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.

core differences

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.”

 

 

When couples consider marriage counselling or relationship therapy, they’re often   gridlocked or stuck in a power struggle. A very common issue that surfaces in couple’s counselling sessions is “He or she is so controlling, I can’t stand it anymore.”

Two things may be happening if you’re partner has a need to control, i.e. decide how things get done or what you’re going to be doing. First and foremost it is important to realize that, in everyday situations, control is usually connected to anxiety. Every need to be in charge or to control frequently arises from a worrisome thought or concern.

When you’re power struggling, you’re often dealing with core differences. The concept “Core Differences” (developed by Brent Atkinson, Ph.D) essentially shines light on the different ways of handling or approaching life that exist between you and your spouse. The benefit of understanding this concept is to be able to step out of the critical stance and realize that neither one of you is right or wrong, or is doing things in a “better” way. You are simply “different” in your core approach to living life.

When you understand the desire or longing which motivate your partner, including the fear that can surface when you’re asking him or her to act differently, you can usually move out of gridlock and into a place of being supportive and loving with each other. After all, you do love this person who you’re power struggling with and both of you deserve to be as happy as possible in your relationship. Learning to accept each other’s differences, even if they bring up uncomfortable feelings is an essential part of differentiation and relationship success.

Do you sometimes perceive your partner as controlling or selfish and always wanting their own way? Or do you catch yourself wishing she or he wasn’t so sensitive and would stop taking things so personally? This would be a classic case of dealing with the core difference of how you both tend to handle differences.

If your partner comes from a place of “collaboration first” conflict is avoided when you can each anticipate each other’s needs and are willing to take  them into account as much as your own. What she/he really longs for, is being in a relationship where someone cares enough to voluntarily consider her/his needs without having to ask for it. Your partner’s biggest fear is that you will be arguing all the time if you do things “your” way.

The other end of the spectrum of “collaboration first” when trying to handle differences, is “persuasion first.”  This means that you like to strongly argue your point of view. You don’t want to try and anticipate your partner’s needs, you believe that each of one you should really go for what you want, rather than compromising all the time.

 Your dream is to be in a relationship where you get to be yourself. You want to be in charge of your own “destiny” and you’d like you partner to hear and acknowledge you. Your biggest fear is that you’re going to have to be fake and pretend that you don’t care how things are done.

The next time, you catch yourself thinking “You always want things your way!” or “I wish you’d stop taking things so personally!” take three deep breaths and get grounded. Now literally try standing or sitting side by side, rather than facing each other and consider the issue together from a stance of “neither one of us is wrong, we’re just different” in our approach to handling differences.

 How can you meet in the middle so neither one of you has to pretend not to care or feel like you have to fight all the time to have your viewpoint being taken into consideration? Discuss your individual needs and feelings. Consider finding common ground by rating the importance of the desired outcome. For example, on a scale of 1-10, how important is doing it your way in this particular instance. Can you give each other permission to have different needs without taking it personally?  (i.e. can you let go of  “If you really loved me, then you would do “X”.”)

Sitting down with a marriage or family therapist can help you if you have built up layers of misunderstanding or misinterpreting each other’s actions and/or needs and are now gridlocked in a place of hurt and/ or frustration.