How Couples Can Alleviate Stress on Their Relationship

“If to change is what you need, you can change right next to me.”

As Ben Platt beautifully illustrates in his song “Grow As We Go”, you don’t need to leave a relationship just because it hits rocky waters. Our society looks up to long-lasting relationships, not because we applaud their ability to stay the same forever, but because they could make it through each other’s lifetime of changes and still find love for them.

Your entire relationship can suffer even if only one person is dealing with stress. How can you better your relationship’s chances of survival? Follow these steps to help ease stress on your relationship.

Acknowledge the Problem and the Solution

If your relationship is feeling the consequences of outside stress, it’s probably because one or all partners are acting emotionally distant. Emotional distance is when one partner shuts out the other to deal with stress outside the relationship. This is normally not done intentionally, but can have a heavy effect on the partnership.

Emotional distance can look like sleeping in separate beds, keeping conversations intellectual instead of emotional, using harsh words to cut conversations short, or being entirely silent towards the other person.

You will need to introduce functional ways to cope with stress (whether on an individual or couple’s level) to regain a sense of intimacy and romance.

Identifying Your Stressors

Having too many external stressors can interfere with a couple’s ability to communicate well, connect intimately, and resolve conflict. You can try the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale to help identify where your stress is and how stressed you are, especially if you have a bad habit of denying or downplaying your stressors.

Compare your list with your partners and see how and where they might interact.

Share How You’re Feeling with Honesty

Sit down with your partner and go over these questions:

  • How has stress affected your emotions recently?
  • What are you trying to help cope?
  • Are there any coping mechanisms that have a positive effect on this relationship?
  • Any that have a negative effect?
  • What actions will you take to cope better in the future?

Take turns answering until each partner has felt fully heard by the other. When one person finishes, re-explain what they said in your own words to make sure you understand each other correctly.

Connecting with each other in this way will help you feel lighter, like the stress isn’t all your own anymore, and it will help to know for certain that your partner is supporting you through it.

Build Psychological Resilience

Psychological resilience is our ability to bounce back from stress and trauma. Everyone has psychological resilience, but its strength varies between people. The stronger one’s psychological resilience, the better they cope with stress that arises. It’s like a muscle you can work out over time through self-awareness and practice.

Here’s a list of things you can do to enhance your psychological resiliency…

    • Reflect on your strengths and talents. Ask yourself, how am I using these strengths in my everyday life? How can I create opportunities for me to use them more often? Consider strengths assessments like VIA Strengths to identify and start building on these skills. Even better: ask your friends and family what they think your strengths are! This will also help build your sense of gratitude, which is linked to improving mental health.
    • Expand your social circle. Being socially distant can weaken your psychological resiliency, as socialization is something all humans need to survive and thrive. Think of a hobby you love doing and see how you can build community around it. You could also perform random acts of kindness—this will bring more positivity into your life and leave you feeling like you helped someone today, which contributes to your sense of purpose.
    • Acknowledge each other’s “bids”. According to Dr. John Gottman, emotional “bids” are ways we ask for attention or affirmation from our partner. These could be straight-up, like asking your partner, “Can you help me clean out the car?” or more subtle, like a sigh from across the room, indicating that they need to vent. In a study comparing couples’ first six years of marriage, the ones that stayed together answered each other’s bids 86% of the time, while couples that divorced only answered bids 33% of the time. Talking about each other’s bids is important to building a lasting, healthy relationship.

By following these steps, you can watch stress float away from your relationship like songbirds off into the sunset. Sometimes though, it helps to have an outside perspective that knows every detail. Schedule an appointment with our counselors today for a more catered approach to building stress-coping skills as an individual or as a couple.

4 Ways Couples Can Practice Better Communication

There’s a million ways to say, “I love you.” You could write it on a sticky note, show it with a surprise lunch, or suggest it by blowing a kiss.

Unfortunately, there’s also a million ways to say, “I don’t.”

We use more than just words when we communicate with one another, and healthy communication requires a mix of the right words and the right non-verbal cues. How do you train your brain to work through your options instead of spewing off words triggered by emotion? Here are four easy ways to practice better communication.

1. Practice Active Listening

Good listeners do more than just sit silently while someone else talks. In relationships, we want to listen actively, not passively, when our partner is sharing. This means listening without distracting thoughts, judgement, and interruption—there is no quicker way to convince your partner that you don’t care about them than by cutting them off.

Your only goal should be to understand. Show your attention with nonverbal cues like nodding or softly “Mhm-ing”. A good way to practice this is by setting a five-minute timer and letting your partner speak for the entire time, only cutting in to ask follow-up questions.

You may find that your partner has more to say than you thought.

2. Interpret Your Partner’s Words Through Four “Ears”

According to the Four-Sides Model of Communication, there are four different “ears” we use to interpret meaning when someone talks. For example, say your partner mentions, “The gas was crazy low when I started the car today.”

According to the model, there are four ways you could interpret their statement depending on what you’re listening for:

FACTUAL INFORMATION: “The car is low on gas.”
SELF-REVELATION: “I like driving with a full tank.”
RELATIONSHIP NOTES: “You’re inconsiderate and selfish with the car.”
APPEALS FOR CHANGE: “Go fill up the car with gas.”

Conversations with loved ones can quickly descend into chaos if we’re only listening for specific information. Try re-interpreting what your partner said again through one of the four “ears” and see if you come up with a healthier way to understand and respond.

What might’ve felt like an attack before might look like a simple comment now.

3. Share Concerns in a Non-Judgemental Way

When you speak with words that aren’t meaningful or thoughtfully chosen, it ends up diluting the message you want to convey. Let’s say your partner left their laundry in the washer instead of promptly moving it to the dryer.

First, you want to objectively share the event with your partner: “I noticed that your laundry has been in the washer for two days.”

Then, communicate your feelings instead of hiding them from your partner, and express them in a non-judgemental way. This can be as simple as saying, “It made me annoyed.”

Next, take the time to understand your needs and share them with your partner. Like, “I want you to be considerate about the housework that I have to do, too.”

Finally, make a clear request as to how your needs can be met. “Please finish your laundry when you start it so it doesn’t get in the way.”

If you need more time to overcome those harsh first thoughts, try a handwritten note or text. These give you the space to craft exactly what you want to say, and you’ll find your words to be kinder and more accurate to how you actually feel.

4. Respond with Positivity and Genuine Curiosity

After years of knowing your partner like the back of your hand, it can feel easy to dismiss their exciting news, stories, and goals as something you already knew or could have guessed.

The older we get, the more we change, and so do the people we love. Stay curious about your partner and look for opportunities to re-discover them over the years. When they share news, respond in an active and constructive way that shows how truly happy you are for them.

We can solve a lot of our problems today with better communication. If you find your relationship needs help with healthy communication, schedule an appointment with one of our counselors today.

The Immediate Aftermath of Infidelity Discovery

Aftermath of Infidelity and affairs

When you get cheated on by the one that you love, you’ll see the world in an entirely different light. When you are in love, everything may seem nice and dandy, but when you’ve been betrayed, your surroundings suddenly turn gloomy. You start to question if what you had was truly real or if you’re the only one who thought of it that way. You also begin to ask yourself if you’re enough, worthy, or valuable. And to the people around you, you may seem perfectly fine, but on the inside, you’re shattered into a million pieces.

The truth is, it’s not easy to be cheated on. Some people who vowed to stay single for life were once madly in love with someone who betrayed them. Their heartbreak may have been so brutal that they refused to go down the same path again. However, no matter how much people know about the devastating effects of infidelity and betrayal, it never stopped them from breaking their promises to their lovers.

 

What Pushes People to Cheat?

According to psychologists and relationship experts, there are various reasons why people cheat. In most cases, they were in love and emotionally attached to their respective partners, but that wasn’t enough for them to step on the break in the face of temptation. Sadly, after all, that has been said and done, their partners often end up being the most hurt. Even if they’re the ones who committed a mistake, the party cheated on suffers.

Some people cheat because they are put in a situation that made cheating seem okay. For example, a man fought with his girlfriend. Since they couldn’t settle the matter by talking it out, he went on a drinking spree with his buddies and partied to his heart’s content. When he was already so drunk, he seemingly ‘forgot’ that another woman was flirting with him, and he, in return, gave in to the temptation. The morning after, he realized the gravity of what he did as he started feeling guilty about what happened. Though the situation made it convenient for him to cheat, he still had a choice to say no.

Other people also cheat because of a lack of intimacy and passion in the relationship. A woman who is in a romantic relationship with a man for seven years finally tied the knot. After the marriage, the husband worked doubly hard to support his family. Unfortunately, because he now spends more time in the office, he seemed to have wholly alienated his wife. When she asks for a cuddle, he turns her down because, as he would put, his job completely wore him out.

As days passed by, the woman grew more distant until it didn’t matter to her if he showed care or not. One day, she met a young, passionate guy who made her feel wanted again. They had an affair, and she justifies her acts by saying that her husband wasn’t emotionally available for her.

Aside from these two motivations to cheat, others betray their partners because they hate being rejected or looked down upon, or they’re only bound by an obligation to stay together than by love. Regardless of the reason, it all boils down to this fact — they are dissatisfied with the relationship.

It may be a hard pill to swallow, but that’s the truth. If they’re happy and content with what they have, why would they go somewhere else to fill the void? If they’re satisfied with their partner and the state of their relationship, there won’t be a void that needs filling in the first place.

 

Is Saying Sorry Enough?

Even those who cheat on their partners know that an apology, no matter how sincere, won’t be enough for everyone to forget and move on. Besides, you only say sorry when you didn’t mean to hurt the person. You only ask for an apology if you didn’t know the suffering people would go through if they knew the truth. If you cheat, it’s not like you’re in a daze or went crazy for a moment. You’re fully conscious of the repercussions, yet you simply threw caution in the wind as you go on full ‘you only live once (YOLO)’ mode.

Cheating will always be a choice, never a mistake, so saying sorry is meaningless. You’re not sad because you hurt the person; you seem sorry because you got caught.

Unless it’s rape or coercion, no one can force you to hop on the bed and have intercourse with someone other than your husband or wife. No one can also force you to send sweet nothings to someone other than your spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend. And most certainly, no one can force you to reply to text messages, chats, and invitations to hang out with someone other than the person you’re in an exclusive relationship with.

The point is, cheaters knowingly do these things, hoping that they won’t get caught to continue with the affair.

Though sorry isn’t enough, most people being cheated on are soft when it comes to their cheating partners. They may have been hurt and angry, but they’re still more than willing to work things out. And most of the time, they are even angrier towards the man or woman their partners had an affair with. In their disbelief that their partners are capable of cheating on them, they try to justify their actions by saying that if only the third party didn’t lure them, their partner wouldn’t have cheated.

When you recently found out that your husband, wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend cheated on you, remember that it’s not your fault. You may be predisposed to think otherwise, but you did nothing wrong. It was your partner and his or her lover’s choice to betray you. And it’s not because you’re unattractive, unworthy, or lacking. They made a conscious effort to act on their urges and emotions because of their utter disregard of the consequences. They are cheaters by choice, period. You’re not the cause, so stop beating yourself out.

 

It’s Okay to Mourn

When you lose a lover due to infidelity, it’s normal to feel devastated about it. It’s also perfectly normal for you to think that everything seems surreal. And your family and friends may tell you that it’s okay, but there’s no comfort in their words. Sadly, you’ll have to go through these during or after a heartbreak. Some even experience an immense state of hopelessness and depression that they have a hard time functioning.

If you ever find yourself in these situations, know that you’re not alone. All your feelings are also valid. Don’t let anyone tell you what you ought to do or how you should cope up because it’s you who’s dealing with the problem. It’s also you who has been betrayed. So, if you’re mourning for a week, month, or year — so be it.

Take time to feel and process your emotions and anger so that you can move on without so much excess baggage. It will also help if you seek the help of therapists and counselors to help you address your thoughts and emotions.

 

Should you tell your kids about the affair?

The repercussions brought by infidelity multiply when kids are involved. When one of the parents cheated, they’re hurting not only their partner but also their kids. However, when the infidelity is exposed, the cheating parent feels ashamed to tell their kids about what they did.

Most parents, even the ones cheated on, often choose not to tell their children because they want to spare them from feelings of betrayal and hate. On the other hand, a few want to divulge their cheating partner’s wrongdoings to make them pay. While neither of these reactions is healthy, parents must know that children can sense when something at home is amiss.

Kids are naturally self-centric; that’s why they often assume that what happens is always their fault. Your children will most likely pick up the emotional pain and stress you’re feeling, and they’ll most likely know when something is not right. The sad news is unless you clarify with them that there’s something wrong, but it’s not their fault, they’ll continue feeling this way. These thoughts might even freely run in their minds:

  • Mom and dad are always angry and fighting. If only I were a good boy/girl, this wouldn’t happen.
  • Mom and dad no longer pay attention to me. I must have done something that made them mad.
  • If I would only be nicer and if I won’t complain about my chores, they might like me back.
  • If I stop making noise, mom and dad would be less mad at me.

Kids think this way and assume that they’re the reason for the family strife simply because they’re not doing anything. If parents fail to address this, the child will feel unworthy, wrong, and defective. As a result, their self-esteem and self-confidence will also plummet, thereby developing a negative and skewed self-image. It’s also possible that they’ll develop a sense of shame for who they are.

So, What Should You Say And Not Say to Your Kids About An Affair?

First and foremost, they don’t need to know the details of your sex life, most especially if it has gone awry. It’s safer to say that one of their parents crossed the relationship boundary that caused the other to be upset. They only need to confirm that indeed, there’s something wrong, but it isn’t their fault.

Remember that you can’t take back what you already said. So, make sure that you talk to your kids when you’re emotionally stable and calm. You might just say something that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.

If you have more than one child, speak to them together. And no matter how angry or hurt you are, put them first — at least when you explain to them the situation. Also, remember that pick the right words and make sure it’s age-appropriate.

 

How Can Counseling Help You Deal With The Aftermath Of An Affair?

If there’s one thing you should seriously consider doing after finding out that your partner cheated on you, that would be finding someone you trust that will listen. A trusted friend or a close family member could be that person. However, if you don’t have someone within your circle, it’s best to seek the help of a therapist or counselor that specializes in infidelity. The least you need to hear after infidelity is that you should have seen the red flags and that you should not have entered into a relationship with that cheating partner. It won’t also do good to hear people ‘I told you so.’

Aside from that, it won’t help if you get blamed for your choice of being with that person who betrayed your trust. It’s not the issue now, so that should be put on the shelf. There’s no point rubbing the hurt in and adding insult to injury. You need someone who won’t judge you and won’t make you even more messed up.

Counselors Will Listen Without Judgment

When you go through a betrayal, it’s normal to have so many things on your mind. You will question everything your partner did as you blame yourself for not noticing the signs of their infidelity. You may also think that they cheated because you’re lacking. If you dwell in these thoughts, they will surely consume you. You will only fall into a vicious cycle of self-pity and regret. However, if you let these thoughts out of your system, you can share your point of view with your listener, thereby easing the pain and torture you’re feeling.

And if your listener is a professional who is an expert in handling this kind of concern, they can process your thoughts and actions. Your counselor can help you reframe your mindset from being the pitiful victim to someone who can decide and take charge of the relationship. As Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke said, you ought to see with eyes unclouded by hate. With the help of a professional, you can achieve this emotional state.

Your counselor can explain to you the possible reasons why your lover cheated and also make you realize that it’s not your fault that they chose to be polygamous. Your counselor can also allow you to talk and talk until you dump all your negative and depressive thoughts, helping you find a new, fresh, and better perspective about yourself, your life, and your relationship.

Therapists Can Help You Process Your Own Issues

No matter how successful, attractive, or intelligent they are, some people always end up with a lover who doesn’t recognize their worth and continues to abuse them. They may have broken up with a past lover because that person cheated on them, and they thought that their new one wouldn’t do the same thing. However, later on, they found out that they are just entangled in the same toxic relationship cycle all over again.

By yourself, you may not be able to realize that you’re in the same kind of abusive relationship every single time because of your unresolved childhood issues and trauma. Or it could be because you grew up thinking that you don’t deserve to be loved perfectly and unconditionally. These thoughts may appear harmless, but they can mess your belief system and views. And you know what happens when these toxic beliefs stay in your system? You believe them as accurate. And you manifest them through your actions.

When you were young, your father or mother may have left you, and since then, you thought you’re not worthy of being loved. Because you were abandoned as a child, you believe that your lover will do the same thing. Even if you work hard to make yourself attractive, successful, and worthy to be loved, your belief system will sabotage you and lead you to dysfunctional and toxic relationships.

Your therapist can dig deeper into your subconscious to discover these unresolved issues. They can also lay these issues on the table to see how it hurts your present. After this, your therapist can also guide you on finally letting go of these thoughts and learning new, positive, and empowering beliefs. They will guide and coach you so the next time you enter a relationship, or when you start mending the old one, you won’t be carrying these damaging pieces of baggage anymore.

 

Takeaways

Cheating doesn’t only mean having sex with a person other than your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, or husband. If you’re attempting to do something you’re compelled to hide from your lover, then that could be considered cheating. When someone sends you an over-friendly message, and you’re obligated to keep it from your other half, there’s a considerable possibility that could lead to something more dangerous.

Quit playing with fire. Before entering into a serious relationship, both parties must realize their obligations towards each other. They must also be cautious of the feelings of their beloved that they should evade cheating on them. If you can’t be monogamous, at least keep yourself from entering into a committed relationship. If you’re not happy with your current relationship, better break up than cheat. You see, you won’t only be hurting your partner now, but you will also leave them with issues that they could be carrying for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile, if you’re going through deep emotional turmoil due to a recently-discovered cheating incident, know that you’re not alone. You always have your family, friends, and other loved ones backing you up. And if they’re not enough, you can always seek the help of professional counselors and therapists. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re breaking down and needing emotional support. Speak to a counselor now and lighten your burden.

6 Tips For Couples Who Are Looking to Improve Their Connection

By Jeni Woodfin, LMFT

As a couples therapist, one of the biggest pieces of advice I would give any couple, happy or unhappy, is to tend to your relationship.  Relationships are very similar to living beings, they need care and comfort to thrive.  When each partner dedicates their time and effort into making small gestures, it can increase the relationship satisfaction tenfold.  

 

Many couples come to couples counseling looking for action items.  Things they can DO to change the atmosphere of their relationship.  Here are 6 tips for couples who are looking to improve their connection.

 

  • Express appreciation.  Sharing your observation with your partner that you see their positive actions is equivalent to giving your partner a little shot of ‘go-juice’ when it comes to continuing the positive behavior.  And people who feel appreciated tend to share an appreciation for others.  It’s a win-win.  

  • Make the most of the comings and goings.  Some couples overlook the little moments of saying hello and waving goodbye and, in reality, these are some of the most important little moments in a relationship.  Making sure to give a kiss or touch hello and goodbye, making eye contact with each other, sharing a smile, these all communicate ‘you are important to me and I am valuing our time together’.  

  • If you do find yourselves in conflict, sometimes it’s better to call for a time-out than continue to escalate.  When recognizing the need for a break is there, created a structured time out instead of just leaving.  To do this, announce the need for a break, “I’m getting escalated, I need a time out” then let your partner know you’re coming back.  State the importance of the conversation and the desire to come together again.  “Our conversation is important to me, but I’m getting too upset to think.  I’m going to take a break for one hour then I’d like for us to meet back here and continue talking”. 

  • Schedule sex.  This tip does not sound sexy, but it’s vital.  Some couples have made the decision to wait until they are both, simultaneously in the mood for sex and they end up having less sex than they’d like.  With scheduling sex, you don’t have to show up ready to go, but rather show up with an openness and willingness to try.  It’s very similar to that feeling before you go to the gym, you may not want to go beforehand but as soon as you finish your workout you feel great, energized, proud.  This is the same thing with sex.  

  • Communicate throughout the day.  By sending your partner a quick text, meme, or call, you’re communicating ‘you’re on my mind’.  This is a quick easy way to give your partner a quick connection point during a busy day.  

  • Try something new together.  Engaging in a new-to-both-of-you activity allows you to experience yourself and your partner under stress.  This may not sound like a fun idea, but you’re creating a stressful environment so you can bond in the stress.  People under stress tend to come together, so explore some lighthearted-stressful activities together.  

Without intentionally putting energy into your relationship, it can become stagnate, unfulfilling, and unsatisfying.  When you each decide to be intentional about your relationship, by creating it together instead of letting it happen by itself, you decide what type of relationship works best for each of you.  It shows you respect yourself, your partner, and the experience you’re sharing together.  

If you’re ready to work towards a more secure connection, give us a call today. We’re happy to guide you towards a healthier relationship.

Why do people cheat?

By: Jeni Woodfin, LMFT

Recently, I was asked the question, directly, “Why do people cheat”?

Such a good question and so many answers. The question I hear from every single betrayed spouse I work with is the “Why?”

There are reasons, fairly well-understood reasons, and none of them bring comfort to the betrayed partner. But they are a good starting point when looking at what needs to be tweaked in the relationship and the betraying partner.

Some of the reasons I see are:

  1. The affair-involved spouse is looking for an exit to the relationship. Some people really struggle with ending relationships or feel they need someone to accompany them in the break-up process. We all have walls up to protect what we hold dear and the walls around that protect the relationship are down leaving room for an affair to bring comfort during a rough breakup.

  2. They want change in the relationship and have felt minimized, unheard, or have been too anxious/uncomfortable to ask for change so they, as I often refer to it, create an explosion that blows the relationship to bits (I don’t use the word bits). This is an unhealthy, messy way to begin the conversation about what they want different in the relationship.

  3. The connection of the relationship has been damaged or severed and the affair-involved partner is angry or resentful. Rather than continuing to try to repair the connection, they look for a separate, idealized connection.

  4. They are unhappy with who they are in the relationship and they find themselves having an affair and exploring new aspects to themselves. In the affair, they get to be sexually daring, bold, fun, young … And in the marriage, they get to be steady, reliable, predictable.

  5. There are also the affairs that stem from narcissistic traits, the “I want this so I deserve this” tendency. A bit of this trait is required for each type, but if there are repeated infractions over a long period of time, these traits typically play a larger part.

There are so many combinations of reasons, it’s very difficult to get to the bottom of the Why. It’s also an important piece to figure out if the couple would like to repair the relationship.

Recovery is an incredibly difficult process, but it is one that can be done successfully if both parties are willing to be open, vulnerable, and take risks.

If you’re asking the question, “Why did you cheat?”, it’s time to reach out. Figuring the answers out is a delicate process. Reach out now and let’s begin.

3 Ingredients to a Happy Marriage

Have you ever wondered why some marriages last decades while others barely go two years? Why do some couples thrive and grow together while others crash and burn?

The secret? There are three secrets, actually; three ingredients to a happy and successful marriage. Without all three of these, many couples will struggle to remain connected and committed.

Communication

Communication is to a marriage what gasoline is to an automobile: without it, you’re not going anywhere. And the better the communication, the longer the “motor” will last.

The words we choose to connect with others are incredibly important. Use the right ones and you generate feelings of love, safety, and security. Use the wrong ones and your partner is apt to feel anger and resentment.

It is often said that HOW you say something is as important as WHAT you say, and in many ways, this is true. When you ask your spouse a question, is their answer thoughtful or dismissive? Do they say, “Yes, that sounds like a great plan,” or “Whatever?” Both are affirmative, but only the first sentence is positive and respectful.

But perhaps the most important factor of good communication is listening. Many marriages have been improved when one or more people learn how to be a good listener.

How exactly do you become a good listener? Two ways: Start caring more about your partner – when you care for someone, you are truly interested in what they have to say. Second, when they are speaking, don’t think about other things – don’t think about your day or what you’d like to have for dinner – don’t even think about how you’d like to respond to what your partner is saying, simply LISTEN to them. Give them your full attention.

The better listeners and communicators you both are, the better partners you can be to each other.

Know Yourself and Your Partner

The sad fact is, most people spend more time trying to understand how their smartphone or tablet works than how their own personality – or that of their partner -works. We’re all individuals with unique quirks and behaviors. The more we understand about ourselves and our spouse, the less conflict we’ll experience.

Put Each Other First

Happy and successful marriages are the ones where each person is putting their partner’s needs first. When both are doing this, all needs are being met. Problems arise when only one individual meets their partner’s needs. When this happens, one person is happy, the other is left out in the cold.

If, after reading this, you have become aware that your marriage is missing some of these critical ingredients, don’t be afraid to seek help from a therapist. Sometimes an impartial third party can help both individuals get their priorities straight.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.