Repairing a Relationship

It has been an embarrassingly long time since I have sat down to reflect and write in this space. Michael and I have been spending most of our time providing therapy to some incredible couples over the past few months. Time flies when we are working together… it is such a privilege to do this work.

Something we keep running into time and time again is the myth that when couples enter therapy the past wounds will be covered with immediate action like homework. Clients are eager to ask for the next task but the work is a little harder to spot and it certainly cannot be checked off a to do list.

The work lies often in holding both realities. The reality that the relationship is being worked on and will improve and the reality of the damage that has been done. Part of repair then is being able to sit with your partner in those tense moments when one or both of you lacks confidence in the relationship. Having compassion for one another and being able to see that the past hurt is just as real as the new future you are creating together.

The magic ingredient is not letting those moments set you back. Instead have confidence that this uncomfortable space of rehashing isn’t the past argument, it is a new conversation because it now exists in the context of working on the relationship. Rehashing for couples before therapy often happens in the context of “will we stay together” or “is this relationship healthy for me/us.”

Can you hold both the past hurt and the desired future just long enough to start to see it change?

Remember, change in humans is the same as a growing plant. It is hard to detect until you look for it.

 

Community

For the past year it seems headline after headline reminds me of the importance of community. From the circus of a presidential election to a harsh hurricane season when I read the news Monday about Las Vegas, it was too much. I find myself attempting to learn as many facts in a short scan of the news and then needing a break from it.

It is important to remember flashy news headlines can be addictive. They make us feel under threat and rope us in. And now with social media broadcasting many of the same news stories, it is hard to get away from it.

My true hope is that you can dig deep into your community. Make eye contact and genuinely ask your neighbor, “How are you today?” Take a pause and thank the people you interact with throughout the day. Make plans with friends and family. Play games with your children. Take a break from media. For example, Michael and I quit watching/reading any news or social media after 6pm every day. This gives us a full 12-13 hour break each day. Go for a fall walk with a hot cup of tea.

Be in touch with your humanity.

Media is fear based. Fear sells things and makes people feel isolated.

The only antidote is to be in touch with your humanity and to love the wonderful people in your life.

 

Voting is important and so are relationships

Scrolling through the news I am reminded of the date. The Presidential election season is upon us. And already, I have reached the point of avoiding Facebook 🙂

As a therapist, I am reminded of the stress that this season often adds to lives. While being reminded of the values we hold dear is nice, we are simultaneously reminded of all we disagree with. I see it’s effects in family relationships. We all have a few outspoken individuals somewhere between family of origin and in-laws. It can make already tense relationships seemingly unbearable!

In graduate school I watched a documentary entitled “Luna.” It was the story of an orca whale off the coast of Vancouver Island who had separate from his pod when he was young. In the story, several researches discuss and speculate the effects of this separation given that orcas travel with the pod they are born into for life. One scientist concluded, “it is one of the ways we know that orcas are intelligent. It takes a lot of work to continue to get along with the same pod for a lifespan.”

It is my hope for America that we can remember it is our ability to work through differences, have compassion for people we disagree with, and to regulate our anger that makes us an intelligent species.

Try four square breathing for example. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4, pause for 4, and repeat. Tricks like this help to keep you from blowing a gasket and saying or doing something that may hurt important relationships.

The Missed Point About Teens and Social Media

It is always encouraging to me when articles like this one hit the web. It is a sign that the the effects of social media are a continued discourse in our society. But these articles frequently miss one important point. The point is that more and more children and teens are spending time alone on social media with no parental involvement. It is not just what social media is displaying, it is that our children are receiving these messages alone and internalizing them. Children are no longer confronted by images on the TV that then can be discussed as a family or even a group of peers. Instead, the information they are digesting is frequently experienced alone.

If your teenage daughter is appearing to lack confidence or becoming more anxious or nervous, try to open up a conversation about the fact that social media is still media. Everyone is projecting what they want you to believe, not how things actually are. There are also a number of great videos on YouTube showing how much models are airbrushed. And keep in mind, problems can seem so much bigger when we are experiencing them alone. By opening up a conversation, you are not only bringing your teen back in touch with reality, but reminding them that they can talk about these experiences, that everyone is impacted by social media.