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The Disconnected Relationship

What is love? According to Sue Johnson, “It’s intuitive and yet not necessarily obvious: It’s the continual search for a basic, secure connection with someone else. Through this bond, partners in love become emotionally dependent on each other for nurturing, soothing, and protection” (Johnson, 2009). Humans have a hard-wired need for emotional responsiveness and closeness. At the beginning of our lives, we are born with the survival response and need for attachment from our mothers. This need for a secure attachment never fades; it follows us into adulthood evolving into the need for a secure attachment with a partner.

Underneath most fights and marital issues is the longing to feel connected to your partner, to feel that secure attachment and to know, do I matter? Are you there for me? Unfortunately, our culture has painted the picture that this type of dependency is weak and undesirable. Because of this, many relationships begin to exhibit over time, physical and emotional isolation that is actually traumatizing to humans; it communicates to the brain “danger.”

Most relationships begin with a super close connection; partners tend to be more responsive to each other’s needs. However, over time this tends to dwindle and fade as each partner begins to make assumptions about the other. For example, one partner wants more attention or love but expresses this by acting angry and nagging, the other begins to withdraw and pull back not knowing how to react and possibly feeling as though they can’t do anything right and so begins, the “dance” of the couple. The more one nags and pursues, the more the other pulls back and begins to withdraw. At this point, the relationship begins to unravel leaving each partner wondering if the other is there for them or not. During this dance, neither really discusses the deep emotional pain they are really feeling, which keeps them spiraling around in this cycle.

Once you have been able to identify your relationship’s negative cycle, you can both agree to break the cycle. Although disappointments will always be a part of every relationship, we can choose how we handle them. We can handle them in the same old ways, reflecting fear and defensiveness or we can handle them with a little more understanding. If you and your spouse feel as though you are constantly caught in an endless negative cycle, schedule an appointment to begin changing that cycle by learning to understand the underlying emotions and recreating a deeper emotional connection with your partner.

 

Johnson, S. (2009). Hold me tight. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200812/hold-me-tight

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been defined as “the quality of being conscious or aware of something.” Mindful.org refers to mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are, and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Practicing mindfulness and incorporating this way of being into your life  can improve one’s physical, social and psychological wellbeing. The benefits are well worth the amount of time it takes and are as follows:

  1. Increase one’s ability to decrease anxiety and depression.
  2. Helps one to pay attention and observe thoughts and feelings without judgement.
  3. Promotes relaxation and calmness.
  4. Reduces negative emotions and stress. Improves memory.
  5. Boosts the immune systems ability to fight off illness.
  6. Encourages one to eat healthy and cope with cravings allowing them to pass.
  7. Alleviates physical pain. Develops a sharp focused mind.
  8. Improves relationships. Increases work satisfaction.
  9. Regulates emotions. Enhances digestion. Improves sleep.
  10. Improves academic achievement/reduces problem behaviors.

Apps and websites that can be used to incorporate Mindfulness into the lives of children, adolescents, adults and seniors include:

happify.com, omvana.com, brain.fm, mindfulness- app.com, joyable.com, calm.com, mindful.org, headspace.com, smilingmind.com, Stop, Breathe & Think, DreamyKid, Breathing Bubbles, Positive Penguins, Calm Counter, Emotionary, Take a chill, Chill Outz, Relax Melodies, Guided Mind, MINDBODY, Buddhify, Insight Timer, 10% Happier, Meditation Studio, Pacifica, Meditation Timer Pro. Sattva Meditations and Mantras, Breethe, Simply Being, Wuf Shanti Yoga Fun Machine, Breathe, think, Do with Sesame, Super Stretch Yoga HD, Mandala Memory, Mindful Powers, Wellbeyond Meditation for kids, Zen Bound 2 Universal, 5 minute escapes, Jinglow, and Virtual Hope Box.

The practice of mindfulness can assist you to be in the moment bringing a sense of peace, joy and happiness into one’s life. Eckhart Tolle stated “Wherever you are be there totally.”

For additional assistance to learn more about living in the present (the here and now) Contact Sue Hodges LCSW at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555

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HELP! FAITH CRISIS

Have you noticed a trend of people questioning their long-time religious beliefs? Perhaps looking for answers in areas that you may even question the veracity of their approach in doing so?

When someone we know, perhaps even our wife (or husband), begins to question their religious faith it can be distressing. When this same person tells us that they’re going to leave their faith (or spiritual belief) it can seem outright gut-wrenching.

What can we do to help our spouse or significant other in their faith journey? It can be much more about hearing the person than it is about changing their mind.

5 Items to truly consider

Lend a Listening ear

Your tendency will be to want to ask questions. Seek answers. Perhaps even to try to change your wife’s mind regarding her decision. It has been my experience that this will not be helpful. In fact, it will likely only push your spouse away. Listening in an understanding way that shows you truly care will likely be a much better approach to take.

Understand that it’s really not about you

While every part of you may feel that it’s absolutely about you, recognize your focus needs to be on supporting your family member in their decision and journey.

You don’t have to agree

Learning to support your husband in his decision doesn’t mean you have to agree with his decision. This can be comforting as the initial shock begins to recede. Many people want to continue to attend their life long church even with the changes her husband is experiencing.

You didn’t cause the crisis

While it is important that you continue to attend your church of choice if you desire, recognize that you didn’t cause your spouse’s faith crisis. In fact, the faith crisis may have been brewing for some time and is just now being acknowledged.

Recognize that your Marriage core is still there

While change is difficult, please recognize that the love and closeness that you have cherished for so long is still there. That your marriage core is still very viable. That the journey may seem long and difficult but that what you’ve known as “us” doesn’t need to vanish. This is difficult to manage early on in the faith journey but will become clearer as your husband’s faith crisis clarifies.

Where do we go from here?  

As your wife’s faith crisis clarifies, so will the equilibrium in your marriage and other key relationships. While it may take some time to have things feel comfortable, continue to do what you’ve always done. That is, go on consistent dates. Go the movies. Go out to dinner. Spend time at the gym. Try skiing at your favorite resort in the Cottonwoods or tubing with the family. In other words, do what you’ve always done.

Please don’t be surprised when some of these events feel wonderfully connective and others a bit forced or uncomfortable. The key is being fiercely loyal to your spouse and family…not hindered by which church you’re attending on Sunday.

A parting thought

Sometimes seeking advice from your church pastor or bishop can feel wonderful for the spouse not leaving their faith. And, not so wonderful for the spouse leaving that particular faith, be it Catholic, Protestant, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Learn to balance and support your husband as he moves forward on his journey. You may also want to consider seeking professional advice from a therapist that has experience helping couples wind their way through this challenging journey of (re)discovering one’s faith.

Relationship, couple and family therapist Michael Boman, LCSW has nearly 20 years experience assisting couples and families work their way through challenges in their relationships.  

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Boundaries, Who Needs Them Anyways?

Boundaries help to keep us stay connected with someone while keeping the relationship in a healthy place. Often time’s boundaries are perceived in negative ways and only to push others away, but this is not true. “Some people will try to tell you otherwise, but boundaries have nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. They are not punishments, judgments or betrayals. They’re a purely peaceable thing. The basic principles you identify for yourself that define the behaviors you will tolerate from others, as well as the responses you will have to those behaviors. Boundaries teach people how to treat you and they teach you how to respect yourself.” – Cheryl Strayed (Author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) 

With this in mind I would like to invite to listen to one of my favorite podcasts that does a great job of discussing boundaries and a technique I find extremely beneficial called “Jello Wall”. A Link is provided below, but you may find them wherever you find your other podcast by searching Therapist Uncensored and listening to episode 81 “How Good Boundaries bring us Closer Together”.

https://www.therapistuncensored.com/81-2/

 

Nate Watkins, AMFT

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The Night I Forgot My Phone

We have all heard the saying “Disconnect to reconnect.” It is a bid to turn off electronics in an effort to become closer to the people in our lives. Recently, I had an opportunity to experience this. Over the holidays, we had a party at a family member’s home. As my husband and I were packing up our things, we looked around to make sure we had gathered all of our children’s belongings. We didn’t see anything and went home. After putting my children to bed, I looked around and realized I had left my phone at the party somewhere. For the rest of the evening and most of the next day, I was without my phone. I never realized how much I depended on, and looked at, my phone until I didn’’t have it.
 
That evening, before bed, there was no internet surfing, or YouTube watching. I simply read my book and went to bed. Since it was the holidays, I did not need to set an alarm and awoke on my own. As a reached for my phone to check my email and look at the weather, I realized I didn’’t have my phone. Throughout the day, I went to reach for my phone only to realize I didn’’t have it. Around noon was when the realization came that I looked at my phone for very stupid reasons and did it far too often.
 
I retrieved my phone at about three in the afternoon. The rest of the day I made a concerted effort to not look at my phone. By the end of the day, I felt more connected to my children, my spouse, and felt better overall. This could have been for numerous reasons, but I account a great deal of it to the decrease in my phone usage.
 
I recently watched a Ted talk by Collin Kartchner about phone usage/social media and children. It was a wake up reminder that our children need to feel important and loved. At times, our use of technology can leave them feeling unloved. At the very least, it sets a precedent that they will follow when/if they get a phone. When you have a few minutes, I urge you to watch it.
 
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uMb0wqTqE_4
 
How often do you look at your phone? Is it for mindless things or for work? Obviously our jobs require us to use technology to complete tasks for work. However, do we stay focused on our work and then turn it off? Or does that create an avenue for perusing the internet? I challenge you to leave your phone at home when you go on your next date night. Forget it at a friends house. Turn if off after dinner. Finish your work and then turn off your computer for he night. See if it makes a difference in the way you feel.
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Help! I’m Sexually Broken!

One of the most common statements I hear from women when it comes to sexual dysfunction is, “I know it’s important to my husband, and I want to give that to him, but I just have zero desire for sex.  I’m just broken!”

Our culture feeds us the line that there is only one kind of sexual desire.  It tells us that sexual desire should suddenly appear, that it’s a wave of hormones that hit us out of the blue.  We’re going about our day, filing paperwork, prepping meals, filling the car up with gas, and WHAM, we’re hit with an urge to have sex.  

Now sometimes that happens, and when it does, it’s called, according to sex educator, Emily Nagoski, spontaenous desire.  Many individuals experience spontaneous desire at least some of the time.  Research seems to point toward men experiencing spontaneous desire far more often than women.  Women are more likely to experience what is called responsive desire.  

Responsive desire means that desire builds in *response* to positive sexual cues.  

What does this mean?  This means that a woman who finds herself in bed with her partner at the end of a long, tiring day, isn’t broken when she’s not interested in sex.  It just means she lacks context for sexual excitement.  She’s normal.  Not broken.  Too often our culture treats women as broken when their sexual response isn’t the same as men’s sexual response.  We treat men’s response as the default normal, and anything less than that makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us.  

Unfortunately, the idea that we’re broken is one extra hurdle to developing a satisfying sexual relationship with our partner.  

Emily Nagoski gave a Ted Talk last year where she shared two keys to sexual well-being.  They are confidence and joy.  Nagoski states that confidence means knowing what is true about your body.  Joy is loving what is true.  

If you are someone who feels broken because your experience is not the spontaneous desire depicted in every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen, knowing that your desire, which builds in response to safety, loving connection, physical touch, or other sexually relevant stimuli, is normal, can help you know what it true about your body.  Accepting this part of yourself as good and valid can help you love what it true.  

For more details on these concepts, check out Emily’s Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/emily_nagoski_the_keys_to_a_happier_healthier_sex_life?language=en

For help working through sexual desire discrepancies in your relationship, or if you struggle to accept and love what is true about your body or your own sexual experience, schedule a session with Alice today.  801-944-4555

 

Alice Roberts, CSW
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Reconnect with your Spouse! – Upcoming “Hold Me Tight” Couples Class

Are you tired of reading relationship books with a few tips and advice that may put a band aid on your marital discourse?  Dr. Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations For A Lifetime Of Love, relationship researcher and expert, believes that the attachment bond individuals have with their partners is crucial for a happy, healthy relationship.   Just as an infant feels close, attached, and loved when her mother gazes in her eyes, adults have the same need.  We innately feel a desire to connect, be loved, depended on, and to feel safe.  When the attachment is insecure with our spouse or partner, there is greater likelihood for disconnection, isolation, and distance.  Hold Me Tight looks to address that attachment bond.

Wasatch Family Therapy is pleased to announce that we are, once again, offering a Hold Me Tight workshop.  Based on Dr. Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) approach. An approach in which empirical research shows that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery. The workshop will take readers through the following seven transforming conversations:

  • Recognizing Demon Dialogues
  • Finding the Raw Spots
  • Revisiting a Rocky Moment
  • Hold Me Tight
  • Forgiving Injuries
  • Bonding Through Sex and Touch
  • Keeping Your Love Alive

Join us, Alice Roberts, CSW and Tekulve Jackson-Vann, LMFT, for this six-week course beginning Tuesday nights on January 8th in the Cottonwood Heights location from 6:30-8:30 p.m.  Register now and find the emotional connection that can come as partners reach for one another, holding tight.

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Subtle Signs of Emotional Abuse in Marriage: Good Things Utah

Abuse is a tough topic to talk about, but it’s so important that we know signs to watch out for. While physical abuse is easy to identify, emotional abuse can be more subtle but can be just as damaging (while most everyone has mistreated their partner at times, we are talking about repeated and consistent behavior). Here are some signs of emotional abuse in marriage:

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5 Common Marriage Questions Answered: Good Things Utah

Every married couple has problems, so why is it that when we’re struggling in our marriages we can feel so alone? I recently sat down with the ladies of “Good Things Utah” to answer some marriage questions that viewers had written in. Perhaps some of them will mirror your own experiences.

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How to Communicate Your Needs: Family Looking Up Podcast

How to Communicate Your Needs: Family Looking Up Podcast

I recently sat down with the ladies of “Family Looking Up” to discuss how women’s assertiveness can help our families. The conversation included clearing up misconceptions about assertiveness (such as the false idea that it equates to being aggressive or selfish) and also how women can view their own needs as being equal to that of their children and their partner. If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your communication style, practice self-compassion, and say no without guilt, take a listen!

Click here to learn more about my book “The Assertiveness Guide For Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Relationships.”

 

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