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.

positive life changes

resolve conflict with marriage counselling in Burnaby /North VancouverAre you familiar with the frustrating and discouraging feeling of getting stuck in a negative cycle or downward spiral together?

After a while, you don’t know how to shift the pattern to recreate positive energy between each other.

Sometimes you have an internal narrative which sounds something like this: ”If only my spouse would do X then I could / would do Y.” Both of you are waiting for the other to change and most likely have a score card pattern. As you point the finger at each other, your levels of willingness go down as defensiveness and frustration goes up.

Let’s use this metaphor:
Imagine your doctor told you that you needed fresh air and exercise to improve your health. Time Love coaching and relationship therapy Burnaby / Vancouverpasses and you’re not walking or jogging because of the weather. Every time you look outside you think, if only it would stop raining, then I could go for a walk. If it rains for a long time, you have to start figuring out how you can get moving outdoors despite the rain, otherwise you never improve your health.

Once you change your expectation around the weather conditions, you can start to enjoy the benefits of exercise. By the time the rain gives way to sunshine, your health has improved and you can enjoy being outdoors even more.

In my marriage counselling and relationship coaching work, I offer couples the following useful exercise to help identify a starting point for change.

The magic wand exercise aims to help you shift your thoughts from “If only…” to embodying the change you want to see in your relationship.

Here is how it works:recapture the magic with Relationship Coaching and EFT Therapy Burnaby

Write down your answer to the following two questions on a piece of paper:
1) Imagine you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about your partner that would improve your experience of the relationship, what would that be?
2) Imagine with that same magic wand you could change one thing about yourself that would improve your marriage – what would you change?

Once you’ve written down your “magical changes”, swap papers. Now you get to read what would make a big difference for your partner and what they consider they could do to contribute to a positive change in the relationship.
When you approach change from the perspective of being the change you want to experience, three powerful things happen:

  1. You stop judging your partner
  2. You shift from complaining about the other person to reflecting how you are co-creating or contributing to the current situation
  3. You stop feeling powerless and start creating movement in the only area of the relationship that you have control over, namely yourself.

Can you imagine how your willingness to connect with each other is going to increase when you don’t feel criticized all the time? And then you both start noticing how the other person is doing some things differently? Things that make you feel good or please you? Actions or behaviours that indicate to you that your partner is assuming responsibility for how they contribute to conflict and disappointments?

Here is a potential scenario: You have swapped papers and read the following. “If I had a magic wand I would make my partner be a more tidy a person. And I would make myself be more appreciative of the things that my partner does do.”
“If I had a magic wand I would make my partner of more patient and have them stop interrupting me when I talk. And I would be less negative and grumpy in the morning’s.”

Love Coaching and premarital counselling BurnabyOf course you don’t have to limit the things you believe you could change in how you show up in your marriage to one item 🙂 That being said, you need to start somewhere. And as you rekindle good will and remember that you are not each other’s enemy the momentum of an upward spiral creates more willingness and desire to be loving and kind with each other…. and before you know it you can focus on actively nurturing the magic of the love you share and co-creating your dream relationship.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Have you stopped feeling special in your relationship? As a marriage therapist, I often hear one half of a couple who has come for couple’s counselling, share his or her sadness and disappointment about not feeling special anymore in the relationship.
This can prompt the other spouse to exclaim “What do you mean, you don’t feel special? Of course you’re special to me.”

Often  the partner replies with something similar to “but you never pay attention to me.”
Can you relate to the above scenario at all? While men and women feel special in response to different types of appreciation, both desire their partner to take notice of what they are doing or how they might be feeling.

Giving your partner attention is the one of the three keys to creating real love. When you’re in the honeymoon stage of your relationship, or you’re dating someone, you tend to shower them with attention. You notice everything about them. You express your appreciation for this person in word and deed.
Then, when you’ve been together for a while, and you’ve become a functioning team, it’s easy to start falling into the habit of taking each other for granted. You still love this person, but you are less focused. While this is a natural development, the key to relationship thrival lies in finding the balance that works for your relationship.

Kate had tears well up while she vented about her husband’s lack of attention. “Here I was, approaching the car with my arms full of shopping bags, balancing on high heels because we were going out to dinner. Do you think Jeff would notice and open the trunk for me? No, he was too busy on his Blackberry texting his buddy.”

Paying attention and being fully present with your partner doesn’t mean you can’t use your Blackberry anymore while you’re with your beloved.
It does mean, making an effort to notice and give voice to the little things: The expression on her face, the fact that he folded the laundry without you asking, the hours of overtime worked to create abundance, the note tucked into your lunch….
It means cultivating the habit of fully connecting with your partner when he or she engages you, i.e. putting the TV on mute, or momentarily setting aside what you’re doing.

Why don’t we pay more attention to our loved ones? Sometimes, we feel hurt, unseen or misunderstood. We carry around a bag full of unresolved or unnamed issues. I always know when couples have pain tucked away somewhere, when I hear one or both parties say:”Why should I do X? He / she never does Y for me. How many times have I asked for… “ and so on.

This brings us to another vital key for creating joy and connection in your love relationship. It is called willingness. Nothing happens without willingness. In order to be fully present with your partner you have to want to be present. 
Take a moment to reflect. Are you “sitting on something” that is affecting your willingness to make your partner feel special? Are you waiting for your partner to see and hear you before you’re willing to send them some positive attention?

Remember that if you’re hoping to receive your partner’s undivided attention, (perhaps you want to discuss something specific) it helps to let him/her know by making a specific request. Feeling hurt because your spouse isn’t reading your mind is a set up you co-create.

Learning to ask for what you want in a way that your partner can hear you, will go a long way towards creating willingness and receiving attention. To quote Harville Hendrix, founder of Imago Therapy, “focus on the positive.” That means rather than complaining or asking rhetorical “negative questions” such as “ Why can’t you cook once in a while?” or “Why do you always have to be late when we go somewhere?” make a positive request. “I would love it if you could take care of dinner on Wednesdays.”

The third key to creating real love and possibly the most precious gift you can offer your spouse is self-love; i.e. cultivating your ability to being willing to pay attention to and be present with your self.
Self-love often gets confused with self-care. Self-love doesn’t mean taking more bubble baths or treating yourself to a pedicure. Self-love means taking care of your own needs rather than expecting your partner to fix you. Developing an ability to self-soothe your anxiety would be an act of self-love for example. How would your partner and your relationship benefit? Imagine the following scenario:

Suzanne texts Rob all day long. She is constantly asking him when he is coming home, what he is doing and where he is because she is incapable of soothing her anxiety. She also phones him at work to find out whether he remembered to pick up the dry cleaning and to tell him about the phone call she had with her mother. When Rob comes home, and is texting on his phone, she wants to know who he is texting. Rob is Suzanne’s life line, problem solver and crisis soother. While Rob initially enjoyed feeling important, he now often wishes Suzanne could stop pestering him about his whereabouts. He feels curtailed in his freedom and weighed down by the feeling of responsibility of Suzanne relying on him to calm her down and reassure her all day long. Often he gets impatient. Then Suzanne feels hurt or gets angry.

Self-love means honouring your truth, discovering your needs and wants and taking care of your own well-being. While you want to contribute to the well-being of your partner, doing so at cost of self is actually a disservice to you both. It goes back to the principle of putting your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. The consequences of lack of self-love have a ripple effect on your relationship. Not attending to your health, not dealing with your depression, anxiety or addiction can have serious consequences for your relationship.

Take a moment to reflect…where do you neglect your self-love and why? What pulls you off center and away from being the best partner and spouse you can be?
Consistently monitoring your willingness, level of attention and quality of self-care will create a positive LOVE change in your relationship.