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, @nyccouplestherapyWith love,Syndesi Relationship Counseling​

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   ​

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What does couples therapy actually look like?​

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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