relationship therapy

Anxiety About Your Relationship Doesn’t Mean It’s Done

Anxiety About Your Relationship Doesn’t Mean It’s Done

You should know by now that anxiety is something we love to focus on and work with clients on. You should also know that relationships are something we love to focus on and work on with clients. Wouldn’t it make sense that we end up combining the two?

My Friend is Driving Me Crazy - What Do I Do?!

We focus on relationships at The Counseling Hub, but when we talk about relationships, we’re not specifically talking about romantic relationships or intimate partnerships. The term relationship implies relationships of any kind. And, much like with partnerships, relationships contain their own set of problems.

Here are three things you can do if you have a friendship with somebody who is currently driving you crazy (colloquially speaking). 

Antidotes to the Four Horsemen

The Four Horsemen | Antidotes

Couples Counseling | Columbia, Mo

Hallelujah, am I right?! You didn’t think that I’d leave you in the lurch, did you?! 

three guys jumping on sidewalk in snow, couples counseling columbia mo

Pfffft! C’mon now, you should know me better than that at this point! 

Four Horsemen Recap

Okay, so we’ve covered criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. Phew! They’re intense (although rest assured that couples counseling can absolutely help, especially Gottman Method Couples Therapy).

The tendency seems to be that they start during conflict. That’s initially, anyway. Then what happens is that they slowly, slowly, slowly start to bleed over into other interactions. You might approach a neutral topic (i.e. groceries) with an edge to your voice because you’re so fed up with not feeling heard on a consistent basis.

You see what I mean?

It’s that whole things-don’t-get-released-or-resolved-so-it-keeps-adding-up phenomenon that I’m pretty sure most of us know all too well. Some of us, anyway. Some folks just put it all out there on a consistent basis (which can lend itself to other types of problems, but not generally this one).

SO, my point is this. The horsemen typically start within conflict and then communication slowly devolves to lots of horsemen during non-conflict. It’s really tiring and frustrating. People tend to feel exhausted and confused about when and why it happens.

The beauty in all of this is that there are antidotes! Yyaayyy!!

Show Me The Antidotes!!

Short version is this:

criticism -> gentle startup
defensiveness -> take responsibility
stonewalling -> self-soothe
contempt -> state your own feelings and needs

Super easy, right? #winkyface

Simple, yes. Easy? Meh, maybe. Remember that whole you know what to do, but do you do it thing? Same concept here. It's simple, but do you do it (first of all), and it's difficult to implement, which is why we're going into details below!

From Criticism to Gentle Startup

With criticism, we want a gentle startup in its place. And with gentle startup, we ask that you state your feeling, the situation, and then a need. And in more detail, it should go like this.

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  • State a feeling (an actual feeling work, not “I feel like you think I’m…”). Nope. Like this instead: “I feel _________” (happy, angry, irritated, frustrated, annoyed, sad, overwhelmed, stressed, hopeless, depressed, excited, guilty – you can pick).
  • Then state a specific situation, such as “when you forgot to load the dishwasher.” In the situation, you can clarify what the situation was, but not point out character flaws.
  • THEN, state a need in a positive way. Positive meaning the addition of something, not the absence of something. For example, “I need to know you’ll load the dishwasher when you say you will,” or “I need to feel supported in the housework.” NOT, “I need you to stop _______.”

Taking Responsibility

With defensiveness, we instead want responsibility.

It’s hard to keep blaming others when we notice and take ownership of what we did to keep the interaction going in a negative direction. For example, “I didn’t load the dishwasher when I said I would. I’m sorry.” BOOM. That’s it. No explanation (yet) as to why, no, “Well, you said you were going to blahblahblah and you didn’t do that,” and nothing else of the like. A simple, “Yep. I did that. I’m sorry.” And that’s it.

Self-Soothe Instead of Stonewall

With stonewalling, we want to engage in self-soothing.

Ideally, we don’t reach stonewalling and we’re able to take a break and calm our systems down. In this case, you’d say, “Look, I’m reaching my limit. I’m about to shut down and I need to take 20. I’ll be back in 20 minutes.” And then you part ways (again, simple, but not necessarily easy) and come back together in 20 minutes.

The important thing is that the time you take to decompress should actually be time to decompress. Meaning that you shouldn’t spend it thinking about how angry you are. Nope. Spend it journaling, going for a walk, riding your bike, cooking, playing with your cat/kid/dog/bird/lizard, or knitting.

Your Feelings and Needs Instead of Contempt

couples in front of large rock, marriage counseling columbia mo

Lastly, contempt. When you’re feeling contemptuous, we ask that you clearly state your feelings and needs. Such as, “I’m livid and so hurt. I need to be able to trust my partner.” Rather than “You’re such a selfish asshole and I can’t rely on you for anything!”

Okay, this is a long post. All of this, as with most of the stuff we write about, is easier said than done. Really, it all just takes practice, attention, and intention. If you’re looking for some help, make sure you email us right now and we can get you set up with one of our team.

Contempt - Horsemen 4/4

In marriage therapy terms, we see contempt as a moral superiority over one's partner. Basically, if you're contemptuous, you see yourself as better than your partner and as having the 'moral' high ground…

Stonewalling - Horsemen 3/4

And it’s on to the next one. Stonewalling, my friends. This is the third horseman of the four. This one is pretty interesting, though, in that there’s some physiology that’s at play.

This is the long and short of what happens.

Partners A and B start having a discussion with heart rates around 70 beats per minute (average). It shifts into a conflict discussion/argument/disagreement. Partner A’s heart rate jumps to 80 beats per minute the second the conversation heats up. Partner B’s heart rate has gone up to about 74.

The Four Horsemen (of Relationships)

When we talk about the four horsemen, we're not talking about the apocalypse. We're talking about four styles of communication that, when present within relationships, predict the eventual dissolution of that relationship.

Why Friendship Matters in a Long-Term Relationship

Why Friendship Matters in a Long-Term Relationship

I think this is going to be a really obvious blog for people who are reading, but I've been surprised before, so it's worth it to share. 

When I work with couples, I tell them that the work they do is broken down into three large themes (too much detail to get into, seriously), all of which are based around the Gottman's work. We spend time on conflict (duh - that's what most people come in for), existential issues (i.e. life roles, dreams, meaning), and friendship

Yes, friendship.

Seems really simple, right? "Just be friends with your partner!" is what they tell you, "Laugh together!" is what they say. But when you're in the throes of conflict, or when you can't even look at your partner without feeling resentment or rage or exhausting frustration or defeat, then laughing together seems like the absolute furthest thing from what you're capable of.

And, to be honest, that's not the type of thing I would tell you

Three Keys to a Successful Relationship

Three Keys to a Successful Relationship

There are three basic things you can do to make sure that your relationship is in a good place. Granted, I can't make you (or your partner or partners) do any of these things, but I can let you know what these basic things are in the hopes that you'll start to implement them. 

Let's get clear on one quick thing. These things are simple, yes. Although they aren't necessarily easy.

Of course not, right?

Are We Even Compatible?!

Are We Even Compatible?!

Here's a question I've heard before - maybe it's even a question you've asked yourself in the heat of battle...

Is this normal or are we not actually compatible?

Then, for the icing on the cake: Shouldn't I be feeling (insert your choice of feeling word - the one that you've probably said to yourself before)?!

Well, let's talk, shall we? 

First, that's a scary question at any point in a relationship. I would say especially when you've invested a certain amount of time and energy into making it work. To feel that sick thud of doubt is terrifying for many people and... it doesn't actually mean anything.

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