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Bridging The Gap

Desire discrepancy in couples is one of the most common sources of distress within sexual relationships.  Couples may find themselves in situations where one parter is the high desire partner (HDP) and the other is the low desire partner (LDP).  These labels can lead one or both partners to feel broken and blamed for problems in the relationship.  Other couples may find resentment builds when their partner either “doesn’t want them sexually” or “only wants them for sexual release”.  

If you and your partner are stuck in this sort of dynamic, first, know that neither one of you is broken.  All levels of desire are normal, and very few relationships involve couples with consistently balanced interest in sex.  

Second, if you can step away from looking at your partner’s level of sexual desire as the problem, it will be much easier to work together to bridge the gap.  

Bridging The Gap:

If you find yourself wanting sex more often than your partner, ask yourself, “what am I horny for”.  Dr. Neil Cannon lists the following as motives for seeking sex:  

  • Orgasm/Sexual Release
  • Touch
  • Connection
  • Calming Anxiety
  • Mood Elevation
  • Kink
  • Reassurance/Validation

When you identify what your motive for sex is, you can examine whether some of those desires could be met in other ways.  This begins to reduce pressure on your partner, narrowing the gap between your experienced desire.  

Another tool you can use to help bridge gaps in desire is to identify, as Emily Nagoski calls them, your sexual brakes and accelerators.  What turns you on?  What turns you off?  How can you as an individual and as a couple work to minimize brakes and maximize accelerators?  

One huge brake many individuals experience is not enjoying the sex they are having.  This is usually a result of poor communication or shame surrounding sexuality.  Using the brakes and accelerators framework can be a great way to improve communication about sexual preferences.  Make sure you speak up so your partner knows what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy.  Make sure to listen so you really hear what your partner is sharing with you.  Think of this as an opportunity to learn about your partner, increasing mutual pleasure and satisfaction in your relationship.

Lastly, try scheduling sex in your calendar.  On the appointed day, work on managing your own brakes/accelerators to help you get in the mood.  Recognize when there are things you can do to help your partner look forward to the experience with positive anticipation.  Text and flirt throughout the day. Make sure that when it comes down to it, saying “not tonight”, is still an option, this reduces pressure. If you are the partner who wants to say no, consider saying yes to something else instead.  For example, “I’m really not feeling up to penetrative sex tonight, but I’d love to cuddle, skin to skin”, or, “I’m not feeling up for penis-in-vagina sex at the moment, but I’d really love to just make out with you”.  Then leave the door open for whatever may (or may not) follow, pressure free.  Regardless of the outcome, you will feel more connected and you will have improved your ability to communicate about your wants and desires. 

If you’d like to learn more about bridging a desire gap in your relationship, call 801-944-4555 to schedule a session with Alice today.

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We Need Others

Human beings are social creatures and need connection. Psychologists, anthropologists, and philosophers have suggested many reasons for why we need connection.  These reasons include: providing for physical and emotional needs, creating tribal safety, invoking social and economic efficiency, and offering structure for human development.

As I’ve explored this topic, I find our need for others is multifaceted. In mental health, there are overlapping influences, often termed the biopsychosocial model of health. This phonetic amalgamation promotes the importance of three overarching schools of thought: (1) our biology, (2) our thoughts and emotions, and (3) our social environment. Our social connections are no small matter. We experience social connection with family, friends, church relationships, clubs, and work situations.

One reason I feel we need others, is to create affirmation and validation for our life journey. As children, we look to authority figures for validation. At first, this person is usually a parent or guardian. When we enter our adolescence, we turn to friends. As adults, we may seek approval from peers, or authority figures such as church leaders, a spouse, or a boss at work. Marriage relationships uniquely create opportunities for seeking intimate affirmation and validation. As a therapist, I see couples desiring validation if they are “enough,” or if they are “doing things right.” These bids for validation are expressed in a variety of scenarios in the kitchen to the bedroom.

Eventually, we arrive at a place where self-confidence eclipses the need to seek validation from others.  When this occurs, we help support others, and our self-esteem is self-sufficient.  I don’t think this process is a bad thing. Instead, I feel the understanding we gain is helpful and includes three important concepts.

First, as other people bid for validation from us, we should feel complimented, as we are now a companion in their healing journey. Affirming another is an opportunity to support and honor the path and choices others make in a way that creates self-awareness and growth, confidence, and security while allowing for a space of safety.

Second, we need to know how hurtful rejection can be for those who seek for an affirming voice from us. As children, we are often told “no,” “don’t,” or “you cannot.” Usually, these commands are barked from parents who want to protect their children. However, as a conscience being willing to aid in the healing journey of others, an affirming voice such as “you can,” “you’ve got this,” or “I trust you,” is more effective.

Third, understanding your attachment style, or the attachment style of others can assist in explaining how validation and affirmation are expressed.  An assessment of how you engage with others can aid you and those you love to help establish securely attached relationships.  For example, some people will anxiously seek for attention, and others pull back when things get messy, avoiding receiving the needed help the connection brings.

As humans, we connect with others for a variety of meaningful ways. Seeking affirmation and validation is a human characteristic that moves people toward a place of self-confidence. We start by trusting the voices of others we trust, and then we move to trust our internal voice.  We do these in elaborate dances that deserve our attention and our nonjudgmental observation.

If you or a loved one needs help in understanding or seeking validation, please give me a call at 801.944.4555 to schedule an appointment today.

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Creating Emotional Equality for Your Kids: From Your Threenager to your Teenager

 

Life seems to be getting busier and busier from soccer practice to choir rehearsals, school projects, and bedtime stories. I think we sometimes forget how intense life can be for a teenager or even for your three-year old learner. As an adult, we often get stuck in a mindset where we believe our adult problems are real and our teens problems are miniscule in comparison. Sometimes we forget how difficult life can be in high school. Maintaining friendships seem more difficult these days, with all the technology and social media barriers. Your little ones experience these difficulties as well. This could be with making friends at daycare and when family members are too busy to play or acknowledge their presence. When your child is experiencing all these stressors, they may come across as having a bad attitude, disrespectful, over-sensitive, or selfish. In reality, our kids are really just trying to figure out how to navigate life and may lack skills or verbiage to describe their stress and pain.

At the same time my daughter was experiencing her newfound emotions as a teen, I had the joy of also raising a three-year old who I deemed was like a threenager.

Threenager: A three-year-old child who has just as big of an attitude and overwhelming emotions as a teenager but with even less words or skills to regulate themselves.

I felt a little overwhelmed at times with all of their emotions as well as my own. Here are some tips and tricks I used to not only survive this time but also help my children thrive during these hard times.

  • Do not minimize your children’s emotional experience. Even if their problem seems small or easily solvable to you. They are having a hard time.

Instead, listen to their story, validate their feelings and offer your unconditional love and support.

  • Avoid Blame. There are times when your child is experiencing a natural consequence such as losing a friend because they wouldn’t share or added to a rumor about them.

What they really need is empathy and support. “It’s hard when you lose a friend.” Or “you seem to have had a bad day.”

  • They don’t need you to fix it. It may seem easier as a parent with life skills to solve problems for our kids but there is a bigger reward when they learn to solve the problem on their own.

You can sit with them and help them come up with their own solutions, “how do you think you can fix this?” or “what would you like to be different?” Also never underestimate the power of sitting and problem solving with your child over a glass of chocolate milk. It does wonders in my home.

  • Respect their boundaries. If your child is having a hard day and they do not want to talk about it or refuse a hug, do not personalize it, allow them time to work on the problem on their own.

Be there for them when they are ready for a hug or to talk. You can offer reassurance by telling them “I can see you want some space right now, I am here if you need me.”

These simple reframes as a parent have gone a long way to create a safe and equal relationship with my kids. It has eased some stress on my end and helped my children to gain emotional intelligence and gain life skills that are invaluable into adulthood.

If you would like to schedule a family session or session for your child, please call us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555

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3 Ways to Raise Healthy Kids in an Anxious World

There’s a lot of scary things going on in our culture, and it’s very easy for children to get overwhelmed. Here are some strategies to raise healthy kinds in an anxious world:

1. Manage Your Own Worries  

Think you can hide your fears from your child? You may need to think again. Children learn to read their parents’ facial expressions from a very young age. For instance, a toddler will glance back at his mother’s face before exploring a new area. If he detects calm from the parent, the toddler may feel reassured and explore the new environment; if he senses her fear, he may move closer to mom because he senses that there is danger nearby. All this can happen without any dialogue. Over time, a child may learn to fear going to new places because he has picked up on subtle parental messages of danger. Parents who learn to manage their own worries may help prevent anxiety in children.

2. Turn off the Evening News

The U.S. media outlets often use fear and sensationalism to attract more viewers. Kidnappings and extreme violence are reported frequently, while common acts of kindness and community support are rarely given weight. With repeated exposure, children, and even adults, may begin to believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. Even young children who appear to be occupied in play can tune in to environmental messages. Parents who choose to turn off the television and intentionally relay good news may help their children avoid the growing anxiety so common among today’s kids.

3. Encourage Kids to Face their Fears

For most parents, it is hard to watch their children struggle. It can be tempting to swoop in and rescue the child from a frightening challenge. There are situations where children could benefit from parents’ sensitive support and encouragement to confront feared tasks: first, give validity to the child’s feeling (fear or worry), and then encourage the child to move forward anyway. In this case, parents send the message that our fears do not have to debilitate us.

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School Safety and Childhood Anxiety

http://kutv.com/features/fresh-living/school-safety-childhood-anxiety

 

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Have a Conversation

Have you ever had a conversation where you just needed to vent? You just needed to get out all the pent-up frustration, anger, disappointment (whatever emotion that you were feeling at the time out), and the person that you were talking to immediately started telling you how to “fix” the problem? How were you feeling in that moment? Heard? Validated? Or the opposite?

Recently, my 17-year-old came in grumbling and lamenting about the struggles of high school existence. I listened for a bit, commiserated on how terrible small-town living is (sarcasm), and offered really “helpful” suggestions. Cue the eye-roll! Yep, I fell into the “fix-it” pattern; it’s ingrained. We are a society of “fixers.” We want to listen to an issue, come up with a few reasonable alternatives and fix the issue. But what happens if there isn’t a solution? Or, really a problem to be fixed?

The “fix it” trap is a very common style of miscommunication within couples and families. Wait…miscommunication? They’re talking about an issue and the other person is trying to help them with it, how is that miscommunication? The miscommunication happens when the intent of the speaker and the intent of the listener don’t match up. You might be asking yourself, “How am I supposed to know what my spouse/child/friend wants or needs out of a conversation? I’m not a mind reader!” My response is simple, yet really difficult for many of us because it’s something completely different from our typical pattern…ask. You read that right, just ask the person what they want or need from the conversation.

During the exchange with my child, after seeing the eye-roll and hearing the frustrated huffing and puffing, I knew that I had not given them what they needed from me. However, I didn’t want to make an incorrect assumption, again, so I simply apologized and asked, “I’m sorry, how can I help you right now? Is this something you need to talk about or something that you need help figuring out?” Now, I know that people are going to read this and say to themselves, “I try asking my child/spouse/ friend what they need and they just get mad!” Yep! The pattern is ingrained in the other direction as well. Sometimes the speaker may not even realize that they aren’t seeking a solution, but an opportunity to talk. What are you supposed to do then? Listen.

Take the time to really listen to what the person is saying, validating his/ her experience (even if you don’t agree), ask some questions to clarify to make sure that you are truly understanding, and empathize with what’s happening. Giving the person your undivided attention will give you (and the other person) the opportunity the truly ascertain what’s needed from the conversation. Go talk!

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Avoid These 4 Behaviors to Improve Communication In Your Life and Relationships

canstockphoto14934251Dr. John Gottman, Author of “7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.”, wrote about what he calls the “4 horseman of the apocalypse”. He outlined how, if unaddressed, these behaviors can erode trust and security in a relationship. Look out for them in your communications.

Blame/Criticism– Blame and criticism increase defensiveness and derail problem solving.

Contempt– Use non-judgmental language. Contemptuous language like, “You’re so lazy! You never empty the dishwasher” will get you nowhere fast. Try instead, “I feel frustrated that I am emptying the dishwasher so frequently. I would like us to share this responsibility” The latter is a reasonable request. Try to label the behavior rather than the person.

Defensiveness– Defensiveness is usually a response to feeling blamed or criticized. Take ownership for what part you played in the situation and be open to hearing the reasonable request. Acknowledge what the other person is saying and the feelings they are expressing (validate where they are coming from). Address their request/concern rather than justify your behavior.

Stonewalling– Stonewalling is refusing to participate fully in the conversation or avoiding the discomfort. Instead, commit to hearing the person out. Stonewalling means you will never hear their reasonable request and therefore not be able to problem solve. If you feel overwhelmed, ask to pause the conversation for a short period of time and commit to returning when you are calmer.

For more information check out the link below or any of John Gottman’s books.

https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/

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Tips to Start the School Year out Right – Take Action!

BulliedKid

When Hurt Turns to Anger, Turns to Shame, Turns to Fear: Tips to Start the School Year out Right

It seems to me that every new school year my kids (and yours) face more and more adversity. I often find myself (as a parent) wishing I was better at preparing my children to face bulling, rejection, shameful feelings, and self-confidence issues.  My girls and foster children have struggled with these issues.  In my research and personal experience, I have found not one thing works on all children, but if I can do my best at consistently being receptive to my children’s emotions, teach empathy, validate feelings, and come up with a way to solve a problem—that works! But first I have to consistently rid myself of my own fears and mirror disappointments and fear in a healthy way. To live well, we must grieve well.

When we are shamed with anger and rage, our underlined emotion or reaction is fear. One fear I will discuss is that of rejection. There is no greater shameful pain of loss than that of rejection. Fear of rejection can result in great loss for anyone. Rejection for someone may mean that they are unlovable or unwanted. When going through a battle of feelings of rejection or loss we (especially children) need social support, feelings of mirrored affection, time, self-talk, and emotional coaching.  I will admit, rejection is a hard pill to swallow for me. There is no way to escape rejection or loss in this human life. The important thing is how we deal with it. Here are some tips for getting the ball rolling for success with coaching your child about fear of rejection and bulling.

Fear of rejection is the center of bulling in my eyes. When shame cries out—fear of rejection and hurt screams—and we become a bully, even to ourselves. Many of my foster children bullied and were bullied. Kids and adults sometimes wanted to shame them for their actions and could render no empathy when they were being bullied. Once again, fear of rejection, being left out, being unloved is the root of this pain! Shame or fear does not help children to feel like a worthy person, but understanding and love does. Teach the feeling behind the fear and then strive to help that person change their negative views of themselves.

Comfort

Validation is number one! First and forth right. This takes TIME.  Validate your child’s feelings and concerns. As a teacher, parent, friend, or peer, children need to feel heard and understood, don’t we all. This is a universal concept, but do we really do it? Or are we good at it? I know it takes practice for sure. I have not always been validated in my life and I have had to learn how to do this with my children. In addition, remember to teach your children to validate themselves. People (and the world) are not always going to validate them. So the next thing to teach is self-talk and how to trust and love themselves first so they do not need to bully their self-concept or others.

Self-talk

Stand tall, look confident, tell yourself you are worth it—is sometimes hard to do. Why is that? Are we taught that we should just know that we have worth?   It is hard sometimes for an adult to overcome fears and self-talk ourselves to a happier tomorrow, let alone a child. But I also think children now days are very resilient because of parents and caregivers like you that have taught them to stick up for themselves, try a little harder, and be proud of who they are. But some kids just plain and simple have a harder time with self-talk. Research shows children that suffer from ADHD and autism lack skills in self-talk. Yet, I believe like many things, it takes practice. Through therapeutic techniques, these can be taught and improved.  Here some ideas. I have used visual aids to help remind kids to rid those bad thoughts that creep in. You can even use a small item (ex. small smooth rock, string, necklace) that they can take to school that remind them that they are special and to self-talk themselves every time they touch it. You can repeat or chant words to yourself while doing an activity like-

“No matter what others say or do, I am still a worthy person.”

“The more I like myself, the more others like themselves.”

“I ______like myself and I am a lovable person.”

“I am special because______.”

Emotional Coaching

Another way to make sure your child’s underlining fear or anger is understood is by teaching skills of recognizing their own feelings. If a child can not recognize what is going on with their body or heart, then they will not be able to regulate themselves. One of my most favorite books is Raising an Emotional Intelligent Child by John Gottman, Phd. Emotional coaching is key in helping your child be more aware of how they are feeling and how safe they feel about their feelings—thus they can self-regulate better. According to Gottman’s research, emotion-coaching parents had children that later went on to be “emotionally intelligent” people. They simply could regulate their own emotions and could calm their heart rate down faster. They had fewer infectious illnesses, better attention, and they could socially relate to others, thus better friendships.  When a parent or caregiver help a child cope with negative feelings, such as anger, sadness, and fear it builds bridges of loyalty and worth. Bridges, in my opinion, that will become a foundation of utmost importance for their understanding of their own self-concept.

When hurt, fear or shame turns into rejection of self or others, give your child the tools to combat the bully of the mind or on the playground by giving them comfort, self-talk, and emotional coaching.

– Caryl Ward, CMHC Intern, CFLE

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