Intimate relationships are special and take such a central part of our lives, yet not all couples develop a robust sense of trust and autonomy. They may run a household together, or share a bank account, but don’t stay connected in a way that allows for "interdependence" -- that sense that “you can count on me and I know you have my back.” This interdependence thrives on many important ingredients: trust, healthy boundaries, flexibility, curiosity, respect, shared goals and good communication.
My approach to couples therapy is collaborative. I observe your interactions, give feedback and invite you to think and relate to one another in ways that take each other’s minds into account. Blaming, criticisms, competition, disdain or other invalidating ways of communicating are not part of therapy because they don’t promote growth, in fact they promote rigidity, control, low self-esteem, distancing and acting out behaviors.
I'll also address self-care. I'll encourage you to practice de-escalating techniques, and examine the distractions that you may employ to avoid dealing with unpleasant situations; for example, drinking or eating too much; being over-involved with the children; doing excessive social media/TV; working “all the time,” or being hooked on porn. I'll help you move away from the urge to prove yourself right (“I win” communication,) towards collaborative interactions, in which you speak of your intentions and repair misunderstandings (“we win” communication.)
Humans are hard-wired to connect to one another from birth and you chose one another to fulfill this task. My hope is that I can help you reorganize your priorities, be more clear about your needs, wants, feelings and thoughts, and show your partner that you’re open to hear what is on his or her mind as well. Once you’re on the same page, and your interactions are more supportive, problems can be better negotiated.
When these skills are mastered, you may choose to reflect upon deeper internalized messages that are carried from our early experiences with our caregivers. Researchers call them “internal working models” – a system of thoughts, memories, expectations, emotions and behaviors about ourselves and other people. These internal working models regulate and predict the ways we experience intimate relationships. For example, do we tend to avoid our partners when we get disappointed? Do we seem to be driven towards “drama” so we can put out fires? Do we complain a lot about our partners, but couldn’t fathom a life without them? Do we claim our partner is controlling but have difficulty asserting our needs? These interpersonal dynamics can be addressed in couples therapy once the groundwork is in place – safe communication, appropriate boundaries and openness to work together.