Scheduling Quality Time with Your Partner

Yes, ladies… I said scheduled! I know some may cringe at the thought of actually scheduling time to spend with your hunny; whatever  happened to the “good old days” of staying up until 3AM sharing our deepest thoughts?

Truth bomb: women are busier than ever! We not only care for our children, but also for our aging parents, our homes, our friends and our careers. It’s pretty much a modern day miracle if we can manage to get our roots done in the midst of it all!

Your initial response to this suggestion may be that it feels “forced” or “unromantic”. It makes sense to want that spontaneity that was present in the beginning of your relationship, but equally as important is recognizing and accepting that with time, our romantic bonds evolve and it is crucial for us to evolve along with the changes in our lives.

Here are the facts:

  • Research shows Martial stability is improved by shared leisure time together- the opposite is also true-the less quality time spent together is correlated with lowered marital stability.
  • spending time together builds greater intimacy and connection: the greater sense of connection we have to our partner, the easier it is to forgive and work through conflict. Have you noticed the more disconnected you feel from your partner, the more likely it is that you hold on to grudges?
  • Committing to time spent together prioritizes the relationship above all else. It acknowledges your commitment to strengthen your bond with your partner so that you are resilient in life as a team! It’s you two against the world!(or at least the kids!)

How to start:

  1. BOOK IT! Commit to a weekly “relationship appointment”- put it in your calendar and prioritize it. You give your doc the 24 hour courtesy rule, be respectful of this commitment you made and don’t double book yourself!
  2. Make a list of activities before hand- Fill up a jar with “date night in” and “date night out ideas”- pick from the jar so you have something to look forward to all week!
  3. Let go of expectations and be in the moment – we spend so much of our lives scheduling and planning- when you’re together- practice being present  (the spontaneity will find its way- I promise!)

Val Spiropoulos, LCPC

Don’t Try to FIX your Partner’s Emotions

Has this ever happened to you? You call up your man and ask how his day is, he responds with a slew of “nothing is going right” and “I am so stressed from by boss breathing down my neck..” As any loving partner, you respond by listening, trying to give feedback and advice on how to get through this tough work day.

But in your quest to help your partner find relief from his stress – you find yourself feeling irritable that “he’s not taking any of your suggestions… “and if he just would try deep breathing, he would see how helpful it can be to manage his anger…”

Why this is a toxic merry go round:

Empathy VS Sympathy.

Knowing the difference will save you tons of stress and conflict in your relationship!

Brenee Brown said: “what makes something better is not a response, but connection..” This is the essential component of empathy. It’s a very simple concept but so tough to practice! When we know our loved one is in some kind of emotional pain- our gut instinctual reaction is to want to take that away. So, we go into problem solving mode! We say “do this…stop that” and spend much of our time formulating a solution rather than truly listening and validating out partner’s experience in that moment. This can cause our loved one to feel unsupported, misunderstood and invalidated!

Try this:

  1. Reflect what they’re saying to you- without interpreting) stand on their side, even if they are dead wrong!) “You’re boss is really on your case today” or “there’s been a lot of things that haven’t gone as planned for you today”
  2. Put on your therapist hat and validate, validate, validate: “I’m sure it’s really suffocating to have your boss so involved in everything…”
  3. Let them know you’re here if they need anything/ask is there anything I can do?

Remember: It’s not your responsibility, nor is it even possible to change the way your partner is feeling in any given moment. The more you understand this, the easier it will become to provide empathy.

Check out this short clip that will help you learn more!

Val Spiropoulos, LCPC

4 Ways Divorce Can Impact Your Kids as Adults

It’s a known truth these days that close to 50% of marriages end in divorce; a common phenomenon that impacts many kids and young adults. As a therapist who specializes in work with young adults and women’s issues, I’ve witnessed firsthand, the impacts divorce can have in adulthood. Sure, it’s common to see kids and teens in my practice to help them cope with the instability and stress divorce brings in the moment, but I’ve come to find that the impact of divorce is much more longstanding and manifests in many ways long after; as kids have become adults and started families of their own.

Here are 4 common ways that kids of divorce can struggle in adulthood:

  1. Control

Kids who witness the unpredictability and emotional chaos of divorce seek stability and control. As adults, the need for control can manifest in unhealthy ways such as the need to control others. Extreme discomfort or anxiety occurs when the inevitable happens- we cannot control others and everything around us.

Likely, the need for control can arise from the fear of failure, something which can be created from witnessing failure of a marriage. In efforts to alleviate this fear, adults overcompensate by having rigid expectations for themselves and others around them. This often leads to disappointment, low self-worth and unrealistic expectations for relationships.

  1. Interpersonal Relationships

 As adults, kids who experienced divorce may have trouble with emotional intimacy and have difficulty expressing emotions. Vulnerability can be a scary concept to someone who has witnessed betrayal and the breakdown of trust that divorce can sometimes cause.

  1. Self-Esteem

Kids who get dragged in the middle of their parent’s divorce are more likely to internalize the blame or insults parents trade during divorce. This can have a detrimental impact on self-esteem as an adult.

As well, self-blame can create feelings of guilt and a low sense of self-worth in adults who developed the misconception that divorce was their fault, as kids.

  1. Skewed Expectations of Marriage

Adult children of divorce can develop skewed world views about relationships and marriage. Having  an expectation of “perfection” in intimate relationships (one without conflict) can lead to short-lived and unstable relationships.  These adults will often be disappointed and let down when these unrealistic expectations are unmet by their partner.

It’s important to remember that the ways each individual experiences a loss such as divorce is different, and that generally, kids are extremely resilient. With this said, if you or someone you know are struggling with any of these issues, it might be beneficial to explore them further with a therapist. Therapy can help you gain insight as to how your past has shaped you in the present and to empower you to shift your life in a healthier direction.

Why Does Fighting Have To Be a Negative Thing?

Let’s be honest, relationships of any kind can be difficult and expressing emotions is not easy. Now add an array of life stressors and it can make sense why fighting amongst people can become explosive, full of miscommunications, filled with mis-directed emotions, and can be a difficult cycle to break. A big difference in relationships that prosper and those that stay stuck is the WAY in which they handle disagreements.

As a therapist whether I’m working with an individual, a couple, or a family, a common goal people want is to have healthier and happier relationships. Life puts a strain on relationships so it is normal that with additional stress comes an increase in arguments, disagreements, and feeling like you are not being valued nor heard in your relationship. So the question I get asked all the time is, how? How do I/we stop having this distress in relationships? I will never encourage clients to set a goal of never fighting in their relationships. I help clients reframe their exceptions that the function of fighting is to express your emotional and relationship opinions and needs. I teach clients how to “fight fair” and learn how to express themselves in a healthy way. Everyone is valid to feel how they feel, but what improves relationships is effective emotional expression, healthy boundaries, and learning how to identify your responsibility and ability to do both.

Rules for Fighting Fair

1. Ask yourself what are the real reasons you feel upset. It is never really about the dirty dishes left in the sink or the dirty clothes left on the ground. It can be about gathering evidence as to why you feel you are not valued nor being heard about what you need from your partner. So take a step back and ask yourself, what am I really upset about? Without self awareness of your true emotions, you will not know how to work towards a resolution.

2.Only discuss ONE issue at a time. It can be easy for fights to morph into other issues, especially unresolved ones from the past. This can be tough but keep each other focused on the issue at hand. Keep this boundary, it is the only way to keep control of the disagreement.

3. Take responsibility for the way you feel. Express your feelings using “I statements.” Do NOT play the blame game when discussing important issues in your relationship. Instead of saying “you make me angry because you always do…,” reframe it to say, “I feel angry when…” Pointing fingers will only put up defenses and cause a barrier for any healthy communication to happen.

4. No degrading language. Discussing sensitive topics is hard and can trigger a variety of deep emotions. This can lead to impulsive outbursts such as using words or statements that you do not truly mean but will not be able to take back once said.

5. Take turns. We often listen to respond and not to understand. Try to set a timer so each person gets their turn to express themselves. Then whoever is listening does not have to worry about getting their turn, they only need to focus on truly listening.

6. No stonewalling. It can be easy during an emotionally charged conversation to want to go into a shell and not speak. However, doing this will only make it impossible to resolve the issue.

7. No yelling. Being the loudest does not mean anything you are saying is actually being heard. If you feel yourself starting to get heated and your tone of voice begins to escalate, take 5 deeps breaths to slow your mind and body down.

8. Be prepared to take a time out if things begin to escalate. If the conversation continues to get too heated and taking deep breaths just is not working, then take a time out. BUT, set a time to continue the conversation. Too often when people take a time out they never go back and the issues will only keep coming up in the future.

Set a goal of coming to some kind of understanding or compromise. Relationships are give and take and resolving conflict is the same. This does not necessarily mean you come to the exact agreement or that it will be a perfect resolution where each person gets exactly what they wanted. But sometimes even coming to understand how the other person is feeling and validating that is a solution.

During an argument many people want to either win the argument or want to be heard. Fighting fair requires that either person in the relationship work to communicate effectively so they will not further damage each other or their relationship during difficult times. Use the above rules during your next disagreement and see how you can replace destructive ways of arguing with more constructive ones.

All my support,

     Samantha 🙂