We are always looking for new ways to let you know how immensely grateful we are for you. It is crucial for us to express just how important your business and your human connection is to us. We put a ton of effort into thinking of ways to let our clients know how much we appreciate you: your thoughtfulness and your hard work in your healing process. We see how much effort and intentionality you put in-- from individuals learning to take risks in connection, to couples using their time and energy to devote to their relationship wholly and fully. Each week you come in with your game face on, doing everything you can to figure out how to take what we say to heart. You take the risk of being vulnerable by showing us your deepest self, and then do the hard work to make your lives better. No one chooses to be knocked down, but people do choose to get back up. We are with you in your moments of pain, your expressions of defeat, and your feelings of confusion. We stand with you when the world feels like it is falling apart, and like you do not know where else to go. When the weight of your empathy feels too heavy, because that is what the full experience of being human is, we are here to hold that in tandem. Whether you are coming to us for therapy as an individual or a couple, we know it is not easy, and we know it can feel tough when we push you to be your very best. This is a post to let you know that we are SO grateful for everything you are and everything you do. We sincerely want to support you in all ways we know how, and are always here to learn more about how we can serve you better. The more we know, the more we can help, which always has been and always will be our priority. The Syndesi Relationship Counseling Team
We know what it's like-- you and your partner have brushed over the idea of couples therapy post argument quite a few times. One of you mentions it, the other says it might be a good idea, but then... nothing happens. Don’t worry! This is normal. After noticing a problem, it takes couples an average of six years to begin attending therapy. While we don’t recommend waiting this long, there are some tips and tricks we can recommend to help you figure out how to navigate disagreements at home in the healthiest way possible. Notice and shift your mindset Pay attention to your internal dialogue. How often does your partner do something totally benign, like forget to empty the dishwasher, and you skyrocket into remembering all the annoying things they do on a regular basis? Humans are wired to notice and remember the negative rather than the positive. While this makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, it means you are going to have to be intentional about noticing all the tiny positive things your partner does on a regular basis. But listen-- if our bodies are wired towards negativity, it is not realistic to entirely wipe out noticing all the things that frustrate you. Instead, just try to add in noticing two or three positive, helpful, or adorable things your partner does each day. This is a small and effective way to begin to rewire your brain to look for positives in your partner instead of the negatives. Take note of what happens before, during, and after an argument This is really about trigger recognition. The word “trigger” typically means something that reminds someone of a trauma. This being said, I am using the word “trigger” here as something that starts an argument or escalates an argument. This is crucial for a ton of reasons, the first and foremost being accountability. The ability to identify your triggers gives you power over your feelings, and allows your partner to know what things really set you off. This makes it easier to avoid walking on eggshells, and can even shift you towards feeling more comfortable with each other. While noting what happens before and during an argument is a great way to increase awareness of triggers, noting what happens after an argument gives you agency in identifying what makes you feel better, and what continues to escalate you. Avoiding thought patterns like rumination will make it easier for you to gain control of your emotions, and will help you and your partner move towards repair rather than remaining in a cycle of anger and frustration. Create rituals If you and your partner are inching towards disconnect due to chaotic lives, find a moment or two for a nightly ritual. Daily rituals create a sense of identity for the couple, and can even lead to an overall increase in relationship satisfaction (and can be helpful for business relationships, too!). Rituals do not have to be anything groundbreaking, and can be as simple as sharing a cup of coffee in the morning, or as deep as spending some time each evening reflecting on your favorite moments of the day. The goals are really to 1. Create security and warmth in a pattern, and 2. Increase both symbolic and actual connection. If you two are packed with careers, children, family commitments, and other parts of life that make this feel impossible, remember that rituals do not have to be an addition to your daily routine. Instead, you can focus on just completing some of your tasks together (i.e. coffee in the morning, or cooking dinner together). Talk about your future The goal with this tip is to really help you and your partner gain some clarity about how to move forward. It is really common to get into the weeds during arguments and to focus on minutiae detail and historical accuracy. This can make it feel impossible to get to the root cause of what is going on. So, instead, try thinking about the future. What do you want it to look like? Do you have common goals? Do you picture your future together? Spend a couple of minutes writing down what you want the next five years to like, and share it with one another. This can be a scary activity, but is a really effective first step towards figuring out where to go next. Be patient… All in all, be patient. The topic of couples therapy can feel daunting, especially when there are years of built up emotion to address. Take it one step at a time, and start with these small tips. If you feel like you are ready, or want to sort through your options, give us a call-- we are here to help! Alyssa Ashenfarb, LCSW
You’ve always been one of those people who understands the importance of establishing your unique character and relishing in it. You took time to develop who you are and have defined the things that you enjoy and are meaningful to you. You truly like who you’ve become. Of course, your partner loved who you were, which is why you found each other. You looked forward to each other’s company and adored one another. How is it now, you may ask, that you feel so far apart? Why does it feel like your partner doesn’t feel the same about the person you’ve worked so hard to become? Reconnecting with yourself Relationships have so many important things to attend to. Giving attention to your spouse and family, meeting household needs, and completing your work responsibilities can prevent you from being in touch with yourself and the passion of your early relationship. Believe it or not, making more time for yourself may be the key to rejuvenating your earlier excitement. You owe it to yourself and your loved one to re-awaken that part of you that makes you feel uplifted. So let us break down how to reconnect with yourselves, and resurrect what you both enjoy most about one another! A story you can relate to... Jamie* delighted in Mark*’s bold entrance into the dinner party. Mark filled the room in a most lively way and captivated everyone he spoke with. Jamie caught Mark’s eye also. There was a quiet air of confidence about her. He liked that Jamie seemed to know who she was and was able to command respect from others. Jamie and Mark fell in love and later got married, but eventually often found themselves in conflict with one another. Jamie often accused Mark of wanting to dominate her. She complained of his unrelenting minimization of her suggestions for financial management. Mark found himself increasingly annoyed with Jamie for ignoring his input and implementing her own way with the finances. Both Jamie and Mark sensed that they were becoming more distant and found themselves hesitant to be the confident people they were, which led to other identity issues and relationship problems. Who are we to our partners if not our truest self? Why does this happen, and how can I fix it? People can lose touch with themselves when they forget what is most important to them. Not feeling in touch with your own identity can take other forms as well. Perhaps you no longer connect with your original sense of creativity. Or maybe you’ve lost the spirituality that kept you grounded and able to inspire others. But keep this in mind- you cannot maximize your marriage if you do not make space for self-appreciation through developing and maintaining who you are. Take time to remember what you enjoy about yourself and how it made you and your partner feel. It also helps to understand any current relationship insecurities. Understanding and accepting the reasons behind your insecurities may help you learn more about yourself and your partner. Integrating what you enjoy about yourself with the needs of your relationship can create deeper joy and connection for both you and your partner. Think of some specific activities that have made you come alive. If you are still interested in them, indulge in them again. If there are new activities that energize your soul, make time for them. If you and your partner enjoyed them together, make time to enjoy them together again. It may be what you need to reawaken your passion for one another. Remember Jamie and Mark? The things they loved about one another later felt conflictual to them. It’s important to strike a balance between the things you enjoy doing and the things your partner needs from you. Enjoy who you are, while being able to use various other parts of yourself to respond to the needs of your relationship. Perhaps it would have been helpful to Jamie and Mark if they had set time aside to engage in activities that made them feel in touch with their strong selves as well as time to be vulnerable with one another, lending other parts of themselves to respond to each other’s needs. You may feel that you do not fully know yourself yet-- who does? Take time to discover, enjoy and value new experiences that speak to who you are apart as well as together. Continued discoveries about life, yourself, and your partner is a vital part of building a relationship of integrity and respect. When each of you upholds your own integrity, the needs of the relationship can be addressed on what is real. When you are honest with yourselves, it becomes easier to focus on what’s right between you. How do we get there? Therapy is a great way to get intouch with our inner joys and needs. Therapy can be a place of discovery, a place to slow things down a bit; enough to take an honest and safe look at your strengths that can be maximized to help a meaningful relationship flourish. Therapy can also be a place to speed things up toward progress in a way that might not have if there were no therapy. Therapy can be a good way to unlock the barriers to rediscovering yourself and what your relationship can be. We are here if you two decide to give it a shot! *These are fictional characters and not based on a real example. Jacqueline McIntosh, LCSW
You two have been stuck for a while. You and your partner are having the same arguments, the same frustrations, the same headaches. It seems like your choice is between a screaming match or hours of silence. Finally, you gain the courage to chat with your partner about the potential for couples therapy. You have friends who did it and it was immensely helpful for them. Yet, somehow, this has also ended in a screaming match. We hear you, and we know you don’t want to live like this anymore. Check out the below main questions we get from clients/prospective clients to help your partner understand where you’re coming from a little better. How do I get my partner to hear me when I say I want to go to couples therapy? Start by being crystal clear on what you believe will be helpful about couples therapy. Make a list of what could change if you were going to couples therapy: How would you communicate differently? What would feel different during your day to day? Let your partner know how invested you are, and that you are confident you both can feel better in your relationship. This is a great start to a team focused approach that your couples therapist will definitely highlight! Another idea for broaching the topic of couples therapy is to think about how to position it so your partner does not feel attacked. While it is super frustrating for your partner to not listen when you say you want to go to therapy, pointing this out will probably not motivate them enough to get them in the counseling room. It is really common to use “you” when people are frustrated. Saying something like “you need therapy” is a really effective way to get your partner on the defense mode. Try focusing on your needs instead. “Hey babe, it would mean a lot to me if we could go to couples therapy to work on our relationship together” might not feel as powerful in the moment, but it is much more likely to elicit the response you want than the “You...” approach. What do I do if my partner doesn't want to go to couples therapy?Trust us when we say that both parties are rarely thrilled about being in couples therapy. But listen. Remember that you cannot force your partner to be in couples therapy. All you can do is grow in the ways you can, and hope your partner evolves with you. While it is true you cannot make them go, you can reiterate why it is important to you, and how your life could look different. Use a softened startup to help your partner know what you appreciate about them, and what you feel you both can work on to make your lives better. Another great way to get your feet wet is to take a class or go to a couples workshop! Stay curious about what exactly your partner is hesitant about in attending couples therapy. If they are uncomfortable airing dirty laundry, or talking to a stranger, a couples class/workshop could be an excellent way for you two to just learn about what tools couples therapy can offer you. Check out these other suggestions on what to do if your partner does not want to go to couples therapy. What does the first session look like? The first session is really just designated as a “getting to know you” appointment. The therapist wants to learn about you two and what your relationship trajectory has looked like. With this, it is equally as important that you get to know your therapist, how they work, and how they view couples therapy. Keep in mind that your therapist does not want to solve anything in your first session. Your therapist wants to understand where you two got stuck, and what goals you have for yourselves as a couple and individually. The therapist will need this information for guidance on how to maneuver thoughtful treatment. To get a better understanding of what exactly those first few sessions look like, check out our post. A huge part of any therapeutic process is trust-- in each other, and in your therapist. All parties must work together to assume the best intention from each other. Building trust in your therapist is a crucial part of taking the work seriously, and achieving the goals you are driven towards. So ask questions, and figure out if your therapist is someone you can be comfortable with! What happens if I disagree with my couples therapist? Amazing! If you’re disagreeing with us, that means you’re thinking critically and thoughtfully about couples therapy. The therapist will absolutely say things you disagree with, there is no avoiding this. Your therapist knows about theory, but knows nothing about your relationship until you tell them. Your disagreements are how your couples therapist learns about you. Please let them know when you disagree! Sometimes they may give you push back, and sometimes they may shift. But without the information, they cannot do their job effectively. Check out this post on how to give your therapist feedback. Don’t worry about hurting your therapist’s feelings. They are trained to make it NOT be about them. They want your treatment to be the best it can possibly be-- that is why they went into this field in the first place. Their job is to help you, and in order to best do this, they need all the information possible! *One caveat. Remember- you cannot change their mind, and you cannot force them to attend couples therapy. All you can do is provide your partner with the information they need in order to make an informed decision. Patience, patience, (communication) and patience.
Maybe things in your home have been a bit… tense recently. The kids are less busy without school, you and your partner have been spending a ton of increased time together, and you’ve described to your friends that you’re getting on each other’s “last nerve.” Every relationship experiences some conflict and tension, so if this is happening to you, please don’t panic. Dealing with conflict in a relationship is not easy- this is the hard work everyone is referring to when they say relationships are not easy. The goal here is to reduce the air of stress in your home instead of letting it escalate, or even avoiding conflict all together. Below are a few tips to get you started on the path to a more comfortable home! 1. Learn when you are ruminating Let’s think of a common moment that happens in homes that sometimes feel tense. Your partner does something to frustrate you. This is something you feel more or less okay with, but then you go take a shower and find yourself stewing about something they said last week. All of a sudden you’re furious, and you’re either giving your partner the cold shoulder or yelling at them for the small thing they did to frustrate you right before your shower. What happened here? That stewing you were doing in the shower is called rumination, and can make each small thing that happens feel huge. Rumination is another word for when your “thoughts are spiraling.” It causes the hormones that make you angry to continue to pump through your body long after the event is over. Further, when you don’t recognize this is happening, your brain will fill in the blanks and assign the anger you’re feeling to something possibly benign. Stepping out of the rumination cycle can be really tricky. Try addressing the below steps to redirect and focus on bringing your body back to a calm level. 2. Learn to self soothe By now, you probably have noticed that this is a suggestion for the majority of our blog posts. The reason for this is twofold- first, self soothing allows you to calm your body, which sends signals to the mind that everything is okay. Second, self soothing will allow you to not only express your own needs better, but will also allow you the head space to be able to listen to your partner’s. As mentioned, when the home feels tense, ruminating is likely occurring. As tension rises through both conflict and rumination, the brain starts assigning huge feelings to otherwise small frustrations. This makes it difficult to understand your own emotions and where they are coming from, which in turn makes it impossible for your partner to understand what is going on for you. To bring yourself back down from the angry bubble, try replacing rumination with self soothing. Self soothing is applicable across the board- this means using it in the moments you feel angry and frustrated, but also in the moments you feel sad and tired, as well as in the moments of calm and serenity. There are a ton ways to bring your body back down from anger, so it is hugely important to find what outlet works for you. Yes, there is always deep breathing and meditation. But there are also other ways such as watching your favorite show, gardening, or listening to music. Find an arsenal of ways to calm your body! 3. Validate your emotions Try not to forget about this one! It is often overlooked, but critical to being able to calm down. Remember you are feeling the way you are feeling for a reason. Whether this reason is something that is happening in the present moment, or because you’ve felt consistently frustrated for a while, there is absolutely a reason. Validating your own emotions will also make it easier to understand them and where they’re coming from. Acknowledging that they are real can leave room to explore them deeper. Once you have a better idea of what is going on for you, your partner can, too. Check out this post to see why validating your partner is equally as important! Conclusion Tension stinks, and a huge reason for this is because typically tension comes from a lot of piled up things rather than just one identified issue. This can make it feel impossible to sort through what is going on and address the issue. Sit with what is going on for you so your brain does not draw its own conclusions. This will only lead to attempts at problem solving that won’t work! Remember to take baby steps, and to address one thing at a time.
For years we have dedicated ourselves to our clients and our community under the name Mollie Eliasof LCSW Therapy. Our hearts have always been in helping people believe in and build the relationships that mean the most to them and, through this, feeling more connected with their authentic selves and relationships. Through trial and error, commitment, and successes, we have discovered that the feeling of connection is the difference between effective therapy and therapy that just misses the mark. Connection is the word that comes up when our clients explain why they’re feeling lonely and unfulfilled at work or in their relationships. Building connection is the crucial point in which we feel fully relational and fully human. For this reason, we are launching our deeply intentional name, Syndesi Relationship Counseling. Syndesi, meaning “connection” in Greek, is our founder and CEO’s acknowledgement of her Greek heritage through the word that has the most meaning for our practice. It is a name we feel honored to have, and beyond excited to share! We assure you that our values have not changed. We remain committed to deepening our relationships and service to our clients and community through individual therapy, couples therapy, and online content. We really want you to feel confident in our ability to help you. So, with the launch of our rebrand, we’ve also put out a course on Bringing Fights Down to Zero within your relationship. And, to best help you understand what this course will look like, we are providing a free video from the course. Our hope is that this resource leaves you and the people you love feeling full with tools to increase connection and authenticity. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns, or if you want to know more about our rebranding and how it will impact your therapy and/or content. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on our Instagram handle, @nyccouplestherapyWith love,Syndesi Relationship Counseling
Earlier in the year, we published a blog post on what to expect from couples therapy. At the bottom of this post, we had a brief section called “What couples therapy is not.” Since this time, we have gotten some feedback expressing curiosity regarding what exactly couples therapy is supposed to look like, and what it is definitely not supposed to look like. While I could probably spend days exploring this subject, I will stick to the basics and give you a general idea of what couples therapy is not supposed to look like, and the types of situations that may not be appropriate for couples therapy. 1. Couples therapists will not take sides This is the point I ended with in my previous post about what couples therapy is, and one I think is super important to help everyone understand. Couples therapists will not take sides, and will never assign blame or shame. You and your partner both deserve to be heard. As this article beautifully phrases it, “You are not the client, the couple is the client.” A couples therapist’s job is really to look at how both parts of the couple create one unit. This means paying attention to patterns that cause those frustrating and repetitive cycles that make both you and your partner feel they’re never ending. Emotionally focused couples therapists will help you both explore how they begin, and where the misunderstandings/trigger points are happening. A couples therapist will not shame or blame you, but instead will help you explore ways in which both you and your partner can feel seen and heard. 2. Couples therapists will not be punitive In a similar vein, couples therapists are not working to penalize couples when they make a mistake or when they do not follow through with an action. Instead, couples therapists will provide a warm and nurturing environment to help you. A couples therapist is there to provide encouragement, identify strengths, and to support you and your partner when you are feeling hopeless about what steps to take next. When next steps are difficult, a couples therapist will help you problem solve problems by identifying barriers and deeper preventatives to reaching your goals. This article explains how a couples therapist is really there to help you explore what you’ve been doing that is helpful for your relationship, and what you can add to make it even better! 3. Couples therapy is not a solution While a couples therapist can help you solve some logistical problems-- such as making a schedule for laundry-- they cannot heal all wounds (though we’d love to). Ideally, a couples therapist will help you identify and explore patterns that have developed within your relationship. They will use evidenced based practice to help you and your partner understand how you got to where you are, and how to shift the dynamic. Patterns may have developed due to the way you two interact, but also likely as a result of your overall understanding of relationships learned earlier in life. Your couples therapist will help you understand how you and your partner can break the cycle of feeling misunderstood through connection and empathy. 4. Couples therapy is not easy Typically, couples therapy is not a “one and done” resource, and is not a quick fix. This being said, couples therapy can help provide you with the tools to take the baby steps towards increasing overall relationship satisfaction. It will help you think critically about your relationship and the patterns you and your partner both engage in. It will also allow you to understand how these have developed and what you can do about them. This takes time, and requires a deep emotional dive. As this article says, “to preserve your marriage, you must prioritize it.” Don’t forget to keep your couples therapist in the loop about how you two are feeling about the process. You and your partner will feel comfortably uncomfortable during session- this is the sweet spot! 5. Couples therapy is not a place to go to “convince” your partner of anything In order for couples therapy to be successful, both partners must be invested (though level of investment may vary, and this is totally normal). It is not suggested that you and your partner attend couples therapy if one of you is trying to convince the other of anything; including staying together, that one partner is at fault, or that the other partner’s parents are to blame for couples issues, etc. A couples therapist (and any therapist, for that matter) will not try to convince you in one direction or the other. They will work to help you see all your feelings, behaviors, options and choices clearly so you can make the best informed decision for your relationship. While all therapists are different and often use different methods and approaches, the above five explanations of what a couples therapist does not do are what I have gathered from communication with trusted colleagues. If you have further questions about what a couples therapist does, or how to understand the process as a whole, give one a call! We are here to help support you in understanding which decision about therapy is best for you, whether you are a client or not. Alyssa Ashenfarb, LCSW
Picture this: you and your partner are on a roll. You’re in sync, communicating healthily after a long day at work, and finding time to make the most of your small moments of connection. You’re feeling as connected and in love as ever. This does not have to be a figment of your imagination, even during quarantine. I am going to give you some key communication tips to help you and your partner manage high stress situations such as quarantine, moving, job changes, extended family time, and more! Be thoughtful about your languageA common question I receive from couples, especially during quarantine, is “How can I communicate my needs without hurting my partner’s feelings?” It is so incredible how mindful the couples I see have been of one another. But, even with this mindfulness, it is easy to start to feel stuck when you have a need that you just can't let go. Here is a time when you can be creative about getting your specific need met. For example, a really common need is space, especially when two people are cooped up together for months on end with little reprieve. But, if you know the word “space” triggers feelings of abandonment for your partner, you can easily switch this up and use a different phrase to get the same need met. Saying something like “I need some quiet time” may feel a lot less threatening to a partner who feels anxious about being separate. Make it about you...Yes, this is most definitely about those ubiquitous “I statements.” When used correctly, these statements have true and deep value. They are created to help the speaker take responsibility for their feelings and, by doing so, help the listener feel less attacked and more empathetic. Softened start ups, or statements designed to reduce defensiveness, are a great way to take those “I statements” a step further. Using the space example from earlier, saying something like “Hey babe, I’m feeling really overwhelmed and need some quiet time” can show your partner it is about your need, not about their behaviors. In other words, focus on the complaint and the solution instead of the blame. The hope is that this will shift the dynamic out of attack mode and into mobilization. After all, there is nothing more loving than being gently corrected and still accepted. And make it about the coupleAs mentioned in various previous posts, it is normal for partners to have different needs. Balancing these needs can be really tricky if they’re very different- I’ve been seeing a couple where one partner wants to relax together by jogging, while the other partner wants to relax together by watching a movie. Instead of jumping into a convincing argument about why your partner should do the thing that you want to do, focus on the couple as a third party. Each partner can relax by doing their individual tasks, and then they can come together afterwards to explore some ideas about what will make the unit the happiest. This is less about compromise, and more about finding an activity that will satisfy both of you. For this couple, it happened to be cooking. This had nothing to do with staying energized with running or calming the nervous system through a funny movie, but instead introduced a separate activity the couple wanted to do together. Bonus: Create a list of couple approved activities that you two can return to when you’re feeling less creative! Regulate, alwaysThis suggestion should really just be at the top of every blog we post. When you are not regulated, you will not be able to communicate. You will not hear or empathize with your partner, which will put you on attack mode, which will shift your partner into attack mode, which will escalate an argument. When you communicate hurt feelings, you need to be regulated enough to be able to hear and receive hurt feelings, too. Preserve your needs and focus on what you need to stay regulated. Keep in mind that sometimes this could be up-regulation (when you are feeling tired, it is sometimes more effective to energize through something like jumping jacks) or down-regulation (when you are feeling anxious or on edge, it is typically more effective to belly breathe or smell calming scents). Once you’ve entered your place of regulation, your mind can open up to your partner’s. Check out this article on how self regulation can be helpful for your work team, too. Speaking of opening your mind to your partner’s…Remember that their world is different than yours. Maybe they’re doing something excessively annoying, or they’re constantly forgetting to do the thing you asked them to do ten thousand times. While this is frustrating, stay regulated to remember that they are likely not trying to hurt you or ignore you. Maybe your partner is a bit spacey, or maybe they need to increase their listening skills. Regardless, they are not (I hope) out to get you. Remembering this innocence will help you begin to assume good intentions, and will allow you to be a bit more patient with their faux-pas. After all, you fell in love for a reason! Channel that love and ask your partner to help you understand their thought process. This too shall passKeep in mind that it is normal to feel a bit more sensitive during times of high stress. The world can feel like chaos, so stay united as a team with your partner through these communication tools (and some extra success strategies to help you get there). Finally, if you have already decided you want to go to couples therapy, and your wife/husband/partner is refusing, use their perspective as a home base. What are they afraid of, and how can you soothe their fears? Alyssa Ashenfarb, LCSW
Disclaimer: These posts are just general information, and are not to be considered clinical advice, not a substitute for therapy. No therapist-patient relationship is created by these posts. Please consult a physician or therapist to determine if such information is right for you.