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.

language of love

Marriage counselling and relationship therapy Burnaby help you shift your love lifeAs a marriage counsellor and sex therapist I often hear couples talk about one partner having less desire for intimacy. Once upon a time everything was fine, but today there seems to be a reluctance to initiate and often the answer is No.

Would you agree that for  many, but especially for women,  a “yes” is impacted by how emotionally connected you are feeling? 

An emotional connection is directly related to how open or guarded your heart is.  What affects the heart space? Resentment, disappointment, frustration, sadness and hurt will cause your heart to become careful and less open.

Of course feeling seen, heard and understood, appreciated and loved  will create trust and connection and openness.

Today I want to look at one particular dynamic that affects how open and connected you are feeling, the dynamic of giving and receiving.

Pause for a moment and check in with yourself. What type of giver are you? Are you very nurturing and caring? Do you give freely of your time and energy? Do you give your partner a lot of love? I am sure that many of the things you do are pure acts of love.

You are detached from the outcome. You are doing it simply because it makes you feel good and you want to.

However – if you are like most people, some of the things you do are part of an “unwritten contract.” I am not suggesting that you are always aware of this “contract.” You do become very aware however when it isn’t fulfilled. 

94c1a022c5b28e9bd26ef99155dd0d1dDoes any of these scenarios / thoughts resonate with you?

  • You do nice things – and they aren’t fully appreciated or perhaps not even noticed.
  • Often it feels like no matter what you do, it’s never enough or not good enough.
  • Your partner always seems to notice what you didn’t do, rather than cutting you some slack and acknowledging all the good you are doing.
  • You’re tired of your partner not being accountable to their commitments in your home and you feel like you always end up having to pick up the slack.
  • Somehow you are “always” the one who has to be disciplined and conscientious while your partner has no problem relaxing or taking time out for themselves.

The bottom line – you have been over giving!! and now you feel hurt, or disappointed and you are guarding your heart a little bit or a lot…. and so you say No.

How to shift? Whether you are responding to a request or you are doing something because a little voice says you should – check in with yourself first and establish whether you are in a place of openness and ease.

Does whatever you are about to do make you feel good? Noticing how you feel in your body is a great barometer. If you feel contracted, grumpy, frustrated, impatient, obligated – you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

If you are at the receiving end of your partner’s increased level of self-care and potential “No” to your requests, you may not like it very much in the beginning. But in the long term it will benefit your relationship and safeguard you both from developing a score card mentality. 

Let’s look at the flip side: How well can you receive? Can  you allow yourself to be vulnerable to Couples counselling North Vancouver to help you ease conflictreceive help or support? Can you get past shame, body image issues, and old scars to be able to receive? Can you receive without feeling the need to give back immediately to “even the score”? Take a moment to reflect if your “No” in the bedroom is connected to a difficulty in receiving,

If the giving and receiving dynamic in your relationship has affected your heart and your desire to answer “Yes”, then perhaps it is time to sit down and share how you have been feeling.

I encourage you to talk about yourself and how you feel, rather than talk about your partner and what you think they are doing “wrong.” The old and tried formula of “I feel ____________ when you ______________. Would you be willing to _______________________?

can go a long way to re-establishing connection and help you shift from “No” to  a joyful “Yes.”

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.

Whether you’re feeling the loss of a not-too-distant breakup or you’re sitting in the longing of meeting that special someone,  you might be wishing that Valentine’s Day would have  come and gone already.

Love and Dating Advice from Relationship Therapist BurnabyWho needs a reminder of romantic couple love everywhere when it just brings back painful memories or makes you wonder what’s wrong with you… Why can’t you seem to meet a truly nice guy or gal who wants you?

As a couples counselor and relationship therapist I often work with singles who want to break unhealthy and dysfunctional patterns of relationships past.    As we deconstruct familiar relationship dynamics and old hurts, we most often discover that things would shift greatly if there was an increased focus on loving the self rather than trying to please the other.

quotes_beyonceEspecially as women we are still hearing the old echoes of the female’s job description as being someone who is nurturing, in service, helpful, kind, loving and caring. Of course there is nothing wrong with being a nurturing, kind and loving individual – on the contrary – but it needs to start with YOU.

Because Valentine’s day isn’t all chocolate and roses for many, there are more and more messages in the media about using this day to love yourself. It’s an excellent idea.

Let this Valentine’s day

mark a shift in the most important love relationship in your life – the relationship you have with yourself.

If you had a partner who was the love of your life and infinitely special to you – how would you treat him or her?

Would you:

  • force them to do things because you thought they SHOULD? Because it made you happy?
  • make them feel guilty if they said no because they were honouring their own truth?
  • tell them that they should put themselves last and everyone else’s needs first?
  • tell them that they would be more lovable if they lost 10 pounds, had a smaller belly or bigger chest?
  • think they should feel responsible for other people’s happiness?
  • suggest they do everything in order to avoid disappointing others?

I can’t imagine you would!!

I am imagining that you would treat this special someone with great respect and care. If they felt discouraged you wouldn’t criticize them but encourage them. You would remind them that not only were they allowed to say no, but that they should say NO to anything that creates a cost of self.

Perhaps you would encourage them to trust that other’s can take care of themselves, that it wasn’t their job to fix everything.

Finally you might remind them that it was who they are that you loved and not what they accomplished or managed to produce.

Heal low self esteem and co dependency with relationship therapy North Vancouver

“Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.” Margo Anand

 

How would your life shift if you realized that the biggest love of your life needs to be YOU?

What would happen if you let go of all the SHOULDs and all the inner conflict and allowed life to love you? How would you feel during the day if you could shift your focus on the things you do have and opened yourself to receiving more of what you wanted rather than worrying about yet again not having your needs met?

Remember:

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship that you have.”

Here is to setting the intention of loving yourself and accepting yourself just the way you are on Valentine’s day and EVERY DAY.

 

“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi, thirteenth century Sufi poet

As a marriage therapist and couples counselor, I regularly listen to couples share the pain they experience when they don’t get the love they want. Often, especially in the beginning of couples counselling, there can be a fair amount of focus  on how the pain is the other person’s fault, i.e. the result of what the other person is doing “wrong” or failing to do.

Similar to J.F. Kennedy’s famous quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” I sometimes like to offer couples these questions:

“ How can you love more in this relationship?Increase love in your marriage with Burnaby Marriage Therapy

How can you give yourself more love?”

It’s easy to get stuck in feeling disappointed, hurt and discouraged based on your spouse’s actions or lack thereof.

Would you agree that when you are marinating in pain, you forget or have doubts whether your partner actually loves you? Would you also agree that sometimes a simple apology is not enough for you to fully let go of your hurt feelings?

When somewhere inside your heart you’re still harbouring resentment, it’s going to impact how much love you’re willing to give.

North Vancouver couples counselling help you create an upward love spiralIn order for love to grow in relationship, both you and your partner have to be willing to give and receive love. Loving and feeling loved creates an upward spiralling “love circuit”.  If one of you struggles with giving or receiving the “love circuit” gets interrupted or reversed.

I’m sure you have experienced this firsthand. Remember a  time when you wanted to give your partner a hug and they didn’t  participate – they weren’t willing or able to  receive you?Most likely your emotional response  ranged from mild disappointment to feeling rejected.

Perhaps you can also remember an occasion where the opposite was true. You weren’t  feeling very generous and giving. No hugs being initiated by you. Your partner’s response most likely landed somewhere in between disappointment and feeling unwanted.

If you’re ready for more love in your relationship I invite you to consider the idea of forgiveness. The degree with which you have either forgiven your partner or yourself can have  a direct impact on your willingness to give and receive love. 

Test this out for a moment. Think of a time when you felt hurt by your partner’s actions. On a scale of 1 – 10, how much have you actually forgiven them? Please go with the first number that popped into your head rather than the number your think you “should” come up with.

Let’s say you came up with a 6. How and when does this impact your willingness and ability to love more? 

Now think of a time when you did something that created pain in your relationship. Perhaps you lied, suffered a relapse from recovery, broke a promise. Perhaps you feel responsible for not being different, more or less. Perhaps you feel responsible for not being able to make your partner happy.  Again – on a scale from 1 – 10, how much have you forgiven yourself? How much have you been able to let go of shame, guilt, feeling inadequate? And how is this impacting your ability to receive love? To give yourself more love? 

If you are ready for more love in your relationship – practice forgiveness. Be curious and Relationship Therapy Burnaby helps you heal relationship painidentify what is holding you back from forgiving yourself and others.

Difficulty forgiving can be impacted by

  • judgement
  • fear
  • low self-esteem
  • guilt
  • shame
  • religious beliefs
  • old “stories” that you were told about yourself or others when you were growing up
  • your sense of deserving

Sometimes the first step to increasing forgiveness is compassion and remembering that you or your partner were doing the best you could at the time. Our best is not always the same. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It does mean surrendering and letting go of the past and showing up fully in the present moment. To the best of your ability.

Action step: take some time each day to journal about something that you still need to forgive. Identify what is holding you back. If you are feeling stuck or if you recognize a pattern, you might choose to enlist the support of  a trusted loving friend, psychotherapist / counsellor or life coach.

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.