When a therapist describes a couples attachment style, they are referring to the way a couple supports, loves and disagrees with one another. There are three different attachment styles that are most often cited. The first is secure, which refers to a feeling of safety when conversations become difficult. The couple is able to disagree and express thoughts, emotions and feelings while,still feeling securely attached to one another. This securely attached couple does not do for days without talking. They can argue and repair the relationship quickly. The second attachment style is ambivalent. This Insecurely attached couple become anxious if one or the other is not in agreement. They may attack or criticize each other, or withdraw when the topic feels unsafe. They lack the ability to differentiate while still allowing room for the other to express thoughts, feelings and desires. This relationship is often controlling and blaming of the other. Finally, disorganized attached couples are often abusive and needy. They confuse themselves and each other. Love and security is desired by these couples, but those desires represent lack of emotional safety. These couples will fight when it feels the relationship is going really well
Most couples have a bit of each of the three attachment styles. Of course, Ideally the secure attachment style is the desired goal. The good news is that attachment can change over time and even insecurely attached couples or disorganized couples can improve their relationships.
My favorite quote on forgiveness , “Mistakes are always forgivable if
they are admitted”. ( Bruce Lee). When you find yourself in the
position of apologizing to you partner, remember to acknowledge
are apologizing for. Never say, ” I am sorry you got hurt”, or ” I know
you are sensitive”. Those are neither sincere or believable. Be direct
and say, ” I am sorry that I forgot to pick you up for work and you
stood out in the rain, that must have been miserable”. It doesn’t
matter whether your actions were accidental. The important
piece is that your partner got hurt.
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.
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
Contact Jeannette York, LMFT for premarital counseling. (818.200.9513) Topics included are money, parenting, traditions, religion, sex, families, finances, Facebook, and other topics that the couple determines are important.
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.
I often hear one member of a couple say that their partner’s sudden anger is the most challenging roadblock to creating a loving relationship. The couple is generally having a “normal” conversation when out of what seems like nowhere one of them explodes with anger. This leaves the other partner feeling confused, hurt, unsafe and distrustful. The partner who has become activated is convinced their significant other, has deliberately said or done something to hurt or disrespect them.
Anger that happens suddenly and with very little provocation often has very little to do with what is happening in the moment. This type of “eggshell” encounter is when an unresolved hurt from very early in life is triggered in the present. It may seem as if your partner is deliberately trying to cause a fight. However you or they may unknowingly be responding to past family circumstances when you felt helpless or ignored and were unable to fight back.
Ask yourself what your triggers are? What are your partner’s triggers? Examples are feeling disrespected, ignored, not heard, helpless. Start to be aware of when you have these feelings. Learn to replace the anger that surfaces with statements that identify the feeling. “I feel helpless”. “I feel ignored”. Keep in mind that this does not mean that your partner is ignoring your or that they are intentionally trying to take away your power, however it is important to state that this is the feeling that you are having. Together try to find ways that each of you can express yourself and learn to separate what is happening between your and your partner in the present from the past.
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 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.
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