wants to help each other reach your goals, individually and as a couple. Arguing successfully helps you both find solutions — … Come Read the Rest

5 tips for arguing with love

5 Love-Saving Tips When Arguing With Your Partner

Arguing with your partner can really hurt.

Handled one way, it can cause pain and injury. But handled another, something beautiful and tender may unfold. It depends on how you go about arguing with your partner.

When an important issue raises your different views on any matter — money, parenting, sex, work, life — it is natural to feel angry, upset, maybe even chilled to the bone. Arguing with your partner may not necessarily damage your love – it depends on what you do with them.

Partners who love each other can still feel negative and critical thoughts toward each other sometimes. Those who are able to work around the negativity can find their way back to happiness together. Others get stuck in a downward spiral, where nothing gets solved and animosity grows.

Is the Problem Your Partner, Or Your Pattern?

Gridlocked couples fight differently than happier couples do. Struggling couples often misunderstand the reason for their growing (and unwanted) hostility: They think the issue is the kind of person their partner is. More likely, … Come Read the Rest