Posts in Relationships
Why do we have to listen?

To be an intentional couple, one of the core skills that must be mastered is the art of listening. We have been given gross information about what listening is and how we should do it. Some folks think that they should be making grand facial expressions while mutter “uh huh…”, nodding their head and wrinkling their brow to show that they are listening. But listening is something entirely different. Today we are going to talk about why we listen and how we alter our approaches to listening.

We listen for four key reasons: to allow someone to vent, to help them unpack something in their head, to seek understanding, and perhaps to resolve something. Let’s look at each of them independently.

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Why We Yell

What is yelling?   When a partner denies that they yell, I wonder if they know what they sound like.   I think there are two distinct types of yelling.  The first, is the basic and popular raised voice yelling.  It often starts at our toes and rolls up our core until it comes out of our mouths as a strong bellowing exhortation of increased volume, often accompanied by words that would offend us if they were spoken to us.  The other type of yelling is more complex.  It is tight and constricted.   It starts in our throat.  It is not loud and bellowing.  The volume is not out of range.  However, it is the tone – sharp, clipped, judgmental, and cuts like a knife.  It feels like yelling to the recipient. 

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Wedding Bells and Tears

I always say “Come to couples’ therapy when there is something to work on. It is an easier road than when you wait until you are injured and broken and looking for salvation and healing.” One of the gratifying aspects of being a couples and sex therapist is when a couple decides to come see me when they are building their future rather than when they come to me in distress. Premarital therapy is one of those opportunities where both partners are looking to learn more, grow together and find some open curiosity. However, this can also be a time of great stress and challenging relationships.

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Scratch Your But!

There are so many times that I am sitting with a couple who are in distress, feeling unheard and struggling through difficult communication.  They unintentionally are making the process so much harder for themselves.  I can see them getting stuck in the who is right argument and discounting the reality that there can be more than one truth.  This is where a small shift can make a big difference!

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I Really Don’t Need Your Help!

So often couples come to see me in great frustration because each partner thinks the other is trying to fix them or control them.  This behavior comes out in a variety of ways… often intended to be helpful or focused on making the relationship better.  However, it often results in anger and disconnect.  Partners report feeling misunderstood and begin to feel justified when their helping ways are questioned.  They say things like “If you would only listen to me…” and “I told you so...” and “Don’t feel that way baby….”

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The Four Buckets of Feelings

Often, people in my office get confused about what they are feeling.  When asked to name the feeling they are experiencing, they often name one of four buckets of feelings:  Glad, Sad, Mad, and Anxious.  Every feeling we have gets thrown into one of those four generalized buckets.   Then, the same people start to get frustrated when their partners don’t understand the feeling or why they are experiencing it. 

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Football changed my life!: Boundaries, Preferences and Behaviors

There has been a common theme going in much of the work I have been doing with couples of late.  I am hearing folks coming in talking about how their partner responds to them in a way that makes them feel emotionally assaulted.  Often, these couples are well intentioned, loving, and looking for connection but for some reason they are having arguments that do not make sense.

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Hey Sexy!: Talking About Sex

I often will ask people basic questions very early on in my work with them, “So, how did you learn about sex?  Who taught you?”  The answers I get back are usually akin to “My friends.” “Nobody taught me, I learned by myself.” “TV, the Internet, porn.”  “Experimentation”.  Then I ask, “What messages did you get about sex?”  The answers to that question are more widespread and diverse. Some are positive. Some are negative.  Some are accurate.  Some are not!

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What are you fighting for?: Understanding Relationship Conflict and How to Address it

I lead a group for couples on how to bring intention into their relationship.  This is a fascinating group and I learn so much from sitting with these couples as we tackle the many inputs into relationships that often trip us up.  One recent topic was conflict.  How do we have manage conflict in our relationship with intention?  

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What is your relationship job description?

We work hard to get the job.  We interview as best we can.  We get the job.  But, how often do we really get a good job description.  I am talking about the job of partner, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, husband, wife.  More people sit in my office and say things like "S/he is just never happy...no matter what I do!" or "S/he keeps pushing me away and I don't know why!"

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What needs to leave your marriage most

When I work with couples, one of the earliest things we do is look at how we communicate.  We begin with the basics of starting to look at our words and tone so that we can hear and understand each other. As we get deeper into our process we begin to look at something far more challenging, and potentially more destructive than our words. We begin to look at our assumptions.

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Monogamy is like the color yellow

When I start working with a new couple or individual around relationship concerns I often begin by asking them what their relationship goals are.  Most, but not all, will tell me that they are just looking for a nice, loving, monogamous relationship.  They say that like I am supposed to know what that means -- and I don't.  Not that I am clueless, but rather because I know that there is more than one meaning to the word monogamous. 

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Thermometer vs Thermostat

I have had patient after patient come into my office talking about what a harsh and relentless winter this has been.  I can’t agree more!  It is always interesting to see how people talk about the weather.  There are two classic perspectives that get presented:  How cold it is on the thermometer and how much energy is being used by the thermostat.  What an interesting way to understand ourselves as well!

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Digging deep?

You can’t dig your way out of a hole.  Think about it.  You are in a hole and you keep digging.  What happens? Eventually, the hole gets so deep that you can’t throw the dirt out of the hole anymore and it just keeps falling back down around you.  If you start to dig sideways, the integrity of the walls weakens and risks falling in around you. What should you do?

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The only 7 options

Have you ever been in a relationship (whether romantic or platonic) and felt frustration about how things were going -- wishing the other person would behave differently? You have tried being nice, coaching them to change (whether they knew it or not) and spent hours considering how impossible it is that someone couldn’t notice how inappropriate and unsatisfying their behavior is? 

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