Creating Magic in Your Relationship, Part 1: Your Relationship’s Rhythm

At long last, Coldplay released their new single “Magic” earlier this month, and as a longtime fan, I’ve been listening to the soulful, intimate tune a lot in recent weeks. The song takes its name from the “magic” that the singer experiences when he’s with his beloved partner. Even if you’re not a Coldplay fan, chances are you’ve felt the magic that happens when you’re really connected to another person, when you feel known and understood, recognized and cherished. As much as we want this magic, though, it’s not as easy as pulling a rabbit out of a hat. So how does it happen?

3 Ways to (Really) Have Happier Holidays

It’s that time of that time of year, isn’t it? Christmas is fast approaching, and for many, the nor’easter of financial stress, family conflict, and migraine-inducing holiday preparations is becoming more intense. As the lines at stores get longer, the holiday travel more hectic, and the planning for festivities more frantic, St. Nick is the only one who’s got time to check his list twice. Amidst the yuletide chaos, much of the holiday spirit is lost, so much so that we frequently speak of Christmas as a season that must be “survived” or “saved.”

Protective Patterns in Couple Relationships, Part 3: The Angry Couple

It was my first session with Lauren and Jim (not their real names), and from the moment I welcomed them, they were hell-bent on continuing the argument that had begun on the way to my office. They angrily interrupted, talked over, and screamed at each other. The couple had come to therapy because they were fighting like this so frequently, but here in my office, they were far from interested in anything I had to say.

 

For couples like Lauren and Jim, anger and the accompanying escalating conflict is a way of life.

3 Ways You Can Validate Your Partner’s Feelings

Validating one’s partner is an artful skill that is essential to creating and maintaining intimacy in committed relationships. When I discuss how partners can validate one another in my office, however, I have found that much of the time couples aren’t sure what it is or how to do it. Today, I’d like to take a break from exploring protective patterns in couple relationships and consider how couples can validate each other’s feelings.

Protective Patterns in Couple Relationships, Part 2: That Old, Familiar Tune in Your Marriage

Last week, we saw that as when two partners begin a new couple relationship, their deepest needs for love, understanding, and recognition fulfilled come to the fore. This period of “young love” is called the honeymoon phase, and during this time the couple can’t seem to get enough of each other. Notably, there is little to no conflict during this phase. Alas, a phase is, by definition, temporary. When the arguments finally come, each partner will use the defenses they learned in childhood to protect themselves and minimize their own pain.

Protective Patterns in Couple Relationships, Part 1: The Defensive Self

If you’re married or in a long-term, committed couple relationship, your relationship probably began like many others. You couldn’t wait to see each other and share your experiences. As you exchanged your  hopes and disappointments, your partner was just as excited or sad about them as you were. He or she seemed to understand you perfectly. Your stomach fluttered as you imbibed the intoxicating elixir of love. But then . . . something shifted, didn’t it? Over time, a different pattern of relating set in, one marked by conflict, avoidance, or both. It’s not what you or your partner want, so how did it happen?

On (Emotional) Shackles & Freedom

Today, of course, is the Fourth of July, the holiday during which America remembers its adoption of the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1776. We celebrate that after declaring our independence from Great Britain, we at last gained hard-won freedom after the long years of the Revolutionary War ended in 1783. Though that war is over, Americans still battle in many conflicts throughout the world.

 

A different kind of conflict, however, churns within each of us, regardless of nationality: Each of us fight for our innermost desires and longings to be recognized and understood in our most intimate relationships.

Your Need to Be Emotionally Intimate with Your Partner—And Your Need Not to Be

Have you ever wondered why people seek intimacy in relationships? What is it about emotional intimacy, anyway? Why is feeling connected with a deeply loved partner so much better than just about anything? As a marriage counselor, I know that partners in an intimate, committed, long-term relationship yearn to know and to be known by each other, and yet for so many couples, such intimacy is elusive. Why is cultivating this kind of connection so hard? Because as much as you want to be connected and close to your partner, intimacy is also profoundly frightening. To understand why, we need to consider our need for intimacy first.

Piglet on the Couch: Anxiety as Inner Conflict

Some months ago, I stumbled across “Winnie the Pooh,” a 2011 film featuring many of my favorite childhood friends, while wading through the vast waters of Netflix’s streaming library. My delight upon being reunited with these characters inspired me to integrate my training as a therapist with my affection for Pooh and his friends by writing about Eeyore, Ashdown Forest’s sad, gloomy, and lethargic grey donkey. In that post, I explained that depression results from one’s inability to manage depressive feelings.