Gottman Couples Therapy

Drs. John and Julie Gottman are a married couple who have been helping other couples for four decades. They are world-renowned for their research, writings, and original therapeutic approach to couples counseling. Although there are many different types of couples therapy, the Gottman Method is one with widespread success that many people find is a perfect choice for improving their relationships.

What is the Gottman Method?

The Gottman Method is a specific approach to couples therapy. It begins with a detailed assessment of the relationship. You’ll start by coming together with your therapist to answer questions. Then each of you will have an individual interview with the therapist. Sometimes both partners also complete online questionnaires.

The assessment process is certainly helpful for your therapist to gain information about the relationship and how best to help you and your relationship. However, it’s also helpful for you. It’s really the start of the therapeutic process. As you share your story – together and separately – you begin to gain insight into the bigger picture of your relationship. You get a chance to see where you are, how you feel about things, and what you’d like to see change in the relationship. Telling your story helps you get clearer on what that story is. In other words, the assessment itself is therapeutic.

Of course, the assessment is just the beginning. It helps determine where the therapy goes from there. Your therapist will share with you their feedback about where your relationship is strong and where it needs work. They will also give you a sense of how therapy can help that work to happen, what the priorities will be, and some sense of how long it might take.

You’ll work together in therapy to address three core aspects of your relationship:

  1. The friendship between you and your partner
  2. How to better manage conflicts in your relationships
  3. Ways to create shared meaning to strengthen the relationship

Through a wide variety of techniques and exercises, you’ll work on deepening your friendship and intimacy, handling conflicts in better ways, and healing the past, and working towards a shared sense of your future together.

Will Gottman Couples Therapy Work for You?

As with any type of couples therapy, Gottman therapy may or may not work for you. It primarily depends on your willingness – individually and as a couple – to be open to trying new things in order to improve the quality of your relationship. If you give the exercises your full effort, then there’s a good chance that you’ll find some benefit in this type of therapy.

For example, one of the Gottman Method techniques is the idea of Turning Toward. You will learn how to recognize when your partner is making a “bid” for connection with you and what a positive response to that bid might look like on your part. Then, you go put it into action at home! Because when we feel that our partner is attending well to us, our relationship is strengthened. And when our relationship feels stronger, more sturdy, we handle conflict better as well – even without directly working on the conflict itself.

All of the Gottman couples therapy techniques are built upon extensive research into relationships, and hopefully you can already get a sense of how they build on each other.

Some of the other things that you’ll practice in Gottman couples therapy include:

  • Building and maximizing relationship trust
  • Creating intimacy through small everyday acts
  • Creating rituals, traditions, and shared meaning together
  • Developing a solution-oriented, problem-solving approach together
  • Growing through healthy approaches to conflict
  • Learning how to keep your “love map” of your partner up-to-date
  • Nurturing gratitude for your relationship
  • Strengthening fondness, respect, and admiration for one another
  • Interacting from a place of seeing there are two subjective realities
  • The critical importance of being open to influence

Finding the Right Couples Therapist

It isn’t easy finding the right couples therapist. However, working with a therapist who knows the Gottman Method can be a great place to start. Research has shown that it can be an effective form of therapy for couples across all different types of economic, racial, and gender lines. Same-sex relationships benefit from this therapeutic approach as do opposite-sex couples.

One of the most interesting things about this therapy is that it’s designed specifically to help solve the ongoing, perpetual problems that plague many relationships.

Gottman’s research has found that more than two-thirds of marital conflicts are perpetual, which can make those problems seem insurmountable. However, Gottman couples therapy is designed specifically to target those issues. Therefore, the approach may help you even if previous attempts at couples therapy have been unsuccessful.

Of course, you don’t have to be at a crisis point to benefit from this therapy approach. We can use the Gottman Method to help you nip your relationship problems in the bud. We know that you already have a lot of strengths that you bring to the table, and we can help you build upon those strengths so that you create a solid foundation for the relationship in the months and years to come.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Gottman Method for couples therapy, contact us today.

Break-ups

Break-ups are so painful. They are universal; everyone goes through them. Yet, as you deal with your own break-up, you may feel entirely alone in the world. Therapy can be a really effective way to take care of yourself during this emotional time. It provides you with the support you need so that you no longer feel so alone, and it helps you build the resilience to confidently move forward.

Recovering from a Breakup

It isn’t easy dealing with a breakup. You might feel like you should just be able to get over it and move on. Others in your life might even be telling you as much. However, it’s important to understand that a breakup is a loss. Coping with any loss is a process.

There is a lot of grief involved in dealing with a breakup. Many people go through the same grieving stages after a breakup as they do after the death of someone they love. You might go through stages of anger, denial, and depression.

Getting therapy after a breakup can provide you with the support that you need to move through those stages. We can honor and accept the many feelings associated with a breakup. Eventually, you can reach a stage of acceptance, which allows you to move on to a new relationship in a healthy way.

Coping with Heartache

It is important to understand that recovering from a breakup may be hard regardless of the details of the relationship. In other words, it’s perfectly normal to have trouble coping with heartache regardless of whether:

  • The decision was mutual, someone broke up with you, or you made the call to end things
  • It was a short-term or long-term relationship
  • You were a monogamous couple or were dating other people
  • You are young, old, or in-between

If you are finding it hard to cope with the pain of a break-up, that feeling is completely valid. You may be dealing with emotions that are a direct reaction to the breakup itself. You may also have feelings related to the past, including your childhood or past relationships. Break-ups trigger many things. Sometimes coping with heartache means reviewing some of the past so as to be able to better move into the future.

Are You in Need of Professional Help?

Break-ups are a grief process. Anyone struggling with grief may benefit from professional help. In some cases, the grief can turn into depression. If you have symptoms of depression, including a loss of interest in activities and a struggle with low self-esteem, then it is important that you seek professional help right away.

However, you don’t have to be in crisis to gain benefits from therapy. In fact, some people come to therapy after a break-up even when, overall, they are doing okay. Therapy can help you process the relationship, understand the breakup, and set goals for the months to come.

Therapy can give you a chance to get reacquainted with yourself, to figure out who you are and what you want separate from that relationship.

We understand that break-ups are painful. They can also be opportunities for growth. We are here to help you honor the hurt, move through it, and then encourage you in the growth you experience on the other side. Feel free to get in touch with us today if you need some support as you move through a break-up process.

 

Pre-Marital Couples

There used to be a taboo against getting pre-marital counseling. Many people saw it as something only certain religious couples would do. Or that it was evidence of problems that might make marriage contraindicated. However, it’s increasingly common for couples to see a therapist before getting married. After all, you’re about to join your lives together in a very significant way. That definitely merits the kind of open communication and problem-solving that therapy for couples can offer.

Is Your Relationship in Need of Therapy?

At first, you might wonder how you could possibly need couples counseling before you are even married. There is a myth that couples only go to therapy when something is very wrong. If things are that wrong before the marriage, why would you even get married?

The truth is that you don’t need to be in crisis to benefit from couples’ therapy. In fact, couples who go to therapy before things are bad can often nip problems in the bud, avoiding the kind of deeper conflicts that ultimately lead to divorce. If you want your marriage to have the best chance of thriving, then learning how to shore up the foundation of your relationship and navigate through core differences before the marriage are important keys to relationship success.

Couples Counseling Can Help

Couples counseling can help before marriage in so many different ways.

First of all, if you’re already planning a wedding together, then you’re likely under a lot of stress. Even though wedding planning is exciting, it is challenging. Couples often end up fighting about wedding details including cost, location, and who to invite. Premarital counseling can help you negotiate these issues so that you can both have the joyous wedding of your dreams.

Premarital counseling offers a lot more than that, though. It helps you really get on the same page as you begin your lives together. It provides a safe space to talk with each other about the fears and concerns that you naturally have moving forward. Many couples don’t want to address these things because they just want to bask in the pleasantness of getting married. However, failure to address big issues early on can lead to a lot of heartache in the future.

Premarital counseling provides you with the tools you need to learn how to effectively communicate about challenging topics. These tools will benefit you all throughout your marriage.

Talk to a Professional Today

People talk about many different issues in premarital counseling. Some people come to resolve specific challenges before the marriage. For example, if you have been in a long-distance relationship, you may need to discuss what relocating to live together is really going to look like.

Even if there is no singular problem, you may wish to focus on setting shared goals together to get your marriage off on the right foot. Some of the things that people discuss in premarital counseling include:

  • Whether, when, and how many children to have
  • Issues related to parenting styles
  • Gender role beliefs, which can arise even in non-traditional relationships
  • Step-parent and blended family concerns
  • Financial histories, challenges, beliefs, and goals
  • Traditions and cultural beliefs that are important to bring forth in the marriage
  • What important values are associated with marriage

If you are about to get married, therapy can only help. Reach out to us today to learn more about how it might be useful for you in this exciting time of your relationship.

Those with Uncertainty about Their Relationship

How do you move forward in a relationship when you have uncertainties? Should you even be thinking about moving forward in the first place?

Doubts and uncertainty can occur at any time during a relationship. Feeling uncertain about a future with your partner is frustrating, and it makes sense that you would like some certainty about where you want things to head in your relationship.

Maybe you crave stability. Perhaps you just don’t want to be back in the dating scene, so you stay even though you’re uncertain if they are the right partner for you. Are your doubts about what other people will think? Are you holding yourself back because your family or friends might not like your choice? How do you reconcile their expectations with your desires? Maybe you feel like it’s selfish to pursue what you want to do.

Or, is your uncertainty a red flag?

Sometimes uncertainty can mask truths we don’t want to acknowledge. You may see your partner’s possessiveness as a sign of love, but is it? Or, is it an indication that they can’t form healthy relationships? Every abused spouse overlooked early signs of the abuser’s nature.

If you make excuses for your partner’s actions, or if you’re afraid to tell your friends about some of the things your partner does, it may be a red flag that there is something wrong with the relationship. Do you chalk major disappointments up to poor communication without being sure the deception wasn’t deliberate? Could those disappointments be signs of dishonesty?

“Do I want a great relationship, or will any relationship do?”

If you’re not certain about who you are and what you want from life and your relationship, you may give up too much. You might settle for less than you want and need because you’re not certain your partner, or any partner, can give you those things. You’d rather have the relationship than have whatever it is you’re giving up.

Or maybe you change in order to please your partner because you’re not certain they’ll stay if you aren’t exactly the way they want you to be.

You wonder if you’re settling or if there really is someone better for you out there. Perhaps this is as good as it gets. Or if someone better exists, would you ever actually find that person?

Maybe you distract yourself with work or hobbies until you realize another year has gone by and your relationship isn’t any more satisfying than it was last time you admitted to yourself you weren’t happy with it. Could things really be better? Should you give it more time? Is it okay to move on even though things are okay, but not great? How do you decide? And how do you even go about improving things, if you opt to stay in it?

If you find yourself feeling unsure about your partner’s commitment to you, you may be right that they aren’t committed. Or it could be that you don’t feel lovable enough to believe in the commitment they have made to you. How can you tell the difference?

Or maybe it just seems easier to stay with the status quo even though you aren’t happy, which can be a sign that you’re in an uncomfortable comfort zone. If this is the case, things won’t get better without a disruption of some sort. Proactively addressing it is a gentler way of making change than what happens when the pressure builds without relief.

Although uncertainty in relationships can be quite normal, feeling unsettled and doubting your relationship can make you anxious, restless, and unhappy. You know you can’t control them; you can only control yourself. The less you trust your ability to be okay regardless of what your partner does, the more disruptive uncertainties will feel.

Having doubts about your relationship can be a sign that something is not as good as it could be – in your relationship, within yourself, and often both.

In this situation, the changes that are best are different for everyone. There is a balance to be found between uncertainty and taking your partner for granted.

When It’s Time to See a Professional

Exploring your doubts and uncertainties about your relationship with a professional will ultimately lead to positive changes. Those changes may mean you find ways to be more comfortable with uncertainty or that you decide to make a bigger transformation in your life. You may decide you want to stay with your partner but not as you are, so you begin pursuing ways to build more intimacy and tighter bonds.

At Affinity, we have the experience to help you figure out what you really want from your relationship and to move forward confidently in your decision. Take the first step to clarify your relationship goals by contacting us today.

Couples Seeking to Deepen Connection

Does your relationship “get by” or does it warm your heart?

You’ve been bombarded with the fantasy of “Happily Ever After” all your life; books and movies portray finding your “One True Love” as if it is the end of the story. Maintaining and deepening a relationship is supposed to be easy and natural, or at least that’s the way the story goes. It’s not that way for you or any of your friends. You wonder if it is a fantasy or if there is a way to create a deep, lifelong connection.

Our Relationship Connection Affects Our Mood

When you’re feeling deeply connected, life is good. During those times, both of you agree you would like more of those times, but neither of you knows how to make that happen.

When your relationship hits a low point, fear raises its ugly head. The fear that this disagreement will be the beginning of the end. Fear that you’ll have to begin all over again. After a while, you realize that the way you think changes when you’re afraid.

You want your loving relationship to last a lifetime, but sometimes it seems to go astray and when that happens, you’re never sure whether it will get back on track. You’re not sure what makes it get off track or how to get it back on track. Life would be easier for you if you spent more time on track and less time with things not going well. But mostly you want to be sure you’ll be able to get back on track when you’re not on the same wavelength.

When You Just Can’t Talk About It

You want to be able to be yourself, open and free, when you’re with your partner.

But there are topics that are difficult to talk about. These topics seem like landmines you must navigate around during every conversation, so you’re always on edge. These conversational landmines prevent you from feeling free to be fully yourself. When you have to hide parts of yourself, your relationship doesn’t feel intimate or as fulfilling as you want it to be.

Even if you can’t name any specific evidence of your disconnection, you can feel the separation between you.

You want to be available to your partner when they need you and you want them to come to you for comfort when they need it. You want the same in return. When these periods of feeling disconnected happen, you don’t seek comfort in one another. When you’re also hurting, you may not even want to comfort them.

When it gets like this, it almost feels like your relationship has a splinter that keeps getting jammed in deeper, hurting both of you and your connection with one another. This isn’t the type of relationship you want. You want a deeper connection. You want to feel confident and secure about your relationship and you want your partner to feel that way, too.

Deep, Authentic Communication Can Be Learned

The way learning good communication skills can improve a relationship is pretty amazing.

Most people don’t have a lot of role models for creating or maintaining healthy, emotionally intimate relationships. Television deliberately creates drama, which makes good entertainment but horrible relationship advice. If your parents weren’t good role models, or they did all their work behind the scenes and made it look easier than it was, the skills you need to create a deep and lasting connection with your partner wouldn’t develop naturally.

That doesn’t mean you can’t build the relationship you want—it just means that you’ll have to learn how to do it. Building it together often builds deep intimacy. Whenever we work together toward a common goal, the shared experiences deepen the relationship.

With the guidance of an expert, you can deepen your connection with your partner. You can even learn to recognize the signs that something is going to disturb the harmony you’ve created and make slight corrections that help you get back on track long before it gets to the point where either of you feels completely disconnected.

Giving your communication and relationship skills a boost enhances your connection with one another in ways it is difficult to imagine during times when good communication feels difficult. If you’re ready to see how good your relationship can be, reach out to us today.

Open, Poly, and Non-monogamous Relationships

Non-traditional relationships are increasingly the norm these days. As therapists, we believe that you have the right to choose and celebrate the type of relationship that is right for you. We also recognize that people in any type of relationship can face challenges. We want to honor who you are and what you want while helping you work through any issues you may be dealing with.

Things to Know About Non-Traditional Relationships

We know that there is no way that we can know everything there is to know about non-traditional relationships. After all, one of the best things about these types of relationships is that each couple or group gets to define the relationship for themselves. There’s no specific paradigm to get stuck in.

That said, we also recognize that there are some very common types of non-traditional relationships. We don’t think it’s your job to educate us about those. We regularly see clients in non-traditional relationships that include:

  • Polyamory in which there is a primary couple that also have other relationships
  • Polyamory in which there is not a defined primary couple
  • Open relationships in various configurations
  • Throuples and other multi-person monogamous relationships

We understand the many challenges that can arise in these types of relationships. We also understand that you as an individual, couple, or group are unique. We are open-minded and curious about what the relationship means to you. We have no agenda or preconceived notions. We simply want to help you thrive in your relationship, whatever that relationship looks like.

Counseling for Polyamorous Couples

There are different types of counseling for people in non-traditional relationships, based on your specific needs and desires. Someone in an open relationship might come to use to work through their own questions and feelings about themselves or their partner. Polyamorous couples might come to see us together to help them deal with issues affecting their relationship. Throuples may come as a group to see us, to assist in sorting out the feelings and dynamics between them. Additionally, we offer family therapy including therapy for families with parents that are in non-traditional relationships.

Some of the things that polyamorous, open, and other non-monogamous folks come to see us for include:

  • Negotiating or redefining the boundaries of the relationship
  • Conflict within the primary relationship which may or may not have to do with their poly or open status
  • Working through transitions such as moving in, getting married, or having children
  • Parenting issues including the challenges of blended family polyamory

When to Contact a Professional

If your relationship is in conflict, then it’s definitely helpful to contact a professional. We can help you learn to communicate better so that you can problem-solve together and work towards a common goal.

If you as an individual are feeling like you could be in crisis, whether or not it relates to the relationship, then it’s also important to seek help. We provide a safe space for you to work through your emotions with the understanding that your non-traditional relationship may or may not be at issue. If it is, we’re happy to work with you on it. If it’s not, we honor your relationship and don’t assume that it’s a problem.

Of course, you don’t have to be in conflict or crisis to benefit from therapy. Non-traditional relationships thrive when there is ongoing open communication. Even when things are going well, therapy can help keep your communication on track and provide a safe place to process your feelings. Get in touch with us to see how we can help you better navigate your unique, non-traditional relationship.

Couples in Conflict / Distressed Relationships

You and your partner fight. Sometimes, you don’t even know what you are fighting about it. The argument begins about one issue but before you know it each of you are dredging up all sorts of issues from the past. You’re flinging ugly words at each other. Or you give up and walk away in silence. It’s awful. You love each other and want to make this work but you simply can’t figure out how to get out of conflict.

Is Your Relationship in Distress?

Couples fight. However, when it gets past a certain point, you find yourself in a truly distressed relationship. A relationship in distress is one where problems are persistent and serious, conflict is common, and one or both people are suffering.

Your relationship may be in distress if you:

  • Are locked in a pattern of breaking up and getting back together
  • Argue frequently
  • Frequently considering or threatening separation or divorce
  • Regret ever getting into the relationship

Distressed relationships are dangerous. You’re not just risking the wellbeing of the relationship itself. You’re risking your individual wellbeing. Couples enduring this kind of regular conflict are at greater risk of mental health issues (including depression and anxiety) as well as physical health issues such as migraines and high blood pressure.

It may feel like you’ll never get out of this pattern but therapy for couples can help.

Dealing with Conflict Together

Partners tend to get into patterns of fighting. Whereas you were once a couple teamed up together against the world, now you may feel like you’re always at odds with one another. Therapy can help you get back to a place where you are working together instead of fighting against each other.

When couples come to therapy, each often feels like they are right, and their partner is wrong. That’s perfectly normal. You’re locked in that pattern. Your fights have turned into black-and-white arguments and you are each no longer able to see the grey. It seems like the only way to solve things is for one of you to give in. Neither wants to do that, so you’re stuck.

Couples counseling can help you start to remember that your partner is not the problem. You are not the problem. The problem is the problem. As you work with the tools of therapy, you can return to a place where you work together as a team to solve the problem. Even when the conflict is not yet resolved, this shift in approach can help improve how you both feel about the relationship.

Utilizing a Professional to Mediate Conflict

Therapy provides one of the best options for conflict resolution in relationships. We can offer the support, techniques, tools, and safe space for each of you to learn new ways of communicating. We can help you get to the bottom of the conflict so that you can work together to solve it or manage it in a way that works for each of you.

You both have so many wonderful strengths as individuals. You also have traits that are terrific as a couple. You’ve just gotten a little bit lost along the way. Couples therapy helps you relocate those strengths and utilize them to get past the conflict. You can both find the relationship that you’re seeking. Reach out for this help today.