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We treat and specialize in marriage and couples therapy, located in San Francisco. Our primary approach is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). We treat all types of relationships, newly married, gay/ lesbian therapy, conflictual relationships, infidelity, anger management, and those that struggle with communication problems. We offer a sliding scale.

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Tools and tips for every day relationship problems. Blog posts on how to stop conflict, how to have more intimacy and how to have better communication with your husband, wife or partner.

3 Ways of Saying, "I Love You" Differently

Erika Boissiere

We all have different views about the meaning and appropriate usage of the phrase “I love you” but generally in relationships we can use it as a catch-all for the way we may feel about our partners. Often, more specificity is needed in our relationships for our partners to truly feel loved. Here are a few phrases and sentiments that can broaden and deepen feelings of love within your relationship.

I Respect You

We all want to feel as though our partners accept and approve of the person that we are and of the way we move through the world. Of course, there will be things that irritate us or that we don’t agree with but generally solid partnerships are built on a respect for who the other person is. Did you see a way your partner navigated a social situation with a particular grace or did you see him or her put a great deal of focus and hard work into a certain project? Tell them. Let your partner know the qualities that you value about them as often as you can. This can also help create a softer landing when bringing things up that are bothering you.

I Appreciate You or Thank You

When we are deep into the groove of our day to day lives and focused on our jobs, children, friends, families, we can often forget to stop and notice for a moment the little things our partners do for us. These things may not necessarily be exactly what we need or what we would do for them but taking time to notice these things and express your appreciation not only is essential for connection and harmony within a partnership but also is likely to increase these behaviors and perhaps prompt additional ones.

I Want to Try to Understand

Often we are upset by something that our partners may not be able to understand. When on the receiving end of that upset in a relationship, we can easily become defensive in these moments and subtly or not so subtly begin to make our “counter argument.” Instead of doing this immediately as a first reaction, try starting from a place of curiosity about what might be happening for your partner and approaching with a desire to understand- “I love you so I want to try to understand what might be making you upset so we can figure out what to do.” This approach is likely to lead to more beneficial and productive outcomes in conflicts.

- Liz Hayman, MFT, is a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA

How to Stop "Fixing" Your Partner

Erika Boissiere

It is painful to see a partner in distress. Most of us want that pain to stop because we love them. Out of the desire to shift our partner’s state we come up with solutions for their problems, AKA "fixing."

This tool, "fixing" is heavily relied on because it gives us a sense of control and that we are helping our partner. The results? Well, they are mixed. Sometimes it feels supportive and sometimes it doesn’t. You can know it isn’t working when your partner doesn’t seem relaxed and soothed receiving it. In these instances another tool is needed. Your partner needs to know that someone really gets their struggle and doesn’t judge them. They need connection. So often when working with couples that rely on advice I notice they do not have an alternative way of responding. Here is the most effective tool to help your partner feel heard.  

#1 Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person's thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable

The key? Let go of whether or not you would have the same response. When you validate, you are concentrated on understanding the other person’s experience and individual perception and letting them know you get it by reflecting it back to them.The glory of validation is that you don’t have to agree or disagree. In fact it requires this kind of neutrality. It is 100% about your partner and how they feel and think.

 “You are saying that when I walked away from the table you felt like I didn’t value you or see you as an equal partner?” (This may sound crazy to you because you love and value her and show her in a million different ways.) You may feel the urge to apologize and tell her how much you love her.

But wait! Ideally you will first reflect what you have heard and follow with non-defensive curiosity. “I hear that you felt like I didn’t value you.” (Pause for their response…..) Follow with; “What was it like when that happened?” It may be helpful to reflect a few times before asking permission to share what your true intention was.   

How to Be a Rock star Validator

  1. Don't be a Parrot. Use some of the same key words they hear and avoid parroting back exact sentences. If they say their stomach crunched, its “your stomach crunched” not “you felt a pit in your stomach.”   
  2. Get into Their Experience. Another rock star move is to empathize with the emotional experience. Gosh that must have been difficult, exciting, frustrating, sad, distressing; or i"t sounds like you felt (fill in the blank).
  3. Watch your partner to see if you are getting it right. Does your partner respond to what you are saying with frustration, resistance or they keep repeating the same point? Signs you are getting it: You partner relaxes, continues the story without being stuck on one point (exceptions apply) comes up with own solutions, experiences catharsis (emotional release and recovery).

Blockers to effective validation

  1. Tone. If you sound bored or fed up with the conversation when you reflect what your partner says this will fail. If you feel these emotions: take a deep breath, feel your feet on the ground and conjure the part of yourself that is curious and compassionate. (If you don’t naturally have this part channel someone you know with these qualities.)
  2. "Shoulding." Don’t “should” all over your good efforts. If this rolls off your tongue check in to see if you are hoping that she will do something that YOU want her to do. Not to worry, pause and get back on track by reflecting the last thing she said.
  3. Dismissing. You may think what the other person is saying is some kind of nonsense. If this is the case you will have to muster everything you have to take it seriously. It is serious to them and treating it otherwise will only result in rupture in your connection.
  4. Switching to a normal back and forth conversation too soon. Validation requires concentrated attention on one person for an extended period of time. Ideally they will be the center of focus until they feel heard. The better you get at validating, the faster this will happen.
  5. Defending. It is super difficult to resist defending yourself when your partner perceives you have done something to hurt them. (We know it wasn’t intentional. You were just trying to get your own needs met.) It is in your best interest to get to know your own defense system so you don’t have to blindly obey it. When that old fear that you will never be good enough pops up you can tell it to take a hike because you are busy learning what you can do better.  
  6. Rationalizing or trying to make sense of what the person is saying. Yes, you experience things in a much different way. “I don’t get it” is a cop out. Your new go to: “I don’t experience things like this, help me understand.”
  7. Extrapolating.  If you can describe what your partner is experiencing “better” than they can you have strayed from the goal of helping them feel understood. Have patience for their process. Stay close with their experience.

Voi la!

Watch the effect you have on your partner! When you get it right your partner will relax or move forward in the story. Yes and… They will likely come up with their own solutions. They may even look at you with dreamy eyes because you really get it. Who knows some attraction may start to brew.

Since you are looking at them to track the impact your words are having you can also see cues that will let you know when you are off track. So you didn’t “get it” don’t be deterred try to stay closer to her narrative, to reflect more or ask questions to get on the same page.

-- Alexis Monnier, MFT, is a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.

How to be a good online dater

Erika Boissiere

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At our very core, all of us desire connection. Whether it's a night on the town with a new romantic friend, or looking for a long-term committed relationship, online dating has come onto the romantic scene with a fury. Swipe left, swipe right. It couldn't be easier, right? However, that's not what people are saying. If anything, it's the opposite. It's taxing, time consuming and often times, doesn't yield what we want. Here are four tips that can help make the process a little easier and perhaps create a more desired outcome.

Tip #1: Get clear about what you’re looking for

Are you wanting to meet a long term partner? Looking for something more casual? Great. The key is to know for yourself what it is that you’re wanting to get out of the process of dating at any given time and to be able to state that directly in dating contexts.

Tip #2: Use your energy wisely

Endless back and forth online conversation or texts can only tell you so much about a person. Exchange a few messages and then figure out a way to connect in person if it feels like it could be a good fit. Also, falling too quickly into messaging and texting that is more appropriate for a relationship (i.e How was your day?) can create the sense of a false intimacy that doesn’t yet exist, which can create confusion about how you might feel about someone. 

Tip #3: Be open

Dating is stressful and often makes people nervous and may cause them to act differently then they might otherwise. Know that it’s possible that someone you are on a date with will likely have many more facets of their personality and more depth than might be readily apparent on a first date.

Tip #4: Don’t ghost

It’s perfectly okay to not connect with and like someone in a dating situation. It’s important to know for yourself when this is the case and to communicate this so there is no ambiguity. In your own words, create something that you can say when this happens. It could be something along the lines of “I just don’t feel a romantic connection” or “I just don’t think we are a good fit.”

- Liz Hayman, MFT, is a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA

3 Tips on How to Rebuild After An Affair

Erika Boissiere

Deception in a relationship is one of the worst things you can do to your partner. The breach of trust is so great, that it accounts for 50% of the caseload for couples therapists. People struggle because they don't know how to repair their relationship, or, some wonder if they are even capable of coming back after an affair. Here are a few steps that may help you.

Insight #1: You've experienced a traumatic event. Treat it as such, but with guidelines.

It is normal to want to process the affair. To talk about it at length, over an over. However, establish guidelines on when you can speak about it, and when you can't. Examples include: Not before heading into work, when either of you have consumed alcohol, or if it erupts into a fight that is tail-spinning.

Insight #2: Here are some questions that will need to be uncovered at some point.

1. Why are you back? Why do you want to save the relationship?

2. Why did you choose her/ him? What do they have that I don't?

3. How did we get here? What created this distance?

Insight #3. Trust is built in micro-moments.

Couples often ask us, "how do we rebuild trust?" While we would love to have a marathon tape to show you trust has been rebuilt, that's not how trust works. Trust is bult in what we call, "micro moments." Tiny relational moments that signal to your partner that you have their back. That you won't do it again. That you'll talk about it as much as needed, even if it's 150th time. A micro moment looks like this.

"Honey, I have this awful feeling. You didn't text me back last night and my mind began to wander." "I'm so sorry that happened to you. Let's talk about exactly what happened last night, what lead to you feeling that way, and what we can do differently." That is a micro moment.

Conversely, what we see happen is this, "Ugh, again? Really? You really think I would cheat on you again? When will you get over this?" That is a trust destroyer.

-- Erika Boissiere, MFT is a the founder of TRISF, and a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.

How to Choose the Wrong Couples Therapist

Erika Boissiere

Some of us know that moment. The moment you and your partner get in some knock-down, drag-out fight, and finally the words are uttered, “I think we need couples counseling.” One of you spearheads the efforts, researching on yelp, google, or maybe talking to a trusted friend. But when it comes down to it…how do you decide who will help repair your relationship? And to add (and assume), help you with your most important relationship?

The Relationship Institute of San Francisco receives calls from all sorts of potential clients. We find that many are in a rush to get into counseling. Questions such as, “Can you take us today?” Their earnestness is usually due to a major relationship rupture. A fight that went terribly array, or an event that feels too overwhelming to handle, even for just one more day. Our clients typically want counseling, and they want it now.

However, what often gets missed by our clients in their eagerness to begin, is choosing the right therapist. And most importantly, choosing a right therapist that fits them. As we counsel our potential clients into choosing the right therapist, we say the following things.

Choose a Specialist.

Whether it is with TRISF or another provider, choose a specialist. To give an example, if you had a heart condition, would you go see a foot doctor? No, you would go to a cardiologist. The same goes for therapy. Choose a therapist that specializes in couples therapy.

There are many therapists that see many types of clients – adolescents, children, adults and couples. You want a therapist that has a specializes specifically in couples counseling or relationship counseling. Why? It is a very targeted skill set. Couples and relationship therapists have extensive training in garnering tools, resources, and know how to navigate the complexities of couples and relationship counseling.

Slow Down.

Call a few therapists. Don’t book with the first one because their schedule fits yours, or they called you back first. Have your partner speak to the therapist. Ask a few friends if they have referrals. What did they find important when they were in counseling? Do some internet research. Read your (potential) therapist’s blog or website. These are all ways for you to make a more informed decision.

Do you like the way your therapist sounds?

When speaking to your potential therapist, are they informative? Do you like the way they explain things? Do you feel like they are knowledgeable?

Do you agree with their approach?

Have your therapist speak to you about their approach. How do they help couples change? What models to they use? What masters do they follow and why? Do you agree with it?

Be flexible with your schedule.

When reviewing your schedule, be as flexible as you can. Many clients have demanding jobs, financial obligations or work commitments. However, remember, you won’t be in therapy forever.

Many therapists don’t work evenings, or weekends, as it is difficult on their families or other obligations. Prior to reviewing you schedule, you may want to speak with your work about missing an hour to an hour and a half per week. This can free up your schedule quite a bit.

Fee.

Therapy is no doubt expensive. Many of our clients are misinformed about therapy fees and surprised by the cost. Therapy, just like any other profession (law, accounting, personal training, etc) is costly. However, there are clinics that offer reduced fees if you can’t afford your clinicians rate. We support you making a prudent decision regarding your personal financial situation.

While there is no silver bullet to choosing the right therapist, we do hope that your journey into therapy is met with your expectations. It is a complicated process, and a lot can be at stake. However, remember that you hold the keys. You can always start, stop, or change therapists whenever you want. If your therapist is experienced, they will support you and help you make the right decision for you and your relationship.

-- Erika Boissiere, MFT is a the founder of TRISF, and a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.

3 Signs Therapy Isn't Working

Erika Boissiere

With such a vague and opaque process as therapy, how do you know it’s working? As a couples therapist, it is usually easy to spot. Clients will report that their relationship is getting healthier. They are happier. Their relationship has improved. Conversely, sometimes the outcome of therapy is not always what you had planned, but difficult decisions get made. While it may not be the progress you hoped, you are making movement. 

However, how can you spot if therapy isn't working?

 

Sign #1. Clear, precise goals.

It is imperative that you and your therapist have well thought out goals for therapy. This happens usually at the onset of therapy. Questions like, “If you were to wake up tomorrow and all of your problems were to be gone, how would you know? What would be different? How would you feel? What would you notice?” Without a clear goal list, it is easy to get lost in the maze of therapy and also not realize the progress you’ve made.

Sign #2. Monitoring your goals.

You and your therapist should continue to check in on your goals. Questions such as, “are we reaching our goals and if not, what is standing in the way?” By reviewing your goals, you are able to see if you’re making progress. Also, your therapist will notice things you may have missed, which can be tremendously helpful in realizing if therapy is helpful or not.

Not reaching your goals?

Talking to your therapist about the fact that you’re not reaching your goals is important. While there are a number or reasons why clients don’t reach their goals, the biggest one to review is what is called “therapeutic fit.” Sometimes the therapist you choose, whether it’s a personality style or their approach, simply doesn’t match up with your style. A well-seasoned therapist will completely understand, and if anything, help you with appropriate referrals or resources.

Did you reach your goals?

If you are reporting happiness or satisfaction with the outcome of therapy, for many, ending therapy is the next move. What many clients don’t realize is that they can always return to therapy, at any time. Whether it is with their previous therapist or a new one, the door is always open.

Sign #3. In general, do you find therapy helpful?

While every session might not be earth moving, therapy in general, should be helpful to you. If you find that you are learning about yourself, making different decisions than you would have in the past, gaining new skills and resources, or feeling a marked improvement in your life, then therapy sounds beneficial. However, just like anything, it is an investment, both from a monetary stance as well as an emotional one. Discovering when you need to start therapy or end therapy is always up to you.

-- Erika Boissiere, MFT is a the founder of TRISF, and a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.

20 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Having a Baby

Erika Boissiere

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Having a baby is exciting and very much at the same time, terrifying. All sorts of new questions brew in your mind. How will my body change? What sort of mother or a father will I be? What will the baby be like?

Culturally, we’ve done an excellent job at preparing for the baby in terms of their basic needs. Nursery? Check. Diapers? Check. Hospital Bag? Check. For many, we feel prepared when the nursery is done, the registry is complete and the crib is built.

Interestingly, many couples enter this transition with very little knowledge that a baby will cause (for some) tremendous stress on their relationship. Your relationship will go through an entire new transition, together.

As a couples therapist, I work with couples to meet this transition with tools, resources, and also, help them prepare in advance for what the transition will bring. Below are some questions you can your partner can discuss:

  1. If my relationship changes, and I am unhappy, how can I communicate this to my partner?
  2. How do my partner and I handle division of labor? How do I communicate when I’m feeling overloaded?
  3. If I’m upset with my partner, and sleep deprived, what is the best way to communicate this?
  4. If we were to stop having sex for several months, how will my partner handle it?
  5. How do I communicate resentments?
  6. How do I envision my life changing when I have a baby?
  7. What freedoms will I give up that I have now? What will I miss the most?
  8. If my support network were change, who can I relay on?
  9. If I (or my spouse) encounter post-partum depression, how will I know?
  10. Do I have trouble asking for help?
  11. How do I handle stress?
  12. How do I take care of myself when I’m feeling burned out?
  13. If I’m really tired, or can’t do something for whatever reason, do I have trouble saying “no?”
  14. Do I like to control things? Or am I a perfectionist? If things are out of control, how do I handle it?
  15. How did my parents parent me?
  16. What are a few things I hated as a kid, and a few things I loved?
  17. What is my parenting style? What is my partners?
  18. What traditions do I want to carry over from my childhood?
  19. When I’m at my worst, who am I? How do I come back from it?
  20. When I think of the kind of mother or father I want to be, what comes to mind? Why is that important to you? If my partner is doing something that is in direct conflict with that idea, how can we talk about it?

-- Erika Boissiere, MFT is a the founder of TRISF, and a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.

How Adult ADHD Impacts Your Relationship

Erika Boissiere

One of the biggest myths about relationships is that they should be easy. Arguments “shouldn’t happen” and when they do, people often wonder if their relationship is doomed. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. All of us have moments where we struggle within our relationships, and it is normal to hit a rough patch from time to time.

However, those that have Adult ADHD pose a different set of challenges in “couple-hood.” These hurdles can cause considerable strain on a relationship if it goes untreated. By understanding the impact of Adult ADHD, both the partners can benefit and have a happier relationship.

First, it’s important to understand the basics

  • ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Partners can display symptoms of attention difficulties as well as hyper behaviors.
  • This is a neurological (brain) disorder that is chronic, which this means that people have it for life.

While all of us have varying moods and shifts in our concentration, someone with ADHD experiences these core symptoms almost on a daily basis.

ADHD Symptoms

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Misdirected motivation
  • Organizational difficulties
  • Issues with self-discipline
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Angry or inappropriate outbursts
  • Negative self-image or lack of self-confidence
  • Carries shame from past “failures”

How it Impacts Your Relationship

If ADHD goes untreated, it can take a toll on your relationship or marriage. For those that are in a relationship with someone with ADHD, here are the hallmark features.

For starters, many people that struggle with ADHD have trouble concentrating. This takes the form of having trouble completing tasks, staying motivated or concentrating on the “wrong” thing. This is central and considered a core symptom of Adult ADHD.

Relationally, it can show up as “forgetting about you” or “ignoring you.” While the person with ADHD typically doesn’t intend for this outcome, it has the propensity to create distance and lack of intimacy within the relationship.

Another key feature to Adult ADHD is lack of organization and issues with time management. Relationally, this can manifest by having the spouse or partner without ADHD carrying a significant portion of the domestic responsibilities. Overtime, these unsung responsibilities can cause burn out and frustration, as they can largely go unnoticed by the partner that has ADHD.

Here are common examples that couples report frustration with:

  • Financial responsibility such as paying bills, insurance, rent/ mortgage, cell phone bill, car
  • Managing the home such as groceries, laundry, replying to important mail
  • Parenting responsibilities such as paying the nanny, ordering diapers, applying to schools, filling out forms, purchasing birthday or holiday gifts
  • Remembering important obligations such as commitments or engagements
  • Managing doctor appointments for the family
  • Booking vacations & time away
  • Remembering important life events such as birthdays or anniversaries
  • “Grunt work” such as emptying the dishwasher, taking out the garbage, cleaning out the refrigerator, replacing and refilling household necessities
  • Resolving family problems

The person without ADHD can feel alone in these responsibilities, and for some, this unequal division of responsibly can make the partner with ADHD feel more like a child, than a partner, causing more distance in the relationship.

Steps You Can Take Today

Step 1: Practice empathy: If your spouse has ADHD, it’s important to practice empathy. Remember, this is a neurological disorder and the symptoms you experience from your partner aren’t intentional.

Step 2: When making a request: Touch your partner or make eye contact when you making a request. People with ADHD receive information more readily and thoroughly when several senses are engaged. Also, give a time limit. Say, “I will feel better if you take out the trash by 3 o'clock.”

Step 3: Have clearly established responsibilities. People with ADHD work well with strong boundaries and consistency. For example, “every Sunday, the garbage gets taken out.”

Step 4: Make an area for reminders. Set up a designated area such as a cork-board that is in eye site everyday – such as a doorway or bathroom mirror. Use bright colored post its with large print.

Step 5: Consider Couples Therapy: If a couple coping with ADHD wants to revive their marriage, they must recognize that ADHD is the problem, not the person with the condition. Blaming one another for the side effects of ADHD will only widen the gap between them.

Step 6: If you believe you have ADHD: At a minimum, you must get treatment through medication and counseling.

-- Erika Boissiere, MFT is a the founder of TRISF, and a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.

Your Marriage in your Thirties Matters

Erika Boissiere

You are in your thirties.

By now, chances are, you are finally in a more developed and fulfilling career than in your twenties, school for the most part is over, and for some of you, you have found a significant other. Your home or apartment has taken on an “adult” look, and as you breathe in your newly found maturity, your thoughts turn to embarking into parenthood.

While we personally greet this milestone with excitement, research has a much more dismal picture to paint. Babies bring new stressors to the relationship, some so intense that they can be the doorway to divorce. While some marriages glide through this relational turbulence with just a few dings and bruises, others will experience the rockiest point in their marriage yet.

The million-dollar question is can your marriage survive parenthood?

The 21st century relationship is the most complicated history has ever seen. The process of selecting a mate to marry of yesteryear is far simpler than that of today.

The primary purpose of matrimony of the past was to procreate – men and women would move from relationship to relationship (on average, every 3 years) producing as many offspring as possible. Then, arranged marriages soon came into vogue in which mates with the highest access to resources were in demand. Finally, marriage moved away from this long held orthodox – marriage companions were mostly selected on the basis of their economic and societal status and there by chose the partner that would give our children the best life possible. In all of these marital models, the men worked (or hunted), and the women stayed home and raised the children. This pattern still endures today for many and is considered “traditional.”

The 21st Century Marriage

For many, the American marriage of the 21st century looks remarkably different. We now marry for love and passion. Both partners often work, full-time. We seek partners to fulfill an extensional completion to our life’s journey. We are looking for a companion, a lover, an intellectual partner and a collaborator; a travel partner, and a mother or father; an ally to support us at our worst, and someone to push our boundaries so we can live life to the fullest. We want passionate sex, and a best friend. We desire and seek a mate that checks every box on the “partnership list.”

To complicate matters, today’s modern relationships demand more from our marital partnerships than ever. During the child rearing years, your relationship will require you to work as a team – a unit that gives and takes. A unit that is not afraid to take on traditionally female-only responsibilities. In order for the 21st century relationship to survive, it must tackle the archaic marital model that has been imprinted onto our DNA. The woman can no longer be solely in charge of the domestic responsibilities and child rearing. It is now shared, now, more than ever.

Couples often get into trouble when a spouse is too late to accept this new marital and parenthood contract. They are trapped in the old architecture, while their spouse is firmly planted in 2016. While these centuries collide, minor relational infractions occur. The traditional female responsibilities, if not shared, will go undetected for a period of time. However, your wife will tire. And over the course of 10+ years, you will end up with a burned out wife, full of resentment, ready to hand you divorce papers. The modern woman enjoys an unprecedented economic freedom that removes the economic binds of marriage to survive, and provides her with options beyond the burdens of a traditional arrangement.

But, how does the modern couple negotiate this new marriage contract? Thank goodness the solution isn’t complicated and divorce is not inevitable. And it goes it without saying, this is not a one-size fits all solution.

Tool #1 – Division of Labor

To mediate potential resentments over the division of household labor, develop a written list of your domestic and child rearing responsibilities. Assign a time value to each task from 1 (takes significant time) to 3 (takes just a few moments.) This simple tool, while not sexy nor uniquely creative, does three very important things: 1) opens the lines of communication with your partner around shared goals 2) fosters team work through shared goals, and 3) ends “mindreading” by creating transparency into what it takes to run your household.

A well-known cognitive behavioral therapy behavior model is called “mind reading.” This model posits that it is natural for social beings in relationships to attempt to read other people’s mind by assuming that we know what the other person is thinking or feeling (and not fact checking it). In addition, we often expect others to mind read us. We ask our spouses to know what we are thinking, needing and wanting, without ever muttering a word. By engaging in this important discussion, we allow our spouse into our mind, clarifying our needs.

Tool #2 – Let go of 50/50

While this tool may seem to oppose the Division of Labor tool above, read on.

Let go of the idea of a perfect 50/50 split of the division of labor. Some days it will be 40/60 and other days it will be 90/10. You will have days that you are so exhausted you can’t see straight, and you will ask your spouse to pick up more responsibility that day. There will be days your spouse will ask the same of you. The key is flexibility, give and take. But don’t let it slide to 80/20 for too long. The average needs to be near the 50/50 mark.

This idea of a relationship “scoreboard” is an important concept in cognitive behavioral therapy as we size up pour “position” in a relationship.  As social beings, we tend to tally things up our “social score” in our mind, and when we perceive the scales tipped against us, we can become angry or resentful as we feel taken advantaged of or less than another. However, our internal scoreboard is often wrong, simply a figment of our imaginations with very little basis in fact. To remedy this distortion, the healthiest thing you can do is to share your experience with your spouse. For each marital partner to feel good about the division of labor, you may need to re-design your household list or re-assign tasks. Or maybe, you’re just burned out and need a day or two away. The most important element of this strategy to ensure a positive partnership, is this: talk. Don’t live inside your head where no one can hear you. And finally, be open to the idea that your spouse may be doing more than you think.

Don’t let your thirties determine your divorce in your forties. Be a team. Reduce resentments. And above all, wake up to the new marital arrangement of the 21st century.

-- Erika Boissiere, MFT is a the founder of TRISF, and a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.

 

 

The Best Communication Tool Ever

Erika Boissiere

 

 

The primary complaint of couples seeking therapy is a breakdown in communication. Couples often describe a repetitive pattern of arguing. “She always yells.” “He always leaves.”

Learn how to be a better communicator.

This is the first in a series about communication. This article will speak about what communication is, how to be a great communicator, what interferes with it, and how to handle these impediments skillfully.

What is Communication?

In its simplest form, communication is conveying ideas, thoughts and feelings through words as well as body language and behaviors. For example, a person uses their senses to pick up information and respond. Most people consider communication complete when their thoughts and feelings are received and understood.

Repetitive arguments are born from repetitive misunderstanding.

Being misunderstood by your partner is distressing, frustrating, and causes emotional distance. It can be detrimental to connection. What most people do when they feel misunderstood is to try to get their point across by being more emphatic, or they might go the opposite route, and disengage. Some try the “ultra-rational” approach, while others use sarcasm. The reality is that these tactics rarely produce the results you are longing for, which we assume, is to be understood by your partner. Put simply, you want to be heard.

Where Most Communication Breaks Down

Breakdown occurs when both the speaker and listening partner assume understanding of certain terms, without clarifying. To give an example, the term “support,” means one thing to you, and possibly, something completely different to someone else.  Interestingly, when asked to elaborate, often times people have trouble explaining their thoughts. They assume that the definition is universal, when it’s quite the contrary. What makes thing even harder, is that the listener assumes knowledge of the term, so never asks for clarification.

Breakdown also occurs when the listener feels like they are being accused or are seen as failing. When these emotions bubble up, people often feel a need to protect (seen as defensiveness), leaving your partner woefully unheard.

Breakdown #1: "Mind reading"

Put simply, we expect others to know what we are thinking. Cognitive behavioral therapy calls this cognitive distortion, “mind reading.” What does mind reading look like?

The speaker is thinking: “I asked for more support. That means my spouse will pick up more responsibility around the house, ask me questions about my day and be more attentive to the children.”

The listener is thinking: “More support, okay, got it. I’ll pick up extra hours at my job to so we’ll have more resources for support.”

Breakdown #2: Defensiveness

Scenario #1: Your partner talks about something that they need support around. Loving partners intend to “be there” for their partners. They try to make their partner feel better by offering advice, offering an alternative way to look at things. These methods are often met with frustration and possible escalation.

Scenario #2: With the intention of improving experiences in the relationship, a partner present a problem or something that needs improvement.

Both result in defense against a real or perceived accusation or inadequacy.

How to change the cycle

Step 1 - Awareness: Understand your pattern of communication. This awareness gives you the power and freedom to do something different.

Step 2 – Remember Empathy and Clarity: Break the pattern through communication from a place of knowing your message, and caring for your partner. Be clear with what you want, and how to define it.

Step 3 – Use Skills: Use listening skills that build understanding and intimacy. In the above example, it would look like this, “What does support look like to you.” This will stop you from mind reading. Ask the simple question, and we are fairly certain your partner will elaborate generously. If they don’t? It’s a good thing you asked if they don’t even know what they want! If you find yourself feeling defensive generously turn toward your partner, and try to understand what they are hoping for and why it is important to them.

-- Alexis Monnier, MFT, is a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.

 

Sorry I'm Late!

Erika Boissiere

Late.jpeg

Do you find yourself being one of those people who is chronically late to things? Lateness is one of those experiences that we have, alongside things like procrastination or boredom, where we can tend to take it at face value. We can frame it as, “Oh this is just the way it is,” or “This is the just the way I am.” It can also function as a way to take us right into harsh self criticism- “I’m bad/wrong/lazy/the worst. End of story.” In these situations, however, I think there are often much deeper things operating. When we take it at face value or find a way to be hard on ourselves about it, we miss the opportunity for a more in depth exploration of what might actually be happening. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you find yourself often being late:

What am I late to? Do I tend to be late to everything or am I just late to certain things or with certain people?

Our lateness to particular events or with particular people can sometimes contain information about how we may be feeling about that event or person. Sometimes we may be struggling in a relationship (feeling hurt, angry, disappointed etc) and that can feel hard to name, which can cause us to show up late. Or we may feel worried about a task at work that could cause us to press the snooze button a few too many times making us tardy. Finding that you are late to everything would be good information as well, although my suspicion would be that upon closer examination, you would find that there are certain areas where lateness is more of an issue than others. Does a part of me want some type of response around my lateness?

I think that sometimes when we’re late, a part of us wants to be “called out” on it. The typically response from most people is, “Oh no problem.” But I think we may be unconsciously looking for something from other people when we are late. It is possible that often, as children, our more subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) struggles went unnoticed by our caregivers. So in our lateness as adults, we may be trying to get the people close to us to say, “What’s going on” or “Are you okay?” Unfortunately, this is not the response we tend to get, which can reinforce our lateness.

How might my lateness actually be serving me?

There are many behaviors we might have that on the surface we don’t like or don’t want to be doing but there is actually something about doing that behavior that may serve an important purpose. There are many reasons that lateness might actually get you something you want or need. What does it mean for you to show up to a particular situation frazzled and potentially apologetic? Does you worry about the expectations you might feel if you showed up in a more grounded place? Is there a way you are attempting to protect yourself from something by beginning an interaction from a one down position? Does a state of constant rush, struggle, drama, and unease feel normal, familiar, and comfortable to you? And if so, why?

All of these are possible things to explore in yourself around what the function of your lateness might be.

-- Liz Hayman, MFT, is a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA

 

What "I'm here for you" Really Means

Erika Boissiere

In my work with clients-both individuals and couples, I feel that it's important to spend some time exploring childhood experiences that may have an impact on how we navigate the world and our relationships. Much of how we navigate things can be a result of how our parents and caregivers responded or didn't respond to us growing up. When we begin this exploration, many clients say to me "But my parents were always there, they came to everything. They were always at my games, shows etc." It definitely is a great thing to have the physical presence of our loved ones regularly and at important events in our lives. But sometimes, a key component is missing, and that is having their emotional presence.

We all know the experience of being with another person who just doesn't really feel "there." There can be many reasons for this and this can exist in varying degrees in different moments. But often what we all need and what we especially need as children is someone who is present with us both physically and emotionally. What I mean by emotional presence is someone who is engaged in any given situation or interaction and can connect in a meaningful way. This could look something like: A parent attending a child's sporting event and afterwards saying something like "I noticed you got frustrated/nervous/excited when xyz event happened. Is that right? How did that feel?” This is very different from “Oh good game!” or “Too bad your team lost!”

Often it is not about the quantity of time that we show up for the important people in our lives (even though this is important) but about the quality of that time. Do we show up with our hearts and the desire to connect and understand? Or are we somewhere else entirely even when our physical self is right there? The ability to try to really see the people that we care about, become more deeply curious, and name our own complex emotional experience is an important component that contributes to lasting and fulfilling connection.

-- Liz Hayman, MFT, is a relationship and individual therapist in San Francisco, CA.

The Ups and Downs of Relationships

Erika Boissiere

Do you feel like your relationship is Failing?

Every relationship has its ups and downs. It is inevitable, really. We grow as human beings, life circumstances change, and new stressors emerge. All of these things are out of our control, and, as significant as they are, we may pay little attention to the changes as they become an intimate part of our every day life.

People tend to believe that we have control over  our relationships. Thus, nothing quite as disquieting as when your marriage or relationship is doing poorly and you don't know why or how to fix it. You feel it when you wake up; you notice it during dinner. Sexual intimacy with your partner starts to dwindle, and your patience begins to snap. Suddenly you find that your relationship is in an uncomfortable, dark place, and you’re not certain when or how this happened. If you are starting to feel or notice these signs, here are five things you can do to get your marriage back on track.

Schedule a date night.

No matter how busy you are, schedule a night out with your partner. Date nights are essential to relational intimacy as they ensure you and your partner have dedicated one-on-one time without the busyness of life getting in the way. The simple act of getting ready to go out is also important. Make it easy – nothing over the moon or strenuous. Perhaps go play miniature golf, or dinner and a movie. The goal? Have fun - together.

Turn down the volume in your life.

Often, stress in your relationship is the result of the stress you or your partner is feeling individually. The stress of being over committed, running from event to event, or having a demanding work schedule can all contribute to relationship dissatisfaction. Reduce your social and work calendar as best you can and be more present in your relationship. Saying “no” can be hard, but by doing so you will create more space for your relationship.

Take care of yourself.

We mean this in the simplest of ways. If you haven’t worked out in ages, get out there. Even a brisk walk for 15 minutes a day will help. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy foods and take care of yourself ascetically.  Do things for yourself that make you feel attractive and energized.  Feeling unattractive can erode your self-worth and cause a negative outlook.

Really assess your unhappiness.

You and your partner are having a bad few months, and suddenly you think your relationship is on its way out.  It may or may not be. Make a list of what is contributing to your unhappiness. Some things on the list may have nothing to do with your partner, but instead are all about you. You may also notice that your list is really long, or really short. This simple exercise can provide a new perspective on what is really happening and how dire the situation may be.

Consider getting outside help.

If after trying each of these steps you are still not noticing any changes, or you have just reached your wit’s end, consider getting help from another resource. Talking to a trusted friend, reading a self-help book (visit our library), or considering couples therapy are all good options to explore as they can help guide you to a better understanding of what is happening in your relationship, and what you can do to change it for the better.

When Couples Counseling Won't Work

Erika Boissiere

Does Marriage Counseling Work? Sometimes it doesn't

All couples experience ups and downs in their relationships. It is not only common, but expected that as people grow, age and change, so will their relationships. When experiencing difficulty, some couples turn to a trusted personal resource for help, and others may try to figure things out on their own. However, some couples look to counseling in the hopes that a relationship expert can provide important insights to guide them in a better direction.

Couples counseling can be an effective way to improve personal relationships. A professional therapist can help couples understand their relational patterns, provide practical tools to improve their relationships as well as a safe place to process relationship ruptures. Change does happen during therapy, and for many, it can be an invaluable experience.

However, there can be times when counseling may not be the answer. Readiness for change is a critical ingredient for success. So how do you know if when couples counseling may not be enough?

It is not the right time

It just might not be right time for couples counseling. For change to be lasting, both people in the relationship must commit to changing their behaviors. If you are dragging your partner into the process, or giving ultimatums, it is unlikely that your partner will be open to the influence and advice of a marriage counselor. In this situation, save your money and focus instead on convincing your partner that getting outside help is a reasonable and beneficial step.

You have reached the end of the road

As hard as it is to consider, your marriage or relationship may have run its course and has arrived at its end. Some couples enter into counseling after years of unhappiness and want immediate fixes, but hurt feelings and pain that have compounded over the course of years are complex and take time to unravel and for new behaviors to take hold. This is not to say that couples counseling can’t make a positive impact sooner than later – it can, but lasting change will take time and commitment. And, most importantly, the relationship has to be something both parties want to save.

You are having an affair, and don’t want to end it

If one partner is having an affair and is not willing to end the relationship, couples counseling can do little to restore the primary relationship. However, counseling can help support the injured party and explore what may have contributed to the affair. For couples counseling to be the most successful, both parties need to be fully in the game and committed to personal change.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

5 Tips to Help Your Marriage Today

Erika Boissiere

Is your Marriage Falling Apart?

No matter if you have been married for one year, 10 years, or a lifetime - your marriage could be in a precarious state in the blink of an eye.

Often, people in this state are confused, unsure what to do next, and couples counseling can help. However, if you need change right away, below are some easy tips for you try immediately. 

WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE. AND NO, WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT PROFANITY.

Think about what you are going to say and self-edit before you speak. Avoid making statements such as, “you always” or “you never.” Choose your words carefully. Refrain from constant criticism of your partner. You do not need to list every imperfection when you notice them.

ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE NOT “COMMANDER AND CHIEF" OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP.

This tip applies to both men or women.  Equality, or balanced influence, in marriage is a key ingredient to happiness. Forgo rigidity and “know-it-all” behavior for flexibility and acceptance. You will be glad you did.

ARE YOU IN A FIGHT THAT ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE? TAKE A BREAK.

Sounds too easy, doesn’t it? But it is true. The best way to resolve an unresolvable fight is to take a break. Some people need just 10 minutes whereas others may need hours. The key? Tell your partner how long you need and adhere to that time frame. Don’t play games.

DON’T ONLY FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVE.

They may be hard to see clearly just now, but there are some positives aspects to your relationship. Focus on those. Make a mental note of when things are going right. It is far easier to notice the negatives, so yes, this is something you will have to work on daily.

FIND A COUPLES THERAPIST. IT Might be TIME.

Often people push off this step,but a professionally trained clinician really can help you and your partner get back on track. Couple’s therapists provide feedback, tips, and can teach you how to be a better partner.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

The Top 10 Signs You Are in a Dysfunctional Relationship

Erika Boissiere

It’s very difficult to acknowledge or even consider that you might be in a dysfunctional relationship. Your friends may have expressed concern, your family may have intervened, or maybe you are silently suffering in your relationship, all alone.   

Sometimes we do not even know how bad things are. Some say to themselves, “It’ll get better.” Or maybe others say, “This is how all relationships are.” Sometimes that is true, however, most of the time, it’s not. Our job as couples therapists is to be very honest with you: healthy relationships exist, as well as, incredibly dysfunctional ones. Everyone deserves to be in a loving and supportive relationship. The difficult step is being honest about what kind of relationship you are in and being ready to seek help and make a change. 

Just being able to acknowledge that you are in a relationship that isn’t healthy can be helpful. No, you are not going crazy. Things are not great. If you feel that your relationship is in fact dysfunctional, individual counseling or couples counseling can be tremendously effective. However, it’s up to you to decide when you need and are ready to accept professional help.  

Here are our top 10 signs of serious relationship distress. 

Sign #1: Abusive or Critical Language 

If your partner is criticizing you, belittling you, or regularly saying negative things that make you feel inferior, this type of communication is toxic and unhealthy. Couples counseling can assist in changing this behavioral pattern and identify and address the core root of the problem, which is critical for lasting change in your relationship. 

Sign #2: Domestic Violence 

25% of women will experience an act of physical violence in their relationship over the course of a lifetime. If you are the person committing the physical violence or the victim of domestic violence, getting professional help can be extremely supportive. There are shelters for victims of domestic violence and counselors that specialize in this complex issue. Don’t wait until things get desperate to seek professional help and support.  

Sign #3: Disgust or Contempt for your Partner 

Are you disgusted with your partner? Does your partner make you feel that you are beneath consideration or worthless? If so, this is a red flag and you should highly consider couples counseling. Contempt is one of the biggest relationship killers and can be addressed with a relationship professional. 

Sign #4: You’ve Given Up 

After years and years of fighting, have you given up on happiness in your relationship? Do you simply not care anymore? Are you moving through life just to get through the day? If so, individual counseling or couples counseling can help guide you – either to stay in the relationship or to get help to turn things around. 

Sign #5: Long Periods of Silence 

How long has it been since you last spoke to your partner? Hours, days, weeks? Do you avoid going home? Whatever your scenario is, long periods of non-communication and silence are a key sign that your relationship is in distress. 

Sign #6: Fear 

Are you scared of your partner? Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells and that they could snap at any moment? Being in a constant state of fear and anxiety is incredibly stressful and can add to an already anxious relationship situation. 

Sign #7: Affairs or No Trust 

Being constantly suspicious of your partner or experiencing an affair in a relationship fundamentally breaks the foundation of trust between you and your partner. It is important to address either one of these issues and identify clear steps to rebuild the relationship and trust again. Without this bond and assurance of your significant other, your relationship will be uncertain, in limbo, and the battles with your spouse will continue. 

Sign #8: Exaggerated Gestures for Attention 

Is your partner constantly threatening to either hurt themselves, leave you, or engage in unsafe behavior? Sometimes partners will instigate an affair, just to get your attention. Whatever your circumstance is, this type of attention seeking behavior is unhealthy and will not lead to positive outcomes for either person. 

Sign #9: Dependency 

There are moments when you really need to depend on your partner, and yet other times then you need your independence. These feelings come and go, sometimes throughout the day or even through different periods in your life. However, when you partner is constantly dependent on you for decisions, social activities, and you feel that without your existence they would crumble, it is time to consider getting help.

Sign #10: Isolation from your Friends or Family 

One of the biggest red flags that your relationship is dysfunctional is when one partner isolates the other partner from their friends or family. This process is typically very slow and happens over time, but if you are in a relationship where you feel that you cannot reach out to friends or family because of your relationship, a professional counselor can provide some guidance. 

If you are interested in learning more about couples counseling, learn more about The Relationship Institute of San Francisco. We specialize in couples and relationship counseling, rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Life’s Too Short for Crappy Relationships

Erika Boissiere

If you really think about it, the relationship you have with your partner has possibly the greatest impact of all your other relationships on your emotional well-being - for better or worse. If every morning, and every evening, you come home to a partner with whom you are fighting, not having sex with, feeling resentful towards, or no longer connecting with, we bet that no matter how much you avoid your relationship distress, it is impacting everything in your life, every day - work, friends, and your ability to enjoy life.  

So why do people in this kind of distress not seek professional help? Well, for starters, admitting that your relationship is in dire straits is not an easy thing to do. Many of us prefer to hide underneath the covers with the hope that things will resolve itself on its own. Sometimes that works, but most of the time, it doesn’t. Time marches on, and so does your emotional numbness and unhappiness.  

If you are unsure couples counseling is for you, let us give you our pitch on why it might help:

Couples counselors have specialized training in relationships that others do not. 

It can be hard to admit that your relationship needs professional help. We are programmed to be self-sufficient and to not "air dirty laundry" to strangers. Our guess is that you have already exhausted your resources. You’ve probably spoken to a trusted friend, maybe you have read all sorts of relationship books, or even gone to a seminar. However, if things still are not changing,  seeing a professional might be worth considering. Good relationships are complex and not all based on "common-sense" or "chemistry." Couples counselors are trained professionals who can help decipher the dynamics in all sorts of relational challenges and help get things back on track.  

The process demystified. 

If you are a therapy newbie, just the thought of starting counseling can a bit daunting. “What will my therapist ask?” “Will we really talk about sex life with a complete stranger?” “Is couples counseling basically 50 minutes of rehashing old fights?” 

The first few sessions are very much focused on getting a real picture of you and your relationship by asking all sorts of questions. Next, we discuss your goals for therapy. You may have a laundry list or just a few key issues. Many couples do talk about sex with their therapist. Intimacy challenges are a common problem between couples, and the therapist's office provides a safe, neutral environment for these difficult and personal topics. 

Yes, rehashing old fights may happen at times, but for a good reason. Reviewing past conflicts provides the therapist with the opportunity to teach new skills or to uncover deeper dynamics of the partnership. Sometimes the fight about not taking out the garbage isn’t at all about taking out the garbage. It may instead be a division of labor issue, one partner feeling burned out, or perhaps one partner feeling that their needs within the relationship are not being acknowledged nor respected.  Complex stuff, huh? 

The Payoff.

For some, couples counseling can be transformative. It has the potential to change your relationship forever for the better. However, this isn't the case with every couple. Some couples are willing to do the work and are able to make positive changes, and some are not. Unfortunately, we do not have a crystal ball or a magic wand to change people – we offer tools, professional opinions and resources. The real change must come from you.   

Are you ready?

To Break Up or To Get Engaged?

Erika Boissiere

If you are in a romantic relationship, it is quite normal to experience different levels of closeness with your partner at different times. At times, you could not be happier with how things are going and the possibilities for the two of you together seem endless, and other times, you may not believe you are considering a divorce or ending the relationship. Although vacillating between these two outlooks may be difficult, experiencing both the highs and lows of a relationship present the opportunity for us to understand ourselves more deeply, and identify different needs within ourselves and our relationships. And, this process, hopefully, leads to a stronger relationships and sense of ourselves. 

However, it isn’t unusual for chronic ambivalence to plague a couple. One party in the relationship may constantly waver between wanting to stay with their partner, or end the relationship. A person with this perspective may say things like, “I really love her, but I’m not sure she’s the one…but I also don’t want to break up with her.” Or, “We’ve been dating for 3 years, and I’m not sure if we’ll break up or get married.” This is quite the paradox, isn’t it? Years go by and people stay in these relationships not being able to fully commit either to the relationship or moving on. 

Often this sort of ambivalence causes stress in the relationship and chronic unhappiness – for both individuals. If you are chronically ambivalent about the status of your relationship, here are a few questions to consider that can help move you out of a state of ambivalence to action.

Question 1: What scares you about either committing to your relationship or calling it quits? 

Seriously think about what scares you about fully committing in your relationship or leaving it. Do you fear that you might miss another opportunity? Or that he is not the perfect match? What keeps you from breaking up? Do you fear that you won’t find another partner? Or maybe, this is as good as you can get? Get down to brass tacks on yourself and ask yourself what is feeding your ambivalence. 

Question 2: Do you find yourself looking over your partner’s shoulder for someone else? 

Often, ambivalent people will continue to search for “perfect person while in relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean there is cheating going on, but suggests the person continues to wonder “is there someone better for me.” For example, a friendly conversation at the bar or jovial conversation on the bus leads some people to wonder, “Maybe I’m with the wrong person…maybe I can do better.” 

Question 3: Is being in a state of ambivalence comfortable for you?

Some people are actually comfortable constantly tussling between the two extremes in their relationships - breaking up or staying together. Some become an expert at being in the “in-between” and find it to be quite normal. Review other areas in your life – is this something you struggle with across other parts of your life? Or, do you have a history of this behavior? 

Question 4: Do you constantly seek others advice regarding your relationship, but rarely take it?

Ambivalent people tend to search for answers by asking others, but rarely act on any offered advice as it usually entails making a decision or taking action. Some even say, “If only he would break up with me…it would be so much easier.” Is this the case with you? 

Question 5: What would cause you to make a decision, either way? 

What would it take for you to decide one way or another? Think out loud with a trusted friend, or consider entering counseling as a way to process these tough questions. Often people hope, “it will get better…I just need to give it time.” And while that can be true for some cases, decide how long you are willing to wait (for both you and your partner’s sake), so maintaining your ambivalence doesn’t become more important than you reaching your relationship goals.

Does your Partner Have all the Power in your Relationship?

Erika Boissiere

Learn How to Share Power & Influence

Having influence in a relationship is the ability to effect the character or behavior of your partner. Influence can be positive or negative depending on the situation and the dynamic with your partner, depending on how you share power. If you and your partner have an unbalance of power, one person is always giving into the other, and the other begins to feel like a parent figure. What happens next? Distance and lack of emotional intimacy.

Sharing power and influence does not mean you need to constantly say "yes, dear", but it means that you listen to your partner and consider their thoughts and feelings. Simply stated: it means their opinion has an effect on you. If you are feeling distant from your partner, couples counseling can help.

Tip #:1 Realize this is an internal process.

The first step towards changing the power balance with your partner is to notice the dynamic when influence is happening. These moments happen quickly, and are very automatic - so it's hard to catch them. Begin to notice when your partner starts to talk, and whether or not you have a varying opinion. How does the dynamic play out? Do you cave? Fight to the bitter end? Stop caring? All of this information is crucial to unlocking when understanding  your personal dynamic with your partner.

Tip #2: "Know it alls" are relationship killers.

We are going to say it... “know-it-alls” are relationships killers. If you or your partner becomes a "know it all" on every subject, you run the risk of shutting out your partner. One way to end "know it all" behavior is to be honest with yourself : do you actually know what you're talking about? If you don't, it's okay to say, "I don't know." Also, you might be surprised that when you start to let down your "know- it-all" reactions, your partner may begin to get closer to you. Vulnerability is a key ingredient in relationship success.

Tip #3: You can still assert your opinion, relay your concerns and brainstorm. This is not a all or nothing.

Sometimes varying opinions actually help. We know first hand from business that brainstorming and collaborating are the ingredients to success. Relationship trials and tribulations are no different.  Your first step is to simply listen to your partner’s suggestion. State your concerns and respond in a collaborative way. “That is a great idea – the only thing I’m concerned about is…”

Tip #4: Realize that this may be a bigger deal to your partner. If it is, seek to understand the underlying motivation.

It is important to check-in if your partner isn’t budging. Why aren’t they budging? Is it a power play, or is it something much more important? For example, “We fought and fought about when to send our daughter to preschool…at the end of it all, the reason I was so anxious to send her was because I didn’t want her to be behind her peers...like I was.” You'll be surprised on what you may dig up from your partner. Not all fights are about the content at hand - it usually has to do with much deeper reasons.

As always, if you struggle with sharing power, or feel that your partner constantly makes you feel powerless, consider couples counseling. It is a wonderful way to unearth your relationship dynamics and change your relationship trajectory from unbalanced, to healthy.

 

5 Tips on How to Improve Your Sex Life

Erika Boissiere

Need Help Improving Your Sex Life?

It can be hard to admit, but if you and your partner have not had sex in more than a month to up to a year; it is time to talk about it.  Sex is a key factor distinguishing a friendship from an intimate relationship.

But do not worry…you are not alone. Sex (or a lack there of) is one of the most common issues (besides communication) causing couples to pursue couples counseling.

 

 

Simply Put: Make it a bigger priority in your life.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just do it. The hard part is that in real life, life's other demands take over. You decide to stay late at work, need to pick up the kids, clean up, grab groceries - the list can go on. Finding a way to make physical intimacy a priority in your relationship must happen every single day. If you don’t hold space for that to happen, another, less interesting, task will quickly take its place.

Get a medical checkup.

Go to your doctor and rule out any medical condition potentially contributing to the situation. Many over look this step because no one thinks they could have a medical issue related to sexual function or intimacy, and find out far too late that they do.

Care about your Partner's feelings.

Of course you care about your partner's feelings, right? Well, perhaps not all the time. If you always reject your spouse when they approach you for sex, that doesn’t feel good. Even if you say “no” – be sweet about it. After all, someone just asked if they could make love to you and you are turning it down.

Steal intimacy whenever you can.

Even if it is just a kiss goodbye, a kiss goodnight, a quick hand hold, keep intimacy alive. Start small and then build. Physical touch doesn’t have to only be sex. It can be small simple gestures to say that you notice and love them.

 The hardest part is saying yes.

Often people say, “I always usually say no, and after some prodding, I eventually cave in and realize…I’m glad I said yes.” Put simply – more often times than not, you will be happy you said yes. The catch, however, is to learn to say yes first.