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Don Laird

You Should Read This…

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.”
― Wendell Johnson

“You never listen to me!”

“You always say that!”

Expletives aside, perhaps two of the most damaging words you can throw around in a relationship are “always” and “never.” Coupled with the word “You,” these statements can end a productive exchange before it has an opportunity to get started. Absolute statements are conversational arsenic because they remove choice and impose an external pressure that is difficult to diffuse once initiated. Keeping these absolute statements at a minimum can help keep your relationship from deteriorating into a street brawl. For some, drawing imaginary battle lines and then chucking emotional hand grenades is just what happens when there is an attempt to engage a spouse, partner or significant other on a deeper level. Yet, it is an unproductive and selfish endeavor simply to prove the other person wrong and validate profound feelings of resentment.

Remember: An argument is a failed discussion. Your hurt feelings are rarely about the trash never being taken out, the kids always misbehaving, or the dishes never getting done. You aren’t being heard, and there’s your frustration.

Argument words, when applied by one person onto another, regularly force the recipient to counter. Until the pressure has been dealt with, all levels of creative and authentic communication are ended, and you find that the maladaptive dance of “I said/you said” has begun.

A Severe Case of the Should-s, Musts and Have to-s

“You should take that job.”

“You have to stop acting that way.”

Channel Your Inner Adult

If I internalize the Should-s, the Musts and the Have-To-s and surrender to the expectations of others, I lose my creative voice; I give up my center. I could phone in my relationship at this moment simply because I see no point in continuing. Our reply to pressure is to rebel or to conform, fight or flight. Neither conformity nor rebellion allows for creative dialogue to flourish. Compliance is seen as good. Rebellion is seen as bad. Remember that little lesson from our teachers and our parents? The trouble is we are no longer children. To be a child means being in a position of powerlessness, to have limited choices and to not have the capacity or skills to manage life outside the confines of my thoughts.  As adults, we have a responsibility to take ownership of our feelings and accept others for as they are, not as we wish them to be. Succumbing to pressure leads to a narrowing of existence. Relationships become a chore and a bore, “I always pick the wrong person.” Think about that as you wonder why you may, or may not, be satisfied in your current relationship with a significant other or friend. Under pressure from another, which I then choose to cultivate or purge in myself, there is no experience of authentic love. I am an active participant in a power struggle and a war for which there is no exit strategy. I have become subservient to another, and that will always end poorly.

If you would like to continue the conversation about your relationship or marriage contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists.

In Good Health,
Don

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Don Laird

Is your relationship ready for therapy?

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

“We just don’t connect anymore.” “I don’t trust you.”

“I hate having the same argument over and over again.” “I think it’s over.”

Sound familiar? Welcome to couple-hood and read on.

Seeing a couple’s therapist is not the first step toward divorce or separation. It is not about blaming your spouse or partner for everything that is wrong in your relationship, and it is certainly not about admitting defeat. Couples need to be open to therapy, particularly if the arguments, lies and hurt feelings are leading both to think that the relationship is permanently stuck. Couples need to be ready to work at their relationship and not expect the therapist to “fix” it for them. So, when is it time to hit the couples’ couch, you ask? Here are some indicators that couples therapy is the next step in your relationship:

“Communication, table for two?”

Do you fear sharing your feelings with your spouse or partner?  Do you feel as though it’s not even worth opening your mouth? Then it’s time to consult a therapist. Couples find themselves seeking help for a number of reasons, but poor communication and mistrust are the two chief complaints of most couples. Communication encompasses verbal contact (how well you converse and argue as a couple), written communique (texting and other forms of electronic messages), and the all important social cues, “Did you just roll your eyes at me!” 

A common characteristic of couples who communicate well: They share feelings – sorrows, joys, hopes, dreams, and frustrations.

“I think what we’ve got on our hands is a dead shark.”

The above quote is voiced by Woody Allen in the movie ‘Annie Hall’ when he realizes that his relationship with Diane Keaton has stopped moving forward and is sinking fast. Being stuck may be the biggest sign that couples need therapy. But what does being stuck look like? Simply put, it feels like the couple is doing the same thing over and over again, and no matter how hard they try to change, things always ends up the same or worse. In many ways, they’ve just given up because that is the path of least resistance. A common characteristic of couples who are not in a rut: They communicate directly and show appreciation for each other’s ideas and feelings.

“What Happened? I didn’t sign up for this.”

Consider couples therapy as a proactive endeavor. I highly recommend that any couple seeking marriage or a live-in situation seek therapy before doing so. Sure you love each other, sure you’re not like “so and so” and that will never happen to you, but why take the risk of not openly and honestly discussing how each of you might react or feel under the stress of life events like: infidelity, family issues, or financial strain? Why wait until you are in a relationship with no clue how to navigate the arguments or respectfully engage with the other? A common characteristic of couples who use therapy as a preventative tool: They face conflict open and honestly.

“Intimacy – The Space Between.”

Intimacy isn’t just about sex. It is also about our ability to be vulnerable with the other. When intimacy fades from a relationship, couples therapy is a must. Intimacy refers to the feeling of being in a close personal relationship and belonging together. It is a familiar and effective connection with another as a result of a bond that is formed through knowledge and experience of the other. Intimacy suffers when the space and distance created by one or both people is no longer tolerable. Sex (if it is happening at all) feels empty, moments that used to create laughter and sharing are no longer happening, and that “connection” you had, well, that seems like a distant memory. Can you hug your significant other without cringing? If not, it’s time to seek professional assistance. A common characteristic of couples who are able to honestly face intimacy issues: They grow together, not apart.

Remember it is always important to consider whether your relationship is ready for therapy, but don’t throw in the towel just yet. Give it a chance. You can get all the advice and affirmations you need from family, friends and self-help gurus, but there is no substitute for working together with a professional therapist in a space that is designed to help your marriage or relationship mature and grow.

If you would like to continue the conversation about your relationship or marriage click here to schedule an appointment with one of our couples therapists.

In Good Health,
Don

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Don Laird

I’m not in the Mood

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

We feel the love is still there, but the spark just isn’t. We get along fine,and there’s minimal fighting. We’ve been together for so many years, raised kids, took vacations, and lived as healthy as we could, but something went wrong. Months drifted into years, and now we’re realizing that we make for better roommates then sexual partners.

What happened?

You’re in a rut. You’re leading parallel lives, and don’t communicate anymore. You tell everything of any significance to your friends and family but not to each other. These are really big problems, and they are not going to just go away unless you deal with them.

The first step is to be realistic. If you’re looking for the knock-your-socks-off sex of those first few years, get real. Finding a new partner certainly isn’t a solution either. The initial passion in a relationship typically fades after about 12-18 months.  Hook up with someone new and two years from now you’ll have the same dull relationship you are currently experiencing.

Being able to fix a problem depends on what is creating the problem. There are many causes for loss of sexual desire. Some involve medical problems, such as hormones, other causes are linked to anxiety, depression or medications. If you have seen a physician and she or he has ruled out a physical issue then it is time to look at the other things that can lead to a libido drop. This may include addressing interpersonal reasons, with a potential lack of commitment in an emotional relationship by one or both partners. Perhaps one partner had his or her feelings hurt or has been turned down too many times, or one got too busy or neglectful. This doesn’t mean marriage kills sex and intimacy. It just means that sex may be the hidden conflict that neither of you wants to discuss.

Couples don’t talk about sex. We acknowledge that sex is important to marriage, but it is a subject that rarely gets discussed. It is healthy to let your spouse know what you do and don’t like when it comes to the act of sex. Let’s not minimize intimacy either. It is also healthy to let your partner know if you are less than satisfied with your sexual relationship and with the level of intimacy. Simply put, more talk of sex and intimacy can lead to more sex and intimacy in the marriage.

Careers, paying bills, obligations to family and friends, and parenting responsibilities can wear a marriage down. These are among the most common causes for one or both spouses to spend less time thinking about or engaging in sex and intimacy. Yet, all these endeavors are for nothing if there is no intimate bond between you and your spouse. In today’s world, we work hard at maintaining a particular lifestyle, but in the end the lifestyle we are working so hard to maintain means nothing if we lose our relationship.

If you are experiencing martial or relationship issues, perhaps we can help? Click here to schedule a confidential appointment to discuss your relationship issues.

In Good Health,
Don