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.

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One of the most common “complaints” I hear from couples when they make an appointment for couple’s counselling or relationship therapy is how fed up they are  with all the negativity between them.

stop blaming with couples counselling in Burnaby and North VancouverAre you tired of bickering all the time? Are you a nag?

Does it feel like conflict erupts out of nowhere… one minute things seem to be fine and the next minute you’re arguing? Would you agree that those types of arguments rarely lead to resolving the real underlying issue?  Instead you’re both most likely walking away feeling frustrated, annoyed or disappointed?

I’m going to invite you to take a moment and think back over your last few conflicts.

Do your arguments often start with one of you complaining, blaming or criticizing?

In other words, did one of you start pointing a finger and talking about something you didn’t like the other person was doing?

If that is  indeed the case, most likely you ended up arguing about who was right or wrong, one of you got defensive or started explaining and you got stuck  in that place where both of you want to be right.

How can you get out of this repetitive cycle? Grab a cushion and work with the three fingers!

Let me explain:)

Often when you get irritated you step into “trigger – reaction” mode. You point a finger at your Relationship Therapy North Vancouver can help you communicate betterpartner and start telling them what is wrong with them or what you don’t like about them and their actions.

But every time you point a finger at someone – three fingers are pointing back to you. 

I know that it can be really hard sometimes to bring our attention back to ourselves. It is very easy and tempting to get stuck in the energy of: “If you didn’t always ‘fill in the blank’ – then I wouldn’t have to feel this way.”

But remember, this is YOUR trigger and these are YOUR feelings that have developed from the thoughts that you are choosing and the story that you are creating.

Wayne Dyer used the metaphor of the orange to paint a picture of this dynamic. When someone squeezes an orange, juice will flow out of the orange. No matter who or what squeezes the orange – the juice is always orange juice. It doesn’t change flavour or contain pieces of the person who is doing the squeezing.

Relationship counselling Burnaby can help you increase your ability for reflection and accountabilityIn order to reduce conflict and increase connection you need to be able to step out of reactive mode into reflective mode. This is where the “cushion” comes in. Connecting with yourself and identifying what is going on for you requires calming down just like you would  if you sat on a cushion to meditate.

Some tips:

Calming down your body will help calm down the mind. Bring your awareness to your belly and take 3 or 4 breaths into the belly. (This activates the para-sympathetic nervous system which calms the body.)

Asking yourself the following questions can help you identify your trigger and your part in the conflict:

  • What is familiar about this conflict? How does this remind me of my childhood or growing up years?
    Sometimes you will find that the trigger is part of an old  “theme” such as for example “No matter what I do, it’s never good enough,” or “I do so much to make others happy but it never really gets appreciated,”  or “Nobody wants me.”
  • What story have I created in my head – what filter have I used to interpret what has happened?

    Two predominant filters that create conflict are judgment about the other person, or judging yourself, i.e. you either assign a value to the other person because they’re not doing what you would do in a given situation or you put yourself down because you believe that you are the cause of the conflict.

You might choose to write down your insights so you can mull them over and potentially share them with your partner.

Deepen your intimate connection and rekindle appreciation with Marriage TherapyAs you both take increased ownership for your part of the conflict and share your triggers with each other you will  remember that this person is not “the enemy” but rather the love of your life. Building a culture of accountability will deepen your intimate connection and will allow you to make a “repair attempt” more easily. 

If you find that you can’t calm yourself down easily, that you both experience difficulty listening to each other or you have the tendency to take things personally you might consider connecting with an experienced marriage counsellor or relationship therapist like myself who can help you with boundaries and communication tools.

Relationship counselling and addiction recovery can help you rebuild your marriageIt doesn’t matter whether you love someone who is struggling with Addiction or if you are an Addict, part of the emotional roller coaster of living with Addiction is the impact it has on your self-esteem. As an Addictions Counsellor and Marriage therapist I often help couples navigate the journey of recovery from co-depency and other addiction to rebuilding trust and self-esteem.

Can you relate to Hank and Renée?

When Hank and Renée came to see me for Relationship Therapy and Addiction counselling, a major issue in their relationship was lack of trust  caused by broken promises.  Promises made by  Hank to stop with his cocaine addiction.  Renée was a classic loved one who had stuck by her husband during 4 years of cocaine addiction feeling helpless, powerless, confused, hurt and overwhelmed. In the beginning she tried to fix things, trying to  control his addiction by trying to manage his moods and environment.  She pleaded and cajoled; she issued ultimatums that she never followed through on, and she believed Hank when he promised yet again that this was the last time, that he was truly quitting, that he was going to be sober from now on.

The addiction roller coaster had been hard on both of them. Renée felt unloved and hopeless and Hank felt like a loser. Why did he keep hurting this woman who loved him. Why was he destroying his own life? Renée felt like she was walking on eggshells. She wanted to be hopeful and supportive but she had heard these promises so many times before. Now Hank was accusing her of being anxious and controlling. Renée felt like she had to choose between expressing how she felt or suppressing her feelings.

For both the Addict and the Loved One, part of the journey of recovery and healing is to work on self-esteem.

As an Addict it’s important to understand that:

  • You are not a bad  or a loser  because you have become to rely on a substance or a behaviour to help you cope with emotional stress or overwhelm in your life
  • You are still loveable even if you have lied and/ or betrayed others because you were driven by your addiction
  • Even though you may feel shame and regrets, you still deserve to be loved and to walk in the world holding your head high

As a Loved One it is important to understand that:

  • You are not the cause, nor will you ever be “the cure” for an Addiction
  • You are not bad and you haven’t done anything wrong
  • You are not too much and your feelings of anxiety, discouragement or frustration are all legitimate – feelings are not rational and you are allowed to feel your feelings
  • Your loved one’s relapses are not about you and have nothing to do with you not being lovable
  • Saying No and setting boundaries, practicing self-care and not colluding does not make you selfish nor are you ruining your loved one’s life

Moving forward for both of you it is important to remember:Repair trust and self-esteem with Burnaby couples counselling

You deserve to love yourself because you are doing the best you can. If you are on the road of recovery (from your Addiction or your co-dependent behavior) you are making healthier choices. You are learning to cope with your life differently. No, you can’t turn back the clock and undo pain you may have caused. But moving forward you can make amends to the people you may  have hurt. You can practice accountability to yourself and your sobriety and to those you love by showing up every day from a place of intention and willingness.

Continuing an old behaviour is a choice. You can make more loving choices. You can reach out and call your sponsor, therapist, support person, crisis line, priest etc.  before you choose to use. You can practice mindfulness and a continuous inventory of self so you can prevent relapse.

You can practice forgiveness. As you lovingly forgive yourself for having abandoned yourself and those you love you learn to move on. The past is already over. You cannot change it. But you can look for the good in your life and in this moment. You can love yourself just the way you are from a place of humbleness and compassion.

You can learn to become your own best friend and lover. Treat and speak to yourself the way you would to someone who is infinitely precious to yourself.

Stress and anxiety counselling Burnaby for women and couples

Do you spend a lot of time worrying about things that are out of your control? Do you agonize over doing it just right so you can avoid conflict of disappointing others?

 Perhaps you experience “crises” similar to the following examples:

  1. Your adult daughter calls you frantically from work. This is her first day at the new job and she was supposed to bring various signed documents with her. She has forgotten them and is freaking out. You go into crisis mode with her and drive all the way across town to get the documents for her so she won’t make a bad impression on her first day (especially since she has 3 months probation).
  1. While you were visiting with your friend, during a brief moment of disattention, your child has wandered off into the bathroom and flooded the toilet. There is water everywhere and you feel mortified. Your friends recently renovated this room and now there will be water damage.
  1. You’re divorced co-parent is not on the same page as you are when it comes to nutrition and feeds your child fast food, processed food items and sugary things. At his house your child seems to eat in front of the TV and go to bed whenever. In the meantime you are doing your best to cook only healthy food and limit TV.

Positive psychology approach for stress and anxiety relief with psychotherapist BurnabyWhat do all these situations  – and  most likely others that send you into crisis mode have in common? The crisis is created by the assumptions that you’re making and the story that you create in your head. In the specific moment that things are happening there is no crisis. But your codependency habit turns it into one.

Let’s take the first example. Nothing bad has happened yet. Your daughter may make a poor impression – she may not. It may affect whether she gets to keep the job, or it may make no difference at all. The crisis occurs when you start to create  a story  with a negative outcome in your mind.

Let’s take the second example. Your child didn’t drown. Nobody got hurt. You go into crisis mode, worrying about your friendship and potentially the criticism you will receive from your spouse about not paying attention to your child.

Perhaps you worry that someone is going to be angry with you or criticize you. You might worry about money. But these are all assumptions and again stories about possible future outcomes. From a birds eye view – there is no real crisis. 

Let’s take the last example. Yes it is irritating that your co-parent is not on the same page.  But right now your child is not in a health crises, nor is it becoming obese or needing corrective vision glasses from too much television. You’re going into crisis mode when you imagine all kinds of negative consequences in the future.

Being in crisis mode can become addictive. You get used to running on adrenaline. Underneath all the fretting and chaos lives co-dependency. Many of the stories you create in your head are based on the assumption that you have control over other people’s behaviours or thoughts. But that is an illusion. Even if  someone were to hold a gun to your head and told you to  feel scared they wouldn’t be able to make you feel or think anything but what you chose to feel or think.

Somatic Psychotherapist Burnaby can help you overcome trauma and anxiety

In other words – you can choose to create stressful stories in your head and feel anxious and stressed or you can try to come back to the present moment and realize that what is happening is not a crisis but your co-dependency habits.

Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor, well respected author and psychotherapist said: “At any given moment we are able to exercise  the most important freedom of all – the freedom to determine our own attitude and spiritual well-being.”

Responding from a co-dependent place is not a habit you have to continue. You can choose to learn ways to soothe your anxiety thru meditation, breathing practices, self-help books or with the help of a trained professional offering psychotherapy or counselling for anxiety and stress relief such as myself.

Have you felt hurt, disappointed, under appreciated or rejected in response to something your spouse said or did or didn’t do? And have you then gone ahead and adjusted your own behaviour based on that experience?

Take the example of Quinn and Lara:

Lara used to cook dinner for Quinn but often he would come home late and her lovingly prepared meal would be cold or overcooked. She interpreted is lateness as a lack of appreciation and acknowledgment that she was taking time to cook. Her cooking was an act of love and caring. Quinn seeming lack of appreciation made her feel hurt and disappointed. So she stopped cooking and made herself a sandwich instead. When Quinn would come home, she would be busy with her iPad and wouldn’t make a special effort to get up and greet him with enthusiasm.
Quinn interpreted her lack of cooking and enthusiasm as a lack of caring and now felt hurt. So he stopped bringing her coffee to bed in the morning the way he used to.
Slowly they both kept adjusting their behaviours and acts of love and kindness in response to their hurt feelings. Their sense of disconnection grew in proportion with their feelings of rejections and disappointment. Soon they stopped having sex or struggled wanting to initiate intimacy.

Can you relate to the pattern Quinn and Lara have fallen into?

Marriage counseling Burnaby helps you repair love and emotional connectionSometimes when couples come to see me for Burnaby relationship therapy or marriage counselling they have accumulated a list of slights, misunderstandings and hurt feelings. They have internalized their interpretations and conclusions which in turn are now impacting their behavior and their interactions.

Do you have such a list? Have you gotten stuck in scorekeeping? Is your willingness to be kind and loving with each other compromised by the discussion of who disappointed the other one first?

These discussions are as fruitless and unproductive as trying to figure out what came first, the chicken or the egg. In the end, does it really matter?
Is it really your partner’s fault? Or have you co-created the situation by not sharing your feelings and your interpretations? Did you not also make a choice when you decided that your partner’s behaviour indicated a lack of love and caring for you?

If you find that you regularly assume the worst and tend to forget that this person you’re choosing to spend your life with loves you, I encourage you to sit down together and discuss where this lack of emotional safety and trust comes from.

When did you stop trusting that your spouse only has your best interest at heart? What behaviours make you feel inadequate, criticized or judged?

In order to rebuild love and trust it is essential that you respond with love. Remember that you have a choice when you interpret your partner’s behaviour. You also have a choice how you’re going to respond. Are you going to close your heart and retaliate with a lack of willingness or can you set aside your ego and respond with love?

What would it be like if you could remember that complaining, criticizing and grumpiness tend to be Couples counselling New Westminster helps you repair broken trustan expression of not feeling loved? When your partner seems to express judgment or criticism it is not a statement about you being bad, inadequate other something being wrong with you. It is a statement about your lover’s lack of happiness, joy and inner contentment.

Ask yourself, what do you need to let go of scorekeeping? You might identify that you need to recover from codependency. You might need to be more authentic. Perhaps you need to be more clear and direct. Maybe you need to be more attentive to getting your needs met and honouring your own truth.
Sometimes sitting down with a counsellor can help you identify old patterns that no longer serve you and develop some new responses that honour your inner truth and contribute to you feeling happy, confident and empowered.

Remember you can choose if you are going to respond with love to grow the love you share or you can withdraw from your “love bank” by getting caught up in the downward spiral of scorekeeping.

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.

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.

 

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

.

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.

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.”

 

 

Have you ever faked an orgasm? If yes, please take a moment and acknowledge to yourself why you answered the famous question “Did you come?” with a lie.

As a sex therapist and relationship counsellor I help couples address this questions and the potential surrounding anxieties in a way that is nurturing and supportive rather than anxiety provoking and frustrating. When the question “Did you come?” turns into a “But you didn’t come :(” or “Why didn’t you come?” the afterglow and positive emotions just shared are  often replaced with feelings of low self-esteem or thoughts of not being enough.

Frank and Susan have been dating for 3 years. Both divorced and in their early 50’s, they  have counted themselves lucky to find someone to love again who feels like such a good match. They both love to travel, play golf and be outdoors. Their children are mostly grown up, financially they are doing well… until they have sex and Frank doesn’t orgasm. While some men can struggle with premature ejaculation, Frank from time to time has delayed ejaculation. Frank doesn’t mind the occasions when he doesn’t climax. He derives great pleasure and enjoyment from touching and being touched as well as bringing Susan to orgasm. But Susan gets upset. Her reaction can range anywhere from wondering whether Frank is cheating on her to finding herself unattractive, not sexy enough and fat. All her fears about aging come rushing in. Frank feels embarrassed and frustrated. “Why does Susan get so upset if I am fine with not having an orgasm every time we have sex?”

Can you relate to Frank or Susan? Or perhaps the following scenario feels familiar:

Burnaby Marriage Therapist can help you rekindle your romantic connection

Mandy has been consistently lying to Jake and doesn’t know how to fix it. The couple had turned to marriage counselling because they felt stuck in a rut. They are a great team when it comes to managing their busy lives.  However, after 4 years of marriage their romantic and erotic connection had been replaced with a solid friendship and camaraderie. They wanted to rekindle the passion they once shared but couldn’t seem to move forward.
When we discussed whether they talked about sex and their sexual desires and preferences we slowly identified part of the problem. Both Mandy and Jake had been hesitant and less then forthcoming in sharing what turned them / satisfied them or what they would like to change. Mandy imagined that Jake would think her “too wild” or “dirty” if she were to be honest about some of the things she wanted to try in the bedroom. Furthermore, she had been feeling inadequate and ashamed because the way Jake had been pleasuring her, never brought her to a climax. Feeling vulnerable and not wanting to hurt Jake’s feelings had her faking orgasms from the beginning. Jake also had some negative self talk going on and had refrained from sharing some of his fantasies. 

In both of these scenarios (as in all examples, names and identifying characteristics have been changed) communication broke down because of:

  • self-esteem and body image issues
  • worrying about the partner’s reaction
  • feeling responsible or wanting to assume responsibility for the partner’s orgasm

Burnaby sex relationship counselling helps couples talk about sexIn a magical and ideal world every sexual connection and love making creates simultaneous pleasure for both you and your partner. In the real world, our bodies change – sometimes from moment to moment – and what felt amazing yesterday feels a little different today. What you wanted to fast and hard last week, you want to savour slowly this time.

Talking about sex can feel vulnerable. You both need to feel emotionally safe and may have some specific requests for each other before you start sharing such as: “Please don’t comment until I have finished.” or “Please remember that I love you and find you sexually attractive.”

But before you talk about sex you need to check your attitude and your boundaries.

Remember the following realities: 

  • the amount of pleasure you both experience will fluctuate from time to time
  • not every time you are sexual together will  you both climax
  • you are responsible for letting your partner know what you need or want to enhance your erotic experience
  • your partner is not a mind reader whose job it is to know what you want
  • there is a difference between being mindful of your partner’s feelings and feeling responsible for how your partner feels – you are not responsible for your lover’s feelings

Ideally,when you take your clothes off, think of offering your ego a chair to rest on for a time out while you are making love. Remember…making love is about connecting erotically and intimately with your lover. Hopefully you will both climax… but it is not the only way to feel fulfilled after sex.

North Vancouver Couples counselling can help you reconnect intimately