Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

info@positivelifechanges.ca
778-558-8207

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

Do you worry about your loved ones  being disappointed, or feeling bad in some shape or form?

Do try to save your children from feeling/experiencing pain and disappointment in life?

Burnaby Relationship Therapy for recovery from codependency addictionDo you work hard to manage your loved one’s feelings so he or she doesn’t 

  • get sick,
  • relapse,
  • become depressed again,
  • get triggered into some other painful place?
  • Are you the super attentive and kind friend always willing to come to the rescue?

Are you the friendly neighbor who goes out of their way to be helpful?

If you are nodding your head and saying “Yes, I am.  Yes I do all these things and more.”, it sounds like you value being a “good” human being and like to contribute to the well being of others.

Just between you and I, at the end of the day, do you sometimes feel a little disappointed? Do you feel like you put a lot of effort into making other people feel good but somehow they don’t seem to return the favor in equal measure?

Do you sometimes feel a little hurt because all your efforts and the energy that goes into worrying and making sure that others are okay goes almost unnoticed?

Do you sometimes feel a little un-  or under-appreciated?

Have you ever promised yourself that you’re going to stop being so nice? That you’re going to put yourself first? But then, when you try to make these changes in your life, and you actually do try to put yourself first you get stuck?

If you feel anxious or unsettled when  people around you are unhappy or frustrated then changing your behavior may be easier said than done.

In fact you may feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place because when you see people you love experience disappointment or pain, it’s almost as if their pain is your pain.

Often individuals who worry a lot about how others feel, also prefer to avoid conflict if at all possible. Of course the potential Codependency counselling and addiction recovery with Burnaby couples counsellingof conflict increases as “happiness” around you decreases.

In order for you to get to a place of more ease inside yourself and still maintain your values of being a caring person you need to unlearn or shift an erroneous belief that you most likely learned when you were growing up.

You need to let go of the idea that you have control over or power over other people’s lives. You also need to let go of the idea that you are responsible for other people’s lives. (Of course you are responsible for any minors in your care.)

When couples or individuals seek my services as a psychotherapist who specializes in working with addiction recovery and helps loved ones of addicts move into recovery from co-dependency, I sometimes offer this mantra:

“I don’t have the power over, control of, or responsibility for other people’s lives. I was taught that I had these powers. This is a lie I now tell myself.”

Repeating this mantra regularly can help you to stay connected to what it is that you really want –  especially when you are feeling anxious and worrying about what is going to happen if you don’t step in to fix things and make sure everyone is happy,.

It will also help you identify whether your actions are truly coming from a place of loving and caring or whether they are informed by your need to manage your anxiety.

anxiety relief with psychotherapy  North Vancouver for co dependent behaviourSometimes it’s hard to differentiate whether you caught in your codependent place or acting from a place of love and caring. From the outside your behavior looks the same. If you’re confused, get out of your head and into your body.

The best barometer for identifying this difference is your body. An act of loving and caring will make your body feel open and relaxed. If that same behavior is however about managing your need for approval or trying to avoid conflict, your body will feel somewhat contracted or tense.

Remember that a lot of the worst-case scenarios that you’re trying to prevent are completely out of your control. You have no control over how your loved ones will respond to,  interpret, feel or think about something.

Burnaby Marriage counsellor and Sex Therapist offers Relationship Advice

Every Tuesday you can post a question, message me or email me at info@positivelifechanges.ca with any question concerning Intimacy, dating, relationships with in-laws or family or other challenges you might be facing for free Relationship Advice. I will respond to you privately or create a blog post that addresses your question.

 

I look forward to connecting with you 🙂

Ina

Are you familiar with the major reasons for betrayal in relationship? And do you know how to avoid them? When couples come to see me for affair recovery or marriage and relationship therapy, we usually start with an assessment to identify the strengths of their relationship and where they need support.

Check out this list of the six most common causes that have been identified to put your marriage at risk for an affair. Do you experience any of these in your relationship right now?

Relationship Therapist North Vancouver: how to recover from an affair1) Do you feel lonely? Does your partner tend to be busy, preoccupied, not available when you ask for attention?

Antidote: make a point of scheduling time for each other. When your partner invites you to connect (he wants to share something with you, she wants to hear your opinion about something) be willing to set aside your media device, game control, social media activity etc. and give your loved one your full attention. If you aren’t fully available in the moment, communicate this with your partner and let them know when you will available.

2) Are you feeling disconnected because of a lack in communication? Have you and your partner stop discussing what is brewing under the surface, or what you have been sitting on emotionally because of time constraints or other reasons?

Antidote: be willing to dig deeper and go below the surface. Go beyond the usual question of “how was your day” and the standard answers of “pretty good” or “not too bad.” Use the daily connector to talk about what really matters to you and create a deeper level of communication.

3) Are you suffering from a love and attention deficit? Do you feel under-appreciated? Do you wish your partner was more affectionate and made an effort to acknowledge what you do or what he or she values about you?

Antidote: treat your partner with the love and care and attention that you would devote to something incredibly precious and valuable to you. (You probably spend some time taking care of your car, your special camera, your special media device, your bonsai collection etc.) Let them know that they are a priority in your life. Be generous in sharing praise and appreciation. If you’re not feeling generous, it’s time to find out why you’re feeling this way and talk about it together.

Couples counselling Burnaby: Relationship advice to prevent affairs4) Are you struggling with boredom? Have you and your spouse fallen into a rut of always doing the same thing, hanging out together but not really connecting…like watching TV every night because you’re both so tired? Are you experiencing a level of emotional distance?

Antidote: be creative and think outside the box. Are you really too tired to do something at the end of the day? Consider agreeing on a media free week once a month or one media free evening a week. Play games, identify or develop a common or shared interest and build excitement in connecting and enjoying this activity together.

 

5) Are you experiencing sexual disconnection? Have you stopped being affectionate with each other? Do you touch each other less frequently these days?

Antidote: start to bring mindfulness into your physical connection. Take the time and remember to have a ritual of greeting each other when you leave in the morning and when you come back together in the evening. Make it more than a quick peck on the cheek. Practice hugging each other once a day for three minutes and see if you can stay present or if your mind starts to wander.  Plan an erotic surprise for each other

6) Is there a lack of intimacy in your relationship? Do you sometimes wonder whether your partner really knows who you are? Do you feel emotionally safe to be completely authentic with the one you love?

Antidote: regularly update your knowledge about your partner’s world. Take time to share your innermost dreams, hopes and fears. Identify any hesitations or feelings of vulnerability and discuss them with your partner, letting him or her know what it is that you need from them so you can show up in a more authentic way.

I often like to compare a long-term relationship to a house. If you are a home owner, but even if you are renting, think about all Marriage counselling North Vancouver: creating long-lasting harmonythe things that need to be done regularly to maintain your property in good condition. What needs to be done regularly to ensure your investment is protected from external influences and increase or at least maintain its value?

Your relationship is a valuable investment. Would you agree that you have invested time, emotional energy and most likely money? Are you doing everything you can to take good care of this investment? If the answer is no, perhaps it is worthwhile to stop and think about why not.

As usual, I welcome your thoughts and feedback regarding this post 🙂

A common complaint couples share with me in my role  me as Burnaby relationship counsellor specializing in sex therapy and marriage counseling is a loss in libido. Usually these are long-term partners who are unhappy about the steady decline of passion and fire in their lovemaking. Often there is a higher desire partner and a lower desire partner and the self-diagnosis is a loss of libido.

North Vancouver couples counselling helps revive libidoWhile lack of sleep, thyroid health, your overall good health and hormonal changes can all be a valid underlying cause for a decreased sex drive, I have found that 80% of my clients have no medical condition that explains what has been happening.

When lack of desire becomes a concern in a relationship, I like to point out that intimacy and lovemaking do not start with desire but with willingness. Which leads us to the real question, have you lost your desire or your willingness to say yes when your partner tries to initiate intimacy. (read my blog post “Are you just not “into him” that much anymore” discussing low libido in women at my counselling for women site www.goddessrevealed.ca)

Imagine these two scenarios:

  1. Your partner initiates sex or intimacy. Clearly he or she is experiencing some sexual desire. While you are not in that same place at this moment, you are willing to explore the idea together and potentially raise your desire. You let your partner know that you are willing (even if that means making a request to meet in a little while, allow you to finish a task at hand, have a shower ecc). This can lead to delightful and perhaps longer than usual foreplay which most often will create some desire.
  2. Your partner extends an invitation / lets you know that he or she is feeling sexual. You are not only NOT experiencing any desire in that moment but you don’t feel like going there. The reason you don’t have any willingness is because, consciously or unconsciously, you are still upset about not feeling heard or seen in some previous arguments. Perhaps you feel like you never get any help around the house or you have felt let down or disappointed because you’re partner doesn’t seem to listen to you.

Burnaby Marriage Therapy can help you with sex and intimacy issuesHere are some questions to ask yourself and to discuss with your partner:

  • Are you being the partner you aspire to be?
  • What will it take to close the gap between how you are and how you want to be?
  • What is so distressing to your partner about you/your interaction? “Do you know what bothers your partner about you?”
  • When things go wrong, do you take an active role in repairing distress?

Creating desire and willingness happens long before you get to the bedroom. Finding answers and sharing your thoughts to the questions above could be a pivotal point in creating a deeper intimate connection with your partner.

Pre-marital counselling or pre marriage therapy is becoming more and more popular, not only with celebrities like Jennifer Aniston. When couples come to see me because they need help resolving conflicts they have become gridlocked on, in our first session I also ask “How is your sex life?”. Usually the answer is: “It hasn’t been great for a while”.

While fatigue and lack of time are the two top “sex life wreckers” in relationship, what impacts intimacy and passion the most is willingness or the lack thereof. Before desire comes willingness. And if over a period of time, you have started to harbor resentment, disappointment and hurt because you don’t feel heard, seen or understood by your partner, your heart is slowly going to become less open. It takes an open heart to create an intimate connection. And an open heart requires emotional safety.

Usually when you are in the throes of wedding prep you are in the honeymoon phase of your relationship. Often you can’t even imagine that you could feel less attracted or have less desire for your beloved at some point in the future.

Pre marital counselling North vancouver can help with emotional baggageBut we all bring our baggage with us and certain parts of our personality or triggers don’t show up until we are well into having to navigate all the stresses of daily life.

In my pre marriage courses or pre-marital therapy sessions you will not only identify what potential triggers you are bringing into the relationship, but I will help you fine tune your boundaries and how you communicate so you are able to truly hear each other without becoming defensive or getting caught up in content.

Have you ever felt frustrated because you are trying to let you partner know that something is bothering you, but you end up “fighting” about who is right or wrong? Often in the end one or both of you will walk away feeling defeated or disappointed because somehow s/he doesn’t seem to get it. When this happens over and over again…you have an issue and it doesn’t get resolved…even if the issue is not really that big, you start to create a story in your head about how your partner doesn’t care or how your needs don’t  seem to matter.

When couples reach this point, they often choose to see a couple’s counsellor. But why risk the possibility of ending up in this place on day when it is preventable?

Burnaby couples counselling before marriage

 

Why not do everything you can to ensure that your marriage will be as beautiful and special as you are planning your wedding to be? Couple’s counseling before marriage offers you an opportunity to create a strong and resilient life of shared meanings and goals together.

 

Are Premarital-counseling combined with addiction relapse prevention can ease wedding stressyou worried your wedding plans might lead to an addiction relapse?

As a couple’s therapist and addiction counsellor who specializes and is passionate about premarital counseling, it is my job to help couples make wise choices in their wedding planning if one partner is also in recovery.

The lasting ripple effect of Addiction can sometimes come as a surprise, especially when the individual is sober and in recovery. Wedding activities have the potential to trigger a relapse. This concern can add extra and unnecessary stress for both of you.

Here is an example of an unfortunate scenario:

The Stag without compromise – Peter has a relapse a week before the wedding:

Peter had been clean and sober from cocaine use off and on over the last 3 years. He had relapsed a number of times for various reasons. Jessica has felt betrayed by his lying and attempted cover ups. Lack of trust has been an ongoing issue for them during the 5 year relationship.

Last year they decided that they were going to go ahead with wedding plans. Peter reiterated his sincere dedication to recovery. He didn’t want to risk losing Jessica ecc. Both the couple’s family and friends were  aware of Peter’s struggles. Peter tends to be very concerned about how he is perceived in the world and had decided that he wanted to have a “typical” stag.

Jessica started to worry.  Peter reassured her that he would be fine. He intended to  only have 2 drinks and would definitely  not do cocaine.

He felt  solid in his recovery. So solid in fact, that he wasn’t  willing to set some guidelines, such as asking his friends not to bring any drugs to the stag. He promised that he would take a cab home at 2 am.

He was reluctant to make adjustments to the activities planned for the stag because he wanted his friends to have a good time. He didn’t want anyone to recall his stag as a boring event.

Peter ended up having a number of drinks. And as had been his pattern, by drink 3 the idea of doing a line or two had become very appealing. He came home at 6 am drunk and high. Jessica was devastated and wanted to call off the wedding. Peter was devastated as well and didn’t know what amends he could make after having broken yet another promise.

North Vancouver Addiction counselling can help you stop the addiction cycleIf you have been struggling with addiction while in relationship,  you know that recovery affects both the addict and the individual(s) who love you. Often the loved one has witnessed failed attempts of sobriety. We know that addiction recovery is not about willpower, even though it may often feel that way… to both the addict and the loved one.

If you’re an addict and experience relapse you most likely also experience shame and feelings of powerlessness or hopelessness. As a loved one, you too experience a loss of hope. Plus you may find yourself waging a battle between feelings of  bitter disappointment and a desire to be compassionate of the addict’s struggles.

This dynamic leaves scars in relationships and couples do well to seek the help of a marriage or relationship counsellor who also has experience with addiction counselling.

Addiction recovery involves coming to terms with loss. There are a number of losses. The loss of doing what you may have done previously as an addict. The loss of carefreeness for the loved one who remains vigilant until slowly trust has been reestablished.

Addiction recovery can impact the spontaneous sharing of your life with others.

While addiction in our Western Society is not necessarily considered a “taboo” subject, addicts are still mindful of who they are sharing this part of their personal life with. Admitting to or “owning” a drug or alcohol addiction can still have tangible social or professional repercussions.

Addiction recovery with Addiction and relationship therapy BurnabyWhile as a couple that is getting married you may be well aware of the perils of recovery, you may not have chosen to share these concerns or even the fact that there is a struggle with addiction with your respective families, friends ecc.

Planning  a wedding that follows all the “traditional” aspects of what that will look like, wanting to act like a “regular” couple, is a legitimate desire for both of you. But you have an extra consideration to plan for. Continued secure recovery for the addict and ease and peace of mind for the loved one.

Anyone who has ever had any experience with addiction is familiar with thoughts similar to the following:

  • I am in control now, I can have just one drink and stop
  • Things are different now. I am solid in my sobriety and can say no to drugs even if others around me are using
  • I can’t even imagine doing what I used to do again. The thought of drinking (smoking, snorting ….fill in the blank) actually makes me nauseous and totally turns me off
  • And anyone who has ever loved an addict and has experienced them relapse will not believe or have a very difficult time believing any of the above. This often ensues in conflict. The addict feels hurt, the loved one feels frustrated.

How you handle this conflict together and what compromises are made within the context of wedding planning can have a significant impact on peace of mind for both of you. 

As you are negotiating a solution that honours both of your needs, you may want to consider these questions:

  • What is more important – that friends will rave about your “cool” stag or that you both navigate this part of the wedding preparation peacefully and without conflict?
  • Are you willing to make compromises and come to terms with the loss of “not being able to do what others do” or do you feel “entitled” to a “real” stag?
  • Are you willing to risk your sobriety for an evening of fun and games?
  • Are you willing to put your partner thru considerable anxiety for the sake of a party?
  • Are you ready and willing to be gracious rather than lapse into grief and passive aggressive victim behavior “because you can’t have a party like everyone else”?
  • Are you willing to set clear boundaries with your friends about what is acceptable at your party? (this does not have to entail full disclosure of your addiction)

5 Tips / ideas for a stag(ette) without relapse:

  1. Discuss together what are the “have to haves” for you at your stag(ette) and what are the “nice to haves”. Remember to North Vancouver premarital counselling help you define your valueslook at the big picture in your planning. Discuss your values. What would you like your stag to symbolize for you – rather than what society has turned it into being the symbol of.
  2. Think outside the box – create a daytime event that involves sports (like golfing or rock climbing). Finish off with a dinner in a public setting rather than a private room that will encourage people to drink (and potentially offer you a “hiding place”)
  3. Let friends know that instead of spending money on liquor you would like to use this occasion as a fundraiser for a cause near and dear to your heart.
  4. Plan a Jack and Jill stag. Shift the focus from drinking to engaging activities and games. Be a support for each other during the evening.
  5. Let friends know that one of your values for your life together is being healthy together and one day raise a healthy family. Share that you are using the stag as a symbolic beginning of such a life together.

I wish you exciting and serene wedding preparations and welcome your comments or feedback 🙂

(As always names and identifying characteristics have been changed to honour client confidentiality)

or How to stop escalating relationship conflicts.

Burnaby marriage therapist can help you resolve conflictWhen couples contact me for relationship counselling and marriage therapy, I invite them to fill out a personal info form where they are asked to name their short and long term goals for couple’s counselling.

80% of couples that seek out my services as a marriage and family therapist want to change how they communicate. More specifically they want to change how they handle conflict. 

I’m sure you’ve had an argument or a fight or two with your lover / spouse. If you think back for a moment, can you identify the difference between the arguments that ended well and those went “sideways”? What happened in those discussions where you got stuck, didn’t reach a positive resolution and left feeling angry and misunderstood?

I am imagining that you’re answers all point to one or both of you having reached a point where you felt overwhelmed, out of control, triggered, attacked, or ungrounded. In fact you probably felt like Mr. Duffy in James Joyce’s novel “The Dubliners.” To quote: “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”

Typically when we start to get overwhelmed or “flooded” with emotions, our whole system is in stress mode. This means that your brain is pouring out stress hormones, which in turn affect your breathing and your heart rate… and all of this affects your ability to think clearly, stay focused and connected to your boundary. You can literally be beside yourself. Because your body has entered something similar to fight or flight mode, you also tend to forget that the person who is facing you is actually not your enemy…but someone who you love deeply and who loves you.

Grow the love you have with North Vancouver relationship therapistWhat would happen if in the moments of your most heated discussions, you were able to remember the goodness and beauty of your partner? Would you be able to step into a place of compassion and desire to understand what is going on for them? Would you make different assumptions and interpretations and consequently respond more calmly and less defensively? Would you simply be more willing and open for loving communication?

In order to return to a heart space, one of you needs to call for a time out or break when things get too heated. Ideally you will cultivate a sense of awareness of your mind and body in order to be able to quickly identify and catch yourself when you are getting flooded. Sometimes you may be too absorbed in the heat of the moment and it will be your partner who notices that you are flooded.

During this time out or break, you may choose to sit side by side or even stand side by side, leaning against each other. Focus Burnaby couples counselling uses mindfulness to help you resolve conflicton bringing your awareness back to your body. The first and most simple way of doing this is to connect to your breathing. 

  • Focus on breathing into your belly (this activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is calming) and slow down. Relax your jaw, breathe with your mouth open and gently concentrate on expanding the belly and releasing tension on the exhale.
  • Next find areas of muscle tension in your body, and first tense and then relax these muscle groups. Examine your face, particularly your forehead and jaw, then your neck, shoulders, arms and back.
  • Make the relaxed muscle groups feel heavy and warm by imagining that your arms for example feel pleasantly heavy and warm.
  • Finally bring a soothing and loving image to your mind. Focus on feeling calm and safe. Now think about a positive loving memory that involves your partner. Allow your mind to move from one positive image to the next. Allow yourself to remember how you feel when you have felt truly loved by your spouse.

Give yourself about 15 – 20 minutes to shift into this calm and grounded state. If you have a difficult time remembering anything positive or loving about your partner, the two of you may need to sit down and talk about why you love each other. Sometimes couples counseling can help work thru old conflicts and hurts so you are able to  reconnect to why you are choosing to spend your life with this person.

 

They use different aliases: marriage wreckers, divorce predictors, love erasers…but they all do the same thing. They are the termites that slowly eat away at your marriage.

I recently wrote an article on my website www.goddessrevealed.ca which focuses on counselling for anxiety and stress relief. The post is called “How to raise your Happiness Quotient” and discusses the effects of negativity on the brain as well as practical steps for moving from no to YES.

Negativity has not only a marked effect on the brain.

When the ratio between your positive and negative messages and expressions in relationship falls below 3:1 you are slowly erasing the love between you.

John Gottman ( The Gottman Method) researched communication between couples in the love lab for over 15 years and  identified 4 particularly harmful habits or divorce predictors that put couples at risk.

He has called them the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse. I like to call them the love erasers. When couples come to see me for sex and marriage therapy, one of our first areas of focus is the elimination of love erasers.

Burnaby Couples counsellor can help you prevent divorceDoes your partner sometimes say things that you have heard a thousand times... things you find boring or have judgment about…so as s/he speaks you roll your eyes. Or perhaps you have gotten into the habit of mimicking your partner, repeating things they said in a way that is sarcastic or diminishing. Some couples get into the unfortunate habit of name calling in moments of heated anger. All these actions fall into the category of contempt. How do you feel if your partner treats you with contempt? Most likely you feel hurt, shamed, angry …certainly not loved or emotionally safe.

Contempt is love eraser number one.

Some couples get so frustrated when they get stuck in communication or they feel so hurt and misunderstood that they North Vancouver Marriage therapy can save your marriage from divorcestop talking. Most of the time however it is one partner in particular who adopts this negative habit. S/he will simply not answer when addressed after a fight or disagreement. S/he will treat the other partner as if they were invisible and clearly inaudible. This “silent treatment” can sometimes go on for days. I once worked with a couple where the wife was extremely jealous. Whenever she thought that her husband had behaved “inappropriately” she would give him the silent treatment or cold shoulder. Sometimes he hadn’t actually done anything but someone had smiled at him and perhaps he had smiled back. Often he wouldn’t know what was going on, except that his wife was treating him like air.
He – like anyone else who has ever been the recipient of this kind of behavior felt frustrated, powerless and hurt. The lack of willingness to communicate slowly erodes trust and emotional safety.

This behavior is also called “stonewalling” and is love eraser number two

.

Burnaby relationship therapist and marriage counsellor helps you stop arguingSometimes when I listen to spouses discuss an area that causes distress during a marriage counselling session, I don’t hear about a specific behavior. Instead I get a very critical description of the husband or wife. “She is just lazy.” “He is so selfish”, “She is so mean-spirited, she always throws me under the bus with her parents.” When you criticize your partner instead of the specific behavior, your partner tends to feel angry, ashamed or embarrassed, and frustrated. S/he will most likely not feel particularly motivated to change the behavior that you are unhappy with.

Criticism and complaining is love eraser number three

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Most often criticism leads directly to love eraser number four. Defensiveness. Instead of being able to hear what you are unhappy about, your spouse either comes up with a big explanation about how this is not his or her fault or s/he retaliates but telling you that this is really all your fault. If you didn’t do “A”, then they wouldn’t have to do “B.”

Love eraser number four – defensiveness is probably the most challenging negative habit to eradicate

.save your marriage with Burnaby intimacy and relationship counselling

You can develop a zero tolerance for contempt and stonewalling. You can practice how you approach your partner about issues that impact you negatively. But you have to develop strong boundaries to be able to simply hear your partner out while trying to understand what is going on for them, rather than launching into defensiveness.

I invite you to stop for a moment and consider all the conversations you and your partner or even you and your children have in the course of a day or a week. What would you say is the ratio between positive and “negative” interactions? For every criticism or complaint, do you share at least 3 or 4 appreciations? Do you take the time to hug, touch and connect with each other in a loving a positive way consistently? Or does life sometimes get too busy, so that all that is left is a long list of frustrations?

If the love erasers are at work in your marriage or family, I urge you to make a pact with your spouse and children. Eliminate the love erasers from your relationships and replace them with mindful, loving communication. Infuse your connections with positivity. Find a balance between discussing the challenges and celebrating the good things in your lives together.

You may be surprised if I told you that you would have received an answer to this question at my Hot Yoga class the other day.

While several of us were struggling with a pose, the instructor repeated  “The answer lies in the connection!” a few times. From experience I know this is true. When I can stay fully connected to my body and what I want it to do, as well as remain totally focused on my breath, balance and muscle engagement I can execute most poses quite well. When I get distracted, don’t feel motivated or am tired, i.e. when I am not fully connected, then I typically lose my balance and can’t hold the pose.

If you are experiencing challenges in your relationship, I encourage you to take a look at your connection – i.e. how connected do you feel to your partner. 

Burnaby Relationship Counselling can help you reconnectIn my marriage counseling practice, many couples who are seeking help to save their their long-term relationship talk about having grown apart. Some couples rarely fight, others can get caught up in bickering back and forth over all kinds of things. Their sex life is often on the verge of being passionless. Their spare time together has gotten stuck in a routine of evenings spent in physical proximity but connected to different media devices.

George and Carmen are a good example. Typically during the week, George drops Carmen off at the sky train in the morning and they start their separate commute to work. Carmen is not a morning person so they barely talk. In the evening, when George picks Carmen up he is often in a bad mood because of problems that have been occurring at work. They will talk a bit about their day, but Carmen feels tense because George is stressed and tends to get impatient with the traffic and other drivers. When they arrive at home, Carmen prepares dinner while George tinkers in the garage. They have dinner together and often discuss chores or things that need to be done and their plans for the weekend. Then George goes and watches TV in the family room and Carmen watcher “her shows” in the bedroom. The evening scenario has slight variations with George being on the computer and Carmen reading or talking to her mother or friends on the phone or Carmen scrapbooking and George going out to play hockey.

While you may not resonate with George and Carmen, perhaps some of the following sounds familiar:

  • You are feeling hurt, frustrated, disappointed and / or discouraged. You feel like your partner just doesn’t get it. Even though you have tried to explain over and over again that a particular behavior is causing you emotional distress, your partner doesn’t seem willing to change.
  • You have stopped sharing what excites you or what you are passionate about because when you do, you get mono-syllable answers like mmm, yes honey, just a second, ecc while he or she stays engaged with the cell phone, ipad,  TV or newspaper.
  • You repeatedly ask your partner to do something and he/she repeatedly forgets your request.
  • There isn’t a lot of physical contact between you other than the odd peck on the lips or cheek and a brief hug.
  • It’s been a long time since you’ve had a date night. You are just too busy with work, kids, community activities and other commitments.

All of the above scenarios are examples of disconnect. Disconnect creeps in over time. Do you know why? Think back for a moment to the times when you felt or feel connected to your beloved. If it’s been a while, go back to the beginning of your relationship. What was it like back then?

Typically when you are dating or in the honeymoon phase of your relationship, you both make a concerted effort to connect. Usually you want to know all about this person that you have fallen in love with. You like to share and participate in each other’s lives. You are interested in their thoughts and you regularly reach out to touch each other.

While problems can build up over time due to poor communication, broken trust or other issues, making an effort to reconnect is an important place to start. When you feel connected to your partner, you will remember more easily that this is not your enemy when you’re arguing, but the person you love who might be having a bad day.

Burnaby Relationship Therapist helps you deepen your connection

Here are 9 ways to start getting connected again:

  1. Practice and incorporate the PIT stop into your daily routine ( I wrote a blog post about how it works a while back – here is the link )
  2. Make a point of hugging each other when you leave for the day and when you re-enter (of course you can always hug more often than that :)) Make this a connecting hug – research shows that oxytocin is released into your brain after 20 seconds – so take the time to really be present and connect to your partner and yourself in this hug
  3. Be willing to turn towards each other – receive your partner’s bid for attention with graciousness and interest rather than boredom or frustration. That means, be willing to stop texting, reading, watching ecc and give your partner your full attention – make eye contact. If you truly are totally in the middle of something – acknowledge your partner, ask if the connection can be postponed and then make sure you show up
  4. Truly listen and try to hear what your partner is saying without words. Reflect what you have heard, ask questions and take your partner in, rather than interrupting, becoming defensive or judgmental or launching into your own story
  5. Make deposits into your partner’s self-esteem account. Make a point of seeing them and communicating to them daily what you appreciate about who they are or what they do.
  6. Make connection time and intimacy with your partner a priority. After all this is the person you are choosing to spend your life with.
  7. Sit down together and share what specifically makes you feel connected. What is your language of love? Do you respond to touch and need touch to feel connected? Do you need words and communication to feel connected? Or perhaps you like to do things together like cook a meal to experience that connection with your love
  8. North Vancouver couples counselling and sex therapy  help you dream together againDream together. Review your long-term goals and visions to remind each other that you are on the same path.
  9. Practice the art of self-connection. Similar to my experience at yoga, make a point of finding time to connect with yourself in body, mind and spirit. If you are not connected to yourself – how can you approach and try to create a connection with your partner?

Stay tuned for the second secret to creating a thriving long-term relationship in my next blog post.

 

Do you ever think or say “I can never do anything right!” or “No matter what I do, it’s never good enough for you!” when you’re involved in yet another squabble with your partner?

When Harry and Jen came to see me for couple’s counselling in Burnaby they were both very frustrated. Over the last couple of years their bickering had become more and more judgmental and it was harder and harder to tap into the love and positive feelings they used to feel for each other. 
Jen shared how fed up she was with Harry not helping enough with chores and with the children. She vented about always having to be the one who at the end of the day took care of most things at home. Harry countered that he had given up helping because whatever he did, whether clean up the kitchen or fold the laundry Jen always came and corrected him, told him he was doing it wrong and was never happy with the result. 

Burnaby relationship counsellor helps you stop fightingHarry and Jen (as always names and recognizable traits have been changed to protect confidentiality) are a classic example of a couple where one partner has some “perfectionistic” tendencies or is very attached to how things need to be done. Black and white thinking creates judgements. The partner whose actions are continuously being “corrected” gets tired, gives up and responds with defensiveness…and thus starts “the blame game.” The couple gets stuck arguing over content and whose fault it is. They both point the finger at the other and get nowhere except leaving the discussion misunderstood and unappreciated.

These types of arguments / disagreements can also be caused by core differences…for example, one partner thinks work first then play, while the other one wants to relax first and then work. When one or both partners get attached to thinking that their way is the right way, the other one is left feeling like they are never doing it right, at least in their spouse’s eyes.

How can you shift this kind of pattern or scenario? If you stop and think about your squabbles for a moment and how frustrated you are, you will most likely notice that you feel your partner simply doesn’t seem to “get it.” They don’t understand.

What most of us want, especially from our partner is to feel seen and heard. We want our beloved to understand our pain. Unfortunately this is often one of the most difficult things to do for couples. Sometimes both parties get caught up in wanting the other person to understand them first before they are willing or able return the favor. You might call this the “What about me?” syndrome. Or, instead of being able to just listen, the “accused” gets defensive and / or apologetic and tries to fix things by explaining why they are doing things differently. In both scenarios you end up talking in circles until you both walk away throwing your hands up in the air.

Relationship therapy Burnaby helps you communicate with loveBreak this frustrating communication cycle by practicing the following:

  • Stop and appreciate what your partner does or has done. Acknowledge and accept their way of doing things instead of blaming them
  • Find your empathy. Try to put yourself into your partner’s shoes for a moment. Be willing to recognize what this situation feels like to them. Try to understand their underlying positive intention. Can you get a sense for their pain? (remember this has NOTHING to do with you and you don’t have to fix it)
  • Build your partner up rather than tearing them down. Offer praise and recognition to enhance their self-esteem.
  • If you can’t connect to anything positive and all you feel is anger and frustration, take some time to journal. Dig deeper and find out what you are really disappointed about and most importantly – how are you contributing or co-creating this situation? 

If you feel that you have tried some of these tips but they haven’t worked and your partner still doesn’t understand or seems to be willing to change, it might be useful to sit down with a relationship therapist for a few sessions to get unstuck. A marriage counsellor can help you move past this impasse and metaphorically hold up a mirror for both of you. Sometimes having a third party reframe what you have been trying to communicate or think you have been hearing can create the beginning of an important shift back to being each other’s lovers rather than feeling like each other’s “enemies.”