,

Why “Are you happy?” Should Not Be Used To Decide Divorce

You’ve heard it. A friend of yours is complaining to others about their partner and the discussion ultimately leads to the same question “…but are you happy?” as the gauge for whether or not they should remain in the relationship.

But what if that isn’t the right question. What if you need to be asking something else. What if offering support looked different.

What if it may be more beneficial to help an ailing friend keep their relationship alive.couple in long term satisfying relationship

Aside from being in a relationship where you or your children’s safety is at risk, unhappiness may not actually be a good reason to end a relationship. Our partner was not created to make us happy, just like we are not expected to make our partners happy.

Believe it or not, many couples go through seasons where they do not necessarily feel happy but remain committed and ultimately have a satisfying relationship in the long term.

Happiness does not determine a successful relationship.

Happiness is temporary. Happiness can be worked on. Couples who end relationships because they are unhappy often continue to find themselves unhappy outside of the relationship, as well.

So while it can be easy to blame your unhappiness on your partner, it may not be all of their fault.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman share that when you marry someone, you marry a set of problems. Some of those problems may be solvable, however each couple has a set of unsolveable problems they will manage throughout the course of their relationship.

Just because these problems are unsolveable, it’s still recommended to talk about the conflict as it arises. You just have to make a shift from having the goal of solving the problem to consistently navigating those problems as they come up. 

It requires accepting that this may be something you will have to perpetually address.

Gottman found that a majority of marital problems (69%!) are perpetual.

This means couples studied long term were found to be fighting about the same thing years after they were originally evaluated.

Dan Wile in his book After the Honeymoon, and mentioned in the book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, says as it relates to marrying a set of perpetual problems,

“Paul married Alice and Alice gets loud at parties and Paul, who is shy, hates that.
But if Paul had married Susan, he and Susan would have gotten into a fight before they even got to the party. That’s because Paul is always late and Susan hates to be kept waiting. She would feel taken for granted, which she is very sensitive about. Paul would see her complaining about this as her attempt to dominate him, which he is very sensitive about.
If Paul married Gail, they wouldn’t have even gone to the party because they would still be upset about an argument they had the day before about Paul’s not helping with the housework. To Gail, when Paul does not help, she feels abandoned, which she is sensitive about, and to Paul, Gail’s complaining is an attempt at domination, which he is sensitive about.”

Often times when someone gets a divorce, it can be normal to even remarry someone with a very similar set of perpetual problems. The thing that person was originally trying to escape from, finds themselves facing the same dilemma all over again.

Life has a way of putting us in the same position until we have learned the intended lesson.

While we are all searching for the perfect person who will never cause us any heartache, unfortunatelycouple getting over an argument those do not exist. Conflict is unavoidable. Negative emotions will be unavoidable…And negative emotions are not wrong.

It’s possible our standards may be too high.

High standards in a relationship are good. Research has found that high standards  in a relationship can lead to things like more kindness and respect.

So while this is not a bad thing, our standards are higher than ever for our partners and we have to remember just like our partners can’t be perfect, neither can we.

As shared in the advice column, Are My Relationship Standards Too High?

“John Gottman’s four decades of relationship research informs us that expecting unending bliss is unrealistic. Instead, he argues, we should strive for the “good enough” relationship. By good enough he means that there is honesty, respect, affection, trust, and commitment. It is unrealistic to expect your partner to heal your childhood wounds or to have a conflict free relationship.”

Conflict is not an indicator of a happy or unhappy relationship. The goal in a relationship is to learn to manage the inevitable conflict that arises.

Dr. Gottman has said, “Although we tend to equate a low level of conflict with happiness, a lasting relationship results from a couple’s ability to manage the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship.”

Why work on it?

You are right if you are concerned that you are unhappy. It is important to address your unhappiness. An unhappy or volatile marriage can significantly increase your chances of getting sick. It also has an impact on your children. The extreme stress children experience in homes where there is consistent marital hostility could lead to enhanced risk for truancy, mood disorder, aggressiveness, social challenges and struggles in school.

Working on your marriage is worth it. Happy or “Good Enough” marriages may actually make you physically healthier and decrease your chances of getting sick. A happy marriage may mean a longer and happier life.

Your health is worth it. Divorce is a very stressful process. While you and your children can be and ARE very resilient, the divorce experience can have major implications on your family’s health. Even couples who have good intentions often end up having divorces that are not peaceful.

In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman reports that couples who remain married live 4-8 years longer than those that don’t.

If you are considering divorce based on your unhappiness, it may be worth trying other things first:

Try other ways to manage conflict: It’s possible you and/or your partner are getting flooded during arguments.  This means your body physically gets too overwhelmed to the point where you become incapable of both hearing each other and also properly expressing yourselves. Your relationship may benefit from learning how to self soothe and how to take healthy breaks.

Go inward to see if you may be feeling critical or defensive towards your partner. Try expressing what you need using “I statements” instead of focusing on where to place blame. 

Do something different: Couples get stuck in their dance and find themselves in a rut that feels inescapable. We keep doing the same things and hope our partner changes.

Like the ripple effect that happens after throwing a small pebble into a still pond, sometimes even making little changes can have a great impact.

Trying reacting differently – even opposite – to what you usually do.

Even if you don’t do anything different, your relationship could benefit from just adding more positive interactions with your partner. Work towards becoming an emotional millionaire. This can be hard when you are unhappy and not feeling positive towards your partner, but sometimes it can be the thing needed to shift your perspective. Sometimes our partner has not changed, it is our perspective that has changed and we need to see our partner the way we did when we first got together.

couple remembering how they met Remember WHY you married your partner: Often it is the thing we are most attracted to that ultimately can be the thing that tears us apart. For example, a partner may be initially attracted to how “easy going” and “flexible” their partner is. Years down the road, this can shift into the perspective that their partner is “lazy” and DOESN’T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING.

Focus on how the qualities of your partner that are currently driving you nuts may actually be the strength you saw in them early on. 

Work on yourself: Engage in self care and find ways to find happiness on your own. Pick up a new hobby. Go back to the things that have made you happy in the past that you may no longer do. You may find your your relationship still benefits from you making positive changes.

Speak the partner you want into existence: When things feel negative, it is so easy to focus on the negative and give our attention and energy to the things we do not like…which then ultimately leads to more negativity.

Instead, try to shift your focus and acknowledge the things your partner is doing right.

If there are things you want them to change, instead of naming what you don’t like, you could say something like “you know I really love it when you…” or let them know when historically they have gotten it right by saying, “I really appreciated the time you…” to focus on the behaviors you want more of.

Find things to be grateful for and say them out loud…often.

Solve the problem together: Be open. Talk with your partner about where you are at and what you are feeling. Be vulnerable using a softened startup. Externalize the problem and take a team approach to address the concerns in your relationship.

couple solving the problem as a team

Offer grace: I often get the question, “what if my partner does not deserve respect.” Again, in the context of safe relationships where there is no abuse present, respect is offered simply because that is what love demands. Sometimes you respect in spite of your partner, not because of your partner. You offer dignity to your partner even when they may not deserve it. Assume goodwill in your partner.

You may be seeing your partner as an adversary, and possibly even for good reason. You may have experienced betrayals or regrettable incidents that have affected how you now see the relationship.

Assuming goodwill was likely much easier earlier on in the relationship. Just like we want grace, getting what we don’t necessarily deserve, from our partner when we have messed up, we need to be willing to offer the same.

Take some level of responsibility: It can be easy to get stuck in the negative perspective and feel everything is your partner’s fault. When we start to look at ourselves and how we may be contributing to the problem, it levels the playing field a bit and helps lead to the change you so desire.

Not all advice is good advice: While it is good to be talking with others and open about your concerns, make sure you are listening to the advice of those you love and trust… and who trust you. People often give advice based out of their own life experiences, and while your situation may be similar…it is not the same. Remember you are the expert on your own life and in your relationship. It is OK to trust yourself to know what is best for your family.

Find your spiritual grounding: For couples who agree on their faith, getting back to your foundational beliefs and value systems can be helpful. Establishing rituals of connection by attending your preferred place of worship together can lead to growth or even some shifts in the relationship. Engage your faith community if it is a safe place for you to be struggling. Find support from like-minded individuals and determine how your beliefs and values can inform what you feel is best for your family.

Try couples counseling: Couples often seek couples counseling when they are on the verge of divorce,  and while this can work, couples counseling can actually be more effective beforehand. Therapy becomes more challenging when one partner already has one foot out of the door. Don’t be afraid to try couples counseling when your relationship starts down a path you don’t want it to go.

Be OK with not being OK: Being unhappy in your relationship is OK, even normal, but it does not mean you have to feel that way forever. If your partner is not willing to engage in couples counseling, you can still go! Many people attend individual counseling to work on relationship goals and experience positive changes in their relationship based on the changes they’ve made.

Research also indicates just reading the book Seven Principles for Making Things Work can have a positive impact on a relationship …even without counseling!

So go ahead and ask your friend if they are happy in their relationship. But if they say no…

  • Don’t jump to recommend separation or divorce
  • Be quick to support whatever they choose is best – regardless of whether you agree
  • Ask questions and come from a place of curiosity – don’t assume you are the expert on their life
  • Encourage they seek professional help before making big decisions that impact their family

unhappy couple contemplating divorce

Feel as though your relationship could use some additional support? Couples Therapy or Workshops at Thrive Therapy can be a great place to start.

Want more tips and techniques for a healthy and satisfying relationship? Subscribe to the Thrive Therapy newsletter.

,

How to Prioritize Intimacy After Having Kids

Many couples find that passion and romance dissolve in their relationship after the arrival of little ones. So if this is your experience, the good news is…you are not alone. Dr. John Gottman addresses this concern in his book And Baby Makes Three and in Bringing Baby Home Workshops – which is now offered by Thrive Therapy in the Tampa Bay Area.

Why is this? Most couples say:intimacy after children thrive therapy tampa bringing baby home
*I’m waiting until I feel like it
*I prefer sex to be spontaneous
*There is no time
*We can’t find babysitters
*Babysitters are expensive
*We can’t afford dates
*We are too tired
*We aren’t romantic anymore
*He/she does not pick up on my attempts at seducing
*I don’t pick up on my partner’s cues which has lead my partner to feel rejected

Can you relate?

Intimacy after children, particularly for women, highlights the struggle of maintaining and navigating two identities in the same person.

The dichotomy between:

Parenting = strong sense of responsibility, caretaking, other-focused

Sensuality = letting go, pleasure

Research has shown that small bids for connection or “Turning Towards” are the secret to romance and intimacy. This is part of building an Emotional Bank Account.

83% of happy couples Turn Towards one another. In couples who divorce, only 30% Turn Towards one another.

“Bids” describe the way people express what they need in the moment. Bids are used to make a connection with another person and can be obvious or subtle. Saying something like “It would help me so much if you could fold the laundry for me tonight” versus “Wouldn’t hurt you to fold the laundry every once in a while” can be much easier for your partner to receive. The key for successful bids is to:

1) Check in with yourself to see what you’re needing in the moment

2) Clearly ask for what you need using I Statements

Having positive interactions like this often are the key to sustained passion and romance in a long term relationship.

To make sex a priority in your relationship, keep in mind:

Sex doesn’t have to be magical
Having sex after kids can, in some ways, feel like your relationship with the gym. The longer you go without exercising, the easier it is to not exercise. The longer you go without sex, the easier it feels to not have sex. Once you start exercising and getting into a routine, the easier it is to fit it in and want to go. Long periods between sex can sometimes create added pressure, so remind yourself that sex does not have to be fireworks every time, but you have to start somewhere and that is OK.

Sex can be scheduled
Most couples initially shut down the idea of sex being scheduled. Take a moment to think back to the beginning of your relationship with your partner. Think about the times you had sex early on in your relationship. As you got yourself ready for a date or to see your partner, you likely knew the outcome of that experience, and sex most likely was “scheduled” even though it wasn’t named. Scheduling sex can be exciting! Text your partner in anticipation throughout the day. Tease each other. And prep the way you used to in the beginning of your relationship. See if shifting your perspective makes a difference.

Every positive interaction in your relationship is foreplay
It’s the small things often in a relationship, that ultimately lead to great sex. Become an emotional millionaire by doing small things often. Work towards a great emotional connection and your enhanced sex life will likely follow.

Don’t make sex the last chore of the day
It’s so easy to wait and see if you will feel like it at the end of the day, but the reality is you will likely be too tired…just as you were the day before and the day before that. If you wait until you feel like it or for it to spontaneously happen, you may be waiting a long time. Sex in this life stage may need to be more intentional. Think about a time of day or particular day of the week that may work best for you and talk about that with your partner.

Periodically spend a night away together away from the kids
When our kids feel our love…they’re happier. So while time away from children can be difficult, it can be good for them too! Remind yourself that the greatest gift you can offer your children is a healthy relationship with your partner.

Find ways to communicate about sex without hurting each others feelings
Saying “no” is OK, it is just important to have a conversation with your partner ahead of time as to how each of you can say “no” in a way your partner can receive.

Accept that things have changed since the baby arrived
Things ARE different. There is a season to everything, and having challenges in intimacy after having children is so normal. Give yourself a break, be easy on yourself, and work towards a solution that feels reasonable considering the life space you are in. It is normal for your sex drive to drop, particularly for new moms who are breastfeeding. Remember you won’t feel this way for forever, it is a temporary season, but recognizing this can help to take the pressure off a bit.

Ask each other for sex
We are typically indirect in our communication about sex, but it may be helpful to try a more direct approach. Find fun ways you can give your partner clues you are “in the mood”, and let them know what those clues are. Some couples report having some sort of knick knack on the wall, and when it is facing a certain direction, that means one partner is indicating they are feeling feisty. Talk with your partner about the clues you give, the clues they give, and come up with fun ways to communicate your interest. Communicate directly, but in ways your kids likely won’t recognize, and have fun sharing in that secret together.

Talk about what feels good sexually…and how to make it better
In our attempt to be more direct with our partner, it can feel easy to criticize or name what you don’t like. Try to only say what you like in bed, and focus on that. Place your energy and attention on the things you want more of. Try to keep the conversation positive.

Express nonsexual affection, especially with touch
Gottman recommends a 6 second kiss every day. He says, “A six-second kiss is a kiss with potential,” but it doesn’t have to lead to sex. Touch can add to your emotional connection. A pleasant hug with your partner as they come home or before they leave for the day, or reaching out to hold their hand can all help to enhance your emotional connection.

Realize in most cases he’s a microwave…and she’s a dutch oven
Particularly after having children, sex is more of a slow build up for women, and a quick release for men. Traditionally for women, desire may not even come until after sex has started. However men turn toward their partner for sex once they they are already aroused. In heterosexual relationships, the couple might benefit from the husband slowing way down, and also understanding their partner may still be thinking about all the chores that have not been done. Men – foreplay might mean helping your partner with the dishes, or by expressing extreme appreciation. Women – don’t forget to see the positives your partner is doing and name that too!

Accept that quickies are just as important as gourmet sex
How do kids always seem to know when action is happening in the bedroom? They always seem to knock or need a drink of water the minute things get going. Try not to get too frustrated and know that quickies can beneficial too.

Share your fantasies
Share the things that excite you. Anticipation of sex can be helpful and can possibly lead to great scheduled sex.

Discuss feelings and don’t avoid conflict
Healthy conflict and open discussion of feelings help to avoid the drift that can occur right before couples tend to divorce. Don’t be afraid of openness and vulnerability as a way to ultimately draw you closer together.

Prioritize gourmet sex and make time for it
Gourmet sex does not have to happen often, but it certainly can help to prioritize it sometimes. Reminisce with your partner about the good times you’ve had in bed, and make a plan for how you would like to include that gourmet sex in your relationship.

Set aside time with your partner to have an open discussion about sex:
– Discuss what is working in your sex life right now
– Are there areas that could be improved?
– What are the best times to initiate sex?
– What are the ways you/your partner tends to initiate sex?
– How can you say “no” without it feeling like a rejection?

Discuss a plan for what you determine is best for your relationship in terms of:

  • A date night
  • An overnight
  • Scheduled sex

For each item make a plan for how often you would like each to occur. Be realistic about what would be reasonable (weekly, every other week, monthly). The frequency is not as significant as both partners being in agreement, being on the same page, and sticking to what you agree to.

When in doubt….download the Gottman Relationship Card Deck App to have access to Love Maps and Open Ended Questions to enhance your friendship. And when you’re feeling spicy, check out the salsa cards!

One of the greatest giftsIntimacy after having children thrive therapy florida tampa
you can give your children
is a strong relationship
between the two of you.

 

Have you noticed a change in your relationship with the arrival of a new baby? Couples Therapy or Workshops at Thrive Therapy can help to address your concerns.

Want more tips and techniques for a healthy and satisfying relationship? Subscribe to the Thrive Therapy newsletter.

, ,

Kids Want Their Daddy…and Need Their Daddy

*In this post, “father” can be interchanged with the terms “coparent” or “father figure”.

Moms are generally celebrated for the impact they have on their children (rightfully so). Songs are written about moms, support groups and communities tend to surround moms with the arrival of a new child, and with this, moms may more easily live into society’s expectations as caregiver because of this support available. What can sometimes be neglected or ignored is the incredible impact a father can have on his children. 

In John Gottman’s book, And Baby Makes Three, the importance of fathers is addressed. Research indicates babies that have a positive relationship with their dad display increases in performance in school, social competence, and the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. These effects are shown to transition into adulthood.

Further studies reveal children benefit most from “that special something” fathers offer from the beginning of their life. Fathers are not only important but critical to a child’s development starting at day one.

An infant that is just 2-3 weeks old already will interact differently with their father, and will present more wide-eyed, bright faced, and playful with dad more than mom!

With further information offered through the Bringing Baby Home curriculum, the Gottman’s have found many studies that indicate…

When dads are active in a child’s life, the child tends to:and baby makes three father thrive therapy florida
– Have superior cognitive functioning
– Be better at problem solving skills
– Have higher IQ early on
– Display an increase in empathy
– Have higher levels of happiness
– Report higher life satisfaction
– Have greater likelihood of being securely attached
– Better handle strange situations and display resiliency
– Be more likely to curiously explore their environment
– Be less likely to experience depression
– Have fewer feelings of fear and guilt
– Show greater tolerance when experiencing stress or frustration
– Be more likely do well academically
– Be more adaptable
– Be more playful, resourceful, skillful and attentive as it relates to problems
– Be better able to react appropriately to emotions and impulses
– Have greater ability to take initiative
– See themselves as dependable, trusting, practical, and friendly
– Be more likely to succeed in work as adults and experience overall mental health

When fathers are active in their child’s life, they receive benefits too:
– They are more sensitive with their babies: Did you know when fathers experience skin to skin with their baby, their testosterone levels will never again be as high as they were before?
– They report more secure attachment relationships with their children
– There tends to be enhanced marital satisfaction for both partners, and partners are more likely to report being happily married ten or twenty years after the birth of their first child
– They experience more confidence and feel more effective as a parent
– They find parenthood more satisfying
– They feel important to their child
– They are more likely to be engaged in the community
– They are more likely to serve in leadership positions

the important of fathers thrive therapy florida

So what gets in the way?
Feeling the pressure to be breadwinner
Babies are expensive! The arrival of a baby causes couples to evaluate each partner’s role in the workplace and adjust their finances. The concept of “provider” can be deeply entrenched in men from their upbringing.  It can lead many fathers to become hyper-focused on work, and see their main parental role as a provider of food, shelter, transportation and other tangible resources.

The status of the parental relationship.
Fathers often withdraw as a way to cope when the relationship is stressful, and the arrival of a baby can be particularly stressful on the relationship.  Participating in counseling, attending a Bringing Baby Home Workshop, or reading And Baby Makes Three can serve to enhance the relationship during this taxing and demanding life season, and can help to determine alternative ways to manage stress other than withdrawing.

Mother acting as gatekeeper
Many new mothers tend to assert control over interactions with their children, whether this is intentional or inadvertent. This can come from that natural “mama bear” instinct and need to protect, however this can lead to a power struggle. Dads often give up trying to participate if his attempts to help continue to be thwarted or if he feels like he can never get it right.

If a father is feeling criticized for the way he is changing a diaper, he may be less likely to do it in the future. Using praise to get more of the behaviors you want can sometimes be more helpful. Saying something like, “I really appreciate you changing the baby’s diaper. It means a lot to me” may allow a father’s confidence to grow and increase the likelihood he will change a diaper in the future.

A woman’s world
After the baby’s arrival, women tend to experience a supportive community of experienced women, while dads often become the target of jokes or negative comments surrounding their incompetence. This criticism is not supportive or encouraging greater involvement. It can sometimes cause men to want spend more time at work or do projects outside the home to avoid this negativity as they may not feel appreciated in the home and may feel more competent and celebrated in work settings.

Gender specific roles
Even couples who planned to avoid traditional gender roles in their relationships find they face societal pressures to fall into more traditional roles with the transition to parenthood. This adjustment can be hard as both partners are establishing their identity as a parent and it is important to discuss your desires and expectations with your spouse.

Not knowing what to do
There is no specific manual to refer to for parenting and often dads worry they won’t know what to do with a baby or that they will do it wrong. Feeding, diapering, and bathing are all new skills as a parent. The best thing a couple can do is learn a baby’s like and dislikes together through practice and experience.

Cultural norms
In some cultures, norms create a hesitation for fathers to become involved. Fathers may have grown up without an involved father so an emotionally available parent it is not a norm that they naturally live into. Additionally, media has also had an influence on culture’s view of the father role. Dads are often portrayed negatively in TV shows, movies and books.

Historically, when fathers are presented in the media, they are portrayed as cold, strict, punitive, authoritarian or even violent, or bumbling, useless, incompetent, and detached.

But the reality is dads want to be involved and are not only capable, but critical to children’s success later in life. Many fathers are not aware of the depth of research indicating children with involved dads grow up to be more emotionally intelligent and socially successful adults.

the importance of fathers thrive therapy tampa florida

Dads want to be involved!

Fathers are more involved now than ever before. Changing tables are being added to the men’s room of bathrooms all over for those dads out there who take on that diapering role very seriously.

#realmenchangediapers

Fathers ARE fit and capable to care for babies, even as young as infants.

Fathers make special and unique contributions to their kids that need to be appreciated, celebrated, and supported.

Additionally, women benefit and tend to be happier in their relationship when dad is warm and emotionally available to their children. So it benefits everyone!

Dad’s tend to play differently with children…and it helps them to thrive!

Ever seen a father throw his gleeful child into the air and catch her, all the while the mother watches in horror?

Play is an opportunity for fathers to SHINE.

The energetic approach dads tend to take with their children helps them to truly flourish. Dad’s tend to foster independence and encourage adventure. They offer kids the freedom of exploration, and tend to be more physical/tactile with kids.

Children love the stimulation dads often offer and may even choose dad over mom to play with!

The way a mom plays with a child tends to be different, although is just as helpful to a child’s development. Mothers tend to be more cautious and play more of a teaching/caregiving role. They are more verbal, and do not tend to display the highs and lows of play with dad. The differences in these play styles/experiences are equally important and help prepare the child for facing the world in the most positive way possible.

Can women learn to do what father’s do?

Yes! The key is focusing on play interactions that feel high energy, that is full of highs and lows, and offering expected and unexpected experiences. Being silly and physical, instead of smooth predictable play, encourages independence and exploration.

How a father can help or hurt his child’s development:

Being physically around is not enough, children need their dad to be warm and emotionally available. Fathers can still be perceived as absent even in an intact family if dad is not emotionally present. Kids who reportedly had fathers who were cold, authoritarian, and derogatory had the hardest time with social relationships and grades.

How a dad is present is what is most important.

Dad’s who use an emotion coaching style of parenting seem to make the biggest difference. When parents emotion coach, they listen to their children’s feelings, see the sharing of feelings as an opportunity for connection or teaching, and validate their children’s emotions.

emotion coaching thrive therapy florida

How a dad can be more involved:

Know your child’s love maps – know their inner world and what is important to them. Learn their likes and dislikes, and play with them!

As a partner, look for what your husband is doing well and TELL HIM!

Have you noticed a change in your relationship with the arrival of a new baby? Couples Therapy or Workshops at Thrive Therapy can help to address your concerns.

Want more tips and techniques for a healthy and satisfying relationship? Subscribe to the Thrive Therapy newsletter.

,

How to be an Emotional Millionaire

Dr. John Gottman has received much attention for being known to be able to predict divorce with over 90% accuracy. He, along with his wife, have written many books about their years of research and train therapists on working with couples. According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, the basis of a healthy marriage is a strong friendship.

couple doing small things often thrive therapy tampa floridaThis is developed by doing small things often versus making grand gestures every once in a while.

 

Drs. John and Julie Gottman speak about it in terms of an emotional bank account. In the emotional bank account you are either making withdrawals or deposits. Dr. Gottman found that couples in satisfied relationships have positive interactions to negative interactions in a ratio of 20:1 in day to day life and 5:1 during conflict.

Often times people think the weight of their gesture has different values…like if I were to wash my husband’s car I feel I should get 100 points versus giving him a kiss where maybe that should equal about 5 points. I would encourage you to think of it in different way. Consider each good deed…no matter how big…equals ONE. Always.

If you tell your partner you are so appreciative of the effort they made in making dinner – that is one point. If you take your partner on a cruise or buy them an expensive gadget. That also equals one point. Gottman notes small things often are the keys to a satisfied relationship.

Big gestures are great, but still equal one.

Just like once you get on that cruise your partner surprised you with, you wouldn’t enjoy it unless they continued to build your account with kind words such as “ I did this because I love you” or “I’m so happy to be going on vacation with you.” If they bought you a surprise cruise then told you to go away, your bank account would likely remain in the negative. All gestures equal one so that you are continually building that emotional bank account for when conflict arises, as it will, whatever withdrawal occurs will not put the relationship in jeopardy.

One way to ensure you are consistently making deposits into your emotional bank account is by paying attention to your partners bids for connection and turning towards those bids.

Bids are when you or your partner reach out to connect. Bids are sometimes something obvious like your partner reaching out to hold your hand, or asking “do you love me?” but sometimes they are more subtle and hard for the partner to detect.

When a bid is received, the partner then will either turn towards, turn away or turn against.

Imagine you are in the kitchen cooking dinner while your partner is watching TV in the living room. A commercial comes on for a trip to Greece and your partner yells out “Oh honey, I would love to go to Greece one day. Come look!”

Turning towards may mean simply acknowledging the commercial and saying something like “I would love to travel there someday too!” or walk over to the TV to check out what they are seeing.

Turning away might look like ignoring the comment or acting as though they never heard it.

Turning against might look like the partner yelling back “Can’t you see I’m busy?! We could never afford something like that.”

The tendency to turn towards, even in the small moments, assists in building depth to your relationship over time. While occasional romantic dinners or weekend getaways are nice, turning towards in small and mundane ways are actually the keys to deepening your friendship, and are the foundation for passion and intimacy.

couple is an emotional millionaire at thrive therapy florida in tampaWhen these connections are regularly made, even if they seem minor at the time, it lays the foundation for those weekend trips to be even more meaningful.

According to Gottman in his book the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, turning towards is the basis for a satisfying sex life.

Awareness of the these critical moments when your partner bids for connection is the start of becoming an emotional millionaire.

So:
• Ask your partner ways in which they reach out where you tend to miss it.
• Tell your partner ways you tend to “bid” for connection and how they can respond that makes you feel fulfilled
• Look for ways in which your partner bids for connection and make conscious efforts to turn towards
• Help each other with the daily tasks. Ever consider that doing the dishes, vacuuming, or doing the laundry could be the foundation for sex, romance and passion?

It can be easy to miss bids when a partner makes a bid through anger or negative emotion. An example may be if your partner says something like “Would it kill you to do the dishes at least once in a while?” It can be easy to feel criticized in that moment, and remark back in a snarky way.

What your partner really means is “when there is a sink full of dishes, I can’t relax. So if you could make sure and load your dishes into the dishwasher we could enjoy some time together.”

The most difficult part is to pause and breathe before responding, check your initial comebacks, hold your tongue, and try to understand the bid beneath the harsh tone.

Focus on the bid, not the delivery.

This may require intentional effort to calm yourself down. Try then to respond to the underlying need, and if you are unsure, you can ask politely what that is.

Using your own words, say something like “I want to make you happy. What makes having the dishes done right now so important? I want to better understand your need.”

Being distracted by the digital world also impacts a partner’s ability to recognize and receive bids.

SO many of us today are constantly on our phones checking emails, browsing the web, updating Facebook that it can become an addiction and impairs our attentiveness to our spouse. This is not supportive to developing intimate relationships with those around you so make sure to disconnect and use this as an opportunity to turn towards and make positive deposits in your emotional bank account.

Invest in your relationship.

Become an emotional millionaire.

Feel as though your relationship needs to work on building that emotional bank account? Couples Therapy or Workshops at Thrive Therapy can be a great place to do that.

Want more tips and techniques for a healthy and satisfying relationship? Subscribe to the Thrive Therapy newsletter.

, , ,

Bringing Baby Home (BBH) Workshop

bringing baby home tampa fl

Helping new parents with the transition to parenthood

Before baby arrives, most parents spend a great deal of time working on a registry to ensure they have everything they need as they prepare for the baby to come home. Many parents attend classes to learn the intricacies of the birthing process, and while this is very valuable, many parents neglect to prepare for what to do once the baby arrives. Many parents find themselves coming from a hospital or birthing center holding their baby and thinking “well what do I do now?”

This workshop helps to answer that very question.

The Bringing Baby Home (BBH) workshop is a research-based and research–tested psychoeducational workshop that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for babies and children by strengthening their families.

Developed by renowned relationship and parenting experts, Drs. John and Julie Gottman, the BBH program is perfect for those who are:

– Interested in having a baby
– Expecting a baby
– Already parenting an infant or toddler (age 0-3)

The goal of BBH is to equip you with the knowledge and skill sets needed to constructively cope with the various changes that typically occur during the first three years after your baby is born.

In the BBH workshop you and your partner will learn how to do the following:

– Strengthen your friendship
– Increase intimacy and affection
– Work through conflict with greater ease
– Maintain relationship satisfaction
– Reduce hostility
– Create positive baby-child interactions
– Ensure quality involvement for both parents
– Reduce the incidence of severity of postpartum mood disorders

Not only will this program teach you what to expect during the transition to parenthood, it will also help you do things like:

– Better understand child development
– Create co-parenting strategies with your partner
– Improve the way you and your partner communicate, connect and compromise
– Recognize signs of postpartum mood disorders and gain awareness of treatment options

Upcoming workshops in 2019 offered in a two part series – back to back Saturday format:

 

Sign Up Today Online or by calling Thrive Therapy at (813) 291-4975. Feel free to reach out using the contact form if you have additional questions.

, , ,

7 Principles for Making Marriage Work Frequently Asked Questions

Considering joining our class? Often couples wonder:

Will we have to share our personal problems and issues with the class?

No. The class does not include sharing problems or issues publicly. Couples exercises are done privately.

Must both partners attend or can I come alone?

Since the class involves couples doing exercises together, both parents must participate. If the class is offered over a period of time and one partner must miss a particular class meeting, then the other partner is encouraged to attend the lecture portion of the class. He or she may use the Couples Exercise time to do part of the exercise and then do the full exercise with their partner later. They may also use the exercise time to read the Seven Principles book.

My partner isn’t a reader. Can we still come to the class if he/she won’t read the book?

Yes, still come to the class. While the book provides very valuable information, the class lectures will summarize the content of the book. Each person will need a Couples Guide, however, to do the Couples Exercises efficiently.

Should we do the exercises in the book at home or save them for class?

The class will involve doing some of the exercises from the book so doing them at home first would duplicate some of them. In some cases, the directions for doing the exercises in class have been revised and updated from those presented in the Seven Principles book. The Leaders also role play how to – and how not to – do some of the exercises in order to help participants get the most out of each exercise. There are some exercises in the book that the class will not have time to do and couples are encouraged to them at home after that chapter has been covered in class.

Sign up today! Contact Thrive Therapy by phone at (813) 291 – 4975 or reach out via our contact form. 

,

Can Stressful Life Events Really Bring a Couple Together?

Are you and your partner experiencing the stress of a major life event such as moving to another house, adding a new baby to the family, or considering a job change?

What if I told you there was a way to discuss one of these stressors with your partner that would actually cause a reduction in stress, not turn into a fight, and ultimately improve your sex life?

Dr. John Gottman, a relationship researcher who can accurately predict divorce in 91% of couples he meets within the first five minutes, has outlined a shift to the daily “how was your day dear” conversation to one that can have a significant benefit to your relationship, especially if used on a regular basis.

couple practicing stress reducing conversation at Thrive Therapy in Tampa Fl

The Stress Reducing Conversation

The intention of this conversation is to help each partner manage the stress that is not caused BY your relationship, but the stressors you encounter in your daily life OUTSIDE of the relationship.

Problems in your job, or with friends or family members often end up creeping into relationships fueling conflict without the awareness of the couple.

The stress reducing conversation is recommended so that these outside triggers don’t seep into your relationship creating more conflict than it should.

Couples who are drowning in stress who do not talk about it with each other tend to see their emotional attraction to each other fade, and subsequently experience suffering IN the relationship unnecessarily due to these outside stressors.

The emotional attraction you have for your partner is largely determined by the ways in which you regularly communicate, so using this technique may cause a decrease in conflict in your relationship and help increase feelings of attraction toward one another.

The main rule that is critical to follow in having a stress-reducing conversation is: it can only be about stress OUTSIDE of your relationship.

This does not work when discussing areas of conflict within the relationship. It also does not work if you take this as an opportunity to instruct your partner how to fix things. It’s an opportunity to offer support – which does not mean it is a time for creating solutions.

Understanding what your partner is going through should always precede offering any kind of advice.

If these conversations aren’t even about the relationship, how could it possibly improve things?

Research shows emotional attraction is equally as important as physical attraction in a relationship. The stress reducing conversation actually increases emotional attraction which, in turn, can positively affect a couple’s sex life!

Emotional attraction – and ultimately sexual attraction – develops when a partner feels they are being listened to, when they experience respect, when they feel accepted, and when they sense genuine caring from their partner.

The stress reducing conversation allows you to connect to your partner on a more intimate level and intensify your feelings toward one another.

This is the secret to great sex. By enhancing the emotional attraction in your relationship, great sex is a potential bonus for those who engage in this conversation on a regular basis.

So try it out!

How do I do it?

Drawing from the technique of “active listening,” the stress reducing conversation has 7 rules to guide the discussion towards success in building intimacy in your relationship.

1. Take Turns. Each partner gets to be “the complainer” for fifteen minutes, so identify who gets to go first, and focus solely on that issue.

2. Don’t offer advice. This is not the time for solutions or problem solving. In order to help your partner decrease their stressful feelings, it is very important that you convey understanding to your partner – as this has to come first before giving advice.

3. Convey genuine interest. Stay focused on what your partner is saying, ask questions to better understand what they mean, maintain eye contact, show your partner that you care what they are talking about.

4. Communicate that you understand. As your partner is expressing themselves, let your partner feel you share in their feelings and understand what they are saying. When you feel the urge to give advice, instead say something like:

“I can see why that would make you feel upset.”

“That sounds very upsetting”

“It’s so reasonable for you to feel that way”

“I’d be angry too.”

“That would have hurt my feelings too.”

5. Be on your partner’s side no matter what. By adopting a “we against others” attitude, your partner feels the two of you are in this together as couple practicing stress reducing conversation thrive therapy floridaa team. And yes, this means being supportive, EVEN IF you might disagree with your partner’s perspective. If the goal is to reduce stress/enhance intimacy in your relationship, that goal is likely more important than your opinion about what you think happened or should have happened.

Remember, all emotions have value and it’s your job to step into and understand what your partner is feeling and why before offering any kind of advice or making assumptions about what you think might be going on.

6. Show affection. Physical touch (with your partner’s permission) can be a great way to convey your affection. Hold your partner’s hands while talking, rub their feet, put an arm on his or her shoulder, and/or say, “I love you.”

7. Validate your partner’s emotions. Make your partner feel their emotions are reasonable. You can do this by simply naming the emotions you see: “you feel mad” or “that makes you feel sad.” Tell your partner their feelings make sense to you.

It can help if you set up a time that works for the both of you to regularly have the conversation, as you may find some partners want to immediately talk when they get home and others may want some time to decompress. Allow for 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted or dedicated time to each other, which can feel difficult, but is ultimately worth it.

Remember these issues have nothing to do with your marriage, so do everything you can not to bring issues with your marriage into the discussion. And honor all emotions that arise.

You may find yourself feeling uncomfortable if your partner is expressing fear, sadness or anger, so it may be important to check with yourself as to why that may trigger you so much. Some people have been raised to think expressing negative emotion is bad, however all emotions have value and should be welcomed into this conversation.

Sometimes this conversation is easier said than done, and it can be helpful to practice in a controlled setting such as a counseling room.

Thrive Therapy exists to support couples, both happy and unhappy, to learn and practice basic techniques proven to enhance a relationship in which you feel safe.

The next time you’re feeling stressed about an event or something outside of your relationship, practice this technique to deal with your stress, feel closer to your partner and ultimately enhance your sex life!

Want more tips and techniques for a healthy and satisfying relationship? Subscribe to the Thrive Therapy newsletter.

couple practicing stress reducing conversation at Thrive Therapy in Tampa Fl

,

Drift and Divorce

Are you concerned your relationship is heading towards divorce?

Many people believe the dissolution of a relationship is due to a major event such as an affair. While these kinds of events can lead to the termination of a relationship, a major cause of divorce is emotional distance or a gradual drift apart.

This drift occurs due to lack of intimacy and when attention is not given to continuing to develop friendship.

couple working on accepting influence from each other in tampa florida

Dr. John Gottman has received much attention for being known to be able to predict divorce with over 90% accuracy. He, along with his wife, have written many books about their years of research and train therapists on working with couples. According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, there are 8 predictors of divorce:

1. More negativity than positivity – Outside of conflict, couples who are more “functional” generally have a 20:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative ones. This does not mean you can’t have negative emotion or should not have conflict, as all emotions have value, it just needs to be outweighed with positivity. When satisfied couples are in conflict, their positive to negative ratio tends to be around 5:1.

Does it feel like your relationship is in a negative spiral or the negativity is outweighing the positive? Therapy can help to change the dance you’re stuck in and start a new path for your relationship.

2. The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse – Dysfunctional relationships tend to display a pattern of negativity in conflict by displaying criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. Gottman has determined contempt to probably be the biggest predictor of divorce. Couples who are better at accepting influence from each other, making effective repairs, deescalating and compromising tend to fair better when having an argument.

Couples can work in therapy on instead implementing a gentle start up, taking responsibility, building a culture of appreciation, and learning to self soothe to calm down.

3. Emotional Withdrawal – Relationships where a partner is disengaging or not displaying any interest in their spouse is a red flag. One thing that can help with this drift is turning towards versus turning away or against your partner. Couples often make bids, or attempts at connecting, and responding to your partners bids are critical to the relationship.

couple res[pnding to bids after making repair attempts in tampa, floridaTherapy can provide support to your partner in:

1) identifying when you are making bids and 2) allowing your partner to learn your attempts at connecting so they can respond in the way you so desperately desire.

Therapy will also assist you in:

1) recognizing bids from your partner and 2) responding in a way that helps to meet their needs, as well.

4. The failure of repair attempts – Gottman has shared this can be the most important difference between the “masters” and “disasters” of relationships. The goal of therapy is not to prevent fights or arguments, but to process hurt feelings and miscommunication, and be able to repair the relationship when there has been a hurt.

Therapy is a place where couples learn repair attempts that are already being made but not recognized and can also be a place to learn new ways to make repairs in order to increase positivity in the relationship.

5. Negative Sentiment Override – In happy couples, partners have a tendency to minimize or justify negative traits. However when negative sentiment override is present, anything the partner does or says is viewed with a negative lens, even if what the partner is doing is something positive or neutral. This occurs when a negative perception of the partner serves as the subtext defining all interactions regardless if they are positive or negative.

Does it ever feel like your partner more of an adversary than a friend?couple working on repair attempts and increasing positivity in relationship in tampa florida

In therapy, we address this by working on techniques that assist in enhancing the friendship.

6. Feeling “Flooded” and Maintaining Vigilance – One predictor of divorce is when partners become physiologically aroused or overwhelmed by their partner, creating a desire to flee or become more aggressive.

Partners are in a state where they sense danger possibly without experiencing a threat.

Rehearsing distress maintaining thoughts can prolong the physiological reaction and establish longer term vigilance as it relates to their partner even when conflict is not present.

Counseling assists in learning ways to calm your body in order to manage this ongoing physical response towards your partner.

7. Chronic Diffuse Physiological ArousalDo you notice sweaty hands, a red face or your heart racing during an argument? Physiological arousal while in conflict can impact one’s ability to take in or comprehend information. It leads to an increase in defensiveness, difficulty problem solving, and challenges in one’s ability to listen and empathize.

Therapy assists in working on techniques to allow you to both feel heard and understood, while also allowing your partner to feel the same way.

8. The failure of accepting influence – According to Gottman, men’s emotional withdrawal or disengagement from their wives in a heterosexual relationship (which often sad about relationship in tampa floridaleads to mutual disengagement) can be a predictor of divorce. This looks like patterns of increased control along with increased negativity characterized by contempt, domineering, defensiveness or belligerence in response to something as simple as complaining.

Guys are so critical to the success of a relationship!

Therapy can be a place for you to process safe options and potential next steps for your family depending on the level of commitment in the relationship.

I’m nervous because I relate to all these things!

Many couples do. The good news is: areas of particular concern can be specifically addressed in a counseling or a workshop setting. I would encourage you not to wait, because relationships are more likely to receive benefit from therapy when there is commitment in the relationship.

So do not wait until things get so bad that one partner already has their foot out the door!

Are you already considering divorce?

Thrive Therapy in Tampa, FL can help be a place to process your next steps and assist your family with this life transition.

 

couple making up after learning to manage conflict at thrive therapy in tampa florida

 

To learn more about the Gottman Method, click here.