The Issue Messing up your Relationship

The issue messing up your relationship isn’t that your partner doesn’t listen, that you’re a workaholic or because you and your partner don’t communicate well. None of these are the REAL problem. The problem is neither you nor your partner are self-regulating. I’ll explain self-regulation but first I need to explain your nervous system in order to get into the self-regulation.

We all have a nervous system, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which is then broken down between the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). What is most important to understand is we are in SNS when we are anxious, upset, sad, depressed, frustrated and so on. It is when we are in a threat response. The PNS is experienced when we are calm and comfortable in our bodies.

Interestingly, we cannot be comfortable in our bodies and anxious at the same time. Nor can we be in any type of threat response while being comfortable in our bodies.

Now let’s look at self-regulation, an important point to understand is that self-regulation is relaxation, but relaxation is not self-regulation. Self-regulation is when we are able to identify that in the moment, we are experiencing a threat response and making an effort to get out of it. Relaxation is leaving the moment to go and practice Yoga, tapping or any other activity to manage the feeling of being stressed. There are many ways to practice self-regulation, to begin, take ten seconds and with your eyes open, looking forward scan from the top of your head to your feet. The goal is to notice any tight muscles in your body, when you notice these, relax your muscles. After ten seconds and you complete your body scan, take a deep breath and notice what you notice. Go ahead and give it a try.

I encourage you to do this daily multiple times. Why? Because in 5-6 minutes, I will encourage you to repeat the body scan. Why? Because those muscles you allowed to relax, will tighten back up. Why? Because we as human beings cannot unlearn past experiences. This means any time in the past we have felt picked on, nervous, put down, experienced a threat response in the past has been learned. Therefore, your muscles will tighten up again. The good news is the more you practice self-regulation, the more often you will be in a comfortable body.

The more you’re in a comfortable body, the more relaxed you will be and the better you will be in your relationships. If we are not experiencing a threat response, we tend to approach situations in a calmer manner, we think better, we function better. Therefore, your practice of self-regulation is very important for a healthy relationship. If you have questions email me at Brian@themarriagedoc.com.

Bonding

I am asking that you to think back to when you first began dating your current partner. Think about the thoughts and emotions related to being in a new relationship. What thoughts/emotions come up? I’ve heard people say anything from exciting to nervous and hopeful. Many people want to spend as much time together as possible in a new relationship, talking on the phone, going to the movies, spend time with each other’s friends, the more time the better.

Overtime, the newness can wear off, but typically, we still want to spend time with the person. We can share interests and values with one another Interestingly, we don’t always separate who we are as a couple, from who we are as an individual. Instead, we created a bond with our partner, which is important, we should feel safe and secure in these relationships.

The problem in some romantic relationships is when there is a disagreement. Some partners feel and express that their significant other should agree with their perspectives on an issue and that having a different viewpoint is an issue in the relationship. Similar to all or nothing thinking. Many couples get stuck in this, the bonding stage of development., which is termed Symbiosis and characterized by poor boundaries, and one partner being passive and the other more aggressive regarding their wants and needs.

Differentiation

In healthy relationships of development, the couple may experience some Symbiosis but through therapy and or working together have been able to make a REALLY important discovery; I am me; you are you. Seems simple enough but the reality is in relationships, this is an easy area for couples to get stuck.

In differentiation, partners are able to express their individual thoughts, opinions and desires. Instead of viewing differences among partners as a threat, you both appreciate the differences each bring to the relationship. When arguments come up, these partners work to find ways to manage conflict and find resolution together. This stage of Couple development is a must in order to reach later stages. I won’t go into all the stages in this post, but I am curious, does any of the content in this post remind you of your relationship with your partner? Comment and or let me know via email. Brian@themarriagedoc.com….Thanks for reading and keep coming back for next month’s blog.

Fight Nice!

This month I thought I would write about an online course which I am revamping and releasing soon, Fight Nice! The idea for the group came while listening to a podcast episode from Jay Shetty, who said that couples need to learn how to fight appropriately, not that fighting should be avoided. First of all, the word “fight” comes with preconceived ideas. One of those ideas is that a fight involves a physical altercation which my course is not about, and this is actually false. There are several terms for a fight such as an argument, disagreement and so on.

There are seven parts to my course, Fight Nice! Starting with a discussion on the General Alarm system and ending with Planning for the future. The course is all about providing the necessary information so that you can then take tools and ideas provided to create a plan to help you and your partner fight constructively not destructively.

In terms of the General Alarm system, another name is fight or flight. Part of the information provided is a description of what fight or flight means and that we don’t always know when we are triggering our general alarm system. Also, a misnomer is that only those with a trauma history can experience fight or flight which is not accurate as this is something we are all born with the ability to use. The issue is that often times the system is activated when it isn’t needed, and it can have a HUGE impact on us and our interactions with those we care about the most.

The good news is there are ways to reduce these struggles and you can learn all about them when you sign up for my online course which again will be offered in the near future. If you would like to be notified when the course is available email me at Brian@theMarriagedoc.com. Take care and be sure to check-out the next blog post and take a look around on the site as there is a lot of good information AND you can contact me for a FREE 15-minute consult for Couple and or individual therapy for those in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.