I contributed the following to a Huffington Post article about stonewalling, one of Joh Gottman’s Four Horsemen:
“2. Be aware of the physical reaction you have before you stonewall.
“If you’re a stonewaller, you usually have an internal physiological reaction (increased heart-rate or rapid breathing, for instance) and an external reaction right before you close up: Maybe you physically turn away from your partner or close your eyes and deeply sigh. These are all signs your partner needs to start paying attention to. Discuss what you do during times of distress so you both can recognize the stonewalling warning signs.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois”
You can read the full article here.
I contributed the following to a Huffington Post article about signs you may be in a relationship that you might not really see going anywhere and that you are just staying in it due to comfort.
“Below, experts offer six signs you may be in a Band-Aid relationship and what to do about it.
1. You stop trying to fix the relationship.
You used to try to work on the relationship. These days, though, you’re more inclined to shrug off your problems; your requests have fallen on deaf ears so often, you figure, why bring it up again? That’s a huge red flag, said Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois.
“It might seem like you’re just compromising by not bringing it up, but when you don’t express your wants and needs to your partner, you are creating a win-lose situation,” Kepler told us. “It will slowly build up resentment between you two.”
If you’re in a Band-Aid relationship, ask yourself these questions before making any serious decisions.
2. If you were trapped on a deserted island and got to bring someone with you, would your partner be your first choice?
It may sound like a silly hypothetical question, but your answer says a lot about the state of your relationship, Kepler said.
“Who you choose should be someone that you genuinely want to spend time with and care about, someone that you can spend days on end with, comfortably,” she said. “If your ‘desert island person’ isn’t your partner, you might want to consider how strong your bond is right now.”
Read the entire article here.
Here’s a little secret about my own relationship. My husband regularly goes on hiking trips with people he has met on the Internet (often women!). Oh, and I don’t go on said trips with him and often have never met the people he goes with. He really enjoys hiking/backpacking and well, I don’t as much. I went on a few hiking trips with him and I just didn’t have that great of a time. This is his hobby and passion. I’ve got other hobbies that he has no interest in as well.
Guess what? I consider my relationship pretty rock solid and wonderful.
How can that be, you may ask? Some questions/remarks I have heard throughout the years… “Why in the world do you let your husband meet people let alone other women and spend all day with them in the woods?” “Aren’t you afraid of something happening?!” “What kind of husband would go on a hiking trip without his wife?” And oh so much more….
We live in a culture where we are taught not to rely on others for emotional support and yet see relationship red flags when two people do hobbies independent from one another.
The answer, to put it simply at first, is no, I am not worried because I trust him and I do not want to deprive him of something he is truly passionate about (nature, hiking/backpacking, mountains etc.). I do worry about him when he is hiking though safety-wise!
The more complicated answer has to do with what Mary Ainsworth, a developmental psychologist, called a secure base. She did an experiment studying attachment with infants and mothers called the Strange Situation Test. Basically, a child is put into a room with toys and the mother leaves the room and comes back. The child with a secure attachment style, while upset that the mother left, is able to be soothed by her, and then uses her as a secure base and is able to go out and explore the toys with confidence while glancing at her/his mother. The child knows that she needs her mother, her mother is available.
As adults, we are put into ‘strange situations’ every day, whether they are at work, with friends, or even when our husbands are in another state hiking with people we don’t know. Ok, maybe the last one is just me… Having a secure base as an adult is having someone who, in your time of need, 100% has your back and is supportive of you. It’s someone whom you can depend on and vice versa. As adults, we are capable of knowing that our partners are there for us emotionally and psychologically even if they are not close in proximity. If your partner makes you feel safe and is able to reassure you during hard times, you are free to focus your attention on other things that make your life more meaningful, such as hiking.
Early on in our relationship, there were many times where my husband stood up for me, gave me pep talks, and had my back and I for him. We created this security early on, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing (more on that in later posts). My husband is my secure base and I am his. This type of relationship may look very independent from the outside. He’s off hiking on the weekends, I’m back in Chicago. On the contrary, we are actually very dependent on one another. *gasp* He is the first person I turn to if I need advice on just about anything. He opens up to me about his work stress. We are very emotionally close. So how can we be emotionally close but physically apart for a good portion of the weekends in the summer when he is off hiking?
This is what attachment theorists call the “dependency paradox” meaning the more dependent you are on someone during hard times and they are available to meet your needs, the more independent you become. Think of the kid who stands up to the class bully because they know their friends have their back either way or the husband who applies for a job promotion out of state and rocks the interview knowing he has his wife’s full support and that they will make things work no matter what happens.
The saying “if you love someone, let them go, if they return, they were always yours” comes to mind, but I’d tweak it a little bit. I would say “if you love someone to the point that you can depend on him or her to have your back and support you and likewise you for them, let them go. Do your own thing, they’ll be back and they’ll tell you how much fun they had and how they wished you were there too.” You’ll both probably feel more satisfied with your relationship and your lives.
I’m just going to go right out and say it, dating sucks, especially now with all the apps and the swiping and the paradox of choice. However, I don’t think it’s the modern technology, although it doesn’t help, that makes dating suck. It’s more scientific than that. You’ve heard that saying ‘dating is a number game,’ right? It certainly is!
Let’s talk about attachment styles for a minute. Neither one is good or bad (although it may seem that way). Odds are you either will recognize these characteristics in yourself or someone else. The three main attachment styles are as follows:
- Wants a lot of closeness in relationships
- Has a lot of insecurities about rejection
- Sensitive to small cues and fear the relationship is in jeopardy and that he/she must work to keep you interested
- Struggles expressing what is bothering him/her
- Reliable and constant
- Naturally expresses feelings for you
- Not afraid of commitment or dependency
- Communicates relationship issues well
- Sends mixed signals and doesn’t make intension clear
- Values independence a great deal
- Emphasizes boundaries in relationship
- Has difficulty talking about what’s going on between the two of you
Odds are, you have most likely dated people with an anxious or avoidant attachment style. I know I have certainly dated my share! In fact, I dated so many people with this attachment style, I almost blew my chances when someone with a secure attachment style (my husband–believe it or not) came along!
Here’s my story, hopefully you can benefit from hearing it and the lessons I’ve learned from it. Keep in mind, I would consider myself to have an anxious attachment style (at least at this time!) and my husband having a secure attachment style. I will include my inner dialogue and ways my husband calmed my “activated attachment system” as well as some
See if you can pick up the cues that his attachment style is secure.
Back in the day, I was a big fan of online dating. It was easier than meeting people in person and I liked the screening process. When my now husband messaged me on a site, I at first did not see it, but then he messaged a few days later and I quickly scanned his profile before responding. We didn’t seem to have much in common, but decided to respond to him anyway. We chatted online for an hour or so then he quickly asked for my phone number that same night.
“My phone number?! I don’t even know him, he’s moving very fast!”
“What if we talk and he gets bored because we’ve already talked for a while already?”
I gave him my phone number anyway and we talked for a few more hours that night. He said he had a great time talking with me and then asked me on a date for a few days from now.
“I don’t know about this, I usually like to talk to people more before I meet them.”
“He’s very direct, I don’t know how I feel about that.”
“I bet once he meets me he won’t want to see me again. I don’t know if I am good enough.”
We met and had a wonderful date where we talked and seemed to really hit it off. The next morning, he called and left me a voicemail saying that he had a wonderful time and he wanted to know when I was available next.
“This is unreal. I meet a nice guy and he tells me right away that he had a great time and wants to make plans with me again right away!”
“What’s his angle here, I’ve never met someone with such clear intensions.”
I messaged him saying I had a great time too and that I was available that next weekend. We called and texted throughout the week, getting to know each other further. He was available to talk during the day (work permitting) and let me complain about my crummy job at the time.
He said he knows he just met me once, but he wants to see where this goes and is planning on canceling any other dates he had lined up for the future.
“I can’t believe this. No guy has ever been this direct and able to express his feelings so clearly.”
“Do I have to do the same? I am not sure if I like him as much as he likes me…” (no, I did not have to do the same)
“He’s taking a big risk on me, I don’t know if I am worth the risk.”
A close friend warned me about “guys like him.”
Can you pick up on his secure attachment style? How about my anxious one and what I was used to dating in the past (anxious and avoidant men)? Had I listened to my friends and my rather calm but confused attachment system, I may have missed out on someone really special.
A few tips on how to not let a secure person get away:
- Ask yourself “is this person able and willing to meet my needs?”
- Do you really like a few texts throughout the day? Are they able to meet that need for you?
- Do you need to vent about your work? Do they listen to you and not shut you down?
- How do they react to you expressing your feelings (within reason) for them.
- Do they shy away from commitment or play games with their feelings?
- How do they react when you express displeasure with something they did or said?
- When you effectively communicate that you were disappointed, how open are they to your feedback.
- Do you know where you stand with this person? Is there very little “drama”?
- We’ve conditioned ourselves to be used to and welcome the drama, but people with secure attachment styles are upfront with their feelings and can at times seem boring due to the lack of drama.
Stay tuned for more attachment style insights to help you improve your dating life.
I contributed to the following article for the Huffington Post about the signs a couple should consider going to therapy:
“It gives you a safe, open space to address complaints you haven’t voiced to your partner.
“Take a behavior that six months ago was slightly annoying to you, such as your partner forgetting to turn off the lights before leaving the house. At some point, you might start to think, ‘I bet other people’s spouses remember to turn off the lights and aren’t so wasteful.’ Seek out couples therapy before you get to the point. You never want to unfavorably judge your partner’s behavior and compare it with real or imagined alternatives.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois”
Read the entire article here.
I contributed to the following article for the Huffington Post about ways to reduce your defensiveness in arguments with your partner:
“When someone is ranting and raving, it’s easy to plan your mental counter attack, but when you do that you are no longer listening to them and the message they’re trying to get across might get lost. Try to postpone your agenda and listen for points that make sense to you. Then let them know what makes sense. “ ― Danielle Kepler, a couples counselor in Chicago, Illinois”
Read the entire article here.
I contributed to the following article for the Huffington Post about qualities every couple should develop in order to have a long and happy relationship:
“Couples who are good friends know each other well, give each other the benefit of the doubt and are fond of one another. When you take the time to strengthen your friendship, you’re more successful long-term. Making friendship a priority will help you weather any storm that comes your way.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois”
Read the rest of the article here.
I contributed to the following article for the Huffington Post about tips for surviving the holidays if you do not get along with your in-laws:
“Create a sense of solidarity with your partner
Tense situations with in-laws and spouses often occur in marriages and sometimes you may wonder where your partner’s allegiance lies. You both have been part of another family for a long time; that family has its own holiday traditions and customs. A turf war between the spouses and in-laws may ignite, since both parties want the partner’s attention during the holidays. One way to end the war is to create a sense of ‘we-ness’ with your partner so you’re both more inclined to side with each other rather than the parents. This may mean having to hold your ground and stand up for your spouse. It may seem harsh, but slowly parents will adjust to reality and accept that spouses comes first. Remember which team you are on. You are a spouse first and a son or daughter second.
The holiday season brings many joyful times as well as many stressors. Spending time with family is something many of us look forward to enjoying, but depending on our relationship with in-laws and parents, the holidays may not be as rewarding as we hope. Getting married or being in a long-term relationship means you inherit a new set of parents, your partner’s parents, for better or for worse.
Here are two tips that may help you keep your relationship intact when navigating the relationship you have with your in-laws:
1) Discuss holiday schedules ahead of time in a productive way
Figuring out which family you visit or visit first and when should be a decision between the two of you and usually involves a bit of compromising. This is an important step in showing both of your families that you are now separate from them and have formed your own family. John Gottman identified a method called ’the two ovals’ which works well for figuring out holiday schedules.
Here’s how to do it:
- Draw two ovals, one inside of the other like a donut or a bagel.
- In the smaller circle put the family time you are unwilling to compromise on, the things that if you gave up, you’d really regret and feel badly about. Say holiday dinner at your aunt’s house.
- In the larger oval put the family time you are more flexible with, like when you visit your grandparents the next town over.
- Discuss your ovals with your partner and ask the following questions:
- Where you do agree?
- What are both of your inflexible areas?
- How can you reach a temporary compromise for this holiday season?
- Come up with a plan that works for both of you and then tell your families as a united front.
2) Create a sense of ‘we-ness’ and solidarity with your partner, especially around the holidays.
Tense situations with in-laws and spouses often occur in marriages and sometimes you may wonder where your and your partner’s allegiance lies. You both have been part of another family for a long time; that family has its own holiday traditions and customs. Somewhat of a ’turf war’ between the spouses and in-laws may ignite, both wanting the partner’s attention during the holidays.
One of the main ways to end the war is to create a sense of ‘we-ness’ and solidarity with your partner and side with your partner over your parents. This may mean having to hold your ground and stand up for your spouse and take this or her side over your parents. This may seem harsh, but slowly your parents will adjust to reality and accept that your partner comes first. You are a partner/spouse first and a son/daughter second. Remember which team you are on.
Here’s a more mild example:
Your father says: “Jane’s mashed potatoes are good, but your mother’s are better aren’t they? I don’t like all of the onions that Jane put in them this year.”
You can say: “Actually, I really like the extra onions, it gives it a more flavorful taste.”
And another example:
Your brother says: “I don’t know why you married Jack, he’s got no personality!”
You can say: “He really opens up once you get to know him. Why don’t you ask him about his fantasy football draft this year?”
This way you are choosing your partner over your parent/relatives. It might seem like a small gesture, but it adds up, especially in the eyes of your partner!
Hopefully these two tips help you navigate the holiday season with your partner.
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