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ph: 905.484.3388 / paul@yourinnersoulutions.com / 848 Fennell Ave. East Hamilton

Hamilton, Burlington, Stoney Creek, Waterdown

Marriage, Relationship & Couples Counselling

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  • What I Need To Know About My Childhood Experiences

    When you think back to your time as a kid, you may not have the most positive memories of it.  The experiences we had as a kid has totally shaped us as an adult.  But not only that, if those experiences were negative, it can actually result in an earlier death.  Let me explain..

    Something called Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE for short, is a tool used to help unleash some of the childhood experiences, or trauma.  The results of the ACE assessment opens up explanations of why we do things the way we do, and why we may think the way we think.  But more interestingly, there is a significant connection between negative childhood experiences and things like addictions, obesity, COPD and early death.

    ACE Pyramid

    If you look at this pyramid, you can see at the very bottom, the ACE.  This often occurs from birth to about age 12 or so.  If the ACE scoring is high, say 4+, there is a greater likelihood of social, emotional and/or cognitive impairment, which then leads to high risk behaviors (trouble with the law, addictions, etc).  And as that continues it may lead to diseases and disability which then results in an early death.  A lot of work has been done around this pyramid idea.  The numbers don't lie!  Adverse childhood experiences has a significant impact on us as an adult.

    In couples counselling, I often have couples fill out the ACE scoring assessment.  Knowledge is everything.  What do you know about your partner's childhood experiences?

  • Nobody Cares What You Think!

    "Nobody cares what you think!".  A statement I often use in my therapy office with clients.  I feel like I should explain.

    Husband comes home from work after a very rough day. He walks in and slams the door behind him.  Shouting, he says "I can't believe him!  He pulls me into his stupid office and tells me that if I am late one more time he will fire me!!"
    As the wife stands there watching her very disgruntled husband blow off steam, she has a choice to make.  An opportunity to add to the emotional deposit box of their marriage.  Or, an opportunity to criticize, say what they would have done themselves or try to solve their problem.
    This is what I call the 80-20 rule.  The conversation immediately following the husband blowing off steam like this needs to be divided into this 80-20 concept:  spend 80% of the time leaning in emotionally to where he is at, to empathize, to be on the same team in attacking the world.. and 20% of the time to suggest solutions.  I might add, 0 % of the time criticizing, or turning it around on you by saying what you would have done.  That is where my comment, "Nobody cares what you think" comes in.

    The husband, in this example, doesn't care what the wife thinks. He doesn't care what the wife would have done differently if the circumstances were switched.  The husband doesn't care about solutions.  What he wants & needs is the "80" part  of the 80-20 equation.  The leaning in.  The emotional connection.  An example of this would be:

    wife: "Really?!  He pulled you into his office and told you that?!  Unbelieveable!  What did you say to him? What did he say?  How did you manage to stay at work after he said all that stuff to you?!  You must have been so mad!"  

    See that?  The wife matched the husbands emotions.  At no time did she agree or disagree or offered any suggestions or criticism.  She matched his emotions and asked questions to better understand his emotions.  During this part, nobody cares what she is thinking.  He certainly doesn't.  

    Only after this connection is made does the wife then, if appropriate, offer possible solutions.  If the wife goes here too quick, then the emotional connection will not be made.  It has to be 80-20.

     

  • Something I Want All Husbands To Know

    Most of my inquiries come from the wives.  Not all, but a good 80%.  The other 20% are from the husbands.  And in my experience, by the time the husband does call inquiring about therapy, it's nearly too late.  The story frequently goes the same.. the wife has been asking for them to go to counselling for years, the husband says no because he feels like he can fix things on their own, and time goes by but they are in the exact same (or worse) position than they were back when the wife first suggested counselling.

    Husbands/Boyfriends/Male Partners:  when your partner first suggests the idea of going to counselling, go!

    Now, there are some key words that your wife may say.  If any of these sound familiar to you, alarm bells should be going off.  It means things are in trouble.  Take a look...

    If your wife says "I feel alone in this marriage" or "I don't feel emotionally connected", these are red flags!  This isn't something that just occured overnight or after a rough weekend.  This is probably something that has been going on for a very long time.  

    Coming to counselling doesn't have to be a year long process.  Many of the couples I work with have seen a significant improvement in their marriage after only a handful of sessions.  I doubt that you want her to feel alone.. so do something about it!

  • I Cleaned The Backyard But She Still Isn't Happy!

    You dug through the closet, found some old overalls, and headed outside to do some cleaning up around the house.  In your mind you are thinking how happy the wife will be.  "Oh she will love this!", right?

    Before you know it, you are greeted by the wife with a bunch of questions.  'Why did you put the old planters pots over there?" or even worse, she doesn't even notice what you did and instead she continues on with her regular routine.

    Frustrating indeed!

    I hear scenerios like this often in therapy.  We express love to our partner only to end up being rejected or ignored or unnoticed.  

    One of the most successful tools I have used with couples that I work with is the 5 Love Languages.  Knowing what your partners love language is, is crucial to emotional connection.  

    It is YOUR JOB to know your partners love language, and to speak it!  If their love language is Acts of Service, then it's your job as their partner to speak their language.

    Once couples understand this philosophy (and I have really simplied it for this very short blog!) they then can grow closer together, speaking a love language that their partner actually understands.  

     

  • 3 Pillars of Secure Functioning

    Okay, let's break down that title first:

    3 Pillars:  well, what I think of when I hear the word pillars is one of those old mansions or buildings I see in those small hidden-away towns.  Often times they use to be a hospital or clinic or some rich builders' home.  In the front there are huge pillars that looks like they are keeping the roof from collapsing.  The size and strength of them is recognizable right from the curb.  

    Secure Functioning:  secure = safe, predictable, reliable.  Functioning = every day life in a relationship

    So, 3 pillars of secure functioning, to me, means 3 strong and useful ways to ensure a safe and reliable relationship

    So, what are they?  Here it is:

    1. I am the top priority in YOUR life, and you are in MINE
    2. We make decisions TOGETHER
    3. We HELP each other feel better when distressed (even if we are the cause of it!)

    These 3 pillars of strength, safety, security and predictability is what holds up marriages during the good times and the bad.  Ensuring priorities are straight, respecting each others opinions and feelings when making decisions and being that person that your partner can rely on to help them feel better during stressful times.  

    I believe if any of these pillars are missing, your roof will come down.  Maybe not today.  But it will.

  • 3 Things To Do After A breakup

    Your long-term relationship with that guy just ended.  It was a horrible experience and you are so glad to be out of there!   On to the next one................  but wait!  Read this first!

    To minimize the risk of landing back into an unhealthy relationship, make sure you do these 3 things:

    1. Feel it!  Go through all the emotions.  You know, the anger and the crying and the self-doubting.  Do it all.  The break up is often compared to losing a loved one through death.  There is a healthy process that one must go through in order to heal.  So, go ahead and feel everything you feel.  
    2. Take ownership!  What was YOUR part in the breakdown?  How did YOU contribute to the falling apart of what was suppose to be a "match made in heaven"?  Write it down.  Got half a page?  Keep writing.  And write some more.  At the end, you should have 2...maybe 3 full pages (and no, not double or triple spaced!) of how your actions, or lack of action, played a part in the breakup.  This step is crucial.  Don't skip through it in one sitting.  This should be a lengthy process, perhaps taking 6 to 12 months or more to complete.  Yes, I am serious!
    3. Find the pattern!  This was likely NOT your first break up.  And, it is very likely that there is a pattern between this last one and the one before that, and the one before that.  What type of person do you seem to be attracted to?  And why?  What is it about YOU that attracts YOU to this type of relationship?  What are your expectations?  Your dreams?  And why is it that you have always sacraficed your expectations and dreams in order to feel love?  If you don't figure out this step, it is very likely that you will end up back in the same situation, just with a different guy.

    These 3 steps are healthy and proactive way to heal your wounds and get yourself back up, all dusted off, and ready to take on a more rewarding relationship.  These are 3 important steps.  Don't overlook it.  Don't think you are an exception.  Give yourself the time and space to move through these 3 healthy self-care steps.  I mean, 3 years after a break up is a healthy chunk of time to do the individual work for a happier, healthier you.

    Need help?  Give me a shout.  I enjoy working with couples with their relationships, marriages and post-relationships.  

  • Don't Play Ping-Pong With Your Wife!

    When we have a group of friends over at the house, out comes the ping pong table or the air hockey.  A few good hours of macho fun and celebratory remarks all leads to a lot of laughing and bonding.  

    Do you play ping pong with your wife? (or husband!)  I mean, ping pong without the table.  Rather, in your relationship.  Here, let me give you an example:

    Husband:  "Oh man, I had such a bad day at work today!"

    Wife:  "Oh yeah, me too!  The kids were just awful all day.  I am exhausted!"

    or...

    Wife:  "I really feel frustrated when I see clothes all over the floor"

    Husband:  "I know what you mean, you leave your dishes all over the living room"

    Ping-ponging, as I like to call it, is when emotions are shared from one partner to the other, followed by the other partner immediately sharing their emotions right back.  This can often go back and forth, just like playing ping-pong, where each person keeps taking a stab at the ball (or the emotion) without either of them "leaning in" and feeling their partners emotions.

    I think many of these ping-pong effects occur when one brings up an issue and the other person immediately becomes defensive.  This then causes individuals to feel unheard, disrespected and discredited.  

    Effective communication stiplulates that when one person is expressing, the other person needs to be listening, not planning a response.  This is hard to do, especially if you disagree.  That moment when your partner is expressing their feelings is not the time for you to agree or disagree.  Quite frankly, your opinion at that very moment doesn't really matter.  It's about listening and "leaning in emotionally" to your partner.  Try to feel what they feel.

    Leave the ping-ponging to the table and avoid using this in your marriage!

  • When Should I Really Consider Marriage Counselling?

    If you have been sleeping on the couch, consider marriage counselling.  If you have been wondering what it's like to be on one of those dating websites, consider marriage counselling.  If you have told a good friend lately that life totally sucks, absolutely consider marriage counselling!

    They say that the average couple waits for 6 years of being unhappy before they consider counselling.  6 years!  That's a long time of bickering, fighting, sleeping on the couch and being lonely.  

    Marriage counselling isn't just for when things are really, really bad.  Counselling is great and very helpful for all couples, whether the relationship sucks or not.  A tune up or a check-up is often the term used.  Premarital counselling for those just starting out can truly help couples face relationship challenges with a much better perspective.

    So whether you are 22 or 82, just got engaged or married for half a century, relationship counselling can help improve communication, resolve those annoying conflicts and strengthen the love and bond.

  • What Do Struggling Marriages Have In Common?

    With 90% of my appointments are with couples, I have met with many.  Different cultural backgrounds. Different ages. Different life experiences.  And each couple comes to counselling with different concerns and issues.  However, I have noticed some common themes among couples who are struggling to be happy.

    The one word that seems to apply to most unhappy relationships is the word FEAR.  Think about it for a sec.  It's not frustration. It's not anger or disappointment, although those emotions may be present as well.  But the foundation is fear.

    Fear of failure. Fear of being inferior. Fear of repeating your parents marriage. Fear of divorce. Fear of losing out.  Fear of losing control.    This list can go on and on.

    We behave negatively because of that fear.  We may lash out because we are afraid of being controlled by someone else.  We may run away from a fight because of our fear of conflict, believing that conflict wil result in physical punishment.

    Take a moment right now and think back to a heated argument you had.  What was your FEAR in that very moment?  Move away all of the chaos and the actual issue that you were fighting about.  Think about your behavior.  Can you see how it may be fear based?  Now knowing what the fear is, what does it tell you about yourself?  Can you see that fear manifesting itself at other times in your relationship?

  • Stop Saying These 2 Words!

    Making changes in the way we communicate with our spouses or loved ones is hard.  Really hard.  In the heat of the moment, we tend to say anything to prove our point. 

    There are 2 words that we absolutely need to stop using today!  Not tomorrow or not next week but eliminate it from our vocabulary starting right now.  Using these 2 words will make those arguments even harder to resolve.  And could just end up ruining your marriage.

    So, what are the 2 words that I speak of?  Here they are, and please take note of them:  ALWAYS  NEVER.

    "You ALWAYS say you are going to be on time, but you NEVER are!".  Or, "You NEVER pick up your clothes off the floor!".  Or how about this one, "You NEVER tell me I look pretty!"

    How often do you use these 2 killer and totally useless words?  Think back to your last argument.  Did these words come up?  I bet it did. 

    Using words like Always & Never, you are painting an entire wall with one stroke of the brush.  Can you honestly say that "never" or "always" is 100% true?  It may feel like that, but is it actually factual.  By using always and never, you are overlooking the exceptions. 

    The natural response from a spouse when you use these 2 killer words is to be defensive.  Up goes the wall.  And you trying to get through that wall now is nearly impossble.

    "You NEVER tell me I look pretty!", for example, brings in the entire history of the relationship in one quick sentence.  It also takes away from how you feel right now.  Today.  At that very moment.  You never tell me I look pretty, a natural response from the husband may be, "well, why start now!", shouting out of anger.  A much more effective way of sharing how you feel and what you need could be something like "I would really like it if you told me sometimes that I look pretty.  By you doing that, it makes me feel good and makes me feel like you actually find me attractive".

    If ALWAYS and NEVER words are a significant part of your communication with your spouse, come and let's talk.  We can practice on using effective communication and listening skills to improve your marriage.  Until then, make note of it.  Be aware of how often you use these 2 marriage killing words.  You might be very surprised.