Archives by dr-kraft

Mechanics of Couples Therapy and Looking Like You Have Failed

April 1, 2015

The Mechanics of Therapy

A therapist can help partners identify negative patterns in how the they interact with each other, with their children and with other adults. With a trained eye, the therapist is able to pinpoint undercurrents that make themselves felt in unexpected ways as the relationship plays out day to day.

Two people mired in a broken relationship don’t understand the submerged dynamics that cause them to repeat the same behaviors over and over, causing stalemates, anger and feelings of being overwhelmed. The therapist will work to demystify the dynamics, giving the couple the power to step away from an argument. The therapist can help the couple see strengths in each other, not just flaws.

After recognizing what’s going on, the couple can work on changing their dynamics, their ways of interacting. The therapist assists with this process by helping each put the reactions of the other in context. This leads to understanding. The therapist can give them small, practical steps to adjust how they communicate, leading to a relationship that is more satisfying for both.

The therapist seeks to strengthen their bonds of intimacy, helping each learn the others communication style and what makes each one feel cherished. Two people learn how to reassure and support each other, while getting their own needs met in the process.

But It’ll Look Like I’ve Failed

Some couples and their families feel there is stigma attached to seeking counseling, as if they have failed to live up to perceived standards. Asking for help can be embarrassing. So the couple waits it out, hoping the problem will resolve of its own accord. They think that maybe all they need is try harder.

Often that doesn’t work. Sometimes an infection just keeps getting worse, whatever home remedies you try. Soon the hand is hurting, then the arm and shoulder. By the time you get to the doctor, he says it must be amputated. Ridiculous. Of course you would seek medical help long before that.  But some couples keep putting off therapy in the hope the problem will get better by itself. It doesn’t and they seek a divorce lawyer instead.  Therapy is preventive medicine, much like wellness-oriented healthcare. The therapist gives you positive methods to apply to lingering problems. With education and experience, the therapist can spot patterns that stay hidden to you. The tools you learn help you resolve old issues and prevent new ones.

A guest author penned these words–what thoughts to they bring to mind for you?

Avoiding Arguments–Six Simple Rules to Ponder

March 25, 2015

Some thoughts I would like you to think about in regard to couples:

Six simple rules for avoiding an argument becoming negative are as follows:

1) Don’t hide from the problem, but don’t dive straight into it either. Timing is important when looking to have a constructive discussion–that is why an arranged marriage counseling session is such a great option. Whatever happens it’s a bad idea to start a debate when one partner is at a disadvantage, such as after a bad day at work or after a sleepless night.

2) Never call the other partner names or hit below the belt. This is incredibly destructive and will serve only to set you both back.

3) Involving others is also a no-no; especially friends and children. They will feel extremely awkward, and it’s only going to create negativity. A controlled environment is essential with no interruptions.

4) An argument can only be constructive when conducted with mutual respect, interest, concern and participation. Questions should be asked of each other but at an emotive level more than a practical level, don’t demand answers like yes or no. The point is to be open and discuss the issue, not ‘win’.

5) Don’t criticize personality or character – try to keep it centered about the specific problem in hand. Calling someone idle, lazy, self-centered or such is very negative. Instead, keep focused on the matter at hand.

6) Keep to the topic and don’t change the subject. If there’s other debates to be had that aren’t part to do with this one, they can wait in turn. Bringing in multiple events will clutter and confuse the path to a satisfactory conclusion.

There’s much more to making an argument positive, but these are some basic tenants that will help from the very beginning. If a couple can learn to understand how these negative methods of conflict can be overcome and realize the benefits of constructive, open debate then the relationship will invariably become stronger, as a result. Marriage counseling is a way to get better at dealing with conflict – why not give it a try?

Arguments Happen with Couples

March 18, 2015

I’d like you to consider the following:

It may sound strange at first, but couples who don’t argue are often those with tensions bubbling under the surface while those who do argue may in some cases have a stronger relationship. As idyllic and romantic as it may be to dream of a perfect relationship where conflict is never expressed or vocalized, the truth is that couples who can learn to argue in a constructive manner usually have a better chance of staying together. There’s a big difference between what makes an argument constructive or destructive, and it’s not always something that comes to people naturally. With the help of a professional marriage counseling service, such positive arguments can be coached and subsequently be of great help in keeping a relationship happy and long lasting.

As time passes, it’s important to understand that conflicts are going to occur in any relationship, it’s how they are resolved that’s the key. There are many scenarios that may determine how people react to conflict, and the least healthy of all is to bypass the issue, as this will likely end up simply becoming self-perpetuating. No matter how little gets said – and so many couples even pretend that there isn’t an issue – resorting to playing a role rather than expressing their true feelings can be fatal to the relationship. Indeed it’s one of the most common scenarios seen by marriage counselors – a relationship where disputes have remained unspoken sometimes for years, yet have made the couple unhappy as much as they may try to hide it.

So how should we try to learn how to express our concerns and issues with a relationship? After all, many people dislike approaching conflict, especially when it’s with a partner who we love. Once more we return to the ‘fairy tale romance,’ and how important it is to overcome. A good piece of starting advice is to think back to other relationships – maybe friends or family – and arguments that have arisen in the past. Being in a romantic relationship makes people generally more inhibited in approaching conflict, because everyone has those disputes in the past that have been resolved after constructive discussion and moved on without any lasting damage.

It’s this willingness to discuss constructively that is at the heart of marriage counseling, without resorting to negativity or dispassionate concern to try and ‘win’ and argument. The only ‘winner’ is the couple when they have secured a consensus that pleases them both – it’s never a one-way process or a ‘first over the line’ victory.

 

Benefits of Couples Therapy

March 11, 2015

Some thoughts I’d like you to think about for couples:

Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is meant to help couple recognize and resolve problems while enhancing the health of their relationship. These are some of the benefits couples should expect from a therapy.

It helps to modify dysfunctional behavior. The therapist will try to change how the pair usually behaves with each other. It means that besides assisting them to improve their interactions, the therapist will also need to make sure that their clients are not engaging in actions that can cause economic, psychological or physical harm. To do this, the therapist will have to conduct careful assessment in order to determine if their clients are at risk. If necessary, the therapist will make a recommendation based on the problems the duo is facing in order to stop the problem from escalating.

Therapy may reduce emotional avoidance. People who do not express their inner feelings are usually at risk of becoming emotionally distant. The therapist will help them to bring out the thoughts and emotions that they fear conveying to the other person. People who did not develop secure expressive attachments in their childhood have unmet needs that they carry over into their adult relationships. They are afraid of showing their loved ones how much they need them since they fear being rejected. It is therefore essential for people to express their real thoughts in a way that will draw them closer together.

Couples therapy strives to bring about an improvement in communication and aims on assisting partners to converse effectively. The communication should neither be abusive nor should the pair ridicule each other when they express their feelings. It means that people need help in order to learn how to speak to each other in a more supportive and understanding way. Being able to communicate effectively means the couples will learn how to listen more actively and emphatically.

Ambiguity in Communication–Some Thoughts and a Response

March 4, 2015

Consider the following writing from an individual about ambiguity and then clarity in communication and counseling.  I’ll comment at the end:

Ambiguity in communication is an indispensable aspect in marital counseling.

I have experienced several vital matters throughout the period I provided counseling in Omaha. These issues usually arise from married couples, work group, and none traditionally married couple and so on. Couples discuss these matters in a therapy session, and they often refer to their experiences outside their office environment. The scenario is described as the importance of “good interaction or bad interaction” and ambiguity in communication is the cause of it. Various aspects of spousal communication need to be improved upon; being certain and precise are a few of the issues that couples are advised to tackle. This would reduce the argument and create a strong relationship. I spend a few times every week, offering counseling services, where I noticed the arguers making frantic effort, though without sarcastic tones, trying to make a meaning out of what he or she has just said and what he understands the other person has said. Let me say that as soon as this happens again, I would point it out, and label it as an important thing that has just happened. I subtly maintained that simplicity helps to discover solutions and can put an end to a crisis; it could shift the ground of argument. I have made out a few times counseling couples just to make everybody understand things that were just said. We try to clarify whether the partners understand what was just said by asking, “Do you mean that you do not hear what I said well” or “do you mean you can no longer tolerate this.”

Clarity is a very important lesson which every couple must learn in a counseling session.

Clarity the basic skill to master in couples counseling.

You can improve your life and improve your communication, even in a situation of argument by being clear about what you say. You can apply the principle of clarity to avert conflict by understanding how to ask what the other person means, or understanding how much you have hurt the other person, and by tendering your apology and by saying I am not doing much here. All these need to be said without sarcasm or they won’t be effective. You can say something like “what do you want from me to make you happy,” “what is that you want from me.” This could put an end to any argument. You can put an end to the argument by saying something like “I do not think I am understood.” The chances are there that your partner may not understand you very well, and the implication of this is that your communication is misunderstood, and you need to make yourself clear. You must not participate in couples counseling to employ these tools to your advantage and improve your relationship. To make it clearer to you, if you strive to be precise, you can solve any type of argument. There could be several other hindrances, which could obstruct conflict resolution, but you are getting to the end of the conflict when you are certain, and this would make the other person understand you better. This would help you to grow your relationship.

RGK’s comments:

Ambiguity and clarity are important, but in some of your writing it doesn’t seem that you know a lot about what you are saying, you just assert it.  For example, to say, “… if you strive to be precise, you can solve any type of argument.”  I do not find that to be true.  Being clearer often helps with communication and can, sometimes, decrease conflict, but it does not, in my opinion, guarantee a solution.

Resolve Conflict, Improve Relationships with Marriage Counseling

February 25, 2015

Some thoughts about couples, conflict, and improving relationships:

Marriage counseling helps two partners resolve problems and improve communication in their relationship. The process almost always involves both members, but occasionally just one will work with the therapist.   Here are some thoughts of the positive help therapy can provide for an ailing relationship.

The Reasons for Seeking Help

When two people are in trouble, often one will force the issue and demand that they seek counseling. Here are few of the most common reasons for getting help from a trained therapist:

  • communication difficulties that leave partners feeling disregarded, misunderstood, overwhelmed, angry
  • when one, or both, feels like they are more like roommates than lovers and partners
  • problems with sexual relations, which are often difficult to articulate or embarrassing to talk about
  • conflict regarding stepchildren, especially over discipline and favoritism
  • disagreements about how to raise the children, like too lenient, too controlling, not spending enough time with them
  • different ways of dealing with money, which impacts so many areas of a marriage
  • anger issues, which can include both too intimidating and too passive
  • domestic abuse, which can be physical, verbal or sexual
  • substance abuse, including alcohol, prescription or street drugs, and also unexpected addictions like to video games
  • affairs, or the threat of one, whether physical or emotional

If you are struggling with any of the above issues, perhaps it is time to consider relationship counseling.

Marital Fidelity—Some Interesting Research

May 20, 2014

A journal article I read recently reported:

“Divorce rates were significantly higher for secret infidelity couples (80%, n=4) than for revealed infidelity (43%, n=6) and noninfidelity couples (23%, n=26).”

What that means is that for the 36 couples that were reported on in the study, those with infidelity that was not revealed (not talked about) as an issue saw much higher divorce rates over the five years of follow up that the researchers did for this study. And those couples where they talked about the issues surrounding the infidelity were more likely to make it than those who kept such an issue a secret.

But there is more of interest: “Infidelity couples who eventually divorced reported the highest marital instability; however, infidelity couples who remained married did not differ in marital stability or relationship satisfaction from noninfidelity couples.”

So that seems to mean that if there was infidelity and they divorced, those were also the couples that had the highest marital instability and that would be expected. But the second part of the sentence says that when they remained married (and had been in couples therapy) couples with infidelity were as stable and satisfied in marriage as those that didn’t have infidelity as an issue.

One possible way to look at this finding is to say that infidelity does not mean a worse outcome for the marriage when the issues are worked on in therapy. And there is one more point that was made that I would like to state: “Furthermore, couples who remained married reported an increase in relationship satisfaction over time, regardless of infidelity status.” In this study, when couples remained married, they grew in satisfaction in the relationship regardless of fidelity status, that is, infidelity did not make a significant difference about satisfaction of the relationship. Remember that these couples had been in therapy. Also remember that this is one research paper with 36 couples.

My take on this: if you are willing to work on your issues, and work on infidelity in particular in couples therapy, you can (sometimes) find marital satisfaction at the same level as those who have not had infidelity in the relationship. That is something to think about. Couples therapy can make a difference, and working on your issues, even infidelity, can make a difference.

 

(Journal article: from Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice.)

Blasting Out Feelings—Maybe There Are Better Ways

April 8, 2014

I worked with a couple in couples therapy recently where the man, in this case, had strong feelings. The longer we worked together in therapy the more it became apparent that he was taking his strong feelings and telling the wife she should change, because of how he felt. As I worked with him and his side of the relationship, he began to see that his caring, actually let’s call it “over-caring,” had to do with him caring about his wife, feeling it strongly, then strongly telling her to change. He knew that his approach was not the best, that it would push her away. And he didn’t know how else to deal with these strong feelings. So we have moved to “working” his feelings, getting him to know them better, getting him to own them as him, getting him to not try to get rid of them by pushing them on her.

Couples therapy has moments when I work with one of the pair on an aspect of his or her life that is causing problems. To balance things, I very quickly go after the others compliment to the issue. In this case, the wife was pulling back and not saying a number of things that “needed” to be said. More on that next time.

Keep working on the relationship if you can…

What is Couples Work in Couples Therapy?

February 21, 2014

The expression “the work” comes up from time to time in working with couples. And at times, couples talk about working on their relationship. In couples therapy, “the work” can mean many things, but it often comes down to getting at the “core” or “deeper” issues that are causing problems for the couple. Couples (and we do the same as individuals) often avoid “deeper” work, “harder” issues, and that often includes confrontation of the other. But it also involves confrontation of the self: one phrase I find myself saying now and then to each party in the couple is that I have to get you to change (when they are often thinking that their spouse/significant other is the one that really needs to be doing the changing). Couples often spend time talking in a session—I let them talk when they are really “working,” when they are getting at important issues or talking in intimate (personal, vulnerable) ways with one another. I sometimes also let them talk when they are focusing on issues that are not important. They often think they are talking about important things when they do that, but there are times when they are not really getting to what they need to. And so there are times when I try to cut off a conversation (or monologue) that is really not getting to the work, is not getting to something that is important, problematic, or getting in their way of functioning well as a couple.

Different couples have different issues that are important to get to, but the most important almost always have to do with deep seated values they have. They may argue about the trash, but if there is a fight going on over a “little issue,” it often means that larger values are behind the trash issue. Sometimes it means they don’t know how to fight about what they really need to fight through and so the trash becomes the vehicle for getting out feelings and even values. It comes down to working on or talking about in a meaningful way the problems and differences in values to a point of acceptance or resolution whether that occurs in couples therapy or at home (or even with a friend or relative). If a couple is not reaching resolution enough (in their eyes), it is probably time to go to work in couples therapy.

Keep working on it when you can…

Holidays—Taking Care of Yourself and the Couple as Well as Others

January 3, 2014

The holidays have come and gone and a number of couples have talked about how they went as we worked in couples therapy. Everyone seemed to try and talk about the good things that happened but there seemed to also be an underlying current of disappointment. In getting the couples to talk about that, it seemed that a theme was present in every case: taking care of others, which is not really a bad thing and is something that is a part of this holiday season, but there was also a denial of self and of immediate family. And this is an issue that I see causing a lot of folks in my practice problems—taking too much care of others to the exclusion of taking care of one’s own self. When that happens over a long enough period of time, things start to unravel, at least in my practice and with the people that come in and talk with me. They don’t always see it and they often don’t even understand that it is happening. Taking care of others is a good thing for them and for you; doing so to the exclusion of also taking care of yourself causes problems.

So what kinds of solutions did couples come to in the therapy to go about getting some lasting change? The couples that seemed to get the most out of this area of discussion began to realize that they needed to do both, that is, take care of themselves, the couple, and others. Next year they are carving out time at home, alone with just their family, to have the holiday they want. That thought, that plan seemed to make some sense to the couples that wanted that for their holiday.

And a couple where one is always taking care of others and not taking care of him or herself suffers, in the long run if not the short one. So when one party in the couple began to see that not only did he/she need to take care of her/himself better but to make sure that the other half of the couple needed to have some care of self as well, then things were really getting better for the couple. When both are doing better in caring for self and other, the couple often thrives.

Keep working on it, your self and your significant other.

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