Improve communication skills
We all are taught how to read and write but few of us are taught how to communicate. The great news is that these skills can be learned and when you use them, they can help you learn not only about your partner/s but also about yourself. You can take down the protective walls and really share who you are because instead of being met with a counter argument or judgement, you are understood and comforted.
Couples therapy teaches communication skills in both speaking and listening. You learn how to take breaks, repair, validate, empathize, and share fondness and admiration. Couples therapy helps you practice the art of compromise and how to support each other’s life dreams.
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Each relationship is as unique as the individuals in it. And because each person is also unique, relationships are set up to inevitably have conflict. John Gottman, PhD found in his research that 69% of conflict is not solvable. This means that people have lots of differences and they need to learn how to manage these across time instead of trying to persuade their partner to do it their way.
Differences in how we feel, perceive interactions, respond to situations, and dream the goals we hold dear, are ingredients for conflict. Conflict in our relationships can either create an opportunity to better know and understand each other, or create distance, resentment, and a wedge. For conflict to create greater closeness, it needs to be handled very differently than how most of us were taught. We work with couples in all stages of relationship from dating to being in the process of divorcing and help them to build skills to eliminate the behaviors that are toxic to love and replace them with tools to de-escalate conflict, open lines of communication, increase empathy, grow intimacy, and create a lasting love affair.
When conflict is managed effectively, couples not only build a stronger friendship, but they also dream together and have better sex. Individual goals and partnership goals are created, and life dreams are honored and supported.
You may wonder how all of this can be accomplished or worry your relationship may be beyond repair. Regardless of whether you are looking for premarital therapy or in the process of divorce, we use the research validated model of relationship intervention developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. Gottman method therapy is based on over 40 years of work conducted by the brilliant mathematician, researcher, author, and psychologist, John Gottman, PhD. Dr. Gottman studied couples and learned very reliably what predicted divorce. He jokes that this quickly resulted in him not being asked out to dinner anymore. But being able to predict divorce with over 90-percent accuracy in multiple studies was only half of the story. He also realized he had data on happily married couples and his wife, Julie Schwartz Gottman, PhD, convinced him to use this information to help couples. Together, they used each of their areas of expertise in research and clinical practice to develop a model of therapy to pull out the interactions that predict relationship demise and infuse it with the tools to make love last. To learn more about the Gottman’s and Gottman method therapy, visit www.gottman.com.
Enrich therapists begin their work with couples by conducting a relationship assessment. Assessment is important to understand the strengths and challenges of the relationship and to save the couple time, energy, and money in therapy. This assessment consists of a joint session with the couple to discuss what brings them in currently and to tell the story of their relationship from each of their perspectives. The therapist also asks for a sample of how conflict typically looks for them. Partners then come in individually to discuss personal background, areas of concern, and goals. Information learned in these individual sessions is utilized in therapy, should the individuals proceed with intervention. Each person also completes the Relationship Checkup, which is a 337-item questionnaire that comes from the Gottman Institute and assesses many areas of relationship health and helps to build a roadmap for therapy with very specific interventions.
The therapist and couple meet again together and discuss feedback learned from joint session, individual sessions, and the Relationship Checkup. Each part of the Sound Relationship House is described and explored as a strength or challenge in the relationship. If challenges the relationship faces have been shown to be remedied through the Gottman method, couples decide if they wish to continue into therapy. If the challenges do not indicate therapy will be helpful, more appropriate referrals are given. When couples and the therapist agree to move forward into therapy, they set specific goals and discuss a timeline for treatment.
Therapy usually takes place on a weekly basis in 90-minute sessions, but this is modified if needed. Couples face each other and discuss issues together, with the therapist actively interrupting unhelpful interactions and guiding alternative ways of interacting. Therapists also aid in deepening discussions and empathic understanding. Couples practice having the conversations they want to have instead of the fight they usually get into.
As treatment goals are met, therapy can be less frequent and couples practice relationship skills on their own. When goals have been met, sessions at six- month intervals are scheduled until new habits have been solidified.
Enrich therapists welcome the opportunity to talk with you on a brief phone call to answer any questions you have and to schedule a couple’s therapy assessment.
Identify harmful relationship patterns
1. Hostile fighting – Fighting, especially in front of children, is harmful to not only the relationship but to your health. Couples therapy teaches you what escalates conflict and how to enter conflict in constructive ways instead. It also teaches you how to take breaks, validate (instead of agreeing), and reach lasting compromises.
2. Conflict avoidance – Have you ever thought of not bringing something up because it would not be worth the fight you would get into? Although this strategy might make sense in the moment, it comes at the cost of emotional closeness and creates loneliness and isolation. Couples therapy helps you break this pattern by teaching you how to enter conflict gently, manage the intensity of conflict, and feel heard.
3. Pursue and withdraw – You ever had your partner follow you out of a room when you were trying to end a conflict? Have you ever kept talking even though you could see that your partner had shut down? Conflict is hard to manage when one partner feels anxious when things are unresolved and another partner needs to self-sooth before they can resolve things with another person. Differences in attachment styles and history of conflict growing up can create harmful patterns of one partner pursuing and the other withdrawing. Couples therapy helps you learn how to break this pattern and both show up in regulated and productive ways so you can function like intimate partners.
Feel heard and understood
Learning how to talk about yourself instead of describing your partner is a step towards vulnerability and intimacy. Couples therapy teaches you the skills of intimate conversation and the importance of listening to understand. Couples therapy also helps you learn how to pay attention not only the words you are hearing but also to each other’s facial expressions, tone and voice, and body language to better understand how each of you are feeling and what you need.
Life is hard and certain times in life are even harder. Couples therapy can help you put your pain into words your partner/s can understand. It creates a safe place to share your hurt, navigate loss, and experience healing and growth.
Couples therapy can also help you feel like an intimate team again instead of two people struggling against each other. Through practicing skills of intimate conversation and conflict management, couples experience what it is like to build life dreams, feel celebrated for their successes, and have support during the struggles.
Repair a relationship or amicably separate
Sometime relationships are in a state of disrepair after years of focusing on children instead of each other. Other times there has been a regrettable incident that has been a major blow to how partners see themselves or the other person. Repairing relationships in couples therapy focuses at first on what created the problem and then on the corrective measures to process and heal it.
Couples therapy teaches the skills of being able to process, make room for how each partner experienced the hurts, take responsibility, and build a new plan going forward.
Sometimes even understanding the cascade of events, hearing true remorse, and forgiving the past, people choose to end the relationship with their partner and do so without resentment, guilt, or blame. These couples are better set up to co-parent, take what they learned into a new relationship, and not be affected negatively by their past.
Heal a relationship and build a new one following betrayal
The therapists at Enrich utilize Gottman's research-based work on betrayal recovery. Betrayal can be an emotional and/or sexual affair, deception with money, or lies about hundreds of other things. Betrayal recovery focuses on three key concepts: atone, attune, and attach. No couple is the same and interventions are tailored for each set of individuals but here are brief explanations of each:
1. Atone: Atonement is about taking responsibility for the betrayal and making amends. The partner who was deceptive acknowledges the pain and betrayal caused by their actions, expresses genuine remorse, and demonstrates a commitment to change and rebuild trust. This involves being transparent, answering questions truthfully, and actively working on personal growth to address underlying issues that contributed to the deception.
2. Attune: Attuning refers to the process of building emotional connection and attunement between partners after the betrayal. It involves actively listening to each other's needs, emotions, and experiences, and making a genuine effort to understand and empathize with one another. Attuning helps partners rebuild trust and create a safe space for open and honest communication.
3. Attach: Attachment refers to the process of rebuilding and strengthening the emotional bond between partners. After a betrayal, it's crucial to foster emotional security, closeness, and intimacy in the relationship and rebuild trust. This can be achieved by engaging in activities that promote connection, such as spending quality time together, engaging in shared interests, and prioritizing emotional and physical intimacy. Building a secure attachment helps partners heal and build a new relationship.
These concepts provide a framework for couples to navigate the challenging process of betrayal recovery and work towards building a new healthy and trusting relationship. It is important to note that partners coming in for betrayal recovery are often in a state of shock and trauma. Enrich therapists often collaborate with other providers to support healing during these most difficult times.
Understand and overcome dysfunctional patterns
There are four negative communication patterns that are detrimental to a relationship. If left uncorrected, they predict divorce.
1. Criticism: Criticism involves attacking or blaming your partner's character or personality. This is different than expressing a complaint which is a description of one’s feelings, perceptions, and needs. Instead of addressing a specific behavior or issue, criticism attacks the person's character, leading to defensiveness and escalating conflicts.
2. Contempt: Eye-rolling is a common form of contempt. Contempt is characterized by a sense of superiority, disrespect, and disdain towards your partner. It involves mocking, sarcasm, name-calling, or any form of belittling. Contempt conveys a lack of respect and often leads to a deep erosion of the relationship's foundation and predicts infectious illness in the partner receiving it. To neutralize one contemptuous behavior, it takes 18 positive ones.
3. Defensiveness: Defensiveness occurs when someone responds to a perceived attack by deflecting blame, making excuses, or acting like a martyr. Instead of taking responsibility or listening to their partner's concerns, defensive individuals tend to deny responsibility and counterattack. This pattern prevents effective communication and problem-solving.
4. Stonewalling: Stonewalling happens when a partner withdraws or shuts down during conflict. It involves becoming emotionally unavailable and unresponsive, often to avoid further arguments or overwhelm. Stonewalling leaves the other partner feeling ignored and dismissed, often further escalating the conflict between the couple. People who are stonewalling are often having a conversation in their head with thoughts of the futility of saying anything but the partner who is stonewalled has thoughts that the partner doesn’t care. The combination of this misunderstanding is an escalation of conflict and emotional disengagement.
In John Gottman’s research, these Four Horsemen were the negative communication patterns that predicted relationship dissatisfaction and divorce.
Enrich therapists help you recognize and change these patterns and create habits that transform your relationship.
Have great sex
The ingredients to a great sex life include being good friends and prioritizing sex. Although this sounds simple, most people find it difficult.
Enrich therapists help you build the three essential parts of friendship:
1. Love maps: This is what you know about your partner. It is the cognitive part of friendship. This comes from staying up to date on your partner’s inner world.
2. Fondness and admiration: This refers to the overall positive feelings and affection partners have for each other. It involves genuinely liking and valuing your partner, appreciating their positive qualities, and expressing admiration for their accomplishments. Fondness and admiration create a strong foundation of goodwill and positive regard within the relationship.
3. Turning towards bids for connection: Bids for connection are subtle or overt requests, gestures, or expressions made by one partner to establish or enhance emotional connection with the other. These bids can be as simple as sharing a story, asking for support, or even making eye contact. Turning towards bids means responding positively and attentively to these attempts at connection, showing interest, and engaging in a meaningful way. It fosters emotional responsiveness and connection between partners.
Enrich clinicians help you prioritize sex instead of leaving it at the end of a long to do list. People who prioritize sex:
1. Communicate about sex: Growing up, most people are given clear messages about sex. Don’t talk about it! However, open and honest communication is crucial for healthy sexual intimacy. These skills can be learned. This involves expressing desires, preferences, and boundaries, as well as being curious about and understanding your partner's needs.
2. Mutual consent and respect: Respecting each other's boundaries, desires, and limits is fundamental in a healthy sexual relationship. Consent should be mutual and ongoing, with both partners feeling comfortable and empowered to communicate their boundaries and preferences. Respect for each other's autonomy and choices fosters trust and a sense of safety, further enhancing sexual interest and satisfaction.
3. Exploration and variety: Great sex involves novelty, creativity, and exploration. This may include trying new activities, positions, or techniques that both partners are comfortable with and interested in. Keeping an open mind and being willing to explore and experiment can enhance sexual satisfaction.
4. Sensuality and pleasure: Focusing on the sensory experience and pleasure of both partners is different from chasing an orgasm or focusing on performance. This involves cultivating awareness of one's own sensations and pleasure, as well as being attuned to your partner's needs and desires. Taking time to prioritize pleasure, engage in sensual activities, and create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere can contribute to a fulfilling sexual experience, whether penetrative sex is involved or not.
Therapists at Enrich help you cultivate your unique sexual voice and coordinate sexual experiences to build connection and pleasure in your life.