One thing that is almost certain to be said in my office at some point is, "I don't get why this is so hard." I have always said I am blessed to have amazing clients and that continues to hold true. The people I work with are smart, driven, compassionate and competent. So, when they find themselves a bit stuck in session it can be confusing for them and their partner.
A couple of months ago I was thinking about goals for myself and wasn't really coming up with anything. I'm not sure why I was even sitting there trying to come up with goals when I didn't have anything in particular in mind prompting me to do so. Maybe because it was shortly after the start of the year and it felt like I was supposed to? I have no idea.
Yesterday was my mom's birthday, she would have turned 72 years old. She was a spunky lady with a heart of gold and a strong spirit like no one I've ever known. Going through the day yesterday at work was hard and I found myself pretty tired at the end of the day. I thought having a normal day would be good for me, to not sit and think about having lost my mom just four months ago.
I'm excited to announce that a colleague, Becca Ubben, has launched her private practice specializing in work with OCD. People tend to use this term casually in reference to people who seem orderly or "particular," even trying to be humorous at times.
EFT Knoxville is excited to share that registration is now open for two upcoming workshops for couples! These will be our last two couples workshop offerings for 2019:
Clients sometimes describe themselves as a peacemaker and, as we continue talking, I learn about their family dynamics, their particular role in the family and the messages they learned about conflict.
I think wanting to be a peacemaker is admirable. In a time when it feels like we are constantly guarding ourselves waiting for the next conflict or sudden outburst... in traffic, in public, at work, in schools, in homes... knowing that someone out there wants to help maintain a sense of peace feels refreshing.
Wouldn't it feel great if you and your partner were connected and on the same team? Sadly, many couples don't feel this way or even check in with each other very much in the bustle of everyday life. It is so common for us to live paralleled lives with our spouse and not feel connected at all. Is that what your marriage feels like? If so, I want to start by saying that I understand and my heart breaks for you both.
We are complex beings with hopes, dreams, fears, vulnerabilities, shame, goals, desires and longings. We want to be close to people, to feel connected, accepted, celebrated and loved. Interestingly, we tend to attach performance and/or perfection to those things... fearing that if we are not performing well or perfect, we will not feel accepted, celebrated or loved. How sad that we (many of us) have learned to weave those things together, as if our imperfections will threaten the unraveling of the entire tapestry of connection.
I sit with people in their moments of deep and scary vulnerability, gifted with the opportunity to hold space for them that allows for imperfection, stumbling over words, tears, frustrations and fear... absolutely no perfection or performance required. In fact, letting go of the need to perform allows for us to clarify and actively tend to areas that are most important to us. Our relationships with others, our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with God. I fully understand the fear of letting go of perfection... and the fear that if someone sees you in your mess you will feel disconnected and alone.
Give yourself the opportunity to show up fully in your life and in your relationships, without fear of having to perform perfectly. I think the start of 2019 presents an awesome opportunity for you to discover that new, perfection-free space. Rather than adding more tasks to your do-to list, additional goals that you'll let go of by February or rewriting the same resolutions over and over again... uncover and nurture the things that are already within you and in front of you! Perfection not required. :)
Have a wonderful, peaceful and safe new year!
What would happen if someone gave you permission to be imperfect? Would it feel like a weight has been lifted or would you find yourself wanting to push back out of fear of what imperfect means to you? As much as we work to be authentic in our lives and relationships, it can be really difficult to let go the idea of having to perform, having to get it right all the time, having to be perfect.
As we venture into the holidays, you might be contemplating that perfect gift for your spouse or partner. It can be an a wonderful feeling to give your special person a gift that brings a smile to their face and joy to their heart. We love feeling connected in that moment like we got it right with them, even if only for that moment. Can you imagine feeling connected with your partner like that more often?
We think relationships are easy and, simply put, they're not. We think we are communicating clearly and we don't. We think our partner should be able to know what we need and they don't. There are so many elements to our dynamic that we aren't tapped into... things that are under the surface yet very much guiding our interactions with our partner. Even if you have an idea of those elements under the surface, you are likely not sharing them for fear that it will cause trouble or more distance.
Our weekend workshop for couples, called Hold Me Tight, offers a structured curriculum based on the model of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for Couples, a method that is considered the gold standard for marriage and relationship counseling. During each workshop we are blown away by the courage and willingness of couples to show up in a new way for their marriage or relationship. The workshop experience has been a game changer for many couples, bringing them to a place of feeling connected and safe in ways that had not yet before, or haven't felt with each other for a long time.
We are excited to release the date of our next weekend workshop: January 19th and 20th, 2019. If you are ready to give yourself and your partner the gift of a more connected relationship we would love to have you join us. Please see our workshop website at www.holdmetightknoxville.com for more information about the workshop and how to register. You are also welcome to contact me personally with any questions at (865) 384-2172 or through the contact page HERE.
I look forward to helping you connect!
It is interesting to me how much, as adults, we assume we know how to be in healthy committed relationships. We think it's a "no brainer" or "common sense" when, really, it is one of the most challenging things we will ever do. We are tested in all kinds of ways in our intimate relationship. We try over and over again to make things better using the same ol' skills and tricks we have been using for years and get frustrated when our partner isn't getting on our page.
Is any of this familiar?
If you weren't so ________ I wouldn't be _________!
Will you just "let it go?"
If you could just be more (or less) ________ we wouldn't BE in this situation!
Why is this coming up AGAIN?
Can you NOT be a jerk for once?
Why do you get so mad all the time?
What did I do now?
You say this EVERY single time!
You NEVER listen to me!
Why are you always on my case?
Don't you have anything to say?
I knew it... you don't really care about me.
Why is it always like this with you?
Every couple is challenged with escalated moments in their relationship from time to time and that is to be expected... we're human beings trying to love other human beings.
When it starts to feel like a problem
What becomes problematic is when these moments are happening more frequently than not and couples can't seem to find a way to get out. We get lost in those places when we are escalated and often find it hard to hear, see or understand our partner. Couples become stuck and, even when they know they love each other, still seem to not know where to go from there. When we are doing this over and over again, it can easily become exhausting for both partners... not because we stop caring but because we simply don't know what else to do.
Three key components
In Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for Couples, there are three key things that help serve as the foundation for an emotionally safe, healthy and connected relationship. These three things include:
If it helps, just remember "A.R.E."
Accessibility means that we are open to our partner approaching us and that we feel comfortable to move toward our partner with something. They let us know they are available to us and vice versa.
Responsiveness refers to answering the call. If my person moves toward me with something I will acknowledge their presence and respond. Likewise, when I call to my person, I feel confident that they will hear me and respond to my call.
Engagement is knowing that our person is interested and present with us. If I bring something to my person, I feel confident that they will engage in conversation with me and there will be dialogue. In turn, when my partner brings something to me, I will engage with them and tune into what is happening.
Take a personal inventory
When couples find themselves in a pattern of distress, it might be that something in the foundation of A.R.E. is lacking or missing. Take a look at your interactions with your partner and reflect... Am I offering A.R.E to him/her? What might I be doing or saying that would suggest I'm not Accessible, Responsive and/or Engaged with them?
At times when we are hurting, it can be really challenging to want to look at the ways we are showing up in the relationship. We become laser focused on what the other person is doing, or not doing, and how they are the problem. It goes without saying that relationships are a two-way street and there is likely something we are contributing to this cycle or pattern as well.
The more we can personally take inventory like this the sooner we can make adjustments and practice influencing positive change. If you find it is too difficult, it might be worth talking about with a professional third party (insert my smiling face here) to see what is happening in the dynamic that is contributing to feeling stuck and leaving you both unable to connect.
It's not about being perfect
Remember, whether you are doing this with a counselor or on your own at home, it is more important that you are intentionally trying to learn something new than whether you are "performing perfectly" or "getting it right." Most people respond positively when they see and feel their partner trying to grow, learn and find new ways to become close to them. It lets them know that they matter and are worth making an effort to do something different.
Have a wonderful afternoon!
Licensed Professional Counselor
9219 Middlebrook Pike
Knoxville, TN 37931
I am also a contributing mental health writer at