Best Couples Therapist NYC

Have You Fallen Madly In Love?

Doesn't everyone want to fall madly in love?

Do you try intensely to keep intimate, meaningful, and deep connections with a partner or spouse in your love relationships? Falling madly in love is part of a fantasy many people have to find their true "soul mate." If you relate to this drive, you probably do all that you can to keep the other person in your life, and to feel as close as possible to him or her. Most likely, if you focus strongly on having a deep connection with your mate, you also are relatively good at reading other people's emotions and empathizing with their plights.

While some people may enjoy going out on a date with a partner along with a group of friends, if you focus on connection, you probably would rather have deeper experiences that inspire more intimate conversations to get to know your date. Your focus is more likely to build a deeper bond with the man or woman you desire.

Trying to get to know another person intimately also involves risk. You may open yourself up to being vulnerable faster than other people, and then get hurt if your attempts to reach out are not responded to. Helping build a stronger buffer for hurt and rejection can help you to continue along your path of finding your true love, and help keep your relationship strong. 

The Negotiator Trait in a Love Relationship: Who Matches Best?

In her book "Why Him? Why Her?" Helen Fisher, a key creator of chemistry.com, calls this type of personality style a "negotiator," meaning a partner who seeks a long-term commitment and marriage more than most other personality types. Feelings are held supreme, along with a person's thoughts and motives. Of the four personality types Fisher describes, negotiators are the most romantic, and fall in love much more than the other three personality types she describes. A romantic evening and weekend may be at the top of your list of plans, along with expressing love verbally and physically. 

Are some personality types better suited in marriages and love relationships than others?

Are some personality types better suited in marriages and love relationships than others?

Sex is a key part of strengthening the bond of a relationship, and for people who most fit this style, casual sex most likely feels empty and meaningless. Fantasy can easily take over, however, and reality may not quiet meet the expecations of your dream. For you, sex is most likely a point of discussion, since a good sex life is linked to a healthy, loving relationship. 

If you identify with this personality trait, you place a priority on connecting with your partner, but this isn't necessarily expressed through clingy behavior or becoming demanding. Instead, if you aren't getting your needs met, you most likely start to feel like you're carrying a weight on your shoulders, and feel that you need to break free of what may start to feel less like a soulmate and more like a source of deprivation. Nothing less than unconditional love is expected, and loneliness with a partner or spoues who doesn't know how to love can amplify your unhappiness. A drawback of this personality trait may be that you stay far too long with a partner or spouse who is not a good match for you.

Are You and Your Partner or Spouse a Good Match?

How do you know if your partner or spouse is a good match? Helen Fisher describes four personality traits, but she is not a marriage or couples therapist, and does not offer remedies for partners who have different traits to make a relationship work successfully.  Fisher claims that negotiators are not usually strongly attracted to other negotiators. If they are, both partners may share many traits that work smoothly together, and may also experience challenging matches, not being able to make up their minds when a decision is necessary, or giving each other little space to develop individually. 

Do You Relate to this Personality Type in Your Marriage or Love Relationship? 

Is this a series of traits that you relate to? If so, have you found it easier or more difficult to relate to certain types of partners? A key philosophy at the Loving at Your Best Plan is that personality traits do not have to determine the success of a marriage or love relationship. Even people with extremely similar interests, values, and styles can have a terrible relationship, and mates with almost nothing in common who share the most important thing in common, each other, can have fantastically happy marriages and love relationships. 

Reference: "Why Him? Why Her?" by Helen Fisher, Henry Hold and Company, 2009. 

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Does Your History Matter?

help-my-marriage-nyc

What lessons did you learn from your family about emotions? Your caregivers communicated a belief about emotions, whether you realized it or not, that probably affects you today in your marriage or love relationship. How has this emotional philosophy affected you when you've experienced key moments of vulnerability in your life?

How your family and caregivers dealt with emotions can have a significant impact on how you connect with other people in your life today. Your awareness of what you're feeling, your ability to express your emotions, and how you reach out to others for connection all are influenced by your earlier experiences. At the same time, your awareness of what your partner or spouse is feeling, and how you respond to his or her needs are equally influenced by your earlier experiences.

Why Does Your Emotional History Matter So Much?

One of the strongest contributors to how you'll connect with your partner or spouse is your emotional experience, and this helps shape your ability to connect in your closest relationships, unless you're able to realize how the past may be interfering with your present situation. We all respond to situations in different ways, and one of the strongest influences on how we react is our family history. 

Why Not Just Forget About Your Past? If you work on understanding it, won't you just get stuck in it?

Why Not Just Forget About Your Past? If you work on understanding it, won't you just get stuck in it?

Exploring your family history isn't always easy. Why not just forget about the past? In reality, our brain never forgets our experiences, and when those situations haven't been put together in a way that helps us make sense of our lives, we're open to being subjected to the past overwhelming us and being imprisoned by our past instead of responding in the present with a reaction that best fits the now.

For example, when you meet someone for the first time, he or she may remind your of someone significant in your life, like a sibling, a past lover, or a past friend. These associations can have positive or negative assumptions to them that may not fit the actual person in front of you now, yet you may immediately start to treat him or her like the person your brain is associating him or her with. We can see how this could lead to some bad scenarios.

You can work to become more aware of these associations in your life, when you're having an "outsized" reaction to someone or something that doesn't seem to fit what is in front of you. Journal writing is one key way that can help you determine the difference between the past and now. Writing a description of how you are experiencing the person or the situation can often give you insight into what may be reminding you of the past situation, and even more importantly, what is different about then and now.

We use many tools at the Loving at Your Best Plan to help couples work detangle past experiences without becoming mired in or overwhelmed by the past. You can contact one of our therapists and meet with him or her to help uncover what may be holding you back from getting the love that you really need and deserve in your life.

Share Your Experiences

Have an experience when a past event shaped your response to the present? Share your experiences to help others relate to them. If you liked this article, feel free to forward it to a friend or loved one.

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What Helps You Deal With Stress?

Can you turn to your partner when you are feeling sad, anxious, or bad? Your answer matters.

Hint: He or She Probably Sleeps Next to You Each Night

When you feel safe with your partner or spouse in your marriage or love relationship, your ability to cope with challenging situations is significantly strengthened. Despite many dangers in the world, with the support of the man or woman you love, your sense of security can be solid. John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory, described how necessary it is for humans to have a connection that provides a “safe haven” and a “secure base” to explore and learn about the world. Even when facing extreme stressors and traumatic situations, having the support of your loved one helps you to weather the storms. Without that security from a loved one, you may feel isolated and alone, leaving you more vulnerable to threats in the world. Confidence in yourself can decline, and your connections with other people may be hindered.

How Do You Manage Your Feelings?

What are the patterns you’ve established to connect with the people you love most in your life? How do you manage your feelings, and how do you respond to your partner or spouse when he or she has intense emotions? Attachment theory identifies specific patterns we have that either strengthen or weaken our closest relationships, and how we experience the ups and downs in life. If you don’t have a close person to turn to in times of stress, you’re much more likely to suppress your emotions and feel isolated. As a child, if your caregiver easily got overwhelmed by his or her own emotions, most likely you’ll do the same in your adult romantic relationships. Both of these patterns leave you more vulnerable to the harms of trauma that can occur in life.

What Are Relationship Traumas?

Traumas may include physical separation, alienation and loss of key connections in your life. They may also include a singular trauma that can occur in war, or through physical or sexual abuse. Survivors of childhood sexual, physical, or severe emotional abuse are often identified as having borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms. The prognosis of BPD can be significantly influenced by a love relationship’s security, or lack thereof.

A safe connection in our romantic lives protects us, while an insecure connection leaves us open to the painful after-effects of trauma. Even worse, if your trauma was caused by a caregiver you counted on to help you survive in the past, your symptoms in the present may be intensified and can hinder your ability to connect in your adult romantic relationships in three key areas:

  1. Creating and growing secure connections
  2. Managing your own emotions when faced with situations associated with your trauma
  3. Responding effectively to your partner or spouse when he or she needs your support

Want to Succeed in Your Love Relationship? Key Points to Remember

  1. Connection is a motivating force that drives us to seek and maintain contact with key people in our lives. We are all emotionally dependent on key caregivers in our lives. The key question: is your dependency on your loved one secure or insecure?
  2. A secure connection with a caregiver helps you feel more confident in yourself. Rather than being enmeshed, a secure connection means being integrated—appreciating both your connection and the differences within your relationship.
  3. Contact with key caregivers helps you survive the challenges in your life. You feel strengthened to face stressors in your life when you know your partner or spouse has your back.
  4. A secure connection provides a “secure base” to explore your world and adapt to different situations. You feel confident to face risks, to learn, and continually navigate the world around you.
  5. Being available to your partner and responding when you need each other builds security. Emotional engagement with each other is vital to sustain a love relationship. Any response, even anger, feels better to your central nervous system than no response.
  6. Uncertainty in your love relationship activates your connection needs. You seek closeness to the one you love when you are threatened, and are most in need of your partner's response in those key moments. You need proximity with your partner to help you manage your emotions, especially during times of vulnerability.
  7. Distress when separated from your partner or spouse is predictable. If your partner isn’t responding to you when you need him or her, you’ll likely protest this void by getting angry, clinging to him or her, or getting depressed and withdrawing. A natural response to loosing a connection with your loved one is to get depressed.
  8. Patterns of connection in a love relationship are limited, and can be identified. When your needs for connection aren’t being met, you’ll either protest through anger or detach and withdraw from your loved one. Your built-in attachment circuit in your central nervous system gets set off when you feel a lack of connection, driving your response to aggressively reconnect, or to suppress your need and focus on tasks instead of the connection. The two patterns can easily become habits. A secure connection involves a partner calming distress when separation occurs, and then reaching out for reassuring contact when your partner returns. An anxious connection occurs when you experience extreme distress when you separate from your partner, and lash out upon his or her return. A partner’s attempts to soothe you often don’t make a difference. If you tend to withdraw when your connection needs arise, most likely you experience physiological distress but show little emotion when you separate or reunite from your partner. Instead, you focus on behaviors or activities. Both anger and withdrawing are self-maintaining patterns attempting to manage emotions. The patterns often reinforce each other.
  9. How you connect with your loved one shapes how you view yourself and close relationships. Strategies to connect show how you deal with emotions, both your own and the emotions of your partner. When you have a secure connection with your partner, you're more likely to feel worthy of his or her love and care, and to feel good about yourself. A secure connection is related to feeling secure about yourself: you believe significant others will respond to you when you need them, and you feel that your partner is dependable and trustworthy. This model of connection becomes a healthy schema, a core belief you have that biases how you see yourself, relationships, and the world.
  10. When you feel isolated and experience loss of a connection, your attachment circuit experiences trauma. We know why deprivation, loss, rejection, and abandonment by your partner have such intense effects on you. This loss impacts every area of your life, and makes dealing with overall stress in your life more difficult. If you’re in a relationship with a partner you feel you can’t count on, you probably use words to describe your relationship that are framed in life or death terms.
  • If you’re a survivor of past violations of connection from key caregivers in your life, you most likely have even more intense fears involving symptoms of depression and hyper-vigilance with separations. For instance, with a history of childhood sexual abuse, trusting your adult partner to be a source of safety and comfort can feel impossible, and how you react when your attachment circuit gets activated to your partner may actually make it less likely that you’ll get a response that you need to feel better.

In a Marriage or Love Relationship, Patterns Can Change

Patterns of connection are not set in stone—they can be flexible and change when repeatedly  exposed to responses that are healing. A survivor of trauma from the past may have a hard time reaching out for a partner’s help during a flashback, but when his or her partner manages to respond with care, new ways of engaging can emerge in the relationship. This is not an easy experience, and requires managing intense emotions, but it is possible, and most importantly, can lead to dramatic changes.

How you reach for each other, and how you respond to each other are skills--they can change, with practice.

How you reach for each other, and how you respond to each other are skills--they can change, with practice.

How you relate to each other in your marriage or love relationship is not pathological, but stems from adaptive strategies to get your needs met. For instance, numbing yourself to minimize your needs for connection can help if you’re faced with a volatile and abusive partner, protecting you from the pain of rejection. This numbing strategy can help maintain the proximity of a less-than responsive caregiver. Over time, when these patterns become rigid and constricting, they pull for strong responses from your partner that reinforce your initial fears that you can't count on him or her for emotional support. Conversely, when a partner responds in a way that doesn’t fit your negative expectation, your brain has a hard time making sense of his or her positive responses, and often doesn't trust them. Repeated exposure to positive responses is necessary for the brain to change the expectation of your partner's response.

Marriage and Couples Counseling in NYC: It's How You Love That Counts

In your marriage or love relationship in NYC, if you've been stuck in negative patterns that don't get better, have you found ways to break through these impasses? The Loving at Your Best Plan offers top-rated methods to help break through even the most challenging couples dynamics. Combining schema therapy with emotionally focused couple therapy, Gottman Method Couple Therapy, and Mindsight provides couples hope to not only live happier together, but to heal individual wounds and injuries that may have been with you throughout your life.

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References: Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors: Strengthening Attachment Bonds by Susan M. Johnson; Schema Therapy: A Practitioner's Guide by Jeffrey E. Young, Janet S. Klosko and Marjorie E. Weishar

Is a Ghost from the Past Haunting Your Marriage or Love Relationship?

Ghosts from the past can be unwelcome intruders in your marriage or love relationship

Ghosts from the past can be unwelcome intruders in your marriage or love relationship

Are you or your partner or spouse experiencing symptoms in your marriage or love relationship that could be related to a history of trauma? A common dialogue between a couple where one partner has a history of trauma might go like this:

Chris: Don't you dare come up from behind me and grab me like that again! I can't stand that, and you did it anyway.

Pat: What? Are you serious? I just came up and gave you a love squeeze. Why are you freaking out so much? You're impossible. I don't want to be with someone who is so cold and frigid. Ice queen... that is who you are.

Trauma is like a ghost from the past, an unwelcome intruder that many times can be strongly affecting a relationship without either partner seeing it. With a keen awareness, you'll notice these ghots come up through specific symptoms that may include a partner or spouse re-living the past trauma without knowing the partner is going through a trance into the past, numbing and detaching after being exposed to the thing that reminds him or her of the trauma, avoiding situations that are somehow linked to the trauma (a common source of sexual problems in a marriage or love relationship), being hypervigilant around the cue of the trauma, and experiencing irritability when something is connecting with the trauma.

When a trauma survivor is able to turn to his or her partner or spouse and ask to be held and comforted during a flashback, rather that to detach or hurt himself or herself, a new trust and sense of hope can emerge for the survivor.

Traumas involving key caregivers are "violations of human connection" (Herman, 1992). More than anyone else, your partner or spouse has the ability to help you heal from past relationship traumas. A partner or spouse can have the most effective healing power over past traumas for the person who has experienced past relationship betrayals and abuse. Partners or spouses can become healers.

If you are in a safe and secure marriage or love relationship, your immune system is more likely to be functioning well, and your ability to cope during stressful life events is significantly increased. In a distressed marriage or love relationship, both partners in the couple likely experience more depression and anxiety symptoms. The sense of community usually decreases in a distressed relationship, so your body needs the help of your partner or spouse even more.

In a secure connection, you are able to face your fears and maintain a strength that helps you cope, regardless of the stress. If you feel isolated and alienated from the larger world, you are much more vulnerable to outside dangers.

When you or your partner or spouse have been subjected to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, your health may be impacted in each of those areas. Re-experiencing physical sensations can be effectively treated through exposure therapy, known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Relationship symptoms do not respond in the same way to CBT, but are much more likely to respond to relationship therapy when a partner or spouse can serve as a source of comfort and safety. It is a partner or spouse that lies next to the survivor of trauma in the middle of the night, a time when anxiety is often peaking, as memories are being processed in the mind. If a partner or spouse doesn't know how to respond in key moments when threat is perceived, he or she may become part of the problem instead of offering key elements of healing.

At the Loving at Your Best Plan, the therapist works to address the symptoms of the trauma, and much more. A focus is to help create a safe and secure emotional bond between the couple in the marriage or love relationship, a connection that promotes safety and calms danger and threat. A history of trauma intensifies the need for a safe connection, and trust is the basis for a secure relationship.

Relationships where one or both partners have trauma in their histories are more likely to have intense negative patterns of interacting with each other, and without an effective intervention, these patterns can kill the relationship. Therapists at the Loving at Your Best Plan integrate top-rated interventions for couples with difficult and challenging histories, especially trauma. These therapies include schema therapy, emotionally focused therapy, Interpersonal Neurobiology, and Gottman Method Couples Therapy.

Do you or the person that you love have a history that includes trauma on an emotional, physical, or sexual level? If so, have you found ways to effectively navigate the symptoms in your marriage or love relationship in NYC? Share your thoughts.

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Source: Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors: Strengthening Attachment Bonds by Sue Johnson, PhD.

 

The Loving at Your Best Plan: It's How You Love That Counts

The Loving at Your Best Plan: It's How You Love That Counts

Do You Exercise in Your Marriage or Love Relationship?

Do you and your mate exercise together regularly? 

Do you and your mate exercise together regularly? 

The single most important thing you can do for your health: physical exercise. How exercise and marriage or love relationships go together may not be clear to many people, but the literal effects are significant. Regular physical exercise can mean not only both you and your partner or spouse being in better moods, but living a long and healthy life together.

You may have heard that exercising significantly lowers your risk of developing or dying from:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • certain cancers

You may also be aware that exercise has the following benefits:

  • improves mood
  • builds bones
  • strengthens muscles
  • expands lung capacity
  • reduces risk of falls and fractures
  • helps keep weight in check

You may not have known the recent discoveries scientists have made that bring even more benefits to the power of exercise:

  • boosts brainpower
  • improves organization and planning
  • reduces anxiety and depression symptoms
  • enhances the immune system’s ability to detect and fend off certain cancers

Exercise most likely works so well in your body for so many areas because it is benefiting minor to moderate aspects of physiology rather than larger effects on a small number of processes involving cells and tissues.

What is your goal to exercise and make a difference for you and your partner or spouse?

You do not need to be a triatholete or run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise. Your crucial task is to exercise in sustained bouts of moderate movement. This translates into at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, five or more times per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, like jogging), plus 30 minutes of muscle-strengthening activity at least two days a week.

Exercising aerobically significantly boosts the amount of oxygen needed by your muscles that your lungs must work harder to supply. Other forms of exercise, like lifting weights or balancing exercises, are also helpful. When you first start exercising, your body burns mostly glucose molecules. As you continue, it burns triglyceride, a kind of fat. By-products such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide seep from your muscles into the bloodstream, and the removal of these wastes prompts further reactions in your brain, lungs, and heart that become more efficient and less tiring over time. All this means that your body is doing a great thing by getting rid of waste and improving your efficiency.

When do the benefits of exercise really kick-in?

The answer is: once your physical activity becomes a habit. Your stamina increases as you become more fit. With practice, your longs process more oxygen as you breath deeper and your heart pumps more blood with each beat. Your body adjusts over a few weeks as you meet physical activity demands that lead to improved long-term health and well-being.

What do you do for exercise in your marriage or love relationship? 

In a marriage or love relationship, regular exercise can be enjoyed as a couple or relationship activity. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you plan on physical activities together on weekends? 
  • At least one night during the week, are you able to enjoy a physical exercise together with your spouse or partner?
  • Do you know the favorite physical activities of your partner or spouse, and have you planned some of those activities together?
  • What are your favorites physical activities, and have you told your partner or spouse what you’d like to do together?

Did you know this about exercise? 

Although you may have thought that exercise made you feel better for quite some time, it wasn’t until 2008 that scientists were able to identify what occurs in the brain that leads to feeling better emotionally with regular exercise. The brain releases more endorphins that evoke pleasurable feelings. These endorphines are also active in many regions of the brain responsible for strong emotions (much more than just in the bloodstream, which wouldn’t affect mood). In 2011 scientists discovered that regular exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, allowing you to remember familiar surroundings better and create new cells, what we call neurogenisis. 

For your physical health, exercise does lower your blood pressure and the amount of "bad" LDL cholesterol while raising the "good" HDL cholesterol. Weight training in particular is great at raising HDL cholesterol over several months of practice. Specifically, exercise changes the properties of LDL more than lowering the amount in the blood. Exercise increases the number of larger, safer LDL molecules and decreases the number of small, dangerous ones. A couch potato most likely has many small LDL molecules, even if he or she has the same numbers for LDL compared to a regular exerciser. What this means is that the smaller LDL molecules are much more dangerous, and pose a significantly higher risk to the non-exerciser.

Let's be clear: exercise is not easy, but it's not an option for health & mood

Only one in five Americans meets the recommendations for aerobic and resistance exercising. To help lower the bar, keep in mind that even shorter dosages of exercising can help: 11 minutes per day of leisurely activities like gardening or taking your dog for a walk can increase life expectancy by 1.8 years. Moderate exercising may increase life expectancy by 3.4 years. If you can reach the recommended exercise guidelines, you may increase your life expectancy by 4.2 years. Keep in mind that an increased life expectancy with improved health and mood also most likely means a significant increase in the quality of your life, so you and your partner or spouse can enjoy many more years in your marriage or love relationship to travel the world or enjoy that walk down the beach at sunset without having to be carried by the other.

Your task in your marriage or love relationship in NYC

Regular physical activity needs to be built into your daily habits and physical environments, as easy as it is to jump onto the subway now. Make it a regular part of your own daily routine, a weekly routine within your relationship, and a necessity over the weekends in your marriage or love relationship.

Share your experiences from your marriage or love relationship

What are your favorite physical activities? Do you enjoy the same exercises as your spouse or partner? Are there exercises you're not willing to participate in that your partner or spouse loves? If so, how do you compromise and still feel close and connected? Is physical activity or exercise sometimes a challenge or source of conflict in your love relationship or marriage? Share your experiences and help other couples and relationships.

Source: information in this blog from an excellent article in this month's Scientific American titled “The Wonders of Exercise” pp. 76-79, August 2013. Check out the full issue to read more about exercise and the body.

 

 

 

 

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