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.  ​

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

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Rebranding Announcement!​

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 info@syndesicounseling.com, or follow us on our Instagram handle, @nyccouplestherapy


With love,
Syndesi Relationship Counseling

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