9 Signs Your Partner Doesn’t Respect You Enough

While fun dates, a shared sense of humor, and lots of love will take you far, nothing’s more important than having respect in a relationship. And knowing the signs your partner doesn’t respect you can help you spot a problem before it spirals.

“Respect is an important component of every healthy relationship, yet it’s absolutely critical for the long-term success of a romantic relationship,” Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. “When a sense of solid respect is present, partners tend to feel more appreciated, seen, and safe in the relationship. When respect is not present, partners will tend to feel wary, angry, and deeply resentful.”

Disrespect can take many forms, but it typically has the same outcome. Studies have shown that a lack of respect is one of the main predictors of a breakup. And while breaking up is often the best course of action when a partner is rude, disloyal, and uncaring, it may be possible to inspire positive improvements.

As Manly says, “This dynamic can be changed with conscious effort. Respect — like most key principles in relationships — is an attribute and a skill that can be honed with mindful attention.” It might mean pointing out areas that need to change, going to couples therapy together, and — if you’re willing — giving a partner a chance to change.

It’s up to you what happens next. But experts say if you spot any of these signs, it’s a sign your partner doesn’t respect you, and that means the relationship needs work.


They Ignore Your Boundaries

Healthy relationships are all about establishing and respecting one another’s boundaries. So if a partner repeatedly ignores or tramples all over yours, it’s clear a “lack of respect is at work,” Manly says.

What’s more, boundary crossing can take many forms, and often gets worse over time. “Whether a partner borrows money and doesn’t return the funds, invades personal space, or engages in unwanted physical advances,” Manly says, none of it should be taken lightly.


They Keep Lying To You

There’s a reason why lying is a leading cause of breakups. As Manly says, “Dishonesty is one of the most disrespectful and destructive behaviors in any relationship.” It shows your partner doesn’t care about the impact their actions have on your life, and that they’re only thinking about themselves.

Lying has no place in a respectful relationship, and yet it’s something that’s so easy to brush under the proverbial rug. “People tend to rationalize overt lying or errors of omission,” Manly says, but “dishonest behaviors are indefensible — and always a sign of disrespect.”


They Give You The Silent Treatment

While everyone’s entitled to a breather when they’re upset, take note if your partner consistently gives you the silent treatment whenever trouble arises in your relationship. Think shutting down, sulking in another room, or sending your calls to voicemail.

“The silent treatment functions to keep you in suspense of what will happen, and unsure of what you did wrong and how bad it is,” Dr. Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist and author, tells Bustle. It also makes it impossible for you to share your side of the story, which is why it’s considered a form of control.

In fact, this manipulation technique has a name — stonewalling — and according to research from Dr. John Gottman, often means end of a relationship is near because it’s just so toxic.


They Use Your Insecurities Against You

In a relationship, you’re supposed to feel safe enough to open up, share deep thoughts, and lean on your partner for comfort and support. So if yours ever takes the things you share and throws them back in your face — whether it’s to hurt you, win an argument, etc. — consider it a major red flag.

“When a partner speaks down about you, or uses your insecurities and limitations to their advantage, […[ these all are indications that your partner does not have enough respect for you,” Josh Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle.

If you spot this habit, it may be something you can work on overcoming as a couple. “Transgressions should be apologized for and corrected,” Klapow says. But if your partner continues to disrespect you in this way, it may be best to end the relationship and move on.


They Call You Names

Speaking of arguments, take note of how your partner acts during them. “From screaming, name-calling, and […] threats, verbal abuse is a significant sign of disrespect in a relationship,” Manly says. “When we don’t pause to carefully consider and choose our words — and when we purposefully engage in damaging verbal attacks — disrespect is evident in the weaponization of words.”

It might also show up in the form of “light-hearted” jokes that actually feel mean. “Mockery, misplaced humor, and sarcasm are subtle signs your partner disrespects you,” QuaVaundra Perry, PhD, ABPP, a board-certified psychologist, tells Bustle. “While humor should be part of any healthy relationship, it should not be used to make light of your concerns.”


They Always Interrupt When You’re Talking

Does your partner consistently talk over you, interrupt your stories, speak for you, or finish your sentences? “When we cut off a person midstream, we are sending a message that says, ‘What I have to say is more important than your thoughts. I don’t respect what you have to offer,'” Manly says.

It’s not only rude, but it often points to deeper held beliefs, including thinking they’re “superior” — which is obviously a problem. “As a general rule, respect means that our partner treats us in all situations as an equal,” Klapow says. “That means being courteous, communicating clearly, and asking questions about our wishes and preferences, and treating us as they would themselves.”


They Don’t Value Your Time

If you’re always the one changing your plans to accommodate your partner’s, if your dreams are constantly put on hold in favor of theirs, or if your partner never seems interested in what or who is important to you, Perry says it’s all a sign of disrespect. “This type of disregard is inappropriate,” she says, “and signals your partner does not equally appreciate your values.”


They Have Personal Habits That Are Inconsiderate

In a long-term relationship, it’s totally normal to occasionally feel irritated by some of your partner’s qualities or quirks — like the fact they chew with their mouth open. What’s not normal is if their habits are purposefully inconsiderate, or if your partner refuses to communicate or compromise with you.

“Personal habits can become big issues between partners, particularly when one partner feels disrespected by the other’s actions,” Manly says. “Basic cleanliness and lifestyle habits, such as washing dishes, cleaning countertops, etc., can become highly problematic when one partner feels disrespected by the other person’s lack of attentiveness.”

So let’s say you approach your partner about wanting to have a more fair and balanced relationship, maybe by divvying up these chores. If they repeatedly don’t make an attempt to change, or actively do things to go against what you talked about, it’s a sure sign of disrespect.


They Don’t Allow You Privacy Or Independence

In a respectful, equal, and balanced relationship, both partners remain individuals who are free to make their own decisions, pursue their dreams, and go about their day. But if your partner doesn’t respect you, it’ll start to feel like none of that is an option.

“A partner can demonstrate disrespect if they do not allow you to have time to yourself and require you to explain any activities done without them,” Perry says. “It can also show up in their snooping through your personal belongings, such as your mail or journal.”

If you ever feel like your partner doesn’t respect your privacy or independence — or if any of these other signs feel familiar — take an objective look at your relationship. Your partner may be able to make a change. But this might also be the push you need to move on.

Sources & Experts:

Dr. Fran Walfish, psychotherapist and author

Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist

Josh Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist

QuaVaundra Perry, PhD, ABPP, board-certified psychologist

This article was originally published on

Gottman Series – Building Love Maps

Drs John and Julie Gottman have studied couples for over 30 years using the scientific method. They have created two categories of couples: the Masters & the Disasters. In this series, learn 3 behaviors that the Masters practice to keep their relationships healthy and strong. This week, I discuss the Master’s first behavior: Building Love Maps.

Sound Relationship House: Build Love Maps

The Sound Relationship House: Build Love Maps

The Sound Relationship House: Build Love Maps

Love Maps help you develop greater personal insight and a more detailed understanding of each other’s life and world.

One of the most significant theories created by The Gottman Institute is the Sound Relationship House. In Dr. John Gottman’s book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” those seven principles are connected to each level or floor of the Sound Relationship House. Those levels are:

  1. Build Love Maps
  2. Share Fondness and Admiration
  3. Turn Towards Instead of Away
  4. The Positive Perspective
  5. Manage Conflict
  6. Make Life Dreams Come True
  7. Create Shared Meaning

And the two walls holding up the house are trust and commitment, which are essential to all relationships. The first level of the Sound Relationship House is Build Love Maps. The principle of building Love Maps is simply this: knowing the little things about your partner’s life creates a strong foundation for your friendship and intimacy.

Why Love Maps are so important

The research found that emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s worlds. This is having a richly detailed Love Map: the term for that part of your brain where you store all the personally important information about your partner’s life.

These couples made plenty of cognitive room in their minds for their relationship. They remember the major events in each other’s histories, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world change. They know each other’s goals in life, worries, and dreams. Without such a love map, you can’t know your partner.

From knowledge springs not only love, but the fortitude to weather marital storms. Couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s worlds are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict. Partners who are already are intently aware of what each other are feeling and thinking aren’t as thrown off course by changes and stress in each other’s lives. But if you don’t start off with a deep knowledge of each other, it’s easy for your relationship to lose its way when your lives shift with the challenges and stressors that come to you over time.

How to build Love Maps

Start creating and strengthening your Love Maps today. Try to answer the following questions about each other and find out how much you know about your partner’s world.

Love Map Exercise:

  • Name your partner’s two closest friends.
  • What was your partner wearing when you first met?
  • Name one of your partner’s hobbies.
  • What stresses your partner right now?
  • Describe in detail what your partner did today or yesterday.
  • What is your partner’s fondest unrealized dream?
  • What is one of your partner’s greatest fears or disaster scenarios?
  • What is my favorite way to spend an evening?
  • What is one of your partner’s favorite ways to be soothed?
  • Name a person your partner dislikes.
  • What is your partner’s ideal job?
  • What medical problems does your partner worry about?

Asking these questions will help you develop greater personal insight and a more detailed “map” of each other’s lives and worlds. However, getting to know your partner better is an ongoing process. Updating your love maps regularly together by sitting down and catching up. Remember, the more you know about each other, the more you feel a strong connection, and the more profound and rewarding your relationship will be.

The Marriage Minute is an email newsletter from The Gottman Institute that will improve your marriage in 60 seconds or less. Got a minute? Sign up below.

‘I Only Want to Date Men Who’ve Been Through Therapy!’

Source: ‘I Only Want to Date Men Who’ve Been Through Therapy!’

Dear Polly,

I recently went through a mental health crisis triggered by burnout, then a breakup, both right before lockdown. I feel good now, and I know a big part of what got me here is having consistently done the work to honor my inconvenient feelings over the past half-decade. I have worked with a therapist to unpack how my childhood fuels my perfectionism, I work every day to cultivate self-compassion for my deeply flawed self and others. I’m 30, and though I love solitude and I’m too pessimistic about climate change to procreate, I also believe that being in deep, sustained relation with another person is one of the big wonders and joys of being alive. I know at some point I’ll start dating again. That’s where I falter.

My relationship was the serious, cohabiting type. People were probably expecting some kind of schmaltzy Instagram engagement announcement from us any day. Neither of us cared about these heteronormative milestones, but we had different expectations of what it takes to make a long-term relationship work. I may not have been set on marriage, but I did want a partner that actively showed up to connect with me on an emotional level, with each of us mining the depths of our own bullshit to learn how to better relate to one another and build a productive and joyful life together. My ex, on the other hand, was confused about why I always wanted to make things more complicated than they needed to be. He wanted to coast through life, never feeling the depths of despair but never quite reaching the height of joy either.

I live in the U.K., and I’m struck by the fact that a significant number of women I know are in some form of this exact relationship dynamic: emotionally avoidant men who are disinclined (both culturally and personally) to see any reason to fix that, partnered with emotionally evolved (if anxious) high-functioning women who are secretly harboring hope that their partner one day decides to Do the Work to make the relationship better. I hoped my ex would Do the Work for so long. We started going to couples therapy in the last few months of our relationship, but by then it was too late. As someone who thinks doing your own shadow work is the most fascinating and urgent part of being alive, it was hard to find myself dating someone who more or less saw the whole thing as a frivolous lark. My feelings sent him into fight or flight mode every single time we had conflict.

As the dust settles, I’m wondering: Is it okay for me to categorically state that I will never again bind my life to someone who hasn’t been through therapy? I know therapy may not be for everyone on earth, but I’ve yet to see an alternative that is rigorous and practical. If I do move forward with that belief, I have to acknowledge that my dating pool will be almost comically small.

Friends say I just need to get over this one; we all fall in love again. And sure, maybe one day I’ll fall so madly in love with someone that I’m able to overlook the warning signs of their emotional avoidance. But I’m not sure I actually want that to happen. Nothing feels more important to me than being able to honor the full spectrum of my big, inconvenient, and complex feelings for the rest of my life, without any shame or suppression — even if that means I have to do that while steering my own ship.

Am I the Avoidant One?


In my experience, most men are avoidant, most people in Western societies share the belief that vulnerability is weakness, and many high-functioning professionals have a stunning ability to gloss over emotions and back away from human complexities —  in themselves, in others, in the world. Our disjointed, individualistic, workaholic culture feeds us the myth that personal achievement and personal wealth are the foundations of human happiness, and anything that slows or blocks a person’s path to riches and glory is an inherent waste of time or, at the very least, a questionable use of one’s resources.

Many people today seem to believe that feelings are inconvenient and thorny and need to be swept out of the way as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Moreover, some people treat therapy more like a SoulCycle class: less a way of exploring their darkness, and more a way of becoming a more smooth and efficient animal.

And as you know, efficiency is somewhat at odds with the patience and openness required by deep self-discovery. When you’re Doing the Work, exploring past traumas, understanding your own shadow, cultivating an inner life, and excavating your shame, you’re seeking out new mysteries and new layers all the time. Being surprised or embarrassed or alarmed by what you find inside yourself is part of what makes it all so rewarding. It’s part of dare I say the FUN of therapy and of independent self-discovery. So in my opinion, that’s the big question you want to ask when you encounter a prospective mate. More than “Is this man avoidant?” or “Is this man in therapy?” you want to ask, “Is this man curious and open to learning new things — about me, about himself, about his past, about my past, about the world?”

When someone really wants to understand how your mind and heart work, it shows. People like that ask open-ended questions and listen to the answers. They’re attracted to the workings of your mind, thrilled by the big ideas you throw into the mix, excited by the process of excavation itself. In contrast, less curious people will attach tight little morals to the things you say — “You got through it, that’s the important part.” “Sounds like a good learning experience.” “Boy, that’s a lot. Glad it all worked out fine in the end.” People who talk like that are anxious to wrap everything up and then close the book, put it back on the shelf, and never think about it again.

I’m guessing that’s not remotely your style, based on your letter. It’s not my style, either. And when I’m dealing with someone who keeps pushing me to reach some predetermined conclusion, like it’s not just uncomfortable but it’s aggravating for them to have to stay in some exploratory nowhere land with me, I usually don’t end up investing as much in that relationship. I prefer conversations that spin out and remain open ended. I like people who get excited when they encounter new wrinkles and layers and ideas along the way. I love curious people who enjoy rambling, collaborative conversations about emotions and ideas and everything else under the sun.

But let me also say this: I really like avoidant men (and avoidant people in general). Everyone in my family of origin is avoidant. They feel like my tribe. So my favorite people tend to be a weird blend of these two worlds: intellectually and emotionally curious people who are pretty open but still just a tiny bit shut down and insecure in various ways. I like people who are conflicted but curious, who lead with their intellect but who are also trying to evolve emotionally in spite of not knowing what the fuck they’re doing on that front most of the time.

It can be a little limiting to think of men as either totally avoidant/unavailable or completely available, open, sensitive, feelings-embracing. The truth is much more nuanced than that. I would caution you to use those labels to describe just one dimension of what you’re looking for, with a lot of men falling somewhere in between the two extremes.

And also? Pay close attention to what you find attractive! These days most of us are so cautious about labeling other people as good or bad, my type or not my type, healthy or toxic that we forget to trust and also explore our own attractions and desires without judgment. “Oh no, I’m chasing another remote man!” we tell ourselves, only to discover that the man in question isn’t all that remote, and in fact, we’re naturally drawn to men who are just absent-minded or preoccupied because there’s a lot going on in their heads. Likewise, it’s easy to write someone off as too confessional or sensitive for you at first simply because your initial conversation just happened to start off that way, but if you got to know the person more slowly, they’d seem more balanced over time.

Now, it’s true that the world is packed with emotionally incurious people. And why wouldn’t it be? It takes a certain amount of confidence and security to want to know more about trauma, darkness, and layers of emotional complexity, in yourself or others. It takes a crisis or a major loss for most people to face themselves or to want to understand their own desires and needs. Something big needs to go wrong: a career setback, a divorce, the death of a loved one, a scary health diagnosis, a big falling out with friends. Otherwise, why go looking for trouble, particularly if other people have hinted that you’re a little shutdown? Most people are pretty insecure and pretty afraid of finding out the truth about who they are. They don’t even want to know what their true desires are, because what if those desires don’t align with how they’re already living or where they’re pointed? The risks of slowing down, stalling out, and questioning everything are too great.

Even though most people value human connection enormously, they often don’t realize that what’s blocking their path to happiness is their inability to feel their own emotions and connect meaningfully with the people around them. Many people struggle with intimacy. There’s a panicked voice inside that kicks in any time they’re about to get closer to someone, that urges them to move away from any strong connection. Even if they start out showing up, their buried insecurities and traumas make them increasingly remote and cold with the people who are, ironically, the closest to them emotionally. Some part of their brains is always trying to keep them safe from all emotional investment.

Some of these people are avoidant and some are anxious, but mostly, they’re afraid. They don’t want to be vulnerable, they’re afraid to connect, they don’t want to be seen by others. Their underlying belief is that once they have enough friends, find a mate, and start to succeed at their careers, happiness will magically be theirs. They have to hit the wall sometimes to realize that they don’t feel happy because they’ve put their feelings aside for so long that they can’t access them anymore.

So part of what you’re looking for is actually bravery: someone who’s curious, engaged, interested in ideas, and unafraid of the unknown. Are men like this common? Definitely not, but they do exist. Should you lower your standards or cast a wider net simply because men like this are rare? I don’t think so. I think you should dare to believe that the kind of man you’re looking for will materialize before your eyes if you open your heart wide enough. Is that deluded? Is it magical thinking? I don’t personally care that much if it is. I’ve seen it work too many times not to believe in it wholeheartedly.

If you want to fall in love again, it doesn’t help to tell yourself a story about how rare it is to find someone worthwhile. Instead, you have to keep believing in your own process of self-discovery and keep enjoying the folds of your mind. When you embrace all of the possibilities offered by the world and enjoy the endless potential for passion and joy within you, you stand out to other people who are trying to do the same thing. Just taking that leap and believing in joy is sometimes the most important step. This world is big and full of beauty. Keep reminding yourself of that, every day, and watch yourself become a sparkling model of the love and the joy you seek.



10 Ways Narcissists and Alcoholics Are Similar | Psychology Today

Source: 10 Ways Narcissists and Alcoholics Are Similar | Psychology Today

How to cope with the challenges of relating with narcissists or addicted people

Just Dance/Shutterstock
Source: Just Dance/Shutterstock

While narcissism is a personality disorder and alcoholism is an addiction, narcissists and alcoholics share several characteristics. Recognizing these commonalities can help you understand and cope with people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, untreated alcoholism, or both.

Both narcissists and alcoholics tend to be:

  1. Driven by their drug of choice. Narcissists’ drug of choice is attention. Alcoholics’ fix is a drink. Both narcissists and alcoholics tend to view others as either enablers (who will help them get attention or maintain their addiction) or as potential threats (who interfere with their campaign of self-aggrandizement or their freedom to drink).
  2. Opportunistic. Lacking empathy and feeling superior, narcissists feel they have the right to do whatever they want, despite the rules or costs to others. By the same token, alcoholics become highly resourceful at procuring drink. In a sense, addictions such as alcohol are narcissistic acts — putting a drug above all else, no matter what the cost to others.
  3. Shame-based. Avoiding shame drives much of narcissists’ behavior. Narcissists often shame others to cover their own inadequacies. For alcoholics, drinking numbs or masks the shame they carry.
  4. Self-absorbed. Both narcissists and alcoholics feel entitled. For narcissists, relationships are all about them. For alcoholics, the freedom to drink is primary. While both narcissists and alcoholics may seem to function normally when not triggered by a loss of narcissistic supply or when not under the influence of alcohol, over time their self-absorption will inevitably emerge.
  5. Untruthful. Narcissism is characterized by pretense. Narcissists feel they can do no wrong and lie freely to promote their image. Similarly, denial keeps addiction in place. Denial manifests for alcoholics in many ways, such as saying they can stop drinking anytime they want, lying about when they drink, or refusing to acknowledge that their drinking has costs. That’s why participants in 12-step programs introduce themselves followed by the phrase, “I’m an alcoholic.” It helps break denial.
  6. Avoidant of introspection. Narcissists shun self-reflection. Doing so would risk encountering the emptiness they carry. Similarly, addiction can cover insecurities and lack of self-esteem. As long as an addict uses, those feelings go largely unaddressed. The longer feelings are unaddressed, the more daunting it can become to look inward and face them.
  7. Blaming. Narcissists are quick to blame others for making them act as they do. Narcissists rarely apologize or admit wrongdoing. That would feel weak, which is anathema to narcissists, who must feel superior and beyond reproach. Similarly, alcoholics have plenty of excuses for why they drink. Although many alcoholics may apologize for their behavior and promise to turn over a new leaf, without a commitment to recovery and plan for doing so, their repeated apologies and broken promises eventually carry little weight with those close to them.
  8. Emotionally inauthentic. Narcissists have “as-if” emotions — demonstrations of feeling that are designed to present a positive image or manipulate others. Similarly, alcoholics can shed crocodile tears over the costs of their addiction, but such displays often are meaningless. In addition, the defense mechanisms of narcissists and the power of addiction for alcoholics make it difficult for either to sustain long-term authentic relationships.
  9. Prone to withdraw, stonewall, or attack when confronted. Narcissists and alcoholics can become highly defensive if you question their actions or point out their unhealthy behaviors. Both may sulk, become non-communicative, or lash out at you for pointing out the faults and dysfunction they desperately seek to deny or hide.
  10. Destructive both to self and others. Those close to both narcissists and alcoholics experience deprivation, rejection, and feeling manipulated. In addition, over time, both narcissists and alcoholics sacrifice their well-being, reputation, relationships, and self-worth in pursuit of feeling superior or the highs from drinking.

Some individuals have both Narcissistic Personality Disorder and an active addiction. Coping with someone with a dual diagnosis can be more difficult than if that person suffered from only narcissism or untreated alcoholism.

The following approaches can help you cope with someone who is a narcissist, an alcoholic, or both:

  • Recognize that people with personality disorders and addictions hold self-serving and distorted views of themselves and others that they are resistant to give up.
  • Recognize that you can’t stop another’s narcissistic or alcoholic behaviors.
  • Recognize that you don’t cause someone else’s narcissism or addiction.
  • Don’t make excuses for the dysfunctional behavior or narcissists or alcoholics.
  • Don’t try to protect narcissists or alcoholics from the consequences of their dysfunctional actions.
  • Be clear on what you will and will not tolerate from a narcissist or addict.

Copyright © 2020 by Dan Neuharth PhD MFT

An earlier version of this post appeared on PsychCentral

The Impact Of An Avoidant Personality On Relationships

Source: The Impact Of An Avoidant Personality On Relationships

A few years ago, 32-year-old Kari* formed “a deep emotional bond that began to border on romantic” with a woman she met over Twitter. She was in a relationship at the time so she didn’t take it further. But after leaving her boyfriend earlier this year, Kari decided to reconnect with her.
“Things quickly became intimate between us,” she recalls. When the woman sent her a thoughtful gift in August, Kari decided “it was time to really try and make something out of this and show her I care.”
Kari promised to travel across the country to visit the woman for her birthday (COVID permitting). She’d take her to a spa and a fancy hotel, they’d explore a quaint town together. “I told her I’d handle everything – the planning, the finances. I was getting a bonus at work so it wouldn’t be a financial burden.” The pair stayed in touch in the weeks leading up to the birthday and Kari confirmed the trip was still happening.
The kicker? “Her birthday came and went and I planned nothing, did nothing, said nothing.”
Kari is giving us an insight into the mind of an avoidant woman, an attachment style more typically associated with people who identify as men, whether it’s the elusive dreamboat on Hinge who ghosts you several dates in or the commitment-phobic boyfriend who pulls away, claiming to feel “suffocated”, every time you initiate closeness.
“Children who have some of their needs met but many neglected tend to develop an avoidant style.
”In the 1950s, British psychologist and psychiatrist John Bowlby developed attachment theory, a framework for understanding how our earliest relationships with our parents or primary caregivers can affect our lifelong social and emotional development. It has since been applied to adult relationships, notably by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr Amir Levine and the psychologist Rachel Heller in Attached, a guide to using attachment theory to find love. By identifying your own attachment style and that of your partner or potential partner, Levine and Heller argue, you can build stronger, more fulfilling relationships.
There are three main attachment styles: secure, anxious and avoidant (take the test yourself to find out your own). Secures are comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving, while the anxiously attached are preoccupied with their relationships and struggle to feel secure with their partner. Avoidants like Kari are independent, emotionally distant and tend to equate intimacy with a loss of independence.
“Children who have some of their needs met but many neglected tend to develop an avoidant style,” explains clinical psychologist Bhavna Jani-Negandhi. As a result of their experiences, these children learn to rely on themselves to meet their own needs and come to believe that they don’t need others for intimacy and emotional support.
As adults, avoidants may select emotionally unavailable partners or be emotionally unavailable themselves, says chartered clinical psychologist and Counselling Directory member Dr Jane Major. They may “struggle to voice their needs and emotions or share their vulnerability due to a, perhaps unconscious, fear of being exploited, abandoned or left alone with unbearable feelings, based on past experiences.”
While Kari says she “had every intention and every desire to follow through”, she couldn’t. The woman ended things soon after. “She said she couldn’t do this anymore – I’d hurt her too deeply and had shown no accountability.” Kari apologised and reluctantly accepted her need to move on.
Then, a few weeks ago, the woman reached out about her dog passing away, giving Kari a final chance to make things up to her. “I didn’t respond.” Kari explains herself: “It wouldn’t have been fair for me to emotionally engage her, it would’ve been selfish, bordering on taking advantage of her painful experience, because I knew I’d just continue to lean in to my avoidant attachment style.”
Kari first discovered she was avoidant when she started therapy 12 years ago. The therapist thought learning about attachment styles would help her understand some of her “bad interpersonal behaviour” (Kari’s words) which tainted her earliest friendships and evidently continues to blight her romantic life. “Everything in my life suddenly made sense – why I couldn’t form the same close bonds as others, why I never reached out or felt lonely, why I was obsessed with video games.”
“I realise there are some complex and difficult things I need to tackle before engaging others in the future. It was a painful lesson that I wish I never had to learn – or at least, not with another person that I cared about involved.
KARI, 32
”The day after Kari ended things with the woman, she brought up her avoidant attachment style in therapy again. “Now, I realise there are some complex and difficult things I need to tackle before engaging others in the future. It was a painful lesson that I wish I never had to learn – or at least, not with another person that I cared about involved.”
Kari says it was “the worst thing I’ve ever done to someone” and left her feeling the lowest she’s ever felt. Yet each time a relationship, like that one, ends, she admits to feeling “relieved and happy to be alone again. I get exhausted and am glad that they have some perceived fault I could hyper-focus on so I don’t have to carry on the relationship.”
Kari pinpoints the origin of her own avoidant behaviour to her relationship with her mother: a “career-driven [and] emotionally aloof” woman who gave birth to her too young and, as the sole provider for the household with a prestigious marketing career, was unable to care for her during the early years.
As a kid, Kari was constantly labelled a “flake”, “aloof” and “unreliable”. She never showed up for plans with friends, even if she really wanted to go. “My friends joked that they always had to physically come and get me. My mum even paid me to leave the house.”
Kari’s avoidant attachment style also affects her familial relationships – she missed her grandfather passing away because she “felt uncomfortable about the emotion involved with [her] family” and several adult friendships have dissolved, too.
“I’ve burned many friendship bridges down when the issue of accountability for my unreliability comes up and my inability to reciprocate feelings in a traditional way.” She’s had to learn to manage expectations with new people who come into her life – they need to know that she’ll rarely attend birthday parties, go to the cinema or show affection towards them (despite perhaps wanting to). Warning people of what they can expect from her as a friend – that is, very little – “is key to living a happy life for me, so I try to invest in explaining myself to people I want to keep around.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re my soulmate or the coolest person in the world. My brain simply doesn’t know how to attach and all I can do is work to reduce the harm it can do.”
Although Kari’s story is testament to the fact that women can have an avoidant attachment style, avoidant behaviours are typically associated with men. Psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member Anne Glynn says that while avoidant attachment appears to be more common in men, she’s worked with “a significant number” of avoidant women. “In most cases they will have experienced childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, parental violence or the death of a parent.”
Glynn has also worked with several men in relationships with avoidant women, “who have suffered because of their attempts to maintain intimacy and trust with them.” The reason that avoidance is more typically associated with men, Glynn believes, is because some of the attitudes we associate with this style can seem ‘masculine’, such as toughness, lack of emotion and independence.
“We all recognise the stereotype of the hard-to-pin-down ‘commitment-phobe’ and this term is usually reserved for men. We imagine that women will want to seek relationships, love, commitment, intimacy and motherhood and it is perhaps unsettling for us to think of women who don’t conform to our expectations,” Glynn concludes.
But as with any behaviour that you’re committed to stamping out, it’s possible to change your attachment behaviours. Therapy is highly recommended, says Barbara Honey, senior practice consultant at Relate, to understand how you first developed this trait. “Taking small risks, like daring to express an emotion or gradually allowing yourself to get closer to someone” can also help avoidants change their patterns.
And if you’re in a relationship with an avoidant, “you may frequently find yourself anxious and afraid that your expectations of security and clarity are unreasonable.” Glynn reassures: “They aren’t. Levine and Heller [the authors of Attached] say, ‘You are only as needy as your unmet needs’.”
As for Kari, she encourages her fellow avoidants to try therapy and be completely honest in their sessions. “Maybe one day you’ll be able to form neurotypical emotional bonds, maybe you can overcome the vast distance between you and others. I haven’t reached that part of my journey. I don’t think I will. For now, communication is the key to my happiness and the key to not hurting others around me.”
*Surname withheld to protect interviewee’s identity

People With Iron-Clad Platonic and Romantic Relationships Share This One Trait | Well+Good

I really like the message here.


Source: People With Iron-Clad Platonic and Romantic Relationships Share This One Trait | Well+Good

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images/nd3000

Even amid a pandemic, finding creative ways to connect with others is so important. But since this cortisol-spiking year has also been ripe for spiking interpersonal friction about everything from mask-wearing compliance and politics to human rights issues and beyond, keeping bonds with loved ones healthy and happy is no small task. According to a recent meta-analysis of 174 papers and 203 unique samples published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, though, the key to having smoother platonic, romantic, and familial relationships is psychological flexibility.

Psychological flexibility (also known as “emotional flexibility” and “mindful flexibility”) refers to being mindful and present when faced with an interpersonal conflict or stressful situation. It encompasses having a tool kit of life skills to help you manage any points of tension that may arise. And, according to licensed marriage and family counselor, Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT, psychological flexibility allows you to see things from a bigger and broader perspective, even when relationships become challenging.

“Being psychologically flexible allows you to see the other person’s side and work on a compromise.” —Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT

“Being psychologically flexible allows you to see the other person’s side and work on a compromise,” says Thompson. “This can bring safety and trust into a relationship and allow [someone] to feel heard and seen. It also allows you to be able to have difficult conversations to work toward a deeper feeling of intimacy. Being psychologically flexible in relationships is necessary for keeping the relationship feeling balanced, fair, and intimate.”

This grace under pressure can be especially meaningful for couples. The research also found that psychological inflexibility—which is marked by inattentiveness, avoidance of difficult thoughts and feelings, and getting derailed by various setbacks and experiences—can have potentially damaging results, like lowered satisfaction and emotional support, and increased conflict and aggression.

Basically, when you focus on increasing your emotional flexibility, you increase the freedom and space to find your own truth while simultaneously hearing out the other people in your life. You’re also better able to gracefully pivot when things, uh, don’t necessarily go your way in a given situation. So, how can you increase your ability to practice psychological flexibility?

Essentially, psychological flexibility encompasses a variety of mindset switches, including the following five:

  • Being open to new experiences, no matter how hard they might be
  • Having a mindful awareness on the present matter at hand in day-to-day life
  • Allowing yourself to process feelings without clinging to them
  • Making contact with core values, even on particularly stressful days
  • Persevering toward goals, even in the face of setbacks

If any of those factors are things you typically have challenges with following, the best strategy for increasing your psychological flexibility is to increase your own self-awareness. “The more effective and best way to be more psychologically flexible is to do your own inner work,” says Thompson. “This could look like psychotherapy, meditation, or any other inner reflection. Or, it could simply involve taking time just for yourself and getting clear about how you feel about certain things.”

Making Amends – Experience Life

An excellent primer on the subject.


Source: Making Amends – Experience Life

Psychologist Tamar Chansky, PhD, on how to gracefully say you’re sorry.

Woman and man hugging after reconciliation

Expert Source: Tamar Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety: Four Simple Steps to Overcome Worry and Create the Life You Want (DaCapo Lifelong, 2012)

You owe someone you care about an apology. Perhaps you had an argument with your spouse in which you blew up and said things you regret. Maybe you neglected an important obligation, and inconvenienced and really angered the person who had to fill in for you. Or you did something selfish and thoughtless that wounded a friend.

Time has passed — weeks, months, perhaps even years — and you haven’t approached the injured party to apologize and make amends. Your initial resistance to saying you’re sorry might have been the result of an anger hangover or some other uncomfortable emotion. But now time has passed, and your procrastination hangs over you. The incident was difficult enough — now you have to come to terms with your delay and the other bad feelings it may have caused.

Owing an apology and not making it is a little like having a toothache: You think you can ignore the pain, but it has a way of gnawing at you, refusing to leave you in peace. How to get out of the trap? Psychologist Tamar Chansky suggests a few simple strategies for making amends.

Barriers To Overcome

  • Fear of the wronged person’s anger. We often procrastinate in the first place because we worry that the person we’ve wronged is upset with us and we’ll have to bear the brunt of that fury — made worse, of course, by the intervening time. Apologizing, we fear, will only stir up bad feelings. So we let sleeping dogs lie and accept the lesser misery of avoiding the situation.
  • Shame-based resistance. Many people resist apologizing, Chansky says, because admitting that they did something wrong activates their shame. They identify doing something wrong, and saying so, with being a bad person across the board. “And nobody wants to sign up for that,” she points out.
  • Apology as a sign of weakness. “Many of us have been raised to resist apologizing,” Chansky says, “because we’ve been taught that it’s a sign of weakness.” We may fear that the person we are approaching will see us as vulnerable and take advantage of us.
  • Residual resentment. “When we think that the other person was in the wrong, too, and actually owes us an apology as well, we may be reluctant to go first, or to apologize at all,” says Chansky.
  •  The idea that your apology is too late. “Many of us were taught by our parents to apologize too quickly,” says Chansky. “We may have been forced to apologize before we were ready, before we really felt sorry. As grownups, then, we may think that the time that’s elapsed has diminished the value of our apology, that it’s become like stale bread.” We’ve missed our chance, we think, to really have an impact.
  •  Fear that it’s not a big deal. It sounds counterintuitive, but Chansky points out that one barrier to apologizing might be fear that the other person has forgotten the wrong or the slight, or that the issue wasn’t a big one for him or her in the first place; if we bring it up, we’ll learn that we aren’t as important to that person as we thought we were. The result might be that we feel embarrassed and worry that we look foolish, “hung-up,” or obsessive.

Strategies For Success

  • Realize that a genuine apology usually takes time. Chansky points out that “instant apologies” like those our parents may have insisted we make can be premature and unconvincing if we don’t really feel sorrow or remorse. Part, or perhaps all, of our delay in saying we’re sorry may be the natural development of those feelings over time. It’s not an excuse for further delay, now that we realize we were in the wrong, but it’s a good reminder not to be impossibly hard on ourselves.
  • Think of time as your ally. If a lot of time has passed between the incident and the apology, Chansky says, the person to whom you owe the apology may actually value your action more, not less. “Given the time that’s passed, you could so easily have not apologized, but you did. The fact that you are making the effort now only increases the significance of the act. A sincere apology never ‘goes bad.’” Do not, however, use this as a justification for more misery-inducing procrastination.
  • Put your fault in perspective. “Being able to see the thing we’ve done as simply one action that wasn’t right, not a stain on our whole character or our whole life, can keep us out of the bog of shame,” says Chansky. “We’re apologizing for something we did, not for our whole existence.”
  • See openness as a sign of strength. Apology, which is the act of putting the real you forward — flaws and all — rather than hiding out in fear, is a sign of strength of character, not weakness. And, says Chansky, it will likely be seen as such by the person to whom you are apologizing.
  •  Do it for yourself. “You’re apologizing not to get a particular outcome,” says Chansky, “but to do the right thing from your side and clear your conscience.” This will help you keep your equilibrium if the other person is angry, or if you find that what you did had less effect on the other person than you thought. If the person minimizes it, you can simply say, “I’m really glad you feel that way, but what I did has been weighing on me.” This attitude will also help remind you that even if the other person bears some blame for the problem between you, your responsibility is to take care of your side.
  • Use the steppingstone method. To handle the anxiety of speaking with the person involved, Chansky suggests not going directly “from silence to ‘I’m so sorry,’” but approaching the apology via a preamble. “You can begin by saying something like ‘There’s something I need to tell you, and it’s hard for me to talk about it, but I really want to.’ This helps you warm up, and it tunes the other person into your sincerity.”
  • Write and rehearse. Another method to reduce apology anxiety, according to Chansky, is to prepare by writing down what you want to say to the other person and rehearsing it. You won’t read what you’ve written or recite your apology in the actual encounter, of course — that needs to be spontaneous and heartfelt. But a little prep can calm you down a lot.
  • Keep a sense of purpose. “Nothing burns through anxiety better than a sense of real purpose,” says Chansky. “Rather than thinking about how scared you are to make the apology, or what the other person will say, ground yourself in the simple fact that you intend to do the right thing, no matter what.”

Relationship Anxiety, Insecurity, and Attachment | Psychology Today

Well-described dynamic.


Source: Relationship Anxiety, Insecurity, and Attachment | Psychology Today


Butterflies at the start of a new relationship are normal. Hoping the attraction is mutual can be both exciting and distressing.

Yet after the initial courtship phase, if a person continues to feel anxious with a partner, it may be a sign of something different. Unfortunately, many people blame themselves for their anxiety, attributing it to personal insecurities or an insecure attachment style. But this isn’t always the case.

Insecurities are human, and a person’s awareness of his or her insecurities is usually healthy. An individual who realizes and accepts his or her flaws is typically self-aware and insightful. For example, Mia is ashamed of her financial issues. She informs her new partner that she feels inept regarding money management and, recently, scheduled a meeting with a financial advisor. Her new partner understands and supports her decision to try and improve.

On the other hand, a partner who uses insecurities to excuse wrongdoing in a relationship may be problematic. For example, Rachel says to Taylor, “I have trust issues. My last partner cheated on me, so I had a friend follow you to the club to watch you. It’s only because I care.” Utilizing a past hardship to excuse current mistreatment of a partner is a red flag. Playing the victim to evade accountability in a relationship is completely different than owning a deficiency and taking responsibility.

A person may also wonder if his or her attachment style is at the root of anxiety regarding a new relationship. A person who has difficulties trusting a trustworthy partner and who often reacts ultra-defensively, may have an insecure attachment style. Discerning attachment tendencies may be confusing but if a person reflects on several of his or her interpersonal relationships and regularly experiences complicated and uncomfortable emotions such as remorse, conscientiousness, empathy, insight, vulnerability, and self-awareness, he or she may be emotionally astute. Readily admitting fault, experiencing authentic remorse, and taking serious strides to repair a rift in a relationship may further indicate a person operates from a sturdy emotional base. This emotional fortitude usually stems from a secure attachment style.

Thus, if a person is aware of insecurities, and has a secure attachment style, the anxiety may be a result of his or her involvement with an emotionally unavailable partner. An emotionally unavailable partner frequently lacks conscientiousness. Insensitive acts often occur during the dating process and although these instances may seem like small occurrences, they often impact a person emotionally.

In addition, if a partner excuses his or her insensitive gestures, turns the scenario around on the person, and blames him or her for being “too sensitive” or “insecure,” the person may experience intense anxiety. Feeling shame for an intense reaction to a partner’s selfish offense tempts a person to immediately excuse the partner and take on the blame.

For example, Lisa texts her partner, Mike, on Saturday morning, yet Mike does not respond. After a few hours, Lisa begins to feel intense anxiety. She berates herself for feeling anxious. Perhaps Mike had a family emergency or had to go to work, Lisa thinks. She reaches out to a few friends hoping to round up a crew for lunch. Nobody responds. Lisa’s anxiety skyrockets. She worries that Mike stopped caring for her and experiences shame for feeling insecure.

After several hours, Lisa decides to take her mind off the situation by going for a run. As she runs through the downtown area, she sees Mike’s car in front of a brewery. Her stomach drops and she feels intense distress.

When Lisa arrives home, she receives a text from Mike. He indicates he went to brunch and stayed to watch the game. He also tells a funny story about Lisa’s friends teasing the server at the restaurant. Lisa feels nauseous. Her heart races and her hands get clammy. She asks Mike, “Why didn’t you invite me?” Mike casually says, “because you don’t like football. Don’t be upset. Don’t be like that. You are way too sensitive. I have to go. I have dinner plans with Robby.”

Stunned, Lisa tries to maintain perspective. Lisa attempts to see the situation from Mike’s viewpoint. “He isn’t required to invite me to everything,” she tells herself. “Maybe he is trying to get to know my friends because he really likes me,” she thinks. Trying to play it cool, she refrains from mentioning the incident to Mike again. Yet she continues to experience anxiety about Mike and then admonishes herself for feeling insecure and anxious.

The anxiety Lisa experiences in her relationship with Mike is not caused by Lisa’s personal insecurities or an attachment style. It is a result of Mike’s inability to be conscientious in the relationship. Mike only thinks about himself on the day of the game. He lacks empathy for Lisa and fails to consider how much it hurts to be excluded. In addition, Mike refuses to recognize his actions as selfish. He denies accountability, avoids feeling remorse, and turns the scenario back onto Lisa, unfairly accusing her of being “too sensitive.”

Because Mike lacks conscientiousness, self-awareness, empathy, and accountability, the probability that he will hurt Lisa again is strong. Thus, Lisa, fearful of being wounded again, feels anxious. She also doubts herself because she is “too sensitive,” as Mike says. Lastly, Lisa senses Mike’s disapproval and worries about losing his affection.

In Lisa’s situation, it is essential for her to evaluate her capacity for self-awareness, accountability, and empathy in relationships. If she maintains these abilities in other relationships, she is probably not the problem. Her anxiety may be data that her current partner is emotionally unavailable. Remaining with an emotionally unavailable partner not only causes anxiety, but it also dampens a person’s sense of self. The combination may take a toll over time. Confronting the partner and assessing the partner’s motivation to address his or her issues is also critical. A highly motivated partner may be able to improve, but a person should never sacrifice his or her own peace of mind, mental health, and sense of self. If the tendencies continue, it may be necessary to end the relationship.

The Danger of Confusing Empathy or Sympathy with Compassion | Positive Minds International

Source: The Danger of Confusing Empathy or Sympathy with Compassion | Positive Minds International

We’re hearing more about the positive traits of empathy and compassion. Emotional intelligence is becoming more important than other intelligences (like IQ) at school at work and in life.  In past generations these two words might both have fallen into the category of sympathy but empathy, sympathy, and compassion are not words that can be used interchangeably and one of these three is more powerful than the other two.
Empathy refers to feeling what another person is feeling. Sympathy means you understand what the other person is feeling even without feeling it yourself. Compassion means your feelings have prompted you to take action to relieve the suffering of another person.
Scientists have shown that mirror neurons, a part of the brain whose specific job is to have us mirror what’s happening with someone else, play a big role in both empathy and compassion. When you see someone smile these neurons prompt you to smile back. When you witness someone in pain it can cause you the same type of pain too. Having empathy is your ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes. Sympathy happens when you may not on a visceral level experience the sadness or pain that someone else is feeling but on the cognitive level you understand the feelings of another. I’m not sad when my friend’s old dog passes away but I can understand that my friend feels sadness.  Both empathy and sympathy are more about the person experiencing them than they are about the person who sparked the empathy or sympathy.
Compassion on the other hand comes from a Latin word that means “to suffer with”. When you are compassionate you are able to be aware of another’s suffering you have sympathetic concern to the level that you have been emotionally moved by their suffering then you wish to relieve that suffering and you act somehow in a way that is helpful.
Mathieu Richard, a  french Buddhist monk says “compassion is unconditional love applied to the suffering of others”. His belief is that compassion has a powerful ability to heal; both to the one giving and to the receiver.
An important distinction between empathy and compassion is the effect on your personal well-being. Empathy and sympathy are both self-oriented. They say “I’m hurt too” and have you join the suffering or acknowledge that you see the suffering. Interestingly, research is showing that narcissists may have deficit in their mirror neuron receptors. Not only are they unable to mirror the emotional experience of another but they exhibit frustration when someone doesn’t mirror their emotional state. This is been referred to as a narcissistic rage. Of course very few people are diagnosably narcissistic but it seems empathy and sympathy are more about the individual wanting to be seen as a kind and understanding person than they are about  actually being kind and understanding. Empathy and sympathy alone are not enough. Empathy pulls you down where compassion lifts you.
Experiencing empathetic burnout or empathy fatigue is common among people who spend their lives caring for others such as nurses or first responders.  In the United States, a study has shown that 60% of the medical profession suffers or has suffered from burnout, and that a third has been affected to the point of having to suspend their activities temporarily.By the prolonged experience of feeling what others feel they actually burn out and become more anxious, depressed and stressed out.  Compassion on the other hand doesn’t burn you out it, lifts you up.
Research shows that compassion and empathy take place in different parts of the brain and that by turning your empathy into compassion you can fight empathetic distress. The key difference lies in what you do after feeling the feelings evoked by mirror neurons. If you act, you lift yourself and others. If you get stuck in the emotion without positive action, you pull yourself down. The Greater Good Science Center has a quiz to measure how empathetic you are. I suggest you take it to see how much you are recognizing the emotions of others. The second and more important part is turning that empathy into compassion through useful action. See the bottom of the article for tips on how to do this.

Change Your Empathy and Sympathy into Compassion

1. Notice the feelings

2. Ask yourself how you can help. This doesn’t mean changing everything. What small step could you take to make the situation better?

3. Take action while staying in touch with your emotional barometer. If you are too emotionally overwhelmed start with a loving kindness meditation. This type of meditation is proven to increase well-being while decreasing empathetic fatigue.

If you’ve moved from empathy to compassion, I’d love to hear how you did it and what the results were. By sharing your story you inspire others to make positive change.

Share this!

Benefits of Therapy for Yourself, Family, and Relationships

Source: Benefits of Therapy for Yourself, Family, and Relationships

IVAN GENER / Stocksy

Wondering if therapy is right for you? You’re not alone.

Seeking help from a mental health expert is something many people consider, especially when:

  • facing a significant crisis
  • dealing with an extended period of anxiety or depression
  • coping with a major life transition
  • dealing with complicated family dynamics
  • grappling with problems in a relationship
  • trying to manage addiction or substance abuse
  • wanting to make changes for better mental and emotional health

Regardless of your reason, therapy offers a broad array of benefits for all of us. Here are six types of therapy and the benefits of each.

Benefits of talk therapy

Talk therapy (aka psychotherapy) is a tool used by:

Talk therapy encourages open and honest dialogue about issues that cause you distress. Through your relationship with your therapist, you’ll work to identify and understand how these stressors are impacting your life, plus develop strategies to manage the symptoms.

If you’re still on the fence about the benefits of talk therapy, consider this: About 75 percent of people who participate in talk therapy experience some benefit, according to the American Psychological Association.

What can talk therapy help with?

Focused on communication, talk therapy allows you discuss concerns that range from stress management and relationship problems to depression and anxiety disorders.

Psychotherapy is a tool that therapists also use to facilitate counseling sessions. They can use this technique for individual, group, couples, or family therapy.

Benefits of individual therapy

In the case of individual therapy, the relationship between you and your therapist — which is fostered through talk therapy — is key to your success.

Individual therapy gives you a safe space to explore your thoughts, feelings, and concerns.

Unlike couples, family, or group therapy, individual therapy focuses solely on you. This allows for a deeper understanding of the issues and more time for developing coping strategies to help you handle difficult situations.

The goal of individual therapy is to inspire change and improve the quality of life through self-awareness and self-exploration.

Being in therapy can also:

  • help improve communication skills
  • help you feel empowered
  • empower you to develop fresh insights about your life
  • learn how to make healthier choices
  • develop coping strategies to manage distress
Benefits of family therapy

When families face hurdles that seem a bit too high to conquer on their own, they may seek help from a family therapist. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, a therapist can:

  • evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders
  • evaluate and treat behavioral problems
  • address relationship issues within the context of the family system

Unlike individual therapy, treatment isn’t just for one person — even if that’s the only member of the family working with the therapist. Instead, the focus is on the set of relationships that make up the family unit.

Some of the most notable benefits of family therapy include:

  • improving communication skills
  • providing help treating mental health concerns that impact the family unit (such as substance abuse, depression, or trauma)
  • offering collaboration among family members
  • developing individual coping strategies
  • identifying ways to find healthy support
Benefits of couples therapy

Think couples therapy is only for people having problems? Think again!

Marriage and family therapists are the first to say that couples therapy is an effective way to keep a relationship on track before it goes off the rails. But if the strains are real and communicating is almost impossible, going to therapy allows couples to meet with a neutral party.

One of the foundational goals of couples therapy is learning how to improve interpersonal dynamics. A 2016 research reviewTrusted Source suggest that couples therapy is an effective treatment when a couple is experiencing individual and relational distress.

Couples seek therapy for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common benefits cited by couples include:

  • improving communication skills
  • resolving conflict
  • restoring lost trust
  • increasing shared support
  • restoring intimacy
  • learning how to support each other through difficult times
  • forming a stronger bond
Benefits of cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a blend of two other therapies: behavioral and cognitive.

Therapists use this technique to treat many conditions, including:

  • anxiety disorders
  • bipolar disorder
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • substance abuse and addiction
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • phobias
  • post-traumatic stress disorder

In CBT, your therapist will guide the sessions with an emphasis on the important role of thinking in how you feel and what you do.

In terms of effectiveness, CBT has proven successful as a treatment option on its own or as a supplemental therapy to medication for several mental health conditions, including:

  • anxiety disorders
  • bipolar disorder
  • depression

A 2017 research reviewTrusted Source found that CBT has a positive impact for people living with bipolar disorder by:

  • reducing depression levels
  • reducing the severity of mania
  • decreasing the relapse rate or how often people experience mania and depression
  • increasing psychosocial functioning, which means improving abilities and experiences in day-to-day activities and relationships

A 2015 reviewTrusted Source reports that CBT is the most consistently supported psychotherapeutic option for treating anxiety disorders.

Benefits of online therapy

The way we seek help is changing as more providers move to online platforms. Just the idea of having options is one of the benefits of online therapy, or teletherapy.

Not only does this allow you to meet with a therapist from wherever you might be, it also gives you the freedom to choose the delivery method of that therapy. In other words, you can reach a therapist from your phone, an app, or online.

This may make it easier for you to find a counselor you connect and communicate well with.

The ability to get help for mental health this way means more people have access to therapy than ever before. It also helps minimize the stigma attached to mental health, and it gives you options.

If you’re worried about online therapy not being as effective as the in-person kind, consider the results from this small 2014 study. Researchers found that internet-based treatment for depression was equally beneficial as face-to-face therapy.

While over-the-phone and online therapy may not work for everyone in all situations, it’s an option to try.

Ways to find a therapist

Just as there are options to speak with a therapist over the phone, voice chat, and online, there are:

If you’re looking into therapy, another place to start is by talking with a general physician about getting a referral.

The takeaway

Working with a psychologist, therapist, or counselor in a therapeutic relationship gives you an opportunity to explore your thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior.

It can also help you learn new coping skills and techniques to better manage daily stressors and symptoms associated with your diagnosis.

Benefits of counseling

  • Explore thoughts, feelings, and worries without judgment.
  • Develop coping strategies for different situations.
  • Practice self-reflection and awareness.
  • Work on habits you’d like to change.
  • Improve, understand, and communicate about relationships.
Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

Financial Abuse in Marriage – 7 Tell-Tale Signs and Ways to Deal with It

Source: Financial Abuse in Marriage – 7 Tell-Tale Signs and Ways to Deal with It

By Rachael Pace, Expert Blogger Verified Marriage & Family Therapist Approved By Angela Welch, LMFT

Financial Abuse in a Marriage

The scenario of financial abuse in marriage is all too common and all too chilling. But, what is financial abuse in a marriage?

According to financial abuse definition, it translates into one partner exercising control over the other partner’s access to financial resources, which diminishes the abused partner’s capacity to be financially self-sufficient and forces them to depend on the perpetrator financially.

A partner in an unhealthy marriage attempts to assert control by taking overall assets. The underlying intent of the financially abusive partner is clear: keep the spouse from having the means to leave the union.

When one spouse creates a situation in which the other spouse does not have access to liquid assets, financial abuse, also known as economic abuse, is in play.

Financial abuse is a very sick dynamic in a marriage.

Every expenditure is aggressively accounted for. Purchases at grocery stores and other venues are vigorously tracked, with the “buyer” given just enough money to complete the task.

Other expenditures like health care expenses, clothing, and the like are discouraged. If a partner does not comply with these rigid demands, there is a “price” to pay.

Let’s be clear as we begin to talk about spousal financial abuse and delve deep into the dynamics of a financially abusive relationship.

Financial bullying in marriage is a subset of emotional abuse and can be just as corrosive as physical abuse.

Any time the need for absolute financial control in marriage undergirds the actions of our intimate partners, there is a reason for concern.

Financial abuse by a spouse is a silent weapon in a relationship and comes with serious consequences for the marriage.

By taking stock of the early warning signs of financial abuse in the marriage, you can find ways to escape the trap of money abuse in marriage.

Let’s take a look at the signs and symptoms of financial abuse in relationships, and consider some ways to counter economic abuse in marriage.

The obvious signs of financial abuse in marriage by husband or wife

1. Denial of access

If your partner does not provide you with free access to your money, this is a cause for concern.

While marital assets come from a variety of streams, they are marital assets. Not being able to access these funds when the need arises is a significant red flag.

2. Intense monitoring of spending

A spouse that requires a detailed expense report of marital finances, receipts, and anecdotal descriptions of your spending is a spouse with pronounced control issues. This hawk-eyed approach is one of the key financial abuse signs.

Further, requiring that you remit every penny of change after expenditure is an area of concern. Monitoring is compounded by the advent of digital accounts.

Because digital interfaces afford consumers “Real-Time” monitoring of financial transactions and balances, the scrutiny from the one perpetrating financial abuse in marriage can be even more pronounced.

These are just some of the glaring financial abuse in marriage facts.

3. Anger with spending that benefits the abused one

Anger with spending that benefits the abused one

If you spend money on yourself for clothing, entertainment, food and the like and your partner goes nuclear, you have a problem.

There is nothing wrong with engaging in self-care and spending a little bit of money to make it possible.

Gauge the reaction of your partner when you report an expenditure. Is he furious? Run!

Also watch:

4. Your partner gives you an allowance

You are not a child “earning your keep” or attempting to curry some favor with your intimate partner.

It’s not okay for your spouse to give you an allowance.

Again, marital assets are marital assets. You are entitled to spend the marital money so long as you are doing it in a healthy and communicative way.

If you’ve been restricted to the predetermined, inflexible amount of financial support, something’s not right.

Further, if the “allowance” is taken from you, something truly unsavory and concerning is afoot. Don’t stand for it!

When your Partner Gives You an Allowance

5. The significant other demands repayment

Your spouse/partner is not a savings and loan account.

When you make household purchases out of marital funds, it is quite inappropriate for the partner to ask for repayment of the funds. Unfortunately, this happens too often.

Further, some extremely nasty spouses demand interest on marital funds that are to be repaid.

Yes, it’s ridiculous and yes, you do not have to live with it.

6. The partner will not let you work

Often the financial abuse individuals endure morphs into something far more nefarious.

If your partner will not let you work outside of the home, the issue runs far deeper than finances. A dangerous situation exists if you are unable to leave home.

No one should ever feel restricted in this way. Even if you are made to feel guilty about working, be on your guard. You should never be made to feel shame about wanting to work outside the home. It would also be helpful to become aware of some key dynamics of abuse in a relationship and seek help.

7. The double standard

Sometimes an abusive partner will make a whopper of purchase with your joint money after you’ve bought something small for yourself.

A massive, unexpected purchase after a rough fight is an indicator of financial abuse. This is, of course, all about control.

Your abusive partner cannot stand the thought of you doing something good for yourself that reaches beyond them. They need to get over it.

What to do?

Emotional abuse, physical abuse, and the like should not be tolerated under any circumstances

If you have experienced any of these tell-tale signs of financial abuse in marriage, you are probably dealing with other types of abuse in your marriage. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, and the like should not be tolerated under any circumstances.

If your situation resonates with any of these financial abuse examples, perhaps the most important thing to do is to create an escape plan for yourself and your dependents.

By nature, an escape plan will require a lot of behind the scenes, clandestine work. Store some money with a trusted friend or family member. Identify an emergency place of residence.

Let police officials know about the predicament of financial abuse in the marriage so that a file and response will be ready when you need it.

Gather your important documents, prescriptions, and the like and have them ready for quick retrieval should the moment of escape present itself.

First and foremost, do not hesitate to ask for help. Do not put yourself in a situation that provides few avenues for escape.

If financial abuse in marriage is your reality and your partner exhibits the red-flag characteristics of an abuser, then choosing to leave the abuser and establishing a financial plan for survival is a must-have.

100 Questions You Should Ask Before Marriage

What a great list!Rory


Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
Couple talking at dinner

Marriage is a big step in a relationship. It signifies the commitment and love you have for someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. But love isn’t always enough. There are questions to ask before marriage that go beyond love like children, dealing with conflicts, beliefs, finances and extended family. Explore 100 questions to ask before marriage.

Questions About Marriage and Children

Questions to ask your fiance about children before marriage include:

  • How many kids do you want?
  • What values do you want to install in your children?
  • How do you want to discipline your kids?
  • What would you do if one of your children said he was homosexual?
  • What if our children didn’t want to go to college?
  • How much say do children have in a family?
  • How comfortable are you around children?
  • Would you be opposed to having our parents watch the children so we can spend time alone together?
  • Would you put your children in private or public school?
  • What are your thoughts on home schooling?
  • Would you be willing to adopt if we couldn’t have kids?
  • Would you be willing to seek medical treatment if we couldn’t have kids naturally?
  • Do you believe it’s OK to discipline your child in public?
  • How do you feel about paying for your kid’s college education?
  • How far apart do you want kids?
  • Would you want someone to stay home with the kids or use day care?
  • How would you feel if our kids wanted to join the military rather than go to college?
  • How involved do you want grandparents to be in our parenting?
  • How will we handle parental decisions?
Work or familyDealing With Conflict

 pre-marriage questions.

  • Would you be willing to go to marriage counseling if we were having marital problems?
  • If there is a disagreement between me and your family, whose side do you choose?
  • How do you handle disagreements?
  • Would you ever consider divorce?
  • Would you rather discuss issues as they arise or wait until you have a few problems?
  • How would you communicate you aren’t satisfied sexually?
  • What is the best way to handle disagreements in a marriage?
  • How can I be better at communicating with you?
Couple hanging out at playgroundMoral, Political, Religious, Family Values, and Beliefs

Just a few questions to ask a fiance before you get serious about marriage include:

  • What are your views on infidelity?
  • What are your religious views on marriage?
  • What’s more important, work or family?
  • What are your political views?
  • What are your views on birth control?
  • Would you rather be rich and miserable or poor and happy?
  • Who will make the biggest decisions of the household?
  • What would you do if someone said something bad about me?
  • Would you follow the advice of your family before your spouse?
  • What do you believe the role of a wife is?
  • Who should do household chores?
  • What do you believe the role of a husband is?
Happy couple at voter polling place

Handling Finances

Money, debt, and finances are important things to talk about before marriage.

  • How do you feel about debt?
  • Would you share all money with your spouse or split the money into different accounts?
  • What are your views on saving money?
  • What are your views on spending money?
  • What if we both want something but can’t afford both?
  • How well do you budget?
  • Do you feel it is important to save for retirement?
  • Would you be willing to get a second job if we had financial problems?
  • Do you have any debt?
  • What if a family member wants to borrow a large sum of money?
  • Who will take care of the financial matters of the household?

Don’t forget to have fun. Find out what your future spouse thinks by including some entertainment and lifestyle points in your list of 100 questions for couples.

  • Do you enjoy traveling?
  • How often would you like to travel?
  • Where would you like to travel?
  • How important is spending time alone to you?
  • How would you feel about me going on a trip with the girls (boys) for a couple of weeks?
  • How important is spending time with friends to you?
  • What would be the perfect weekday evening to you?
  • What would we do if we both had a break from work, but each of us had different ideas on how to spend it?
Happy couple in Paris, France
Extended Family

Include some family and relation inquiries among the 100 questions to ask your partner.

  • How often would you want to visit your family?
  • How often will your family visit us?
  • How often would you want my family to visit?
  • How often would you want to visit my family?
  • Do you have a family history of diseases or genetic abnormalities?
  • What if one of your family members said he disliked me?
  • How would you handle holiday family visits?
  • If your parents became ill, would you take them in?
  • If my parents became ill, would you mind taking them in?
Family and personal medical information are questions you should ask your future husband or wife.
  • Does anyone in your family suffer from alcoholism?
  • What is your medical family history?
  • Would you be opposed to mental health treatment?
  • If I had to change my diet because of medical concerns, would you be willing to change yours?
  • Are you willing to exercise with me to improve our health?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • Would you mind moving if I had to relocate with my job?

About the Relationship and Marriage

100 topics to talk about might be a lot, but you can learn a lot from 100 questions — including what your future partner thinks about marriage and relationships.

  • What would you do if we fell out of love?
  • What are your career aspirations?
  • What would you like to be doing five or ten years from now?
  • What do you think is the best way to keep the love alive in a marriage?
  • How do you think life will change if we got married?
  • What is the best thing about marriage?
  • What is the worst thing about marriage?
  • What is your idea of the best weekend?
  • How important are wedding anniversaries to you?
  • How would you like to spend special days?
  • What kind of grandparent do you want to be someday?
  • What type of house do you want to live in?
  • What is your biggest fear about marriage?
  • What excites you about getting married?
  • What do wedding rings mean to you?
  • Are you afraid to talk to me about anything?
  • What do you think would improve our relationship?
  • What would be one thing you would change about our relationship?
  • Do you have any doubts about the future of our relationship?
  • Do you believe love can pull you through anything?
  • Is there anything you don’t trust about me?

Miscellaneous Things to Discuss Before Marriage

While you might have 1,001 questions to ask before you get married, consider throwing in some random questions like:

  • Which would you choose – dishes or laundry?
  • Do you like pets?
  • How many pets do you want?
  • What to do you want to do during retirement?
  • At what age would you like to retire?
Happy couple on couch with dog

Getting to Know Your Partner

Before getting married, be sure that you and your partner are comfortable with your individual and shared goals. Get to know what your partner thinks by checking out:

Don’t Ask Your Questions All at Once

Thoughtful questions deserve thoughtful replies which aren’t necessarily going to come instantly. If you and your partner are seriously considering marriage, set aside some time to have these conversations before marriage so you can be sure of what you both think and feel. Even if you have 101 questions to ask before you get engaged, this will give you plenty of opportunities to gauge whether marriage should be the next step in your relationship.


Why Do People Cheat? 9 Reasons For Infidelity That Have Nothing To Do With Sex

This can be helpful for the partner, to see a mirad of reasons that their partner strayed.


Source: Why Do People Cheat? 9 Reasons For Infidelity That Have Nothing To Do With Sex

When you think about the reasons why people cheat, what immediately springs to mind? For me, it’s sex. If a person is going to go behind their partner’s back and hook up with someone else, it stands to reason that there’s some form of physical attraction, or thrill of doing the deed with somebody new.

But experts say that’s not really why people have affairs. In fact, according to Dr. Joshua Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist, cheating is almost always more about emotions than sex. “What drives the person to engage in the betrayal is the real reason for cheating,” he tells Bustle.

For example, someone might have an affair if they aren’t feeling connected to, or getting validation from their partner. Should a friend or coworker come along who is willing to listen, it makes sense why that extra attention would seem appealing — and why the attraction could quickly escalate into an affair.

While that isn’t necessarily a comfort for folks who have been cheated on, it is important to look at situations like these from all angles, in order to create a stronger relationship. Here, women share why they cheated, and what the experience taught them — and experts delve into the multiple reasons why people cheat.

They’re Avoiding Conflict

Sometimes, when a relationship is riddled with conflict — or even when things aren’t 100% easy for a short period of time — it can cause a person to panic and run into the arms of another.

The affair isn’t so much about sex at that point, as much as it is a way of avoiding problems. “Cheating allows them to escape,” Klapow says. “They can be with a person where problems and conflicts don’t exist, where they get respite, support, and validation.”

This was the case for Deonne, 40, who saw red flags in her relationship, but wasn’t ready to face them. She says it felt like the best and easiest option, and that being with someone else “filled a void.”

They Have Weak Boundaries

As Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, a marriage counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Bustle, if someone has “weak boundaries,” the chances of cheating go way up. He gives the example of a person getting too close to coworker, and how an affair could quickly unfold from there.

“It is natural for us to want to connect with those around us, and it’s natural to want to take that to the next level — a romantic one — when emotional intimacy is growing,” Bilek says. And yet, while friendships are obviously always OK, people with weak boundaries can’t help but go overboard.

It’s why it’s so important for couples to discuss the “rules” of their relationship, including what is and isn’t OK, as well as what counts as cheating. “Keeping firm boundaries at work and in social situations is critical for maintaining fidelity in a relationship,” he says.

They Want To Save The Relationship

While it sounds weird, some people use cheating as “a cry for help to save the relationship before they give up on it entirely,” Bethany Ricciardi, a sex and relationship expertf tells Bustle.

Yes, the cheater may go out and have sex. But that wasn’t technically their main goal or interest, she says. Instead, the affair may be the cheating partner’s (unhealthy) way of telling their significant other that they’ve been unhappy, and want to get a conversation started.

Again, this isn’t the best way to approach a partner about where a relationship is headed, or what it needs to succeed. And yet it often works: Some couples do find that they’re stronger after cheating, because the betrayal inspired them to communicate more, and work out their issues.

They Want To End The Relationship

On the flip side, some folks turn to cheating as a way of breaking up with their partner. “Rather than come out and say that they want to end the relationship, the person cheats hoping that their partner will find out and break up with them,” Emily Mendez, MS, EdS, a mental health expert, tells Bustle.

They may secretly hope their partner sees illicit texts popping up on their phone, or starts to wonder why they’re staying out so late at night and eventually asks what’s up. It’s obviously so much healthier (and kinder) to end things outright. But for those who struggle with direct communication, they might find themselves taking the cheating route, instead.

They Had An Abusive Past

Raina, 44, says the reason she cheated stemmed from an abusive childhood, which landed her in an abusive first marriage, and then in an unloving second marriage. Both times she cheated on her husband, first as a way of getting out of a toxic situation, and second as a way to continue on a path of self improvement.

“I had spent two years in therapy trying to get over past abuse,” she tells Bustle. But her second husband wasn’t listening to her needs, or helping her along the way. In fact, he was even encouraging her to stop taking helpful medication.

Frustrated, when another man came along, she couldn’t help but start an affair with him. “He gave me space, but also support,” she says, which helped her feel confident enough to continue working through what she’d been through in her past, and to seek out what she wanted for her future.

“Today, I am independent and strong. I don’t feel the need to depend on a man. While I do regret hurting people, I can’t regret either of my affairs. One gave me my children and the other gave me myself.”

They Want To Boost Their Self-Esteem

Not everyone who lacks confidence will have an affair in order to feel better. But experts say this is yet another reason why someone might sneak around behind their partner’s back.

“When someone is feeling down about [themselves] the thrill of sex with a new/forbidden person provides a temporary feeling of self-worth,” Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, a couples therapist, tells Bustle. “For example if things aren’t going well at work and [they] feel uncertain about [their] value, an outside lover can temporarily address that feeling.”

Nothing’s better than positive attention, flirty texts, and the excitement of being wanted. So when someone is feeling bad about themselves, cheating becomes all the more tempting.

They’re Lonely

“The majority of people who cheat are not fulfilled emotionally,” Ellen Bolin, a certified professional relationship coach, tells Bustle, which explains why so many people turn to emotional affairs — which often lead to physical affairs — as a way of curing a sense of loneliness within a relationship.

This is, of course, not the best way to solve the issue. Painful affairs can be avoided if couples speak up and let one another know when/if they’ve feeling neglected, unheard, or lonely.

They’re Bored

If someone is bored with their relationship, it makes sense why they might turn to cheating as a way of spicing things up for themselves. But experts say, more often than not, cheating is a choice made by those who are bored with their own life in general, and that has little to do with their partner.

“It’s a way to feel alive, special, seen by someone else,” Ross says. “[And] the sneaking around is often more exciting than the sex itself.” In other words, having something to hide, and something that adds a bit of danger to their life, can give them the exciting story they’re looking for.

These reasons all make sense. But, as Deonne says, it’s important to remember that “cheating is a temporary fix to a deeper issue.”

They’re Seeking Revenge

Cheating may also be an act of revenge, which can stem from anger — for any number of reasons. “The person may be frustrated in their relationship, or feel like their partner doesn’t care, doesn’t listen, doesn’t support them,” Klapow says. “In an act of defiance — but also avoidance of the problem at hand — the person cheats. So instead of directly confronting the problem, they avoid it and act out by cheating.” And that’s not cool.

Knowing an affair isn’t always all about sex won’t make it any less painful for the person being cheated on, but it may help both members of a relationship understand why it happened in the first place. By talking about problems before they get out of hand — and making sure you’re both fulfilled — an affair doesn’t have to happen.


Dr. Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist

Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, marriage counselor

Bethany Ricciardi, sex and relationship expert

Emily Mendez, MS, EdS, mental health expert

Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, couples therapist

Ellen Bolin, certified professional relationship coach

The Right Way to Negotiate with Your Partner | Psychology Today Canada

Source: The Right Way to Negotiate with Your Partner | Psychology Today Canada

Collaborative negotiation can help your marriage be fair and equal.

Let’s change fundamentally the way we think about being married so that you and your partner can create the kind of life you want together—and in the process help change our society. I propose that marriage be conceived as the collaborative negotiation of partners around their individual and joint life plans—plans that are not dictated by gender roles or gender traits—which can replace the old model of marriage driven by the motif of gender. Negotiating collaboratively begins with both husband and wife being able to identify his/her wants in any given situation. These wishes are stated and the reasons for them are provided.  It is as if each of you put these wishes on a virtual kitchen table where agreement, differences, and disagreements become apparent.  From this perspective, differences and disagreements are on the table between you not exclusively within either of you.

The schematic below depicts the idea that wants are openly stated, looked at side-by-side, and negotiated so that a win-win outcome can occur.  The schematic depicts clearly the idea that disagreements and/or differences are between the two of you not within either of you.

Catherine E. Aponte, Psy.D.
Virtual Kitchen Table
Source: Catherine E. Aponte, Psy.D.

The negotiation that takes place in marriage is not the kind that one sees in business where each party is trying to maximize his/her own gain at the expense of the other.  Nor is it a quid pro quo (tit for tat, you do this for me, and I will do that for you) kind of negotiation.  Negotiating collaboratively has the following characteristics:  (1) each partner understands that his/her spouse is a valuable person in the same way that he/she is, (2) each partner is able to identify wants and desires, (3) each partner is willing to negotiate his/her wants and desires, (4) each partner can explain (not justify) what is important about the stated wants and desires,  (5) neither partner seeks to “privilege” his or her wants and desires over the other’s because of one’s status such as gender or wage earner, (6) each partner is willing to take action based on the negotiation of wants and desires, and (7)  each partner is willing to learn and change based on the outcomes of actions taken.

Taking Collaboration Seriously

A committed marriage is a life-long partnership, which links two people around their most fundamental desires to flourish as individuals and as a couple.  This requires great attention to the maintenance of a collaborative environment of negotiation.  Here are some thoughts about what collaboration means.[1]

  • Collaborators are equal.  True collaborators are always equals and each partner accepts full responsibility for his/her part in the process of negotiation.  Collaboration requires the sharing of authority and an acceptance of personal responsibility to negotiate in good faith.
  • Collaboration is not capitulation.   Collaboration protects individual autonomy.  Most of us have a (possibly subconscious) fear of being overwhelmed by someone and are reluctant to surrender any part of our autonomy in a relationship.
  • Collaboration is not cooperation.   Collaboration is about the process of working together, while cooperation is about the result of working together.  For example, I can cooperate with you by stepping aside while you do what you want to do.

Sociologists believe that gender remains a central motif in heterosexual marriage because the idea of masculinity and femininity are acted out in marriage. Sociologist Sara Berk has described marriage as a “gender factory”—i.e., husbands and wives demonstrate their masculinity/femininity in the way they interact around everyday household activities, childcare, and displays of affection for one another.[2] When we carry out these gender roles in marriage, we subconsciously assume it is because of innate gender differences in masculinity and femininity. This reinforces the idea that marriage should be organized by gender. Collaborative negotiation is a new vision of how we can understand marriage.  Collaboration derives from the unique qualities and contribution of the collaborators; it is not determined by gender. If either of you does not participate as fully engaged and equal partners, it might as well be one person making the decisions.

Negotiating Collaboratively is About Commitment

Most people think the idea of commitment between husband and wife is about staying together through thick and thin.  This is what is called an “aspirational” statement, what you believe should occur, and hope will occur, in your marriage.  The commitment to negotiate collaboratively around the issues that you will face during your marriage is the hard work needed to achieve this aspiration.  The willingness to negotiate issues in good faith with your spouse is so important that I believe it rises to the level of a vow you are willing to make and remake throughout your marriage.


  • A new approach is needed to achieve an equitable, sustainable marriage
  • This approach is to organize marriage around negotiating wishes and wants collaboratively
  • Marriage can no longer be organized around the gender of the partners
  • Collaboration between equal partners is neither capitulation no cooperation
  • There is not a managing partner in an equal partnership
  • Negotiating collaboratively with one another is about commitment to the marriage


1. Coulson, Christopher.    “What is Collaboration?” DynamicLivingTM.  http://www.santafecoach.com/dl/oct03.htm#parting.

2. Berk, Sarah Fenstermaker. The Gender Factor: The Apportionment of Work in American Households. New York: Plenum, 1985.

5 Things Couples Do That Lead to Divorce | Psychology Today

Source: 5 Things Couples Do That Lead to Divorce | Psychology Today

Dissecting the unraveling of a relationship can help you get back on track.

My parents divorced when I was 19, but years before their marriage ended, I watched their decline. I didn’t understand what I witnessed with my parents then, but after years of working with couples, I see that there can be a similar downward spiral in partnerships.

The seeds of divide often come following hurt feelings or dashed expectations. When they are not exposed or acknowledged, these problems fester and grow to lead to many relationships falling apart.

Here’s what my parents’ path looked like. Of course, this isn’t the only path to destruction, but it’s common enough that you may see yourself on this trajectory.

1. They worked against each other.

I believe my parents didn’t like each other for the last 10 years of their marriage. When a partner demonizes the other or holds resentments for years, it creates a very unstable marriage.

There is also an unconscious polarization that happens when each spouse thinks the other needs to change to be more like them. Classic examples are the spender and the saver, or the emotional and the intellectual.

There are couples who can never find a comfortable middle ground. Most couples have one or two such issues, but with those who end up divorcing, there are usually too many differences that don’t get bridged.

You’re doing this if:

a. You say things like, “he always…” or “she never…”  and demonize your partner seeing them as the opposition.

b. You have the same fight repeatedly without resolution or compromise, you are probably polarizing.

c. You loop on a story of how your partner is harming you.


If you are polarizing, work harder to understand your spouse’s perspective and meet them halfway. My aunt always said, “a good relationship is one where each person gives 150 percent.” Expecting to only ever be comfortable in relationships means you’ve got some emotional work to do.

2. They didn’t communicate with each other about their needs and feelings.

My mother spoke to her friends and others about her marriage woes, but not directly to my father. My father didn’t speak to anyone about his. My guess: They didn’t know what they needed or felt.

Underneath every criticism of a partner are feelings and needs. “Why don’t you ever help around the house?” has feelings of being unappreciated or disrespected, and the need to have support and help.

If speaking to your spouse from your feelings and needs isn’t a tool in your toolbox, it needs to be. Simply saying, “I need more support. Can you help with ____?” Or “I am feeling unsupported when you watch TV while I’m cooking dinner and the baby is crying.”

I’ve yet to meet a spouse who can read minds, but I’ve met many people who expect their partner to just know what they need. I’ve also seen many people push away their own needs as a way to feel invulnerable. Having needs (and yes, we all have them) isn’t the problem. How we handle having needs is usually where the challenges show up.

Couples need to communicate about what they like and don’t like as well as how they feel about things. Partners also need to ask a lot more questions of their mate and not assume they know more than they do.

Finally, couples do best when they express their feelings and needs in a way that is more “hearable.” Starting a sentence with a criticism will undoubtedly create defensiveness in whomever you are speaking to. Likewise, leading with a request will have most people wanting to meet your need.

You’re doing this if:

a. You often start sentences with: “You should…”, “Why can’t you…”, “I can’t believe you just said/did that.” (anything critical or attacking)

b. You feel resentful toward your spouse much of the time.

c. You often think, “S/he should know that bothers me.” Or, “Can’t s/he see what I need?”


Learn new phrases to say and start sentences with requests or invitations. “Can you help me ________?” Or,“How about if we _________?” Anytime you say “we” instead of “you,” it feels inclusive.

Also, let your spouse know early, and in a kind way, that something they are doing isn’t working for you. If you keep your feelings to yourself and allow the emotion to build, you’re more likely to have a fight.

3. They stopped spending time together.

I observed my parents’ annual adult-only vacations cease. Conversations about golf and gardening dried up, and they stopped socializing.

When married couples become like the proverbial two ships passing in the night, or it becomes apparent that they don’t like each other, the hill to climb toward reconnection becomes much steeper.

Often, as was the case with my mother and father, unresolved hurts and resentments cause the divide. Understandably, most people would rather avoid the pain that going back into unpleasant exchanges entails. Yet, I’ve seen miraculous changes when couples are brave enough to revisit and recover.

You’re doing this if:

a. You don’t want to spend as much time with your spouse anymore.

b. You believe it’s easier to avoid a difficult discussion.

c. You’d agree that you’re like two ships in the night.


When you feel the divide starting (or even after it has taken root) intervene. Let your spouse know that you want to reconnect and take steps to do that. This is where therapists and relationship coaches can be helpful. Remember that you don’t have to—and, in fact, may not be able to—figure this out on your own.

4. They began to see the solution to their problems outside of the marriage.

This misstep naturally follows in the continuum of drifting apart.

For some, the solution to an unhappy marriage was to get out of it and move on with someone else.

Yet, people can also “leave without leaving” by checking out emotionally.

Some get focused on other things like their kids, going out more with friends, or building their career. I’ve even seen people have kids at this point in their relationship as a way to escape the problems.

Others turn to a substance or behavior to escape. Addictions to a substance (alcohol, drugs, food), or to activities (online porn, shopping, gambling) can develop.

You’re doing this if:

a. You daydream about how great life would be if you were single or in a new/different relationship.

b. You get overly busy at work, you find a new hobby that takes you away from home more, or worse, you develop an addiction to food, alcohol, pain killers, spending money, TV, etc.

c. You start an emotional affair with someone and become what I call, “affair-ready.”

Source: 123rf


Running from or avoiding your pain doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it can make things worse. Commit to dealing with your relationship head on. If there’s something that can be done to make things better, commit to doing that. If you need to move on from the partnership, be honest with yourself and your partner and take steps to move on.

5. They do not seek help.

My parents were good people. I have no idea if therapy would have kept them together, but it might have helped them air grievances, learn basic relationship and communication skills, and prevent some of the wreckage that ensued.

Many couples who end up divorcing either don’t get professional guidance at all, or they don’t seek it out soon enough. Letting time pass, hoping things will get better is not a good strategy.

Don’t wait until there’s a crisis or things are unbearable to get help. Therapy, relationship coaching, or meetings with clergy, if you are religious, can make a tremendous difference in healing relationships and helping couples have a deeper connection.

You’re doing this if:

a. You’d rather divorce than go to therapy.

b. You tell yourself, “Things will get better when ___________ happens,” and you keep doing the same old same old.

c. Your relationship is in a crisis.


Get help and professional support as soon as you can. If finances are keeping you from reaching out, investigate the numerous 12-step or self-help resources that are out there. Many of these programs are held remotely so there’s no reason to not take advantage.

At the Crossroads

If you’re at a crossroads with your marriage, ask yourself if your spouse is on your team, if you are honest with each other, if you spend quality time together, if you turn toward your marriage for solutions, and if you have asked for help.

Intervening on any one of these spots can make the difference between whether or not your marriage will survive.

The Daily Temperature Reading – A Skill for Committed Relationships

Relationship Expert Dr. Rita DeMaria shares a quick exercise, the Daily Temperature Reading, that couples can use to strengthen their communication habits. I really like this method and I suggest it it to all my couples and those in relationship.


Source: Council for Relationships – Helping people understand, respect, and improve the quality of their relationships – The Daily Temperature Reading – A Skill for Committed Relationships

Dr. Rita DeMaria, LMFT, CST is a Staff Therapist and Director of Healthy Relationships and Wellness Programs at Council for Relationships.

Yes, you can love someone for a lifetime–but you need the knowledge and skills to maintain and grow the relationship.

It’s not how much you love each other that strengthens a long-term relationship; it’s how you resolve differences and preserve fun and sensuality. Luckily, everyone can learn, practice, and improve their relationship skills. Later in this blog, I will share a quick exercise, the Daily Temperature Reading, that helps couples improve their regular communication skills and builds closeness.

Over many years as a therapist, I have identified the seven reasons people want to develop healthy relationships skills:

  1. Communicating – listening and self expression

  2. Resolving conflict

  3. Managing anger and resentment

  4. Dealing with individual differences

  5. Wanting more out of the relationship

  6. Rebuilding trust when it has been broken

  7. Being single–wanting to find the ‘one’ and develop a healthy relationship

If you’re looking for any of these things, then you’re in luck: I designed my programs around these key facets. I teach people how to communicate effectively, manage conflicts without damaging closeness, and how to preserve and enhance commitment, friendship and intimacy. If you’ve never been to a program like this before, you may be wondering what kinds of skills you could learn. In this blog, I’m going to share one of my favorite exercises, the Daily Temperature Reading, with you.

The Daily Temperature Reading was developed by Virginia Satir – a pioneer of family therapy. It is a skill-based activity that you and your partner can do together on a regular basis to build a connection and learn to communicate on important topics. It was used in the PAIRS Program and by the Smart Marriages- Healthy Families Conference.

As you’ll learn in the video below, the Daily Temperature Reading is made up of five parts:

  1. Appreciation – something you each appreciate that the other person did

  2. New Information – big or small, something you haven’t shared with your partner

  3. Puzzle – what’s on your mind, what issues are you struggling with

  4. Complaint with request for change – ask your partner what you need

  5. Wish, hope, or dream – something you’re looking forward to

Watch the video below for a walk through of the exercise:

You can find my Daily Temperature Reading worksheet here. You may find it helpful to print this out and refer to it until you and your partner have the steps memorized.

About Dr. DeMaria

Early in my career, I became interested in a number of relationship skills programs, including Prepare-Enrich and PAIRS – Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills. For over 20 years I taught the PAIRS program to hundreds of participants. I also conducted research on helping distressed couples, published several professional books, and a bestselling health and wellness book with Reader’s Digest, The 7 Stages of Marriage.

I have trained and collaborated with my colleagues at Council for Relationships to develop the Relationship Check Up and Healthy Relationships and Wellness Programs, for which I currently serve as the Director. The experiences of helping people with their most important relationships has transformed me as a person, as a wife, and as a clinician.


My Fantasy Online Courtship Went From Charming To Creepy Once We Met


We texted day and night over weeks about novels, poems, single parenting, farming, teaching, and writing — proof positive of an extending courtship,

We texted day and night over weeks about novels, poems, single parenting, farming, teaching, and writing — proof positive of an extending courtship,

Recently, Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person,” a story about a faux-intimate, emoji-dependent, sad-in-the-sack relationship, went viral and millions of readers took to social media defending its genius or damning its drivel. While “Cat Person” speaks to our depressing State of Toxic Disunion and the difficulties negotiating sex, power, and consent via texts, sexts, and SociopathMatch.Com, it actually leaves us mired in misogyny’s muck. At the end of the story, Margot is rendered a passive pussy as Robert, her erstwhile Prince Charmless, gets the last text: “Whore.”

Fuck that.

It is now a truth universally acknowledged if you are a single woman in possession of a good cellphone and in want of a man, the odds are that you will, at some point, find yourself ensnared in a texting-sexting-dating cock-up, as I have, admittedly more than once.

But not again.

This is how I flipped the script from passive pussy to power pussy.

I was waiting outside airport baggage claim in the cold when Farmer Dick (real profession, fake name) pulled up in his dirty white delivery van, Heart and Soil Farm emblazoned on the side.

“Where do I pick you up?” he’d asked the night before.

It was years since he’d been to an airport, and his question suggested naïve bewilderment over how electricity, roads, and airplanes connected the great expanses between farms and cities — or how the internet highway connected singles, not-so-singles, polys, pans, earnest hopefuls, and predatory sociopaths.

He apologized for the rustic transport.

“Only kale and lettuce and cabbage go in the back,” he said. “No kidnap victims.”

“My friend has your cell, address, and the Airbnb link,” I said.

Airbnb first night — “Urban Duck Farm” — and if all went well, the rest of the weekend at his house.

“Ahh,” my girlfriend said, “more like Urban Fuck Farm.” Indeed, the likely activity after wandering the art museum.

“Let’s make love and paint faux Rothkos on my walls,” he’d suggested.

Perhaps you think this weekend was an ill-advised, ready-made disaster from the start. However, by the time I bought the tickets, Farmer Dick and I had spent dozens of hours in conversation, more than people spend for casual hookups, more than some before marriage. Enough hours that such a risk’s payoff might have been love.

Weeks of tremblings started with his profile pics: Gentleman Farmer in a rumpled blazer and jaunty beret with a scruffy beard; a hand held between nose and mouth, cupping soil. Ahhh, terroir! Another pic: Shirtless, riverside, a black dog curled up under his arm, like Coleridge’s “enamored rustic” lazing on the banks of the Thames.

Oh yes, I’d go with him to Xanadu’s pleasure dome.

We texted day and night over weeks about novels, poems, single parenting, farming, teaching, and writing — proof positive of an extending courtship,

Him: I feel you these miles apart.

Me: Energy travels fast and furious through the universe.

Skype proved he was not a Nigerian Prince Bot in need of my bank account. And bonus! At his suggestion (be still my writer’s heart), old-fashioned letters arrived in my mailbox in his homemade envelopes. In his first letter, Farmer Dick wrote, “In a sane and just world, you could fly to me in a few weeks — we could briefly winnow out all our insecurities, crash at an Airbnb — come back to my place, walk those quiet wooded places, make meals, make love, make words for our mealmaking and lovesharing.”

Even with a failed marriage and enough online dating disaster stories for 1001 nights, I felt soft and tingly, ignoring red flags. For instance: a message that ended, “I love you. Fuck me.” Fucked for loving me? Who claims love before meeting? Two nights before our rendezvous, he sent me a message: “Long business dinner. Feeling checked out. Please feel secure in any silence from me. Much love! 😉 heart heart heart.”

At the museum, we held hands — all erotic, anticipatory impatience — while strolling past Cezannes, Renoirs, and Rothkos. His hand moved to the back of my neck, and my thumb stroked his knuckles in incremental intimacy.

“I love making love with you,” Farmer Dick said later that night after we’d been having sex on and off for hours, and, as if marveling at his own piece de resistance, said, “I came three times! That hasn’t happened in years!”

Ahh, hubris.

Farmer Dick’s last message, sent days after our rendezvous: “How are you? It’d be pretty raw if we couldn’t have a conversation about how you felt — feel. I would appreciate the autopsy of the weekend from your p.o.v.”

Post-mortem vivisection? Okay.

Friday: Damn good, though Urban Duck Farm’s location, in a neighborhood of burned-out homes, made me wonder if he chose a hipster hostel for the bottom line?

Saturday: Farmer Dick earns his pseudonym. Not one casual touch or intimate kindness. At a coffee shop (so he could use the free WiFi), he read Slavoj Žižek quotes from Goodreads: “Love feels like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite, a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures.” Žižek is generally regarded as a racist, misogynist, pseudo-intellectual, but I pretended to listen because, please please please don’t let Farmer Dick be just another asshole because assholes don’t write long letters and send them in homemade envelopes, do they?

He chattered about green burials on his farm (“I could sell plots for ten thousand!”) which drifted to talk about the dark web and ethical cannibalism: human bodies as haute cuisine. I blinked and sipped the coffee that I paid for.

Back at his house, as we inspected the walls and traced out the color blocks for the faux Rothkos, he pointed to knee-high, red specks along the walls. “Blood,” he said. “My dog had fleas. She got a sore behind her ear from scratching, and every time she shook her head…” He no longer had the dog.

I started painting a green square on the wall. He disappeared upstairs. When he returned, he said, “I took MDMA, and when I do, I’m not usually down for sex.”

However, he was down for a two hour, egomaniacal, run-on sentence regarding all the women he’d ever fucked and all the women who loved him. He went on and on about how two nights before — the night he sent me the text about feeling “checked out” — his ex-girlfriend stopped by. While they didn’t “fuck-fuck,” he said, “we sort of fucked, but I didn’t want to tell you because then you might not have come, but you say that you believe in truth and transparency, so I’m telling you now, and speaking of now…that the excitement of meeting is over, you’re cool if we don’t really text as much?”

I sat next to him on the couch, focusing first on his pupils — wide, dark saucers — and then on the drippy color blotches.

Fucker, I thought. You motherfucker. You won’t touch my insides anymore.

He jumped up and attacked the walls like a toddler with finger paints. I group texted girlfriends:

Me: He’s reading Neruda love poems. And strumming guitar.

GF’s: Humor him. Take notes for an essay.

Me: He’s claiming his Rothkos are more authentic than Rothkos.

GF’s: Is he a moron?

Me: He wants to tuck me in and read Žižek. I wonder if he knows how full of shit he is.

Sunday: That morning in bed, his hand found mine, fingers stroking my arm, then belly, then thigh. Feigned tenderness or a more likely last chance grab? Will you think me a fool or worse, think me a whore à la Cat Person, if I say that despite his epically awful behavior, I got wet and throbby, climbed on top of him, and with efficiency, achieved clinical solo success.

In short: I fucked him.

Don’t imagine I felt any pity as his twitching erect penis sagged in disappointment against his thigh.

“Sorry,” I said, flashing a bland smile, “have to get going. Got a text. New flight time. Hours earlier.”

An easy lie.

While Farmer Dick was warming up the van and shucking ice from the windshield for our airport drive, I found my stack of letters to him on the dining room windowsill and crammed them in my bag.

Those letters, delivered to the wrong address, were meant for a different man.

I was five hours early for my flight, but as I cleared security, another flight to my destination was announced: final boarding. I ran to the gate.

“Please,” I said to the agent, “I’ve had the worst date weekend ever. I just want to get home.” Did he see my wobbly, sad shame through the steel door?

The agent smiled.

“Ma’am, usually a $200 change fee, but for you? Free. Get home safe and sound.”

Safe and sound. Perhaps you think this weekend was an ill-advised, ready-made disaster from the start. However, by the time I bought the tickets, Farmer Dick and I had spent dozens of hours in conversation, more than people spend for casual hookups, more than some before marriage. Enough hours that such a risk’s payoff might have been love. Maybe when I arrived, no longer just abstract words but full-bodied, I wasn’t what he expected or wanted. Fine. No harm, no foul. U-turn on the next flight.

But he didn’t get the last word or last text: “You ask ‘Are you okay?’ Something you failed to ask me all weekend. But, in answer, I am perfectly fine. Minimal wounds. Healing fast.”

How to Connect With Your Spouse After a Long Workday


Once you’re finally home from work, you might flop down next to your spouse and ask, “How was your day?” They’ll likely reply, “Good.” They may go into detail or they may not. You may forget that you even asked the question while zoning out.

This person that you’re building a life with is pretty important. You know that. But after a long workday, possibly getting the kids bathed and in bed, plus cleaning up the house a bit, you have little energy left to connect with your spouse. The same goes for them, too. You love each other, but you’re exhausted.

Regardless of your energy levels, you’re in this life together and failing to make time to truly connect with each other can erode your relationship. So, here are six ways you can strengthen your bond that work even when you’re feeling wiped out.1


Ask Open-Ended Questions to Invoke Conversation

Ask open-ended questions to jump start your conversation

Getty Images / Gary John Norman

A close-ended question will result in a one-word response like “Okay” or “Fine”. We may use it as a warm-up for an in-depth conversation we’d like to start but instead, skip it. Get straight to the point and don’t waste your time and energy.

First, get your spouse’s attention, especially if they’ve already zoned out with electronics. Look them in the eyes, say hi, and then use the language of love. Go in for the kiss! Ah, now we’re talking! Contact has been made.2

Now, hook them into the conversation and ask a question like, “What was the best part of your day today?” to get them talking about something that excited instead of what stressed them out. Another question you could as is “What was your most important encounter today?” to learn who they connected with and what that was like.

Then, the most important part, listen with all your heart. Resist the urge to pick up your phone and mute the T.V. if you must. Leave the spotlight on them for as long as possible so that you can give each other your full attention.

Use the Language of Love

Use the language of love to connect with your spouse after a long work day

Pexels / Unsplash.com

Words are not the only way to connect with your spouse after a long day. If you don’t have the energy for a love-fest there are alternatives. You could have a long hug when you first see each other. When you feel like letting go, hug for a few more seconds and feel the connection between your hearts. Feels good, doesn’t it? Or give your spouse some really good kisses all night when they least expect it! You haven’t seen each other in over eight hours. Show them some love!

If this public display of affection bothers the kids physically make contact in discreet ways. You could hold hands while watching T.V. or walk hand in hand while taking the kids out for a walk. If your spouse is doing the dishes (yippee!), go up behind them and put your arms around them. This might feel funny, but that’s part of the game of love, right? Another idea is while on your tablets or laptops, touch their feet or legs with yours.

Reminisce About the Good Old Days

Take a trip down memory lane to connect with your spouse

Getty Images / Chris Ryan

If you don’t feel like hashing out your day talk about a specific funny or loving memory you shared. 3For example, you can ask, “Do you remember that time in Hawaii when we took our first helicopter ride and saw all those amazing waterfalls?” Then, enjoy the trip down memory lane.

Reminiscing takes you away from the stress of the daily grind. It sends you back to a happier time and thus gives you a burst of energy when you need it most, at the end of your day. You’ll feel grateful you were able to have that experience with your spouse. Your past has helped bring you both to where you are today.

Go to Bed Early – Together

Go to bed early with your spouse to connect after a long day

Getty Images / Lilly Bloom

Recoup from a tiring day by getting into bed early and at the same time. So, get ready for the next day together, like making coffee, putting out breakfast, or packing lunches together. Then, brush your teeth and get frisky or cuddle. Or, be silly—humor is a great way to bond! 3Then, jump under the covers and snuggle.

Snuggle time makes you feel secure and love. At the end of the day, a bit of affection tends to make us feel better, right? No words need, just getting warm and comfortable to prepare for a good night sleep.2

Smile at Each Other Often

Smile at each other, even if you don't feel happy, to connect with your spouse

Getty Images / SCC

Let’s say you come home in a bad mood. Although your spouse had nothing to do with that we tend to take out our frustrations on those we care about the most. With this perspective in mind, if you want to get over this bad mood and be able to connect with your spouse in a positive way, smile at them.

Psychologist and facial coding expert, Paul Ekman, discovered that if you smile with both your lips and eyes, even if it’s fake, it’ll put you in a better mood. Also, since we are wired to be social if your spouse sees you smiling, they can’t resist by smile back.4 Put this in your toolkit when you want to get your spouse out of their bad mood!

Start a Bucket List Together

Make a bucket list together to connect with yoru spouse

Getty Images / ZoneCreative

What do you want to do before you die? What does your spouse what to do before they die? After the kids are asleep start your bucket list. How many similar things do you want to accomplish?

This conversation connects you by dreaming about possibilities. These things don’t have to be done this weekend. They are goals you’d like to accomplish within your lifetime. This perspective takes the pressure off checking off the list and instead you dream together. Making plans this way can excite you both and give you another burst of energy at the end of a long day.

A Word From Verywell

At the end of the day, your marriage needs your attention. Not your undivided attention, and perhaps not every day. But making an effort, even a small one, will pay off in a closer connection and healthier marriage. Taking the time to nurture this relationship lets your partner know you care and that they (and your marriage) are a top priority—and helps keep your relationship strong.