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Tools and tips for every day relationship problems. Blog posts on how to stop conflict, how to have more intimacy and how to have better communication with your husband, wife or partner.

The Top 10 Signs You Are in a Dysfunctional Relationship

Erika Boissiere

It’s very difficult to acknowledge or even consider that you might be in a dysfunctional relationship. Your friends may have expressed concern, your family may have intervened, or maybe you are silently suffering in your relationship, all alone.   

Sometimes we do not even know how bad things are. Some say to themselves, “It’ll get better.” Or maybe others say, “This is how all relationships are.” Sometimes that is true, however, most of the time, it’s not. Our job as couples therapists is to be very honest with you: healthy relationships exist, as well as, incredibly dysfunctional ones. Everyone deserves to be in a loving and supportive relationship. The difficult step is being honest about what kind of relationship you are in and being ready to seek help and make a change. 

Just being able to acknowledge that you are in a relationship that isn’t healthy can be helpful. No, you are not going crazy. Things are not great. If you feel that your relationship is in fact dysfunctional, individual counseling or couples counseling can be tremendously effective. However, it’s up to you to decide when you need and are ready to accept professional help.  

Here are our top 10 signs of serious relationship distress. 

Sign #1: Abusive or Critical Language 

If your partner is criticizing you, belittling you, or regularly saying negative things that make you feel inferior, this type of communication is toxic and unhealthy. Couples counseling can assist in changing this behavioral pattern and identify and address the core root of the problem, which is critical for lasting change in your relationship. 

Sign #2: Domestic Violence 

25% of women will experience an act of physical violence in their relationship over the course of a lifetime. If you are the person committing the physical violence or the victim of domestic violence, getting professional help can be extremely supportive. There are shelters for victims of domestic violence and counselors that specialize in this complex issue. Don’t wait until things get desperate to seek professional help and support.  

Sign #3: Disgust or Contempt for your Partner 

Are you disgusted with your partner? Does your partner make you feel that you are beneath consideration or worthless? If so, this is a red flag and you should highly consider couples counseling. Contempt is one of the biggest relationship killers and can be addressed with a relationship professional. 

Sign #4: You’ve Given Up 

After years and years of fighting, have you given up on happiness in your relationship? Do you simply not care anymore? Are you moving through life just to get through the day? If so, individual counseling or couples counseling can help guide you – either to stay in the relationship or to get help to turn things around. 

Sign #5: Long Periods of Silence 

How long has it been since you last spoke to your partner? Hours, days, weeks? Do you avoid going home? Whatever your scenario is, long periods of non-communication and silence are a key sign that your relationship is in distress. 

Sign #6: Fear 

Are you scared of your partner? Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells and that they could snap at any moment? Being in a constant state of fear and anxiety is incredibly stressful and can add to an already anxious relationship situation. 

Sign #7: Affairs or No Trust 

Being constantly suspicious of your partner or experiencing an affair in a relationship fundamentally breaks the foundation of trust between you and your partner. It is important to address either one of these issues and identify clear steps to rebuild the relationship and trust again. Without this bond and assurance of your significant other, your relationship will be uncertain, in limbo, and the battles with your spouse will continue. 

Sign #8: Exaggerated Gestures for Attention 

Is your partner constantly threatening to either hurt themselves, leave you, or engage in unsafe behavior? Sometimes partners will instigate an affair, just to get your attention. Whatever your circumstance is, this type of attention seeking behavior is unhealthy and will not lead to positive outcomes for either person. 

Sign #9: Dependency 

There are moments when you really need to depend on your partner, and yet other times then you need your independence. These feelings come and go, sometimes throughout the day or even through different periods in your life. However, when you partner is constantly dependent on you for decisions, social activities, and you feel that without your existence they would crumble, it is time to consider getting help.

Sign #10: Isolation from your Friends or Family 

One of the biggest red flags that your relationship is dysfunctional is when one partner isolates the other partner from their friends or family. This process is typically very slow and happens over time, but if you are in a relationship where you feel that you cannot reach out to friends or family because of your relationship, a professional counselor can provide some guidance. 

If you are interested in learning more about couples counseling, learn more about The Relationship Institute of San Francisco. We specialize in couples and relationship counseling, rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Life’s Too Short for Crappy Relationships

Erika Boissiere

If you really think about it, the relationship you have with your partner has possibly the greatest impact of all your other relationships on your emotional well-being - for better or worse. If every morning, and every evening, you come home to a partner with whom you are fighting, not having sex with, feeling resentful towards, or no longer connecting with, we bet that no matter how much you avoid your relationship distress, it is impacting everything in your life, every day - work, friends, and your ability to enjoy life.  

So why do people in this kind of distress not seek professional help? Well, for starters, admitting that your relationship is in dire straits is not an easy thing to do. Many of us prefer to hide underneath the covers with the hope that things will resolve itself on its own. Sometimes that works, but most of the time, it doesn’t. Time marches on, and so does your emotional numbness and unhappiness.  

If you are unsure couples counseling is for you, let us give you our pitch on why it might help:

Couples counselors have specialized training in relationships that others do not. 

It can be hard to admit that your relationship needs professional help. We are programmed to be self-sufficient and to not "air dirty laundry" to strangers. Our guess is that you have already exhausted your resources. You’ve probably spoken to a trusted friend, maybe you have read all sorts of relationship books, or even gone to a seminar. However, if things still are not changing,  seeing a professional might be worth considering. Good relationships are complex and not all based on "common-sense" or "chemistry." Couples counselors are trained professionals who can help decipher the dynamics in all sorts of relational challenges and help get things back on track.  

The process demystified. 

If you are a therapy newbie, just the thought of starting counseling can a bit daunting. “What will my therapist ask?” “Will we really talk about sex life with a complete stranger?” “Is couples counseling basically 50 minutes of rehashing old fights?” 

The first few sessions are very much focused on getting a real picture of you and your relationship by asking all sorts of questions. Next, we discuss your goals for therapy. You may have a laundry list or just a few key issues. Many couples do talk about sex with their therapist. Intimacy challenges are a common problem between couples, and the therapist's office provides a safe, neutral environment for these difficult and personal topics. 

Yes, rehashing old fights may happen at times, but for a good reason. Reviewing past conflicts provides the therapist with the opportunity to teach new skills or to uncover deeper dynamics of the partnership. Sometimes the fight about not taking out the garbage isn’t at all about taking out the garbage. It may instead be a division of labor issue, one partner feeling burned out, or perhaps one partner feeling that their needs within the relationship are not being acknowledged nor respected.  Complex stuff, huh? 

The Payoff.

For some, couples counseling can be transformative. It has the potential to change your relationship forever for the better. However, this isn't the case with every couple. Some couples are willing to do the work and are able to make positive changes, and some are not. Unfortunately, we do not have a crystal ball or a magic wand to change people – we offer tools, professional opinions and resources. The real change must come from you.   

Are you ready?

To Break Up or To Get Engaged?

Erika Boissiere

If you are in a romantic relationship, it is quite normal to experience different levels of closeness with your partner at different times. At times, you could not be happier with how things are going and the possibilities for the two of you together seem endless, and other times, you may not believe you are considering a divorce or ending the relationship. Although vacillating between these two outlooks may be difficult, experiencing both the highs and lows of a relationship present the opportunity for us to understand ourselves more deeply, and identify different needs within ourselves and our relationships. And, this process, hopefully, leads to a stronger relationships and sense of ourselves. 

However, it isn’t unusual for chronic ambivalence to plague a couple. One party in the relationship may constantly waver between wanting to stay with their partner, or end the relationship. A person with this perspective may say things like, “I really love her, but I’m not sure she’s the one…but I also don’t want to break up with her.” Or, “We’ve been dating for 3 years, and I’m not sure if we’ll break up or get married.” This is quite the paradox, isn’t it? Years go by and people stay in these relationships not being able to fully commit either to the relationship or moving on. 

Often this sort of ambivalence causes stress in the relationship and chronic unhappiness – for both individuals. If you are chronically ambivalent about the status of your relationship, here are a few questions to consider that can help move you out of a state of ambivalence to action.

Question 1: What scares you about either committing to your relationship or calling it quits? 

Seriously think about what scares you about fully committing in your relationship or leaving it. Do you fear that you might miss another opportunity? Or that he is not the perfect match? What keeps you from breaking up? Do you fear that you won’t find another partner? Or maybe, this is as good as you can get? Get down to brass tacks on yourself and ask yourself what is feeding your ambivalence. 

Question 2: Do you find yourself looking over your partner’s shoulder for someone else? 

Often, ambivalent people will continue to search for “perfect person while in relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean there is cheating going on, but suggests the person continues to wonder “is there someone better for me.” For example, a friendly conversation at the bar or jovial conversation on the bus leads some people to wonder, “Maybe I’m with the wrong person…maybe I can do better.” 

Question 3: Is being in a state of ambivalence comfortable for you?

Some people are actually comfortable constantly tussling between the two extremes in their relationships - breaking up or staying together. Some become an expert at being in the “in-between” and find it to be quite normal. Review other areas in your life – is this something you struggle with across other parts of your life? Or, do you have a history of this behavior? 

Question 4: Do you constantly seek others advice regarding your relationship, but rarely take it?

Ambivalent people tend to search for answers by asking others, but rarely act on any offered advice as it usually entails making a decision or taking action. Some even say, “If only he would break up with me…it would be so much easier.” Is this the case with you? 

Question 5: What would cause you to make a decision, either way? 

What would it take for you to decide one way or another? Think out loud with a trusted friend, or consider entering counseling as a way to process these tough questions. Often people hope, “it will get better…I just need to give it time.” And while that can be true for some cases, decide how long you are willing to wait (for both you and your partner’s sake), so maintaining your ambivalence doesn’t become more important than you reaching your relationship goals.

Does your Partner Have all the Power in your Relationship?

Erika Boissiere

Learn How to Share Power & Influence

Having influence in a relationship is the ability to effect the character or behavior of your partner. Influence can be positive or negative depending on the situation and the dynamic with your partner, depending on how you share power. If you and your partner have an unbalance of power, one person is always giving into the other, and the other begins to feel like a parent figure. What happens next? Distance and lack of emotional intimacy.

Sharing power and influence does not mean you need to constantly say "yes, dear", but it means that you listen to your partner and consider their thoughts and feelings. Simply stated: it means their opinion has an effect on you. If you are feeling distant from your partner, couples counseling can help.

Tip #:1 Realize this is an internal process.

The first step towards changing the power balance with your partner is to notice the dynamic when influence is happening. These moments happen quickly, and are very automatic - so it's hard to catch them. Begin to notice when your partner starts to talk, and whether or not you have a varying opinion. How does the dynamic play out? Do you cave? Fight to the bitter end? Stop caring? All of this information is crucial to unlocking when understanding  your personal dynamic with your partner.

Tip #2: "Know it alls" are relationship killers.

We are going to say it... “know-it-alls” are relationships killers. If you or your partner becomes a "know it all" on every subject, you run the risk of shutting out your partner. One way to end "know it all" behavior is to be honest with yourself : do you actually know what you're talking about? If you don't, it's okay to say, "I don't know." Also, you might be surprised that when you start to let down your "know- it-all" reactions, your partner may begin to get closer to you. Vulnerability is a key ingredient in relationship success.

Tip #3: You can still assert your opinion, relay your concerns and brainstorm. This is not a all or nothing.

Sometimes varying opinions actually help. We know first hand from business that brainstorming and collaborating are the ingredients to success. Relationship trials and tribulations are no different.  Your first step is to simply listen to your partner’s suggestion. State your concerns and respond in a collaborative way. “That is a great idea – the only thing I’m concerned about is…”

Tip #4: Realize that this may be a bigger deal to your partner. If it is, seek to understand the underlying motivation.

It is important to check-in if your partner isn’t budging. Why aren’t they budging? Is it a power play, or is it something much more important? For example, “We fought and fought about when to send our daughter to preschool…at the end of it all, the reason I was so anxious to send her was because I didn’t want her to be behind her peers...like I was.” You'll be surprised on what you may dig up from your partner. Not all fights are about the content at hand - it usually has to do with much deeper reasons.

As always, if you struggle with sharing power, or feel that your partner constantly makes you feel powerless, consider couples counseling. It is a wonderful way to unearth your relationship dynamics and change your relationship trajectory from unbalanced, to healthy.

 

5 Tips on How to Improve Your Sex Life

Erika Boissiere

Need Help Improving Your Sex Life?

It can be hard to admit, but if you and your partner have not had sex in more than a month to up to a year; it is time to talk about it.  Sex is a key factor distinguishing a friendship from an intimate relationship.

But do not worry…you are not alone. Sex (or a lack there of) is one of the most common issues (besides communication) causing couples to pursue couples counseling.

 

 

Simply Put: Make it a bigger priority in your life.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just do it. The hard part is that in real life, life's other demands take over. You decide to stay late at work, need to pick up the kids, clean up, grab groceries - the list can go on. Finding a way to make physical intimacy a priority in your relationship must happen every single day. If you don’t hold space for that to happen, another, less interesting, task will quickly take its place.

Get a medical checkup.

Go to your doctor and rule out any medical condition potentially contributing to the situation. Many over look this step because no one thinks they could have a medical issue related to sexual function or intimacy, and find out far too late that they do.

Care about your Partner's feelings.

Of course you care about your partner's feelings, right? Well, perhaps not all the time. If you always reject your spouse when they approach you for sex, that doesn’t feel good. Even if you say “no” – be sweet about it. After all, someone just asked if they could make love to you and you are turning it down.

Steal intimacy whenever you can.

Even if it is just a kiss goodbye, a kiss goodnight, a quick hand hold, keep intimacy alive. Start small and then build. Physical touch doesn’t have to only be sex. It can be small simple gestures to say that you notice and love them.

 The hardest part is saying yes.

Often people say, “I always usually say no, and after some prodding, I eventually cave in and realize…I’m glad I said yes.” Put simply – more often times than not, you will be happy you said yes. The catch, however, is to learn to say yes first.

 

Do you want to stop a fight dead in its tracks?

Erika Boissiere

Learn the #1 Relationship Tool to End Fighting

Do you and your partner have the same argument over and over or fights that are out of control? Although the topic of your battles with your partner may seem trivial, perpetuating a pattern of psychologically harmful and potentially violent behavior can be toxic to your relationship and personal well-being. So how do you get off that crazy ride? 

If you get to a place where your fighting feels like there is no solution in sight, consider taking a time out. No, we are not treating you like a child, but instead reminding you that you are an adult and have control of your own behavior. Remove yourself from the situation, physically calm down and take some time to collect your thoughts and emotions. The goal of this exercise is to disrupt your usual negative and destructive pattern with your partner and create an opportunity for you to reset and enable better communication with your partner.  

Either partner can signal a time out at anytime during a fight. You and your partner have the ability to stop abusive, psychologically harmful and incredibly stressful behaviors right now, from this day forward. World-renowned couples therapist Terry Real outlines the steps to taking a proper time out in his novel, “The New Rules of Marriage.”

Step 1: Create a Contract 

Agree in advance that each of you has a “right to leave the fight” to take a “time out.“ You can physically leave the location all together or choose to at least not be in each others physical presence. This right is sacrosanct and must be upheld by both partners and can only be broken if there is a safety concern. 

Step 2: Here's How you do it

Signal to your partner that you need a “time out.” Speak from an “I” position. For example, “Dear partner, for whatever reason, right or wrong, I am about to lose it. If I keep this up, I will regret what I will say or do. I am taking a break. I will check back in with you responsibly.”  Both partners need to immediately stop the interaction.  Finally, never tell your partner that they need a “time out."

Step 3: Timing 

Wait at least 20 minutes before reengaging with your partner.  At times, you may need to take 1-2 hours, ½ day, or an entire day.  When you are ready to reengage, you don’t need to necessarily do so in person. 

Step 4: The trigger topic is taboo for 24 hours 

Once you and your partner have resumed communication, for the next 24 hours, do not discuss the topic that sparked the argument. Once 24 hours has passed, you can talk about the conflict.   

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

Are you closer to your iPhone, or your Partner?

Erika Boissiere

Is your Partner Addicted to their Smart Phone?

It is hard to imagine a time when smartphones didn’t exist. In a pre-smart phone world, we had to navigate with paper maps or directions, often getting lost. The anxiety of showing up late is better eased today through smartphones – just shoot off a text telling your party you are running late. Fixed! No need to call.  We are all transfixed by our phones and staying connected digitally. Everyone is doing it - on the bus, walking downtown, at the local coffee shop, busily tapping or scrolling away. We’ve also all seen the cute couple having a romantic, candlelit dinner…staring down at their phones.

What happens if we forget our device, lose it or it stops working? We panic and feel disconnected; we send mass Facebook or email updates alerting everyone that we are off-line.

Why on earth are we so connected to these little devices? Are we happier with them in our lives? Ironically, research clearly shows that those that spend more time Facebook, report more unhappiness than those that don't. A new study from the University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross found that the more people used Facebook, the less happy they felt—and the more their overall satisfaction declined from the beginning of the study until its end. We also see that those that spend more time in general online also report the same thing: more unhappiness. Why do we continually subject ourselves to being glued on such devices? In a short brief answer: we like to be distracted.

If distraction is something you crave, then yes, being addicted to your smartphone can hurt your relationship. When you choose to engage with your phone instead of your partner, you are sending the message that, “This is more important than you.” Send that message often and you will eventually erode your relationship. Our guess is that your partner will start to mimic your behavior and become intimate with their phone too. Or, they will find another way to engage with the world, and it might not be with you.

How can we change this addictive and destructive behavior? Here are three simple ways to get off the phone and start paying attention to your relationship.

Be with the one you are with.

When you are out to dinner, at a special engagement, and during 1:1 time with your partner, make a concerted effort to not check your phone. Put it somewhere it isn’t visible at least; even better, turn it off.

Being uber responsive doesn’t make you awesome to hang out with.

If you receive a text or phone call while you are with someone, there is not need to look at it instantly. There are no extra points for that.  The person you are with will appreciate that you are paying attention to them, and not a text coming in.

Monitor how much you check your phone.

Make rules for monitoring incoming messages. For example: I’ll check my phone once in the AM, once in the afternoon and twice in the PM. Just like a soap opera, you will be surprised how little has changed, despite checking your phone less.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

 

Are you boring in your relationship?

Erika Boissiere

Always Having it "Together" Might be Driving you and your Partner Apart

The #1 way to bore your partner to pieces is to be emotionally distant or unavailable. Emotions and feelings are what make us uniquely human and our individual selves. They allow us to connect to and relate with one another. If you are not able to connect on an emotional level with your partner, you feel lonely and totally bored.

People who are emotionally distant tend to intellectualize almost everything, rarely show vulnerabilities, and do not dare seem insecure. Not sure if this describes you? Ask yourself, "Do I always need to show people that I've got it all figured out? That I'm always together? Is this how I come across to my partner?" Or, perhaps this sounds all too familiar and describes your partner to a tee.

Before you start chasing them around the house asking them to be more vulnerable and “open," realize that understanding one’s own feelings or sharing them with others is not easy for many. Societal norms, the role of our parents in our lives, and a long list of other considerations particular to each person’s personal psychology all influence our ability to be emotionally present and open. So take a deep breath – this might take some time.

If you believe you are emotionally cut off from your partner, or if your partner is becoming the bore, below are 5 steps to help you to connect to your emotional core in a positive way and open your heart – even if just a little bit at time.

Realize you are not alone.

At one time or another, everyone has experienced discomfort with or out of touch with their emotions. There are many reasons why people choose to close off the connection to their feelings. Most are related to our upbringing, cultural influences, and a fear of what might happen if we show how we really feel about things, people, and even ourselves. Particularly in Western culture, being emotionless, “stable as a rock,” is associated with having confidence and strength of character. However, understanding your insecurities, weaknesses and what you fear actually enables you to be confident - not the other way around.

Feelings are like a water faucet.

Unfortunately, you can’t turn on certain feelings, and turn off other feelings. If you shut off your feelings, you cut off access to all of them – even the good ones. Naturally people try to avoid experiencing difficult feelings (sadness, weakness, scared, fear) – that makes sense, doesn't it? However, by shutting down unpleasant feelings - you inevitably shut down access to the positive ones too.

Turn the satellite dish currently facing out to face in.

One easy way to start to access your emotional core is to notice what your experiencing on the inside when interacting with others. People who are cut off emotionally are often consumed with thinking and worrying about what is going on outside of and around them. Catch yourself when you start to judge or react to others. Stop and think, "What am I feeling right now?"

Know the primary emotions – luckily, there are only 4.

We all experience feelings all the time, however it can be challenging to pin point exactly what the emotion is that you are feeling. Start with the primary feelings - these easy to identify. Just by paying attention and noticing which of these primary emotions you are experiencing, you’ll be surprised how much easier it becomes to identify what is happening in your emotional core.  You may find that you are actually filled with feelings of all sorts! The four primary feelings are:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Afraid/surprised
  • Angry/disgusted

Start to check in with yourself – every day, 3 times a day.

Don’t over think it - simply ask yourself 3 times a day, “How am I feeling right now.” Pull out a note pad or your smart phone and quickly jot down what's happening for you and notice the feeling. By practicing noticing your feelings, you will begin to be more connected to what is happening for you. Although you may discover that your feelings vary and fluctuate widely across a spectrum and your emotional life may seem “messier”, the payoff is well worth it. Your partner and you will have the ability to connect at a deeper, more emotional and intimate level. No one will be the bore.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

 

First Comes Love. Then Comes Marriage. Then Comes...

Erika Boissiere

Can a new baby cause Relationship Problems?

You have fallen in love, you have gotten married, and now you are wanting to experience the next major mile stone in one’s life: having a baby.

Depending on where you are in your thoughts about pregnancy, we are here to tell you that having a baby will change your relationship forever.

As with any transition, it can be hard to let go of your old identity – for mother and father. For some couples, having a baby will bring you closer than ever to your partner, whereas others (and there are many), this transition can be fraught with difficulty.  Many couples experience what feels like serious setbacks in their relationship at the onset of a child. Our hope is that if you experience these setbacks, to either seek couples counseling or utilize resources to help you navigate this new unfamiliar territory.

We like to arm our readers with helpful tips for the many issues that can arise with the birth of a child. Although every couple is different, as is every relationship – so will be the uniqueness that you bring to this transition. This list is not a catch all – but simply tips that have helped couples enter into this new phase of life.

You will change, and so will your partner. Give it time.

Becoming a mother or father absolutely will change you. Your schedule will be different, your priorities will shift, and the sheer exhaustion that you may experience will cause you to be very careful with how you spend your time. With the many changes that you experience during both the pregnancy and the birth, remember that your old identity and your new identity might be at odds with each other. It can be hard to let go of your old life. It simply takes time.

During the first 12 months of your baby’s life, almost everything is a phase.

Simply put: the crying from your infant won’t last forever. The sleep deprivation won’t last forever. The frustration that you experience or the moodiness following the birth of your child…won't last forever. You can expect that about every 3 months or so, your baby will become different – stronger, smarter, and more complicated. But so will you.

Make time for yourself – no matter how much you talk yourself out of it.

We cannot stress this enough. Find time for yourself. Both of you. Go for a walk, get your nails done, sit in a room by yourself. Anything. Going to work doesn’t count as time for yourself! You want something specifically dedicated to you.

Educate your partner on your (New) needs. 

As with point number 1, you have changed, and so have your needs. It’s important to recognize what those new needs are and to communicate them to your partner. Don’t expect your partner to mind read – talk to them and come to a compromise.

Sleep deprivation is real, as is hormone fluctuations.

Not sleeping a full night’s sleep for 3 months will cause you to act, think and behave differently. There is no way around it, except to know that you might be moody, inpatient and easily frustratable. If you start to recognize these signs, and it’s possible: have your partner take a night shift for a few nights so you can catch up on your sleep. You will be a changed person.

Seek couples or individual counseling if you feel like you don’t have a handle on yourself, or your relationship.

If you’re feeling depressed, angry, lonely, and frustrated and you simply don’t have the tools, bandwidth or resources to navigate your new relationship, consider couples counseling. It can be a world of support for you, your partner, and ultimately, your beautiful baby.

The Effects of Being Chronically Late on your Relationship

Erika Boissiere

Is your wife, husband or partner always late?

For many, even the word "late" leads to feelings of frustration and stress. One partner may sit tapping their foot while the other 's heart races. Sometimes being late is unavoidable, but when it happens all the time, it can be a much bigger problem. Ask yourself: are you chronically late? If you answered, "yes", or even "maybe", here are 5 easy tips to help you change from being late to being on time.

Change your starting point

Simply reframing how you think about your schedule - the starting point as the time by which you need to leave, instead of the time by which you need to arrive, can be an easy and effective tool to help you manage your time better.  For example, if you need to meet your husband at dinner at 6:00PM, and you know it takes a half hour to get there, tell yourself (and those around you), "I need to leave here no later than 5:15PM." 

Give yourself a buffer

As we all know, things often do not go as planned. Perhaps there is road work, a broken down bus, a cab that takes the worst route - whatever it is, give yourself a 15 minute buffer. Your stress, your heart rate and your relationship will all thank you.

If you're chronically late, you are asking others to chronically wait

To be candid, chronically late people are often perceived as selfish, period. Of course things will come up that are unavoidable, it is important to remember that asking someone to chronically wait is unacceptable.

When are you not late?

If your boss asked you be at dinner at 6PM, would you show up late? Our guess is...probably not. You would plan ahead and take steps to ensure that you would be on time. Apply those same behaviors to connecting with your partner. If you are capable of doing it one situation, you can do it in another.

You will get better

As with any habitual behavior, it is can be hard to change overnight. However, improvements in punctuality can can quickly be realized. Remind yourself of these 5 tips before walking out the door to your next obligation. Your efforts will show your partner that you are capable of change, that you respect their time, and most importantly, that you are dependable. These three things are each important elements to a healthy relationship.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

5 Steps to Consider When Talking to your Partner about Couples Therapy

Erika Boissiere

Do not (and we repeat, do not) introduce the topic during a heated argument.

If anything, do the opposite. Introduce the idea of considering therapy when you are both in a positive space (or at least, a non-argumentative space). To encourage cooperation and avoid defensiveness,  try to use "I" statements, avoid blaming or saying "you".

Do a bit of homework, but don't do it all by yourself.

Do some due diligence on why counseling might help your current circumstance, but don't present to your partner the final decision. Why? Your partner should be an active participant in the decision as well as the process to select a therapist, and may have a strong opinion on the matter.

Review websites together - even if just passing your phones back and forth. 

It's amazing how busy our lives are - and sometimes sitting down together and thoroughly reviewing a therapist's bio is just too time consuming (and overwhelming!) However, do your best to explore different practitioners and therapeutic approaches as not all are the same. You can learn about our specific point of view and expertise here. 

Decide what you want out of therapy.

Define your therapy goals together. Therapy is a commitment of time, money, and effort and this exercise can help ensure you and your partner are aligned around what you want to achieve, and whether or not you can benefit from therapy. We also suggest that you share what you fear about couples therapy ahead of time. We find that many couples continually put off seeking therapy because they fear the potential topics that might be broached.

Don't wait until the last minute.

Often people do not seek assistance until the relationship has reached the bitter end. Couples turn to therapy is last resort before deciding to call it quits. If you are considering couples therapy, really think about it, and then act on that decision. Don't wait until your relationship continues to erode. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help, contact us.

Have you cheated on your Partner?

Erika Boissiere

Have you cheated on your husband or wife?

If you have cheated in your marriage, you have broken the most fundamental relationship cornerstone: trust. If you want to save your relationship, you will need to do a lot of work to regain trust and stability with your partner.

We won't lie; this is going to be hard. Considering couples therapy or seeking some sort of professional help may assist you find a way to a better place with your partner.

Affairs, cheating and betrayal are usually symptoms of a more complex issue that take time to unravel and understand. 

End the affair. 

End the affair and let your partner dictate how many details to share. Tell the truth; any lie will hurt your chances of regaining trust in the future. If you do not end the affair, or don't want to end the affair, you may want to consider individual counseling to help you decide what to do next.

Prove yourself to be truthful.

Prove over and over again that you are being honest with your partner. Be transparent and open with all of your accounts (text, email, Facebook). Do not lie or withhold the truth about anything. Regaining your partner's trust will be a long process and you cannot make mistakes.

Process why.

Allow your partner to process their emotions and be angry or sad. Seek therapy if you are unable to make progress or if you have exhausted your friends and family.

Set boundaries.

Set clear parameters around when and for how long you both can talk - decide this together. Being tired or intoxicated will only make things worse. 

Unravel your story.

Tell the story of why it happened - there are reasons. If you do not know, individual therapy can help. It is important to know the contributing factors to your behavior as this will be your recipe for a better relationship in the future.

Healthy accountability.

Take responsibility for your actions, but allow your partner to own their part.  No one is 100% at fault. Your partner may need time to get to this place.

Develop a new relationship.

Work to develop a stronger relationship with new rules, commitments, and hopefully, a deeper love.  Trust is something you will always work on in your relationship – but, it will get better.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

Are you Fighting about Money in Your Relationship?

Erika Boissiere

Is Money Causing your and your Partner to Fight?

Money. We love it and we hate it. Most people site that it is the number one thing they fight about with their partner. The typical couple that has financial differences looks like this: one partner is liberal with their money, and the other is conservative. One partner doesn’t bat an eye when it comes to purchasing, and the other has a mini-stroke each time he or she pulls out their wallet.

The classic paradox: saver versus spender.

Financial differences eat away at the relationship. The constant fighting about what is the “right approach” will continue on because partner feels vindicated and almost absolute that their approach is in fact the correct one.  Although a financial manager may tell you differently, it is also our job to tell you there is no 100% right way. Getting to a place where money isn’t your #1 fight is our goal. So how do we solve such a complicated dilemma? Our approach is that financial differences follows this methodology:

Let go of being right versus wrong

Unless there is a severe spending issue, debt, and behaviors that are troublesome, your saving or spending approach is not 100% correct. Once you let that go, we can get to a place of compromise.

Come together on financial goals – both having equal weight on deciding the goals together

Decide together what you want your financial picture to look like. Review current and future goals, as both are important.

Look at "what" You are fighting About

Is there a deeper dynamic going on? If your partner is unhappy in your relationship, we often see money be the vehicle to display anger or unhappiness. Find out what is really going on within your relationship.

Do Not get stuck in The parenting position

Whatever goals you decide upon, be careful not to slip into the mommy/daddy role with your partner. Once you step into the parenting role, not only does intimacy get lost, but you have just assumed a responsibility that will perpetuate the problem.

Stick to what you said

Nothing is more important than doing what you said you were going to do. Be conscious about it. Set prompts for yourself. Behavior change is hard, but you can do it if you constantly keep it alive in your mind.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

The Top 10 Mistakes Couples Make When Fighting

Erika Boissiere

How to Stop Fighting in Your Relationship

Every couple fights. Some do it in big boisterous ways, while others do it in small unnoticeable ways. Either way, there are pitfalls that any couple can fall into when fighting.

These top 10 mistakes are the most common conflict tactics that couples use, and often get them into hot water.

In reading below, ask yourself and be honest: Which one do you do? It is with this reflection that will give you insight into changing your conflict pattern with your partner. And hopefully, change your relationship for the better.

Fighting Mistake #1: Being right & blaming: How much does being “right” matter to you?

We get it. No one likes to be wrong, but how badly do you need to be right? Is it hard for you to accept responsibility? If you often find yourself in a fight waiting to hear those words, “you’re right honey” but rarely say them, we have bad news - eventually your partner will want to check out.

Fighting Mistake #2: Unbridled self-expression: Do you talk and talk…and rarely listen?

You are in a fight. You are mad. More than anything, you want to tell your partner everything that is on your mind. And when we say “everything," we mean--everything. If you talk a lot but rarely listen, it is hard for your partner to remain focused and engaged. By taking this approach, you are telling your partner in a small, but big way, “I deserve to be listened to, but you don’t.”

Fighting Mistake #3: Being defensive: The problem is, you’re defensive about being defensive.

If people seem to be walking on tiptoe when they are around you, you are probably acting defensive.  Why is being defensive a problem? Defensiveness ultimately teaches the other partner to either have to skillfully craft their communication for you, or they will choose not bring up anything unless it is in agreement with you. Ultimately, this makes a relationship not healthy. It is often hard for someone who acts defensive to acknowledge their behavior or accept this feedback. Take a deep breath, and try to think to yourself – do I act defensive?

Fighting Mistake #4: Using extreme language: “you always” or “you never.”

Often when we get into fights, we tend to use extreme language. To ensure we make our point understood and heard we resort to big language. However, extreme language, such as "you always" or "you never" is rarely accurate,  over-inflates the problem, and can escalate a fight.

Fighting Mistake #5: Not expressing your feelings. “Are you mad at me?” “No, I’m fine.”

Does your partner often ask, “Are you mad at me?” And is your response, “No, I’m fine," when you're actually fuming inside?  How long does this cycle continue until you finally admit that you are mad?  This strategy might work for a while, but eventually it is going to get really tiresome for your partner. 

Fighting mistake #6: Being sarcastic or passive aggressive.

Sarcasm can be funny, but when you are in a heated fight, it will only infuriate your partner. On the other hand, passive aggressiveness confuses your partner. You may ask nicely for their help, but the well of resentment and anger in your voice is obvious. Both of these communication modes tend to escalate and prolong fights, as they indirectly communicate your needs, feelings and emotions.

Fighting Mistake #7: Telling your partner what to do: you always know best.

You tell your partner how to cook, how to clean, how to change the diaper, how to park, how to chew their food – really, it can be and will be…just about anything.  Unknowingly, you are criticizing your partner. You may believe that you are helping them – but if you are constantly correcting, admonishing or critiquing, you are acting like a parent. It may be hard to admit, but take a step back and ask yourself – how often do I criticize my partner? About what sorts of things? If your critiques are trivial in nature, then this might be your current strategy.

Fighting Mistake #8: Not staying on topic.

You are mad. Your partner is mad. You start fighting about one thing, and then you rehash another fight from a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly, you’ve got a whole armory of things you are mad about, and you start slinging them at your partner.  You're making “fight soup”!  You defend on one topic, and then suddenly you are arguing about something you can hardly remember. “Wait, what did I do again?” Now is the time to learn how to stay on one topic.

Fighting Mistake #9: The never-ending fight: It’s 2AM and you Are still at it.

If you are the type of couple whose fights continue on, and on, and on – it is time to take a new approach. Marathon fights tend to lead to more fights. More issues get discussed, more feelings get hurt, and rarely is peaceful resolution reached when it's all over.

Fighting Mistake #10: Going into problem solving mode: fixing the problem sometimes isn’t the answer.

You want to help. We get it. You say to yourself, “I’ve been there before, I can help!” Or, “I know how to handle this perfectly – you just need to…” And you’re right. You might know. You may have been there before, but your partner isn’t you. Your partner has a different set of experiences and may have a different way of solving the same problem that is right for them.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

Do you struggle with Anxiety?

Erika Boissiere

The main function of anxiety is to signal to us that something is wrong. This can be a very good thing when we perceive something dangerous or that doesn’t feel right. As an inherent safety mechanism, anxiety is an important emotion, however, when feelings of anxiety become excessive and uncontrollable, worry and unease can permeate your relationships and cause issues. 

In couples therapy, it is not uncommon for one partner to be extremely anxious - about the relationship, wanting change, and wanting "the nervous feeling" to go away. This condition is typically best assessed by a therapist, or mental health professional. 

 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion causing a feeling of powerlessness or helplessness. It is the inability to control things we think may hurt us that makes us anxious. When clinical anxiety exists,  life feels out of control.

What are the key symptoms of anxiety?

Excessive anxiety and worry about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance) occurring more days than not for at least 6 months. If you find it difficult to control worry, you are likely suffering from a condition of anxiety. Other key symptoms:

  • Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)

What is the best treatment?

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy including relaxation techniques, stress reducing activities, and enhancing coping skills
  • Medication
  • Self-help/group therapy

How can I better cope with anxiety?

  • Don’t feel ashamed. This is a common clinical issue, and many people suffer from anxiety.
  • Look for root causes. Did something in your life or family happen to make you feel unsafe?
  • Talk to a professional. A therapist can help you understand the source of your feelings and help you improve your coping skills.
  • Take medications if needed. Medication paired with therapy can be helpful and is the considered the best treatment model to treat anxiety.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.