Category Archives: Family Therapy

When Older Sisters Sabotage Relationships

In my practice, I have seen on several occasions instances in which an older sister will try to undermine her younger brother’s romantic relationships .  Sometimes this can show itself  by rudeness whenever the girlfriend or wife is around. Or it can begin when there are family events planned and the wife or girlfriend is not included.

This often happens in families in which the sister at some time in the brother’s childhood was made to take a maternal role due to the mother’s death or illness or even neglect.  In this family dynamic the younger brother is never seen as grown up whether he is 19 or 49, the sister assumes she knows best.  She has taken on the role as her brother’s protector even when he has long outgrown the need of a protector.

Often the brother feels torn between his girlfriend and his sister and family members.  Even though he know that he should stand up for her and let his family know that his romantic choices are his alone to make, this may not be behavior that he is used to.  However it is important for the family to be told that they must be cordial and polite and inclusive of the brother’s wife or girlfriend. Once they know that he is going to stand up to them, most often they will back down and start the acceptance process.  In the mean time, its important the the wife/girlfriend understand that the behavior was not meant to be malicious but simply was a way to protect the “little brother” of the family.

When Sex Goes Away

In my private practice in Burbank, Ca, I often hear couple’s complaining that their partner will no longer have sex with them.  For some couple’s this time of no sex can last for months or even years. The partner who is no longer interested is often the female in the relationship, but not always. About 15% of the time it is the male.

Research shows that touch, hugs, kisses and sexual intercourse are important components in keeping couples emotionally close. When sex seems to have gone away, I advise couples to continue to shower together, to give each other massages and back rubs. When sitting on the sofa watching television, make it a point to touch.  Stay connected to each other’s bodies even if intercourse is not happening. This will go a long way in protecting your relationship over the “dry” spells.

Jeannette York, LMFT   818.200.9513

What does Co – Dependent Mean in a Love Relationship

The word Co-Dependent gets thrown around quite a bit these days. Often we hear about parents and Adult children in co-dependent relationships. The definition of co-dependence is excessive emotional dependence on another person. The part of the word that is “Co” is that the excessive dependence goes both ways but shows itself in different forms but really two sides of the same coin.

For example, a husband is dictated to by his wife. She demands to know where he is going at all times and where he is at all times. The wife controls the husbands where bouts and controls the money in the relationship. Sounds sad for the husband, right? The Co dependency comes in when the husband begins to ask the wife when and if he can go certain places or he “sneaks out” like a little boy. This couple has entered into a relationship in which the husband on some level is dependent on the wife to manage his life and the wife is emotionally dependent on the husband to behave like a son (child) and not a grown man. In healthy adult relationships, adults do not tell adults what to do.

A Good Couple’s Counselor

A good couple’s counselor helps couples navigate the emotional minefields that are part of relationships. These emotional minefields represent the predictable, yet often painful experiences that many couples go through as they learn to adjust to life together.

When a couple does not understand the other, each member will often tell themselves stories or make up meaning to fill the void of not knowing what is really going on. A good couple’s counselor will challenge those stories and help to uncover the real meaning behind words and behaviors.

Sometimes a couple is at the “end of their rope” and believe that the relationship stands little chance of surviving. However a good marriage and family therapist will help rebuild that hope and provide the couple with the tools they need. Once a couple has started to build defenses, they may need help to bring down those defenses so that they can hear what their partner needs to say. Marriage and Couple’s therapy can help that communication happen in  safe environment.

To make an appointment call 818.669.8066, there are some evening and afternoon appointments available. The sessions are on a weekly basis for 50 minutes at a time. Cost is $135.00 per session.

The Gaslight Partner

The term “gaslight effect” comes from the a 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Bergman’s character is made to feel that she is going crazy by her husband. He does this by creating situations in which Bergman begins to doubt her own ability to recognize what is real and what is not.

Today the term refers to psychological and emotional abuse inflicted on one partner by another partner. If you are in a relationship in which you feel that you constantly need to prove yourself or your feelings are invalidated then it may be that you are being gaslighted. Gaslighted can be hard to pinpoint because the attacker is hiding behind a mask of good will or “being right”.  Some traits to look for in this type of unhealthy relationship are a partner who often says to you that you are “too sensitive”, right after he insults you or calls you a name or puts you down in front of others.  Other traits are when you know something is right and the person you are with insist that you are wrong, causing you to doubt yourself and your own truth.

Eventually this type of relationship will cause the victim to experience a loss of joy in life. They become so focused on making their partner see that they really are smart, caring, good people or whatever traits are being attacked that their ability to enjoy life vanishes.

There are some tools to help the partner who makes the decision that they want to stay in the relationship. It is not easy and requires the ability to learn to speak up for oneself in healthy ways and to not engage in trying to win an argument. Gaslighters have more experience and skill at “winning” than their victims.

*Learn to “agree to disagree” even if you gaslighter partner wants to continue the argument.

* Learn to  practice not responding to every insult or veiled criticism that your gaslighter partner says to you.

*Let your partner know what your boundaries are, and when they cross the line. A good time to have a discussion about boundaries is before an argument.

* Guard against constantly seeking your partner’s approval or begging them for reassurance. Sometimes they will not approve. Practice the emotional muscle it takes to not constantly seek approval.


Living Together Before Marriage

More than half the couples that I see in therapy are living together without being married. Often they describe it as a step toward getting married.  There are other reasons that couples choose to live together such as convenience, share expenses, fear of divorce or do not believe in marriage.

Studies show that couples who live together have a greater chance of becoming divorced during the first five years of marriage. If they live together in the place of marriage, there is an even greater chance that they will breakup within the five year mark.

The reason for this are many, but in general, it seems that living together, often keeps the relationship in the status of “testing it out”. In place of commitment there is the ability to simply walk away when things become difficult.

As a therapist and a clinician, I am not opposed to couple’s living together. However I do recommend that they discuss what each of their definitions are of the status of their relationship. Does one of you feel that you are on the way to engagement and marriage while the other is simply living together? A healthy discussion about where you would like to see the relationship in 6 months time or 1 year will help each of you to understand the other’s expectations.

Jeannette York, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Burbank, California

Family Therapy

When families come into my office, there are often feelings of suspicion, hurt, betrayal and other painful feelings that they bring in with them. In addition there are topics that each member knows will be discussed that have not been talked about out in the open before. It takes courage for a family to come to therapy and to be willing to face one another and discuss topics that may hurt or initially feel embarrassing.

The first question that I each family member is “If the sessions go well and they feel that therapy was a good use of their time, what is different for them?” Often people will say “I won’t feel ……….”.  I encourage them to imagine what they will feel. It is important to know what each of them is longing to be different.  I am also curious about the incident that finally brought everyone into therapy? In addition I asked who is an ally and which family member does each family member feel the most vulnerable around? How does  this impact what happens at home? Families are the lens with which we learn to operate out in the world. Our original defenses and vulnerabilities are usually developed and first expressed within the context of the family. These same vulnerabilities and defenses can also be healed and transformed in the context of family therapy.

A wise person once said that no matter how tempting, we can’t give up on our families. No matter where we go or how far away, we carry them around inside.

Jeannette York, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Burbank, California


Healthy Relationships

One of the characteristics that I notice in the couple’s that I see, is a tendency to criticize each other when all they really need to do is make a request. If a person comes from a family of origin that is highly critical, they often learn to criticize to get their needs met. This leads to distrust, anger, hurt and anything but a loving relationship. An example of this, is one partner says to the other partner, “you never empty the dishwasher. You just don’t care about how hard I work.” Chances are the partner cares very much about the other, but has not been asked to empty the dishwasher. It is impossible to criticize a person into being or doing what you want them to do. It might work temporarily, but the price paid is hurt and less closeness . The next time you are tempted to criticize your partner, simply ask them to do what you are complaining about. Even if you have made the request before. Remember: Behind every complaint is a request.

Jeannette York, LMFT

Private Practice Located in Burbank California


Are You or Your Partner Borderline?

The description of a person as borderline gets thrown around quite often these days. Most likely to describe another person in derogatory terms. But what does the term borderline really mean? A person with borderline personality shows marked traits of emotional dysregulation and impulsivity. Sufferers swing from seemingly content, peaceful states to anger, feelings of betrayal and back to happiness often in a very short time. The feelings seemed to be triggered by events that are not real or not in proportionate to the reaction.

For example, you and your partner schedule a lunch date. You are about 5 minutes late and when you arrive your partner is accusing you of not loving them, of plotting to leave them or of having an affair and that must be why you are late. For your partner, these are very real accusations and for you, they feel outlandish and unfair. Your partner has not learned to emotionally regulate and they may often have a sense of emptiness. Your experience may be that you often feel unjustly accused or that no matter what happens between the two of you, your partner never feels safe and loved enough. This is often an exhausting relationship.

The fear of abandonment often drives the borderline partner to constantly seek approval. They may also call several times during the day, even at inappropriate times to seek reassurance that you love them.

There is treatment for borderlines. It can be managed and as the loving partner you can be part of the treatment. Seek out a therapist that specializes in borderline personalities, preferably someone who uses DBT ( Dialectical Behavior Therapy). Encourage your partner to seek help and let them know that you support and love them. Therapy for Borderline personality disorder can be very effective, but the first step is to start treatment.

Jeannette York, LMFT





Couples and Passive Aggressive Behavior

Passive aggressive behavior can be one of the most frustrating behaviors that happens between partners. In the extreme, it can end some relationships.

Some examples are when one partner promises to do something and then complains when their spouse or partner ask them to follow thru. It can be as small as cleaning out the kitty litter to as important as paying the mortgage. The passive aggressive person will often find a way to make the partner pay an emotional price for asking that they follow thru.

Passive aggressive people are typically hypersensitive and often feel they are being unfairly criticized.

Couples need to know that they can depend on one another. When one partner is passive aggressive, it weakens the trust in the relationship. The other partner is often not sure if they can depend on their spouse or partner.

Some early family environments that can cause passive aggressive behavior are highly critical parents. When a parent is difficult to please or unjustly criticizes a child, the child will often develop passive aggressive coping mechanisms. A person who has experienced many painful disappointments in life will sometimes develop coping behavior that restricts expectations, hopes and desires.

Couples Counseling can help a couple talk about the passive aggressive behavior in a safe environment. Therapy will assist the couple in examining the impact of the behavior on their relationship.

Jeannette York, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Los Angeles California