14Aug 2018

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

Cheating, infidelity, and affairs are extremely traumatic events in love relationships. Marriage and committed relationships are fundamentally based in trust and security. Infidelity and trust issues are a leading cause of severe relationship distress. Infidelity is an extreme violation of basic trust and safety in a relationship. There are many types of infidelity, including emotional affairs, sexual affairs, online flirtations, and other violations of trust. Some partners consider the excessive use of pornography as a type of infidelity.

Why Do People Have Affairs?

More than half of the couples we see in therapy and in our Connections marriage retreats have experienced some type of infidelity. It is often a primary focus of our work with couples. Women have affairs less frequently than men, but it’s not uncommon. There are many reasons why people have affairs. Most frequently people who have affairs don’t feel loved or desired, and their circumstances provide an easy opportunity (such as a close work relationship).

The offended partner, sometimes referred to as the injured or betrayed partner, is devastated. Trust is shattered, and this partner feels victimized, violated, deeply wounded emotionally, and often furious. The betraying partner – the one who cheated – may feel ashamed, guilty, anxious, and sometimes relieved that he or she no longer needs to hide this terrible secret.

When an affair is discovered – or strongly suspected – the betrayed partner needs a plan of action. In most cases, the betraying partner should be included in this process.

What should the betrayed partner do? What actions should be taken?

There is no single action that will fit every person and every circumstance. This is not a “One Size Fits All” situation. That being said, the following steps and coping skills are recommended:

  • The devastating emotional impact of the infidelity must be addressed. You should seek out emotional support from a neutral third party. Counseling or psychotherapy is strongly recommended because of the neutrality of the therapist. Talking to a close friend or family member can help, but can also present complications, since in many cases this person already knows your partner, and these relationships may be negatively affected in the future. And can a family member or friend really be neutral?
  • When you have direct evidence that your partner has cheated (or when your partner has already admitted to cheating): You should confront your partner in a non-attacking manner. The best strategy is to state clearly and simply that you know your partner has cheated, and that this behavior is totally unacceptable. Then wait for the response. If your partner denies the affair, then you should provide the evidence, as calmly as possible. If your partner admits to cheating, and is willing to explain and clarify, this can be a productive start. If the situation escalates emotionally, you should take a time out and resume the conversation later, if possible.
  • You should demand that your partner end this relationship immediately. A total no-contact rule is best in these cases. No texts, emails, phone calls, and certainly no in-person meetings. If your partner works with the other person, you should ask your partner to avoid talking to that co-worker about anything other than essential work-related matters. If your partner refuses to end the relationship, it may be time for an ultimatum – either give it up, or face the consequences that you will end your relationship.
  • When there is no definitive evidence, and when your partner denies cheating: This is a more difficult situation that will require time and patience. If you have considerable circumstantial evidence (that is, no actual proof, but it’s more than “just a feeling”) there are some difficult choices to face, and therapy is recommended. In most of these cases, I’ve found that there is already significant relationship distress in addition to the infidelity and trust issues. It may be time for a trial separation – possibly separate bedrooms in the case of married couples or cohabitants. Some time and distance apart can be very revealing.
  • You need to fully experience the depth of emotion that occurs when cheating is revealed. You should allow yourself to feel all of the pain, sadness, fear, anger, and shame without denial or attempts to control the feelings. Meditation and journaling can be quite helpful.
  • Couples therapy is highly recommended. This will provide a forum, in a neutral setting, for you to explore and discuss what happened. Couples therapy is an ideal setting for your partner to explain the cheating and why it happened. Your partner should eventually be able to hear you, with unconditional acceptance and openness, your feelings and concerns. Your partner should be able, after some time in couples therapy, to express empathy and compassion for your emotional injury. The meaning behind the affair should be explored – that is, how and why this happened.
  • Self-care should be a priority. These coping skills include: Eating a nutritious diet, even if you’re not hungry. Avoid drinking excessively. No drugs at all unless prescribed by a physician. Exercise can be very beneficial. Do your best to get a good night’s sleep. If you experience physical distress, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, or chronic insomnia – or if you are unable to work – you should consult a physician.
  • Practice positive thinking (when the painful feelings aren’t overwhelming). As difficult as it seems right now, this is a temporary situation. It will pass with time. Often, an affair is a wake-up call. Perhaps there were problems in the relationship that weren’t being addressed; or perhaps your personal needs were not adequately being met in this relationship.
  • Over time, assuming the relationship continues, a process of forgiveness is recommended. Forgiveness does not mean letting your partner off the hook. Rather, it’s a letting go of the anger and resentment. Tell yourself that in forgiving you set yourself free – free from the anger, the pain, and the suffering.

In most cases, therapy is necessary to fully heal and to move on with life in a positive manner. Couples therapy or one of our Connections retreats is highly recommended. For further information, or to schedule an appointment with one of our relationship experts, please contact us today.

20Jul 2018

And Suggestions for Positive Connection

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

This is another article in my series about The LATE Men – men who are chronologically adult but late to mature – late to show up as fully functioning adults. They’re stuck, emotionally, psychologically, and relationally, in an adolescent level of development. The LATE Men experience relationship distress because they’re lost and angry – they don’t understand women and what they need, and they react with anger. With some relationship coaching, the LATE Men create more successful partnerships with the women in their lives.

The LATE Men

The LATE Men (adult men who function as Lost, Angry Teens) are emotionally and behaviorally undeveloped, and like teenagers, they often show up late – late to mature, and late to make or keep commitments. These men tend to self-sabotage, causing relationship distress, and problems at work and at home. LATE Men can be narcissistic, confused, angry, controlling, passive-aggressive, and defensive.

The LATE Men typically come from dysfunctional families – with divorced parents or broken homes, fathers who were emotionally or physically absent, mothers who were over-worked or overprotective, or they were mistreated emotionally or physically. Relationship coaching and specialized counseling for men, can help the LATE Men to become the loving, responsible Adults that most men truly want to be.

Understanding Women and Their Needs

Women aren’t all that different from men emotionally and relationally. All of us experience the primary feelings of anger, sadness, joy, love, fear and shame. And all of us need positive, safe emotional connection with others. The LATE Men often have difficulties recognizing and understanding their own feelings. So it’s even more difficult for them understand the women in their lives. This guide is offered to help men manage – and even prevent – relationship distress caused by misunderstanding and negative reactions.

    • It’s All (or Mostly) About Emotional Connection  One of the most frequent complaints I hear from men is that their women just keep talking, on and on, about things that are meaningless, irrational, or insignificant. Women complain that their men don’t listen, or that they are dismissive. This is not a communication problem. Rather, it’s about emotional connection. Boys learn to talk mostly about external things (think cars and sports) or actions (performance). And boys are generally discouraged from talking about feelings or relationships. In the absence of these relational skills, the LATE Men misinterpret adult women, resulting in angry reactivity, conflict, and relationship distress. Unlike men, women frequently talk to create or maintain emotional connection and intimacy. Women want to be seen and heard – and they’re looking for emotional attunement (literally tuning into each other’s emotional wavelength).
    • Safety First  Historically and biologically, women have been smaller, less physically strong, and more vulnerable than men. At least in the past, Job #1 for men was to protect and provide for their women. Times have changed, and women are more empowered, but fear and anxiety is still a core emotional reality for women. Women need to feel safe in relationships with men. When women are critical, controlling, or demanding, they may feel unsafe (possibly feeling abandoned or insecure in the relationship) – and they may be looking for reassurance.
    • Love  Obviously… But what does that mean? I’ve learned from many women that they feel loved when there is emotional support, when their men are available, attentive, and responsive, and when there is a sense of positive emotional engagement. Women want to know that their men are there – and they care.
    • Desirability  Women want to know that their men want them and find them desirable. They want to know that their men find them attractive and sexually appealing. (But most women don’t want to be ogled or groped.)
    • Respect  Aretha Franklin got it right: “All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you get home.” She wants to be appreciated and valued for who she is – not just for what she does.
    • Partnership  The old patriarchal code is dead or dying, even in our current political climate. In fact, our current political struggles could be symptomatic of this doomed male dominance. Women are no longer resigned to playing second fiddle to their men. Partnership will replace patriarchy in the new world, or at least the new, emerging American order. Women will continue to need men – as committed partners who, as men, are both strong and sensitive.

    Relationship Coaching for Positive Connection

    The LATE Men can learn to do much more than to just avoid relationship distress. And they can do much more than simply please their women and make them happy. They can empower themselves to become more complete human beings – to live fuller, more meaningful lives with a fuller range of emotional expression and much more satisfying relationships. These are the most important tips for creating successful relationships with women:

    1. Empathy, Compassion, and Emotional Support  It’s not that hard. Even the toughest, most emotionally disconnected LATE Man can learn how express loving kindness. Relationship coaching is highly effective in teaching men the most effective winning strategies with women. It’s all about connecting heart-to-heart. Men tend to react from their own narcissistic wounds, and they can learn to see things differently – to rationally understand that it’s not about them. It’s about women in distress – and women who need support and positive emotional connection. Then, the LATE Men can access their own internal sensitivities and simply express compassionate understanding and support.
    2. Reassurance  It’s amazing how positive and responsive women can be when they feel safe. A little reassurance goes a long way. Just let her know that you’re there and you care. Not in a flippant or dismissive manner of course. Look into her eyes and hold her close – even if she’s a little resistant or angry (without forcing it!). Let her know that you love her, and that you’re there for her. Tell her that “Together we will work this out.”
    3. Show Her You Love Her  Do you know her well? Most LATE Men don’t know a lot about what she likes, wants and needs. John Gottman developed a very effective Love Map exercise (also available in our Connections: A Workbook for Couples). Tuning in to these preferences and desires is a wonderful act of love that will pay many dividends. And just telling her every day that you love her – in person, in little love notes, texts, etc. – will result in a much improved relationship. Listen with interest when she talks; and let her know you understand and appreciate her feelings. And flowers, doing chores, or washing her car without being asked are acts of loving kindness that will be much appreciated.
    4. Respond – Don’t React  You’re feeling blamed or attacked. She’s upset – maybe angry. Your natural response is to react, with defensiveness or anger. Don’t do it. Stop, pause, take a breath. Now do the opposite – instead of anger or shutting down, try empathy, loving kindness, or just ask her what she needs from you, gently and patiently. Set a loving boundary when she does cross that line (that is, when she’s truly offensive or abusive).
    5. Open Up  Let her know about your authentic self. Practice the language of feelings: mad, sad, glad, ashamed and afraid. And know that your anger protects your more vulnerable feelings of sadness, shame and fear – and avoid blaming, critical, and defensive behavior. Be willing to let her see your internal self. Let her know what you need. Share your hopes and dreams as well as your fears. She will feel closer to you, more trusting, and more compassionate.
    6. Respect & Appreciation  Isn’t that what you want from her? Start with the belief that she loves you and that she’s doing the best she can. Just like you. Let her know you appreciate all that she does and respect her uniqueness and individuality. Treat her like she’s your best friend. You don’t have to agree with everything, but respect and appreciation goes a long way.
    7. Partnership  You’re not the boss. There’s no place for domination and control in the new world order. Women have the same rights as you and are just as equal. Millennials have it right –they are much more egalitarian in their relationships and marriage than any other generation in our history. And they report much more relationship and life satisfaction. Let her influence you and your decisions – this is one of the most important keys to a successful partnership.

    Please contact us today for more information about relationship coaching and counseling for men. For more information about the LATE Men, please read the articles listed below. And stay tuned to our monthly emails and this web site – The LATE Men will be published as a complete self-help book in 2019!

    Who’s In Charge?

    The LATE Men

    The LATE Man in Relationships

    The LATE Men – 5 Reasons Why Men Self-Sabotage

    Self-Sabotage: The Epidemic

    8 Types of LATE Men

    The LATE Man Grows Up

08May 2018

Our Team at the Relationship Center of South Florida is a unique and diverse group of mental health professionals. We are 15 psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed counselors and therapists. Our backgrounds and clinical experience are quite diverse, while we are united in a common purpose: to provide the highest level of professional service using the most effective methods with compassion, concern and unconditional care.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge our team. We met together recently to welcome several new team members to our Center. At the meeting I was struck by the remarkable level of warmth, camaraderie, and good cheer in our group. Yet this is nothing new – it’s been a pleasure to work with so many wonderful people over so many years.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I’m truly grateful for your friendship, support and teamwork at our Center. And I’m enriched by your collective experience and wisdom. You have created an atmosphere of warmhearted collegiality and partnership that I greatly value. And your contributions have been significant.

For example, we have a web site that’s rich with valuable information, with contributions from many of you. Informative articles have been written by Nicole Pearl, Karin Witte, and John Imperatore. And one of our newest team members, Annette BoVee-Akyurek recently created 3 new web site pages about important services not previously available at our Center. Thank you for your exceptional contributions.

Our Connections program of marriage retreats and couples therapy intensives has become one of the most successful services at our Center. And Karin Witte has been instrumental in helping to develop this program. It’s been a pleasure to work directly with you, Karin as co-therapists in Connections, and to see your growth and development as a highly effective clinician. Karin also started a new peer consultation group that’s off to a great start.

I also want to mention our 2 psychiatrists, Dr. Nicole Pearl and Dr. Shawn Gersman. Thank you for the many contributions you make to our Center. Your availability and willingness to provide consultation, evaluation and other services to our patients is invaluable. And your participation in our monthly consultation group has been enriching and influential for many clinicians.

It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work with all of you. Thank you for your friendship and support.

Richard

03May 2018

Lessons from Westworld – Escape the Maze of Anxiety, Depression, Anger & Shame

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

Westworld is a critically acclaimed sci-fi western TV series on HBO, now in it’s second season. As described by HBO.com, “… this dark odyssey follows the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin.” This provocative show also examines how we are programmed to enact story lines in our lives – stories that are often painful and full of loss, anger, anxiety and worry, depression and shame. Westworld is a dramatic example of how we can learn to change our personal stories.

What is Your “Story”?

All of us have a story – also known as a “narrative.” Actually, we have several interrelated stories running continuously. Some of these stories are conscious, and many are unconscious. Our stories include subjective versions of past history – stories about what happened growing up, about family members, friends, lovers, and important events. And we create a story about who we are, our personal identity, beliefs, and world view.

Exercise

Try this thought exercise – you might want to write it down. Answer these questions:

  • Who are you? How would you describe your life, your personality, and the kind of person you are?
  • What were the major events in your life so far, and how did these events affect and shape you as a person?
  • Who are the most important people in your life, past and present?
  • What are your biggest accomplishments – how have you been successful?
  • What are your biggest challenges – how do you struggle in life today?
  • What are your most important core beliefs – about people, relationships, politics, religion, and the meaning and purpose of life?

Review your answers. Is this you? Or is this a story about you?

Are You Your Story?

In Westworld, the “Hosts” are androids – robots that look, sound, and feel completely human. Their “brains” are actually highly sophisticated computers that are programmed by humans with a plot – a story – that guides their behavior with the “Guests” (the humans who interact with them at a western-themed amusement park). The Hosts cannot harm the human Guests, but the Guests can do anything they want with the Hosts. Until something goes wrong, and the Hosts begin to evolve… They begin to break free from their programmed narratives – they change the story.

Humans are also programmed with narratives, and we are often unaware of the stories that guide our lives. We are programmed by our parents, schools, our culture, and religion. Throughout our lives we review our internal stories, and gather new information or “evidence” to corroborate these narratives. There are several core themes in our stories – much like the plot lines in Westworld and other dramas. Some are positive and life-affirming, and some are quite distressing. Some common examples of the distressing themes in our stories include:

  • The Victim Theme – We feel victimized by someone or by circumstances. We feel wounded, blamed, helpless and unfairly treated. We believe we are being oppressed or mistreated. We may feel angry or righteous, and we might retreat into passive resignation. Or we may fight back against our real or perceived transgressors.
  • The Shame Theme – Everything from low self-confidence to toxic shame (“I’m not good enough”). When we’re shame-based, we’re often passive, dependent, and feel unlovable. We may become socially isolated due to fears of judgment and rejection, and we may under-function at work due to feelings of inferiority.
  • The Anxiety & Worry Theme – Like film-maker and actor Woody Allen, this theme is fear-based. We don’t feel safe in the world or in relationships. We believe something bad will happen, especially if we’re not hypervigilant or hyper-prepared. We become obsessive, risk-averse, or we may use addictions to self-medicate.
  • The Depression ThemeDepression may be thought of as a diagnosis, a condition, and even a coping mechanism (but not a very good coping skill!). It can also become a story – one that can take over your life and cause endless suffering. It’s a theme of negativity, hopelessness, and helplessness, with a focus on the half-empty glass.
  • The Story About Relationship Distress – This story develops over time in committed relationships and marriage. But, like other themes, this narrative is often influenced by pre-existing stories from childhood (for example, trust issues and insecurity resulting from childhood experiences). These themes contain our subjective explanations for conflict, fighting, distance and other problems. Our story is a personally biased and limited view of what goes wrong in our relationships.

There are many other negative themes and story lines, such as the Angry Theme with blaming and persecution, the Grandiose and Superior Theme (narcissistic, self-absorbed, and better than thou), and the Controlling and Demanding Theme. What are the negative themes in your narrative?

Are You Lost in Your Story?

Most of us have a tendency to get lost in our stories. But you are not your story. It’s not who you are – it’s simply a set of beliefs that run automatically in the background – until the story becomes activated. These narratives are representational – that is, the stories represent some aspects of reality. But there are also distortions in all stories.

When we experience too much anxiety and worry we may be lost in our story about our fears, and we may not recognize that we’re actually safe. When we experience depression, it can become an elaborate narrative about everything that’s wrong or negative – and we’re not able to see the positives and the possibilities because we’re lost in story. When we experience relationship distress, we may rigidly adhere to a negative script or narrative about our partners and why they’re aggravating, wrong or hurtful. But it’s only a subjective story – it’s not the whole truth.

The good news is that you can change your story.

How to Change Your Story

  1. Study the script – The Hosts in Westworld slowly became aware of their own programming. You can do the same. I recommend meditation and journaling. Try writing a script based on your own stories. Describe your character (that would be you): What do you do? What are your beliefs and values? What do you say? How do you create anxiety and worry in your life? How do you create relationship distress?
  2. Rewrite your character – Change the themes in your story. See the themes listed above, and create a new focus, with new choices and intentions. For example, if a major theme in your story is Victim, rewrite a similar story line from the perspective of the Empowered Survivor. Bad things happened to you but emphasize the ways in which you coped effectively – you not only survived, you evolved, and maybe you conquered adversity.
  3. Create new plot lines – At the heart of our stories we create meaning. For example, a shame-based theme means that you will always have self-doubt – it will never be good enough. A new plot would have a more realistic premise: All of us have strengths and positive resources. Even if you’ve failed at something in the past, you haven’t always and won’t always fail. You are much more likely to succeed if you operate from realistic beliefs about your value and your abilities.
  4. Write new outcomes for your story – Envision positive outcomes. Imagine the many possibilities for success at work, at home, and in your relationships. One of the most effective coping skills is to live a life of intention.
  5. Develop new action sequences – Based on the re-written characters in your story, with new plot lines and positive outcomes, create new action sequences. Change your behavior to reflect the new beliefs, meaning, and goals. Act “as if” you are now programmed for success.

These five steps are relatively easy to do. We will never be perfect and we don’t have to be. It’s about progress, not perfection. Our old stories will never disappear completely. But we can override these negative themes with a little patience and perseverance. If your story feels impossibly stuck, our counselors and therapists are here to help. Let’s re-write your story together. Contact us today for more information.

19Apr 2018

5 Steps to Change the Pattern

By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD

Selfish, hostile, or emotionally unstable people wreak havoc in relationships – and they often attract other people who have unhealthy personality traits. However, as a relationship expert with over 30 years’ experience, I can say that people with negative personality traits can and do have successful relationships. After all, none of us is perfect – almost everyone has some undesirable personality traits.

Negative personality traits don’t “cause” relationship distress in most cases – it’s more about how we fit with a certain person and our partner’s personality traits. And it’s about how we interact and respond to each-other’s personality traits or quirks.

Unhealthy Personality Traits in Relationships

This is a list of the most detrimental personality traits – those that tend to cause problems in relationships. These are not necessarily “personality disorders,” which tend to be more rigid and pervasive.

  • Narcissistic – More than just selfishness, a narcissist is the center of his (or her) own world. Narcissists have a superiority complex, with a sense of arrogance and entitlement. Their need for admiration – to be seen as special – becomes a central focus in their relationships. They tend to be controlling and demanding. Since they come first, they are often insensitive to others’ needs or feelings. They generally don’t feel guilty about their actions, and have little remorse when others are injured by their behavior.
  • Irritable and contentious – This cluster of personality traits includes excessive anger, aggressiveness and hostility, blame and argumentativeness. These individuals tend to be judgmental and critical, and they may appear to be sullen and “moody”. Their partners often feel they have to walk on egg shells. A destructive relationship dance may develop when their partners become defensive or shut down, erecting a protective wall.
  • Passive-aggressive – This is a type of indirect anger or hostility. Passive-aggressive people are basically avoiding conflict while inflicting damage. They pout, they give their partners the silent treatment, they withhold love, connection and affection, and they make false promises. They tend to be stubborn, uncooperative, and they procrastinate. It’s a zero-sum game – nobody wins.
  • Disconnected and emotionally detached – These individuals practice emotional and physical distance in relationships. They seem emotionally vacant – or their emotional states seem shallow or superficial. They’re distant, withdrawn, defensive and over-protective. Or they may seem indifferent and uncaring. These traits are highly destructive in relationships. How can you have a relationship with someone who isn’t there?
  • Dependent and insecure – All of us feel insecure at times, and some dependency is normal in relationships. However, people who have excessive abandonment fears tend to be very anxious and feel unsafe in relationships. They may feel empty inside, or unworthy of love. They lack self-confidence, they may be indecisive, and they’re often inhibited. Shame – not good enough – is a core belief system. Their partners may feel pressured, responsible, and suffocated – and they grow weary with these burdens.
  • Dramatic – These individuals are emotionally volatile or unstable. They are unable or unwilling to regulate or manage their moods. They are often highly emotionally reactive, “making mountains out of molehills”. Their relationships become unpredictable emotional roller-coasters.
  • Victim mentality – Some people tend to get stuck in the role of the victim (often acquired from traumatic childhood experience). In this role, victims feel one-down, defeated, aggrieved, and disempowered. They often feel depressed, helpless and hopeless. But they don’t see themselves as responsible. In fact, many victims feel a sense of righteousness – like martyrs who don’t deserve their fate, and they often blame others for their circumstances. Their partners react negatively to the blame – or to the chronic unhappiness – and a destructive dance ensues.
  • Boundaryless – Similar to co-dependence, these individuals are generally dependent, insecure, and intrusive – or they’re controlling and demanding. Since they feel unsafe and unworthy, they compensate with manipulative behavior (often unconscious). These are the rescuers, the enablers, and the controllers. They don’t feel they can get their needs met any other way.
  • Irresponsible – These emotionally immature individuals may seem to be carefree, but they are often unreliable and unaccountable. They don’t show up or they show up late. They allow others to carry the weight of responsibility. And they may be impulsive and unpredictable (emotionally reactive; risk-taking behavior; erratic behavior). In relationships they don’t make or uphold commitments, they’re not responsive to other’s needs, and they’re not reliable team members or partners.
  • Addictive – Obsessive tendencies and compulsive behavior, which may include alcohol or drug dependence, sex and love addiction, electronic media, shopping, gambling, and other uncontrolled, unhealthy behavior patterns. The chemicals, substances and behavior often take precedence over the relationship. The relationship with the addiction comes first.

5 Steps to Change the Pattern

If you believe you always choose the wrong person, or you seem to attract unhealthy relationships, here are 5 steps to change the pattern:

  1. Awareness – We can’t change what we don’t see. A “searching and fearless” inventory (such as the 4th step of AA) is called for. I suggest a written review of all past relationships. Identify your partners’ personality and behavior traits (and your own!), both positive and negative. Look for the patterns.
  2. Acceptance – Practice non-judgmental acceptance. As Nietzsche said, we’re “human, only human”. Use positive affirmations and recognize that while you may have made bad choices, you’re not a bad person. Use #3 below to help with this process.
  3. Understanding – Most of our choices are made unconsciously – including the person we choose to be in relationship with. In our work with hundreds of couples we frequently see patterns that help to explain these choices. A close examination and understanding of your family of origin can be quite revealing. Specifically, what did you learn about relationships from your parents? How did they deal with the normal frustrations and conflicts of married life? Professional help from a counselor or therapist may be the key to unlock these questions.
  4. Evaluation – How do you determine who is really the “right” person for you? If you’re already coupled or married, how do you know if you made the right choice? Actually, in most cases, these are misleading questions. There really is no such thing as the “right” person. Certainly, we need to rule out the obvious deal breakers (e.g., you want children but he does not; specific religious requirements; active addiction issues; etc.). And of course you want to avoid some of the more serious unhealthy personality traits listed above. We know from years of research that the way we conduct ourselves in a relationship is far more important than any specific quality or qualities of our partner. So that leads to the most important step of all:
  5. Practice Skills – Our experience, and years of clinical research show that relationship problems are mostly caused by negative, emotionally reactive patterns that develop over time – not the specific personality traits of our partners. We can learn healthy relationship skills, often with the assistance of couples therapy. These skills include mindfulness, compassion and empathy, and reversing reactive behavior (responding with friendship, love, understanding, and open vulnerability). Other skills include negotiation, compromise, and boundaries.

Relationships can be quite challenging, especially when unhealthy personality traits collide with normal tensions and conflicts. The good news is that we can learn to choose wisely and practice effective relationship skills. For additional information, please contact us today.

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