Shame is a powerful issue in many people’s lives. It is often powerful and one doesn’t even realize that it is banging hard on the door. Shame can get in the way of couples doing their own work because the partners don’t realize that shame is flying around inside oneself and being tossed at the partner. One answer lies in looking to ones own feelings, and to look for when ones feelings are engorged by shame.
There is something that I watch in the work of couples therapy that I believe is crucial for me to take home as well, that is, opening up softly. “Opening up softly” is the opposite of “harsh startups,” a term I learned from John Gottman, the “country’s foremost relationship expert,” as he calls himself. Dr. Gottman is very renowned, has gathered a great deal of research, and devoted his life’s work to understanding and helping treat couples that are in trouble. Harsh startups occur when one (or both) partners jump right in loudly and accusingly towards the partner. Really, this is something to work at getting better about. Truly, if you are a person using harsh startups, it is time to work on approaching your partner in another way.
Brene Brown is a speaker, therapist, and researcher who has a new documentary (that actually is quite funny and could almost be stand up comedy) on Netflix called Brene Brown, The Call to Courage. If you are in a partnership and want to learn about some ways of doing a better job of being partners, you would do well to view this show. She has talked about shame a great deal and this particular show is about courage and vulnerability. How vulnerable are you in your relationship? Perhaps in all your relationships?
I saw a Gold Star couple today. By “Gold Star,” I mean they were magnificent in how they had worked on what we talked about over the first and only couple of sessions. Since the previous session (which was the second session), they had each worked on the sexual relationship, and how they talked to each other about sex, and were able to have a nice time together. They had each worked on how they are about finances. Also, thought they had started the conversation by not having a discussion that was going well. They ended it, and then tried again a bit later and did better, and worked though some pieces of how they handle their finances.
Do you have an interest in a very alternate form of couples therapy? If so, you might want to catch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (Netflix). In watching the first two episodes, it was evident that in showing the results of Marie helping each couple to tidy up their home, she also helped the relationship. In the first one, she even commented that there is some stress in the relationship, and in the second couple, though they seem to have a very good relationship in the beginning, one can see some stress come out as they get into the process of tidying up.
It often becomes a very important part of couples work for each individual to get their own act together, to become healthier, to become healthier apart from the partner (become differentiated) and to become healthier in being with the partner (to grow intimacy and vulnerability in relationship with the partner). Both are required for making things go well with a couple, being healthier apart from your partner and being healthier with your partner.
Like is the case with any relationship, partners looking for couples counseling in Omaha often have problems with getting into fights. These can escalate into name-calling, dragging up old grievances, getting defensive and a slew of other ways of keeping each other from resolving issues. Lingering anger and resentment, illnesses, communication problems, sexual and monetary issues can all make relationships hard to stick with. Couples often both end up being right (or thinking they are both right) but most couples don’t know how to move beyond the impasse of both being right.
Calling a prospective couples therapist can cause bit of anxiety—it is someone you don’t know, you are asking for their time, and you are going to be trusting that person with something that is very important and you are not doing well with. People often ask a friend or confidant or a professional for the name of someone to call. You are putting your relationship between you and your partner into their hands.
I try not, as a rule, not to talk much about myself or my relationship with my partner in my couples therapy sessions as a psychologist or even in writing about couples therapy. But I found myself building on something in a session with a couple, building on an issue that was happening in the couples therapy that also has happened at home, so I used an example from home and brought it into the couples therapy.
Everyone knows relationships are difficult, but it’s easy to feel like your relationship is really hard — like your partner is the first partner in history to nag or nitpick or leave dishes in the sink and expect you to clean them.