Episode 35

Is Your Relationship Structurally Sound?

Aired 03/15/2021

Licensed Therapists Laura Richer and Michelle Mooney discuss the necessary building blocks of a rewarding relationship.

Therapists in This Episode

06:58:28 Good morning and welcome to holding ground My name is Laura richer and I’m the owner of anchor light therapy collected in Seattle, Washington. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist, and today I am joined by my co host Michelle Mooney, who is a licensed

06:58:41 couples and trauma therapist, and we are here every Monday morning on KKNW talking to you about a little bit of everything in the world of therapy and positive mental health.

06:58:50 Good morning, Michelle.

06:58:52 Good morning, Laura Good morning to our listeners, we want to remind everyone if you are interested in discovering how therapy might help you achieve your goals, please visit anchor light therapy.

06:59:03 com slash get started for your complimentary consultation.

06:59:09 Fantastic. Well today, me and Michelle, are going to be talking about one of the foundational pieces of the Gottman method which is a type of couples therapy that was developed by researchers at the University of Washington doctors john and Julie Gottman.

06:59:26 And the reason we wanted to talk about this is because all of our anchor late therapists are Gottman trained, and we use this method with couples, all the time so we wanted to share a little more information.

06:59:38 So today we’re going to be talking about what the goblins call the sound house and the sound house is the foundational theory around relationships, and you can learn more about, well just google got the Gottman method and you’ll find tons of research

06:59:54 online, but you can also go to the Gottman relates to coach, where they will explain a little bit more about their method, and how it all works so the sound house is the guiding the guiding principle of how did develop the foundation of your relationship

07:00:11 so in john Gottman his book The Seven Principles for making marriage work. He talked about what a foundation Lee secure partnership looks like and he used the metaphor of it looking like a house.

07:00:25 It has weight bearing walls and levels that each person builds upon to create a sturdy bond and again He called this this, the sound relationship house.

07:00:34 So for more than 20 years it’s given countless couples the tools they need to have a happy and healthy relationship. And so we’re going to get into exactly today, what the sound relationship house is exactly and and how you can use that to make your relationship

07:00:49 better So Michelle kick it off with the first floor. Sure, yeah. Yeah, remembering this as a house so envisioning a house and there’s several floors for the house so the bottom floor, the you know the one that we need to start with always with our partners

07:01:04 is building love maps for one is build love map so this begins with a firm foundation of knowing one another, and it’s called love map so which is essentially a guide to your partners in our world so knowing what they like, what they dislike Who’s your

07:01:29 partner’s best friend. Did they have a happy childhood, how do they prefer to relax at the end of the day, so a building love maps really means asking the right questions to your partner and ideally you and your partner would know each other better than

07:01:36 anybody else.

07:01:38 Yes. And so when I’m working with couples, it’s interesting because we naturally do this early on in relationships were so curious about every detail about our partner and their life experience and and what they like, what they don’t like.

07:01:53 And then as time goes by, sometimes it’s easy. you know when you’re not in that infatuation stage anymore.

07:01:59 It’s easy to kind of make the assumption that I already know everything about this person there’s nothing new for me to learn about them I’ve been with them for 20 years, and in fact that often is not the case.

07:02:10 Sometimes when I’m working with couples, the longer they’ve been together, the more kind of disconnected they become from knowing their partner and their, their love maps Do you ever notice that Michelle.

07:02:20 Yeah, absolutely, because you’re right we get kind of fixated on that. Well when I met him, his best friend was john and his favorite food is pizza and you know we build this idea of who our partner is, and then we carry that along with us, you know,

07:02:33 and we change as humans over time our taste, taste changes our friends groups changes our, you know, ultimate goals all of that so we have to remain curious and it’s interesting because when I’m working on this one with couples.

07:02:48 I actually have an intervention I use it’s kind of like a game where they’re asking these questions to one another and you know who’s your best friend and the other one has to, you know, guess or, you know answer hopefully correct.

07:03:00 And it’s interesting watching couples who have been together for a long time you know oh I don’t know your favorite song right I don’t know your favorite musical instrument, so it’s fun and they get to reconnect and learn these things about one another.

07:03:11 Yes, and you know even deeper questions that maybe we don’t naturally just think up to check in with you know when you’re in your day to day routine like what are your dreams for the future.

07:03:24 really safe and loved in our relationship sometimes we assume that we would know those things but But often, people don’t they’ve created so many stories around who the person is or who they were in the past that, that they really, you know, need to do

07:03:42 exercises to get to know each other now. So the government’s have all these cards that you can buy and there’s other people besides the government’s who have cards with just tons of questions and I was working I’m working with a couple right now who’s

07:03:53 been together for over 20 years and other kids are, you know, on their way out and they’re about it’s about to be just the two of them again. And they realize wow we, you know, we’ve been so busy raising kids and doing all of the, you know, things careers

07:04:08 all of that, we kind of lost touch with each other so they were talking about how they got some of the goblins cards and we’re asking each other questions and ended up having like this deep three hour conversation that they would have never really had

07:04:20 had they not taken the initiative to kind of reconnect with each other so that’s something that love mounts really can do for you is really, you know, open up big conversations that you would otherwise probably not now.

07:04:33 Right. Right. exactly.

07:04:36 So Laura, what is the next floor of our sound house. So the next floor is shared fondness in admiration. And again, this because this is so easy in the infatuation state of a relationship that you just you just love the sound of the other person’s name

07:04:54 you have these rule rose colored glasses on, you just hold them up on this pedestal and you see all of these amazing things about them, maybe how talented they are or how kind they are all the positive qualities they have in their life and, and to their

07:05:11 personality and you can really just appreciate those things and that can be very easy in the beginning and usually it is that’s what kind of attracts us to people.

07:05:19 Right off the bat. But then as time goes on. Sometimes that can become more challenging and there’s a couple reasons for that and I think the most important one that is good to recognize and that is very natural.

07:05:31 It has nothing to do with your partner or their character or who they are, is that our minds are always looking for negativity that it is a defense mechanism that we have it is so that we can identify threats in our environment, and it’s necessary to

07:05:47 our survival, but sometimes it works against us so I might start to become aware of things that I don’t like it, my partner and it will be. And I might perceive those as threatening maybe this person is going to abandon me or betray me in some sort of

07:06:01 way. And so it’s very easy for the mind to fixate on those traits, our minds just naturally want to go towards the negative. So when we think about the second floor of the house for shared fondness and admiration.

07:06:16 Sometimes it takes a little work, and really you want to adopt the motto of, you know, I want to look for my part, I want to catch my partner doing something right I want to catch my partner, doing something positive and.

07:06:29 And then the second piece of that is not only catching them doing it identifying it, but to is to express that to them. wow I so appreciate that you had dinner for me when I got home after a long day at work that was so helpful I really appreciate that

07:06:42 you think of me in that way or Wow, you look really great in those pair of jeans you know your legs look fantastic. But really, sometimes we think too you know I mean I’ve been with this person for 20 years of course I like them.

07:06:55 Well, I don’t really need to say it anymore. And in fact, that is not true, it can go a long way in deepening your friendship and your connection with someone.

07:07:04 If you can let them know how you feel about them so which will give any examples of where this has been helpful in couples therapy where you were you prompted clients to practice, sharing fun fondness and admiration.

07:07:15 Yeah, yeah, and it you know I think you’re right about you know the longer it was somebody you know of course they know how I feel about them and so but as we’re in a relationship and we progress, things like this the sharing fondness the sharing admiration

07:07:28 they can kind of fade because of that so working with couples to, you know, I’ll have them even do it in session right okay as we close today, you know, share some fondness enumeration as we close out this session and you know practices throughout the

07:07:43 week at least a couple times a day right I like you said, I appreciate you make, making dinner, taking the kids to their soccer game or you know I really appreciate how you can make me laugh like no one else can all these little things just really practicing

07:07:59 this again and so because we feel better if we’re the partner hearing this, we feel better we know our partner is still, you know in love with us to wants to be around us and then we want to give them the same, the same words of affirmation the same fondness.

07:08:15 Yes, and so you know I had a client years ago, whose spouse had had an affair.

07:08:21 And they were trying to, they were trying to work through it but it really wasn’t going very well, and she had said to me, you know, the reason that he likes this person is because she, you know, just builds them up all the time and tells them how great

07:08:36 he is and she’s not. She doesn’t know him like I do and just give him that honest direct feedback of what he’s doing wrong, essentially, and you know that that’s true we do, we want to be built up, we are going to gravitate towards people who give us

07:08:52 positive feedback, that is very natural and of course you want a partner who will also be honest with you and give you constructive feedback when it’s needed.

07:09:03 But, yes, people are drawn to people who have a sense of affection for them. And so oftentimes I think that gets lost in relationships and people will think, well, I’m just, you know, telling them how it is so that they can be a better person but that’s

07:09:18 not really an effective strategy and creating closeness in your relationship.

07:09:23 Yeah, exactly. And I think you bringing up the piece about the fair is important because yeah I’ve seen a couple of clients where they’re not engaging and what we would call the traditional affair where you know their sex involved or love involved, it’s

07:09:37 just these are these little moments maybe with somebody at work they feel appreciated they feel noticed right because this also helps us feel notice it helps us feel seen as people so when we get that somewhere else we’re not getting in our relationship,

07:09:51 it’s very alluring so we want to keep doing this, you know, the same way we did when we were in that early infatuation phase. Exactly. And you know when you think about people that you choose his friends not as romantic partners, and usually we do have

07:10:07 some sort of fondness or admiration for our friends that we, there is a reason why we choose to have them in our lives but for some reason with our partners we can move away from that and all of the Gottman research and other research in terms of long

07:10:21 term relationships shows that people who sustain fulfilling long term relationships have a good friendship with each other so this is one of the main building blocks.

07:10:32 Right. Right.

07:10:34 Well are we’re going to take a quick break. When we come back we’re going to continue with the floors of our sound house.

07:10:41 Just reminder Find us on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. So check this out on those platforms and we will be right back.

07:11:07 Alright, take a breather.

07:11:11 Right. Well, conversation go and I think we have enough here.

07:11:16 Okay, good, good, good, good, Michelle I thought our last show was really good, you would have gotten like from that I was listening to that one, compared to an early one and like you said like a pro now.

07:11:31 Oh, that’s me.

07:11:36 Huh. Did you think that last one was good. Be a fair one, yeah you’re talking about Yeah, I did listen to it I listened to it right basically live I was listening live on the, you know, in the website the whole kk and W website yeah I thought it was pretty

07:11:52 good I think it flowed Well, um, how you feeling about today so today’s great and I think the attachment one too. I thought it sounded really good attachment, oh yeah yeah the attachment one was it yeah yeah that’s right.

07:12:01 Gosh. Can I know

07:12:06 everybody well I’m ready whenever everybody else’s.

07:12:10 We’re at 1336, the first one.

07:12:13 Let’s see, Laura you bring us back, I guess, yeah.

07:12:35 Welcome back to holding ground on kk MW every Monday morning at 9am and we are talking today about the Gottman method and couples therapy, and the foundational structural structure of a relationship which the Gottman is called the salad house and so we

07:12:53 were just discussing if you missed it in the previous segment, the first two parts of building a structurally sound relationship for on the first floor we have building love maps which has to do with getting to know your partner and, and continuing to

07:13:07 know your partner and their inner world. The second floor that we talked about is sharing fondness and admiration, with your partner. And so now, Michelle, let’s talk about the third house or the third floor sorry What is the third floor of the sound

07:13:21 house.

07:13:23 Laura This floor is really important, it is turning towards so what do we need attention support comfort from our partner, we’re likely to say something or make a gesture towards our partner to elicit a response from them so the Gottman is call this a

07:13:38 bit. It’s a bid for attention I’m bidding for you to respond to me in some sort of way.

07:13:44 So your partner turns towards you, when they were applied to that bid so a generalized example is, let’s say you know I’m seeking some sort of attention or connection to my partner he’s watching TV, I noticed something outside of the window you know oh

07:13:59 my gosh Did you see that beautiful bird fly by. And if he keeps sitting there eating a cereal watching TV, he’s not even responding in any sort of way.

07:14:08 That’s called turning away, and those little bits of looking for connection of course there can be bigger ones. If they’re not answered if your partner is not turning towards you, this can really lead to feeling lonely in the relationship and feeling

07:14:23 lonely in a relationship is worse than feeling lonely when we’re single right so this can be a huge predictor of relationships not working out.

07:14:33 Yes. And it’s interesting because these are all really small things usually but over time, not acknowledging these, these small attempts for connection or the small bits for connection.

07:14:54 beautiful sunset, and you don’t respond to me over time that will feel like abandonment. Now, the person on the other side of that might just be like, just, you know, oh yeah there is a sunset but they’re not they’re not saying anything they don’t feel

07:15:01 like it’s something that warrants a response. And so, sometimes people don’t realize that in that not responding and you might just think like, Oh yeah, you know, that doesn’t require any feedback, but when your partner is coming to you with a comment

07:15:14 or you know just just something small hand touching your shoulder, and you don’t respond in any sort of way that is perceived as rejection. Right, exactly.

07:15:26 And I have many couples over the years not real and it’s not even intentional sometimes they didn’t really realize it I was working with a couple clients years ago where she, he would bring topics to her that she did not have an interest in it so she

07:15:55 really respond to him. And I think they’re around sports or something like that that he’d be like oh my favorite team one you know and and she thought well you know i don’t care about football so I don’t even know why you’re saying this to me and wouldn’t

07:15:51 really acknowledge it in any sort of way. And, and with that I think that’s such a great example because it’s really not about the sport or the team. It’s about why is your partner wanting to share this information with you What is it about his or her

07:16:06 team winning that feels important to her What is, what are they trying to tell you about their experience so sometimes it’s not about the comment, it’s about what is associated with that comment Do you ever see people turning away and relationship, Michelle

07:16:19 and then maybe they don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing.

07:16:22 Yeah, yeah, like you said, it’s pretty frequent right because you’re sitting here saying that, you know, if somebody thinks that our responses and even required, they’re not going to respond and like you said those little moments of I’m putting my hand

07:16:34 on your shoulder and let’s say the perfect partner just stands firm or maybe even, so we can reject a bit so you know there’s turning away and then there’s turning again so maybe your partner shutters maybe your partner walks away or rolls their eyes

07:16:48 that that’s really going to add have a big impact. Over time, but yeah, couples. That’s another thing I asked them to practice outside of session and so it’s something that is very important in the more we practice it and get back into that because again

07:17:01 I think early on in relationships we’re much better at doing these things much better at maintaining and growing and nurturing the relationship and as we lose that over time, that can really just be something that slips away unintentionally for the most

07:17:15 part.

07:17:17 Yes, and I think phones have had a huge impact on this Oh gosh.

07:17:22 In their phones that they, they’re so so dealt they might not even hear their partners bid for connection.

07:17:28 Exactly, or screens. Yeah, so that was the invention of smartphones something we have to be even more aware of because this can some of these small things people do not realize can be hugely damaging to to your relationship, and you made a really good

07:17:44 point to is in these situations if you’re ignoring bids for connection or not acknowledging them that’s painful. If you’re actually turning against your partner in those moments when they’re trying to connect with you with with with contempt with I roles

07:17:58 with the big sigh like, Oh, don’t you see I’m busy. That, that can be really toxic in early.

07:18:06 Yeah. Yeah. And I’m glad you brought up phones because yeah that’s the way we turn away from our partner consistently now again not intentionally it’s just become such a habit so you know doing things like intentionally spending time together without

07:18:19 your phones will really probably increase the you know the connection the bids being answered the bids being turned towards. So, yeah, the smartphones is a new one and relationships that is definitely something to navigate.

07:18:34 Yes. Yeah, so we have to all be mindful of our screen time. Now, and then you know there’s there’s some other things too like a bid for physical connection often will get shut down with contempt because maybe the one partner feels, you know that the timing

07:18:50 is bad, or that they’re, you know busy with the kids or their work or whatever. And that’s another thing I see come up consistently is if you shut down your partner’s bid for physical connection.

07:19:02 It is, it is experienced as as a deep rejection, I think it was Bernays Browns research, She researches shame and vulnerability and and some of her vulnerability research, which he asked people what made them feel the most vulnerable.

07:19:19 And in some of her vulnerability research, when she asked people what made them feel the most vulnerable. It was initiating physical connection with their partners and being rejected so that most humans are going to experience that as a painful experience

07:19:31 and so that’s something we want to be mindful of, and it’s not that just because your partner has a bid for physical connection that you need to be responsive to it, it may be a bad time and not work for you and that’s completely fine, but you do want

07:19:39 to handle it in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re turning against them.

07:19:44 Right, right, something like you know I have to finish up this quick email or whatever it is you know I’ll join you soon something like that where you’re acknowledging, you know, and appreciating what the bid but also letting them know, Hey, you know

07:19:57 we have to do this a little bit later but I’m really interested and I’m excited so yeah and that rejection piece lower when we initiate we feel rejected over time that I’ve seen this in couples that that partner doesn’t want to initiate anymore because

07:20:11 now they feel like well I’m just going to be rejected so they feel like, Okay, if the only way we’re going to connect physically is if they initiate so that that can be really damaging to it’s very, you know it takes away empowerment from that person.

07:20:26 Yes. Yeah. And over time, does that erodes the relationship you know and wondering, you’re just like this is most likely not going to be a deal breaker but it really you don’t, if you’re, you’re making bids for connection that are constantly rejected,

07:20:41 you’re going to lose trust in your relationship over time and you’re going to start to create a negative narrative around what all that means, whether it’s true or not.

07:20:49 And it’s just, you know, not a good practice if you want to have a healthy long term relationship.

07:20:54 And that where trust is important because I think we think of that on a lot of terms of, oh I don’t trust my partner to not step outside of the marriage something like that but trust in this situation is just trust that my partner is going to be there

07:21:06 for me trust that my partner is somebody I can emotionally connect with physically connect with, you know, trusting the structure, right of the relationship.

07:21:16 Yeah, that you’re going to be there to to soothe me or comfort me or or meet my emotional or physical needs in some capacity so yep.

07:21:29 Right, furniture or not again.

07:21:31 So let’s get to number four, I think this is so important and again this is kind of like a number two. So this is the positive perspective. Again, our minds are very good at identifying negative things and things that we don’t like.

07:21:48 But, you know, a lot of life is how you look at it, if you’re looking for negative things you will find them if you’re looking for positive things you will most likely find them as well and so that’s what we want to practice is looking for the positive

07:22:02 perspective couples in healthy relationships are really careful about how they, they give criticism in their relationship or I don’t even want to call it criticism I want to say feedback feedback.

07:22:15 Yeah.

07:22:16 So, if it’s criticism. It’s probably destructive feedback can be healthy and it is a necessary part of the relationship, but criticism has a negative association like you do this the wrong way always never your intention was to hurt me there’s an assumption

07:22:34 of negative intent feedback can be like hey when this happened.

07:22:40 This was how it made me feel, and I’d like to see it different in the future maybe look like this so it’s just, that’s, that’s kind of the distinction there.

07:22:47 And we’re offering from a positive perspective it’s easy to give feedback because you’re not assuming that your partner has a negative intent intention.

07:22:57 And so, some other things if you don’t have a positive perspective, you will start to create narratives about what your partner’s behavior means. So for example, let’s say I’m planning to meet you for dinner at a restaurant after work and you’re a half

07:23:12 an hour late, if I don’t have a positive perspective, if I’m not in assuming good intentions and my partner I might go well, there it is. He’s late again.

07:23:21 He doesn’t care about my time he was obviously just doing something to because he doesn’t care about me to just get here late make me look silly sitting here at this table or myself, if I have a positive perspective I might go, oh I wonder why he was

07:23:35 late maybe he will maybe there was traffic maybe he got stuck at work, maybe I’ll ask him why he was late instead of going to a place of assumption where I’m already upset before we even started interacting with each other.

07:23:47 Yeah. Yeah, it comes to that phrase like, let’s be curious instead of furious right let’s investigate me why this is happening versus you know just assuming and then getting really mad, and so something that can really influence this and get in the way

07:24:02 of the positive perspective is if we do have some sort of trauma history. Again, either through childhood or past relationships where we see a similar behavior and we identify that as a red flag, even though our partner has nothing to do with it somehow

07:24:16 it reminds us.

07:24:18 So for example, I had a client A while back that when she was growing up, she was not allowed in the kitchen, anytime she would go in the kitchen to, you know, try to cook something in her mother would hover over her, tell her she’s doing it wrong telling

07:24:30 her she’s going to burn the house down all of this really negative unfortunate treatment from all around the kitchen. So now when her and her husband.

07:24:39 They live together obviously and she’s cooking for them. If he says something like hey we want to add some salt or maybe we should try this cheese again, it really activates that trauma response so she’s just automatically assuming like, you know, she’s

07:24:51 going back to that place versus, you know that positive perspective would be, you know, okay, I appreciate you, you know, helping me you know I appreciate you wanting to, you know, make a suggestion, you know, participating in this versus you know she

07:25:05 really just automatically went to I’m being criticized right so things like that can get in the way. So there’s some extra work to be done with couples like that, but obviously you can get to the positive perspective over time.

07:25:19 Yes, and that is an excellent point and if you missed last week’s episode of building ground you might want to check it out, because we talked about attachment styles.

07:25:27 And if you have an in secure attachment style whether that’s an anxious attachment or an avoidant attachment attachment really is going to influence your ability to have positive, a positive perspective because you have past trauma that is informing how

07:25:43 you react in relationships, and with individual therapy, you can you can definitely work through those issues become aware of them, so that you can start to change them but when you’re unaware of that you might always you know if you’re anxiously attached,

07:25:58 you may always feel that your partner is going to abandon you and because that is the perspective that you have your mind is dialed in to look for proof of that whether it’s there or not, and you will unconsciously create that result in the relationship.

07:26:12 Oftentimes, your abandonment are abandoned because they, they are so sure that it’s going to happen to them that they actually create scenarios where it does right that self fulfilling prophecy and you’re right so when we decide my partner is going to

07:26:27 leave me my partner doesn’t love me anymore. Any little change, you know for some folks in like facial expression or he said this with a certain tone or he was late from work all this stuff we build up that narrative about the up this guy, I told, I told

07:26:40 you I seen all this evidence for this thing, and not looking at all of the positive things we can really turn down the volume on the positive things and turn up the volume on all of the negative things that kind of.

07:26:55 It’s like that confirmation bias right I’m seeing what informs what I’m thinking here so it must be true.

07:26:59 Yes, and Esther girl who’s a Belgian psychotherapist talks a lot about confirmation bias and how destructive that is in relationships and how it for a lot of couples will lead to excessive bickering and the relationship.

07:27:16 Because, using the example of you’re late because you don’t respect my time so if I have it in my mind that you don’t respect me and I’m constantly looking for proof that you don’t, I’m going to find it, you know, the traffic could have made you late

07:27:28 but because I already feel that it’s because you don’t respect me that’s the story I’m going to start telling myself. And then I’m going to start telling my partner that they don’t, that they don’t respect my time, which is going to make my partner defensive

07:27:38 and he’s going to he or she is going to want to fight back against that. So it’s just it’s a vicious cycle, when we, we are going to find proof of what we believe to be true.

07:27:48 So why not believe the positive stuff is true, you’re going to be having a lot more fun. Yeah, exactly.

07:27:56 Okay, so that’s a good segue to the next topic which is managing conflict and this is an important part of the sound house because as we know there is not going to be a relationship that doesn’t have conflict.

07:28:09 So what do we do about that Michelle.

07:28:11 Yeah, well first of all, you know conflict and breakdowns and communication are really the number one reason why folks are coming to couples therapy what what we see the most this being an issue right, we’ll do a consultation and nine times out of 10,

07:28:25 you know, we want to learn how to communicate better we want to learn how to communicate and navigate conflict when it comes up. And you’re right Laura that relationships are always going to have conflict, there’s always going to be something there that

07:28:37 may be, you know, brings up some sort of conflict where two different people. So we’re not always going to agree but the key is how do we manage it when it comes up so it doesn’t turn into this huge explosive blow up fight right or just, you know, really

07:28:51 having the conflict in the healthiest way possible. So first what you need to do when there’s conflict is accept your partners influence meaning you take their feelings their desires into account instead of doing everything your own way right you try

07:29:04 to put yourself almost in their shoes to kind of try to see what they might be experiencing you know accepting their influence in terms of maybe they’re saying something.

07:29:15 And, you know, maybe you don’t agree with it but you just acknowledge your partner okay can understand why you’re feeling that way, it makes sense that you’re feeling that way.

07:29:23 We’re not saying like hey you’re absolutely right, but we’re just acknowledging our partners exist experience with that so you know our dialogues really important so when you feel yourself getting really heated up during conflict so we call that essentially

07:29:38 emotional flooding so when we’re having conflict with our partner.

07:29:52 It can get to a point where we’re so activated that we’re just only seeing the world through our emotions are not responding in the way that we want to respond right if we look at it the next day like, oh, gosh, I can’t believe I said all of that to him.

07:30:01 If you’re getting to that place. That’s a time where we need to pause the conflict and let your partner know hey I need to take an hour here I need to just kind of calm down.

07:30:06 Let your partner know this is really important to me. I really want to be present for you but I just can’t right now so let’s come back to this a little bit later.

07:30:14 And in that moment you self soothe you distract yourself in some sort of way. So you do become more grounded and you can return to the conversation with a more open mind you’re thinking again with your rational line and not just your emotional mind.

07:30:29 Yes, that is so important and like you said when we work with couples usually they have decided to seek therapy because they’re having higher levels of conflict that they’re not quite sure how to resolve and being flooded, we experienced conflict with

07:30:44 our partners like We’re under attack. You go into fight or flight fight or flight mode. So when that happens, you cannot, people want to especially anxious people want to stay in the argument, so they can resolve it in that moment and you just can’t.

07:30:58 You’re, you’re not thinking rationally you’re emotionally flooded. You were only going to do say things that are damaging to the relationship at that point so it is always better to take a little break and walk away but that can be very difficult for

07:31:10 people, especially if they have past trauma or insecure attachment styles. So again, that might be something that you need to work through an individual therapy as well if you notice that you can’t take a break that it’s really hard for you to walk away

07:31:24 from the relationship from the conflict because you’re so triggered. I am, and this is probably a good time to talk about communication styles and what the Gottman is identified as they call the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse so if this these aspects

07:31:40 are coming up in your communication, it’s probably going to lead to escalated conflict so we want to be really mindful of these things which are one criticism.

07:31:50 So we’ve mentioned that a little bit before but if you’re giving feedback in a negative way, either saying, you always do something you never do something, or you’re assuming a negative intention you were trying to hurt me you don’t care about me you

07:32:05 don’t respect me. That is probably going to escalate the conflict. Do you see that when you observe couples have conflict in the therapy room Michelle that the criticism kind of takes things to read in a second.

07:32:20 takes things to read in a second and it can lead to some of the other negative communication style so let’s say I’m being overly criticized again, I am totally emotionally flooded at this point because like you said we perceive it as some sort of attack.

07:32:33 So we can totally shut down we can get to that emotionally flooded place so if we’re totally flooded shut down we’re no longer responding to our partner.

07:32:42 So, you know, that obviously means they’re going to talk louder they feel ignored so it’s going to continue this debate essentially the conflict. But what I also can do is lead to if I’m being criticized I’m probably going to be defensive now and that’s

07:32:57 another one of these four horsemen that can really break down communication, especially during conflict so you know you’re telling me I didn’t do the dishes and when I come back to you and say well you didn’t take the kids to school and unit make dinner

07:33:12 last week and look at these, you know, dirty laundry every right right instead of saying you know something if we are having a healthier dialogue.

07:33:19 Oh you know what i did miss that last week I am sorry and you know I’ll pick up the kids every day this week, or whatever it is, again, accepting that influence understanding where your partner is coming from and not totally just shutting down but that

07:33:31 criticism, you can really feel that if we’re not giving positive feedback. Yes. So, triggering probably the two most common of the horsemen which is the criticism leads to defensiveness and you talked about accepting your partner’s influence, which oftentimes

07:33:48 is especially the feedback fields critical, we may not want to accept our partners influence we went may want to defend ourselves we feel like we’re under attack.

07:33:56 We want to prove what they’re saying is wrong or deflecting some sort of way. And that will escalate conflict because the person who’s giving the feedback or potentially criticism does not feel heard they don’t feel like they can get their point across,

07:34:10 and so they continue to escalate trying to get their point across. So, that is why, and couples have a hard time with this.

07:34:18 When you’re having conflict especially is you want to always validate the other person’s experience. You do not have to agree with it. You do not have to think that they’re right you don’t, none of that.

07:34:29 But you want to let them know that you hear what they’re saying. And if you can’t find a place to to agree with them or to just give some sort of positive feedback that can be very effective in de escalating so if I said hey you know you didn’t make dinner

07:34:48 the other night and it’s just more proof that you don’t care about my feelings are my time.

07:34:53 Okay, maybe I know that I didn’t make dinner because there was a big work call and I didn’t get around to it and there’s all of these good reasons why I wasn’t able to do it.

07:35:03 And they have nothing to do with me not caring about my partner.

07:35:06 But if I just launch into my defense, we’re missing the whole point my partner has come to me and they have said that their feelings are hurt that they didn’t feel cared for in that moment, and they’ve made an assumption about what your intention is which

07:35:18 is why you’re getting defensive. But first you want to start with cash you know I can see I told you I was going to make dinner, and I can see why you would feel like I forgot about you or I didn’t care about you know I know this isn’t true.

07:35:30 I’m not validating that it’s true. I’m just validating their perspective that small gesture can de escalate things but it is it is challenging Do you keep on that with couples, Michelle that like they, when they’re upset validated is kind of the last

07:35:44 thing that they wanted to.

07:35:47 Yes, absolutely. And that’s where it’s maybe sometimes taking that break and come in handy where, then we’re able to validate come back it’s kind of what we, you know, hopefully when we come back to a conflict, we want to repair what just happened.

07:36:00 And part of that repair piece can be, you know, seeing our partner validating their experience. So that can really be effective, and you know the other.

07:36:11 The fourth horseman the other way of communicating during either conflict or just in general that really breaks down communication and relationships is contempt.

07:36:21 So, and this is the one that really is the big predictor of relationships leading to divorce or separation or breakup, because it is so harsh so it can be anything like I’m coming to let’s say that bid for connection again coming to you to tell you about

07:36:36 this really exciting article I just read online and you just like sign roll your eyes or you walk away or on a much deeper level maybe you’re attacking that person’s character right so it’s not you didn’t do this, you always do this, it’s you know you’re

07:36:51 stupid you’re ugly it’s really that harsh stuff and that is just not going to work over the long term. Yeah, it’s positioning yourself in a place of superiority so whether that’s an eye roll or you were stupid to do it that way, you’re putting yourself,

07:37:07 you’re making yourself superior to your partner and putting them down and that like you said, is the biggest predictor high levels of contempt in relationship is.

07:37:29 if there’s more contempt than positive parts of the relationship, it’s not going to feel like a safe place and it’s probably not going to make it. Right. Right, absolutely. So the anecdote to to contempt, is the shared fondness and admiration, the more

07:37:37 Expressing why you feel positive towards them, the more challenging it is to get to that and they do the same for you. If you’re, you’re less likely to default into content because you’re training your brain to look for the things that are going right.

07:37:58 Exactly, exactly.

07:38:00 And the positive perspective is really what you if you notice that there’s a lot of criticism in their relationship that probably means that you are in what the Gottman is called negative sentiment override you’ve had enough negative experiences with

07:38:14 partner that you’re expecting that to happen all the time and so it’s probably leading to a lot of criticism, and you may see negative things that aren’t even there and so just really practicing the positive perspective can can switch that so that your

07:38:26 interactions aren’t critical but you’re looking, you’re trying to catch your partner doing something right.

07:38:41 You’re not assuming the worst. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, the last thing the of the four horsemen is what the goblins call stonewalling and this again is an indicator in conflict that it is time for a break that you have just shut down you’re not even

07:38:46 engaged anymore it’s kind of like the lights are on, but nobody’s home and you’re probably actively ignoring your partner’s attempts to get your attention.

07:38:55 That is another fantastic time to say like hey I’m overwhelmed right now and flooded right now I need to walk away from this conversation for a while, a little while, but you also when you do that when you take a break, you need to be.

07:39:16 them know they’re not being abandoned so I need a break but I’m coming back to this in an hour. I need to call myself for collect my thoughts. You don’t want to be punitive like you did something wrong and now I won’t talk to you because that’s going

07:39:20 to escalate the conflict even more.

07:39:22 Yeah, for taking that break we need to walk away that means don’t slam the door. That means you know don’t make it a punishing activity right, I’m just so done with you I need to get away from you, that kind of thing.

07:39:35 For and like you said, Let the partner your partner know that you’re not abandoning them so setting a time limit on that. So, and this is very helpful for partners who are anxiously attached to here.

07:39:47 I will, you know, let’s, let’s go take a break here let’s come back to this in two hours where I’m going to take a walk I will be back. So that really helps the anxiously attached attached partner because we just walk away, are anxiously attached partner

07:40:00 is going to think, Okay, this is over, they’re breaking up with me they’re going to go into that worst case scenario so we need to affirm that we will be back.

07:40:07 Yes, absolutely. And I mean, and it can be small thing sometimes it can trigger that fear in somebody that they’re that you have just walked away, and you didn’t say anything, and all that in their mind all of a sudden the relationships over because you’ve

07:40:20 triggered balls it so we definitely and then that doesn’t help resolve conflicts either so we definitely don’t want to do that. Alright, Michelle well I think it’s time for another quick break and when we come back we’re going to discuss the final floors

07:40:32 of the Gottman sound house, making life dreams come true and sharing meaning in your relationship. And if you’re interested in the sound House of your relationship and you want to learn more, you can schedule a complimentary consultation with me or Michelle

07:40:47 or any of the other therapists that anchor light at a good light therapy. com slash get started so stay tuned. We will be right back.

07:41:12 Alright, we are at

07:41:18 40 to say like 10 minutes.

07:41:24 Yeah, 10 or 11 be great, 11 will be great. 11 minutes I think we can do it. I know we’re really filling this up Laura, I know I was when I read it this morning I just had such a busy weekend I didn’t really get to add to it and everyone I’ve heard of

07:41:36 this morning I’m like I don’t know we’ll see but I think we’ve gotten good at just talking so it’s good. Yeah, I’m excited, and we know what we’re talking about.

07:41:44 Now that I’ve been doing this for a while I’m like I can speak to this.

07:41:48 Yeah.

07:41:51 I’m ready whenever everybody else’s.

07:41:53 All right, am I bringing us back line. Yeah, you are. Okay.

07:42:15 Welcome back to holding ground where are you here live every Monday morning at 9am on kk and W 11:50am in Seattle, and all podcast forums platforms, and don’t forget to find us on social media, we have a lot of great content, a lot of helpful mental health,

07:42:32 tools and reminders also there’s some humor in there and you can also catch a preview of our upcoming podcast on our social media as well so we’re on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, so check us out.

07:42:45 Fantastic. Okay, so we’re talking about the relationship sound house and now we’re to the sixth floor.

07:42:53 And that is making life dreams come true. So, the beauty of having a partner are really good companionship is that you have someone who will not only encourage you in your goals but also help you reach them.

07:43:07 And this is one of the reasons why we like to be in partnership with other people is that sometimes with a little help, it’s easier to achieve our goals and also we get to be that person for our partner where we’re supporting them and their life dreams

07:43:21 and therefore, sharing that experience with them.

07:43:24 When I was doing a little reading about this this morning.

07:43:28 I read a story that Glenn and Milton Doyle had written about her partner Abby Wambach, and then Abby had gone to the World Cup, or some important tournament, and had achieved one of her big lifetime goals.

07:43:47 And so she is a professional soccer player for people who don’t know who she is.

07:43:50 But she was talking about the blending was talking about the experience of being able to share that with with her family, and with her wife, and that how fulfilling it was not only to be part of, of helping her wife get there and supporting her to get

07:44:07 there, but also what a fulfilling experience it was for her personally to share that experience with her partner so that I think is a great example of a couple supporting each other’s life’s dreams coming true.

07:44:19 Do you have any other examples of that Michelle with with partners that you’ve worked with or people in the media.

07:44:26 You have a printer I worked with actually a little bit ago or a couple I should say.

07:44:32 The what brought them to couples therapy actually was a conflict over the wife wanting to pursue her PhD so she was ready to move up in her academic career as well as her professional career, and they kept having conflict around this because you know

07:44:47 maybe it’s not the right time we just had to be we want to have another baby I’m working from home I can’t have you gone all the time that sort of thing but this was really her passion, and you know as individuals we need to be able to explore these things

07:45:00 and achieve these things out, you know, as an individual and have our partner support us so eventually we got to a point where they did compromise and she did actually decide to go back to school and we figured out a way to work with their schedule and

07:45:12 all of that and you know he was always supportive but he was just kind of from that maybe also not the positive perspective looking for all the reasons why this wouldn’t work versus, you know what, my wife really wants to do this we can figure this out

07:45:25 as a unit and so they did come to that decision that they could make that work.

07:45:30 Yeah, and that probably in the end will be a very fulfilling experience for them, as, as a couple, because what can be damaging to relationships if you feel that your partner is a hindrance to you, trying to achieve what you want to achieve in your life,

07:45:45 you know, and that sometimes comes down to compatibility to that sometimes people are just not on the same page, they’re not on the same journey. And so it’s going to be difficult for them to support each other because one person wants something very

07:45:56 different than the other person, but hopefully we found partners where we are compatible enough that we can support their life vision and they can support ours.

07:46:06 In, and that will just deepen our friendship and we will have a more meaningful happy relationship because of that.

07:46:14 So Laura, our final floor is create shared meaning so this looks a lot like love maps so understanding. You know what our partners day to day is right.

07:46:25 Favorite best friend all of that that we discussed in the beginning, which was our first floor, but this is the love maps of your relationship as a couple.

07:46:33 So, it’s what these things really need for your understanding and building your inner world together.

07:46:39 So the way that we do this is the government’s Think of it as a developing a culture of symbols and rituals that you express and figure out as a team.

07:46:49 So symbols are things like What does home mean what does sex mean what does money mean what is playing me right what all these symbols represent in your relationship as a couple, and you get to decide that having these conversations earlier on, you know,

07:47:06 the better right what is children mean when his family mean are we doing these things are we going to have a family is it just going to be us that sort of thing.

07:47:13 Like all of the symbols of what do they mean for us, and the rituals part is really important and this is something I always encourage clients to do right off the bat to practice in between sessions is creating rituals, things that you will do as a team

07:47:27 so it can be something as simple as you know every Friday night we’re getting takeout we’re going to light some candles.

07:47:33 You know, maybe every morning and I’m going to bring your coffee, maybe each year when we celebrate each other’s birthdays we do it in a really unique and fun and exciting way so these rituals of connection really define us as a unit and we create them

07:47:46 together and it can be really fun and rewarding.

07:47:49 I agree, I always have couples who are in for any reason we talk about rituals of connection, a lot of times they’ve, they’ve abandoned any rituals of connection that they had or maybe they never really had him in the first place.

07:48:02 And they because sometimes I think people put a lot of weight on it like I need to create this big special moment it’s got to be a big date night we’ve got to get a babysitter and we got to go to an expensive restaurant we have to do all these things.

07:48:13 And it’s great to do that sometimes it’s definitely fun and you should hopefully how big date nights in your life, but that is that sometimes can only especially be a little kids suffer some people that might only happened once or twice a year so we need

07:48:25 to have things that we can practice, daily, or at least weekly where we feel connected with our partner and that might be having a glass of wine at the end of the day and and talking about your day together or having a cup of tea before you go to bed,

07:48:41 or it could even just be little quick things like I always give you a hug and a kiss when I come in the door and when I leave for the day but that’s something that we’ve established like we’re reestablishing our connection with each other.

07:48:52 Every time we do this little ritual, taking the dog for a walk at the end of the day together or, you know, a lot of partners go to bed at different times which can create conflict in the relationship or a sense of disconnect.

07:49:04 Maybe the one who goes to bed later talks the one who goes to bed earlier in and they say good night to each other I mean just little things that you can incorporate into your day.

07:49:12 That allows you some connection with your partner and it doesn’t have to be big things it can be something that it takes five to 10 minutes.

07:49:19 Yeah. Side note on that I work with a lot of couples that have that issue around, you know, my partner doesn’t come to bed with me he stays up and he plays video games and I just want him to, you know, do something with me so yeah that talking and I have

07:49:32 a couple that Now does that he talks her and before she goes to bed, or like a green three nights a week we’ll go to bed at the same time and the rest of the week we can all kind of do my thing.

07:49:44 After you go to bed so, and these rituals of connection, like you said, Laura out I’ll ask clients and you know what, what how do you connect what is something that you to do together you know intentionally daily or weekly, and sometimes the answer is

07:49:53 just nothing right oh we don’t do anything right so it’s incorporating those very little things I’m going to help you put on your jacket or, you know, whatever it is, I’ll call your Uber for you, you know that any limo thing that we can do for each other

07:50:07 every day is really just how, you know, another way we can connect. Yes, and oftentimes when it happens couples come to therapy they have lost these they’ve lost connection with each other which, and so they’re not doing these types of things and these

07:50:18 are little things you can do to connect and also a bedtime seems to be a big issue that, because there’s a lot of different reasons why maybe people don’t go to bed at the same time or maybe they don’t sleep well together maybe somebody has sleep apnea

07:50:33 or restless legs or, or, you know, insomnia. And so for whatever reason they don’t have that connection with each other, that’s completely fine if that doesn’t work in your relationship.

07:50:44 A lot of couples fill out a shame about that or there’s something wrong with the relationship because they’re not sleeping at the same time, but you have to sleep at the same time that’s okay but you need to find other ways that you’re that you have rituals

07:50:55 no connection that doesn’t have to be the only one maybe you make dinner together like maybe like a walk at night you know there’s there’s all different things you can do.

07:51:03 Great.

07:51:05 Great. Well I’m, that is it I think for today Michelle I mean we have discussed the sound relationship house, and how important that is and the heart of that is that couples need these steps to really have trust and commitment in their relationship but

07:51:22 that is the foundation of a happy, healthy, sustainable long term relationship and so using these different steps or examining these different floors in your relationship can really give you the structure to build that foundation and it does take a little

07:51:39 work to do these things, you know, as we’ve talked about before.

07:51:42 In early relationships. Sometimes it’s easier in the infatuation stage and then as life as you as you get to know each other as life goes on and you experience challenges together, it can be easy to move away from these things, but with a little bit of

07:51:57 effort you can maintain that strong relationship that you had in the beginning.

07:52:03 Exactly, exactly.

07:52:04 Well we are out of time for today but we’ll be back next Monday morning at 9am or on all podcasts web platforms with more in the world of therapy and pop positive mental health so thank you so much for tuning in.

07:52:16 we’ll see you next Monday. Have a great week.

07:52:20 Alright, we are concluded.

07:52:24 I’ve lost track of time but I had nothing else to say on that oh you’re perfect.