Can my marriage be saved?

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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How is your marriage or love relationship doing? Take our short 10 question quiz to get a sense of the strength of your bond now. It's complimentary, and there's not obligation.

  1. Simply click on the link, and you'll be re-directed to our couples quiz.
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  4. Your score will be matched to a level that will help you know if you need more help, or if you're doing great in your marriage or love relationship. 

Getting an accurate sense of your relationship or marriage satisfaction can be key in helping address potential problems before they explode. If they already have exploded, you can get a sense of the severity and what to get your relationship back. 





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How Your Brain Protects You and Can Hurt You in Your Marriage or Love Relationship


In your marriage or love relationship, your mind wants to protect you from the possibility of abandonment, hurt, or betrayal that you may have experienced from a prior significant relationship. However, your brain is much more likely to keep you alive if it overestimates the links or associations between what is going on in your present life and your past, even as a child. If your brain underestimates the connections with past injuries, you could die. One problem with this advanced survival machine called the brain is that overestimations can often backfire in your current marriage or love relationship, and your partner or spouse may be the unfortunate recipient of past sensitivities that either are not relevant or only minimally connected to the present with your partner or spouse.

All of us have memories that we are not literally aware of, but that our brain does not forget. A part of our brain always remembers events: the hippocampus, a memory center in your right, emotional hemisphere where early memories are formed and associations are stored that you are not aware of. The other part of your brain where memory is stored connected with danger or threats is called the amygdala, located in your right hemisphere, and the emotional source of fear that ties in with your upper-intenstinal area (what many call “butterflies in your stomach”). Memory that is stored in your amygdala includes experiences you are aware of: when I was 4, I touched the stove and burnt myself, so I don’t want to touch a hot stove again.

How Your Brain Affects Your Marriage or Love Relationship

Your brain is an anticipation machine, constantly anticipating what is happening in your current marriage or love relationship based on your past relationships. However, these past associations may not apply to your current relationship, and this could get you into trouble without you even necessarily knowing why. 

Neurons that fire together wire together: new experiences can replace the old beliefs


The closer your emotional connection with your partner or spouse, the more likely you are to express openly your sensitivities and vulnerabilities that you are aware of from your past, which dramatically helps your partner or spouse manage your sensitivities and respond with antidotes to your past hurts or betrayals. Every time your partner or spouse gives you the response that you need, your brain learns a new pattern, and neuronal firing occurs in your mind that eventually creates a new neuronal cluster or schema that shapes how you perceive yourself, relationships, and the world. Schemas are highlighted by the creator of schema therapy, Jeffrey Young, in Reinventing Your Life. Every time you reach out and invite your partner or spouse to understand, soothe, comfort, reassure, and validate you, your mind connects these experiences and creates associations that lead to expectations for safety and security in your marriage or love relationship. 

How to Truly Live in the Present

Research clearly demonstrates that your early experiences are not nearly as important in shaping your life as how you’ve reflected and “made sense of” those experiences, how you understand your story, so that you’re choosing to put yourself in situations that reinforce healthy beliefs or schemas in your current life. For instance, instead of staying with a partner who is likely to abandon you because he or she is still married and living with his or her spouse, you commit to a partner who is available, able to commit, and lives in proximity to you, even though he or she isn’t perfect (an antidote to the abandonment schema).

If you and your partner or spouse do not have safety and security in your marriage or relationship, you’re much more likely to get stuck in a negative pattern that includes frustration and anger or detachment and withdrawal. The patterns involve negative coping strategies that were once adaptive when you were hurt long ago. However, the same strategies that were so effective can backfire, and reinforce the likelihood that you’ll receive the responses you’re most afraid of from your partner or spouse. These coping strategies are referred to as the “Demon Dialogues” in Hold Me Tight, by Sue Johnson, the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy, in “Conversation 1.” The negative patterns usually create stronger neuron clusters in the mind that reinforce your worst schemas about yourself, relationships, and the world.

Share Your Experiences

Have you noticed a time when you became emotionally upset in your marriage or love relationship, but didn't know why your reaction was so strong? re there times when you feel your partner or spouse is having an intense reaction that doesn't seem to fit the situation he or she is in? Share your experiences and help our community learn from each other. If you find this marriage & couples counseling and therapy in NYC blog helpful, please share it with your partner or spouse, and your friends and family.

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How Can I Save My Marriage or Relationship?


Perhaps you've come to the point where you're asking yourself how you can save your marriage from divorce or relationship from separation. One of the most important things you can do to start is identify what it means to be close to your partner or spouse.

How we connect with others has been studied for more than 50 years, and knowing what your patterns of connection are can help you get closer with your spouse or partner, and even help save your marriage or relationship. The most important parts of connection with your partner or spouse involve three key parts:

  1. being close in proximity to your partner or spouse
  2. trying to avoid separations
  3. being able to turn to your partner or spouse when you need him or her, especially in times of threat or danger

Four core patterns of connection help us understand where you may get stuck in your marriage or relationship, and how you need your connection to be to feel safe and secure:

  1. First, an anxious-preoccupied way of connection leads a partner or spouse to be fearful, angry, and unsettled when connecting and dealing with emotions. This may be expressed through anger or aggressive actions that can turn a partner or spouse away.
  2. Second, an avoidant way of connection leads to distant, apathetic responses experienced by the other partner as backing away or dismissing his or her experience.
  3. Third, a disorganized way of connecting occurs when you or your partner or spouse have a history of unresolved loss and/or trauma that involves being frightened, experiencing a lot of unpredictability, and having a relationship with a caregiver or romantic partner who is unavailable. Even worse, the caregiver becomes a source of danger. The person we rely on for safety becomes a threat, and we develop a pattern of connection that leads to disorganization.
  4. On the opposite end, if you feel secure in your relationship, the well-being of both you and your partner or spouse is an ongoing priority. You seek closeness and proximity without anger or urges to withdraw.  When your partner or spouse wants to be close to you, you don't get angry or want to run, but instead welcome the closeness and respond to him or her warmly.

Share Your Experience: How Can You Save Your Marriage or Relationship?

What have you tried so far that has helped improve or even save your marriage or relationship? Where do you get stuck together with your partner or spouse that stops you from feeling safe and secure in your connection? Have you identified what your pattern of connecting with your partner or spouse is? Do you connect through anxious-preoccupied patterns, avoidant patterns, disorganized patterns, or secure patterns? What about your partner or spouse: is he or she connecting through anxious-preoccupied, avoidant, disorganized, or secure patterns? Do you relate to the key tenants of safe and secure relationships: seeking proximity, minimizing separations, and being able to count on your partner or spouse when you need him or her most? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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