How to Save My Marriage in NYC

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

How Can You Make Your Marriage or Love Last?

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What Does a Lasting Love Look Like? When your marriage or love relationship is in a secure place, you’re able to pause and observe what is happening when you and your partner or spouse are getting stuck, regulating your emotions, and then reflecting on what the conflict between the two of you means for both of you. Once you understand and make sense of the meaning for yourself and your spouse or partner, you can then ask for what you need, and be open to responding to what your partner or spouse needs.

What Does a Distressed Marriage or Couple Look Like? If your marriage or love relationship is distressed, you most likely will have difficulty managing your emotions, understanding the meaning for both of you behind conflicts, and responding effectively with what you both need. In a distressed marriage or love relationship, you’ll likely get stuck in the typical negative patterns of the “Demon Dialogues” described in "Hold Me Tight" by Sue Johnson, the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy:

  • Attack/Defend
  • Attack/Attack
  • Withdraw/Withdraw

The negative patterns you get stuck in are most likely reactions to the “raw spots” or sensitivities that all of us have in our marriages or love relationships. These sensitivities filter through what is happening in the moment between you and your partner or spouse, using the lens of associations from your past experiences.

What are these Core sensitivities?

 

  • Abandonment
  • Emotional Deprivation
  • Mistrust
  • Defectiveness

When your love relationship or marriage is emotionally secure, you and your partner or spouse may hit areas of sensitivity at times while managing them in a way that can actually be healing. For instance, if you’ve experienced instability in your key relationships, your partner or spouse can work on staying emotionally present with you when your fears arise, helping you to soothe the sense of danger your mind expects from unreliable relationships. As you work to soften your reactions to your partner or spouse, he or she responds in ways that help you know you can rely on him or her, even without being perfect. The expectation in your mind that important people aren't reliable or won't be there for you shifts to knowing from experiencing that your partner or spouse is there for you.

What Can You Do To Improve Your Marriage or Love Relationship? 

  1. Identify the negative pattern that takes over your marriage or love relationship when you feel disconnected or alone
  2. Define the sensitivities you and your partner or spouse have underneath the intense emotions or numbing out that occur
  3. Invite your partner or spouse to "take the elevator down" with you into your deeper emotions (fear, sadness, shame), and help him or her understand your vulnerable side
  4. Identify what you need, based on your emotional state. Ask your partner clearly and directly for your need to be met, most importantly, in an inviting way
  5. Understand your partner or spouse and his or her vulnerabilities, along with the meaning behind what upsets him or her. Invite your partner or spouse to tell you directly what he or she needs

 

Share Your Experience in Your Marriage or Love Relationship

Have you had times when you've realized you've been caught in a negative pattern with your partner or spouse? Do you know what lied underneath the conflict for you and for him or her? Have you found a way to successfully navigate conflicts in your marriage or love relationship? Share your experiences, and help others learn more. 

Need a Marriage or Couples Counselor or Therapist in NYC?

The Loving at Your Best plan for marriage and couples counseling and therapy in NYC helps couples learn to reconnect and to thrive. Even if your relationship has been stuck in a very negative place for a long time, there can still be significant hope that you and your spouse or partner can get your relationship back. If you'd like more information, contact our office today at 212-725-7774, or schedule an appointment directly online: www.LovingatYourBest.Genbo ok.com

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Caught in a Lovetrap? Clearing Up Blind Spots in Your Marriage or Love Relationship

What Are "Lovetraps," and How Can They Get You Stuck in Your Marriage or Love Relationship?

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Have you ever interpreted something your partner or spouse did in a negative way, only later to find out you were either blowing things out of proportion, or simply wrong? If you're like most humans, that is easy to answer. Our past experiences define how we see what is happening in the moment, even when our perceptions doesn't actually fit the reality. These perceptions, or mental filters, are referred to as “schemas,” beliefs that filter how you see the world. Schemas that influence you to feel like your partner will leave you, cheat on you, or lie to you most likely stem from key experiences in your past when you were hurt or betrayed. We call schemas "Lovetraps," because they can create huge blind spots that get in the way of safety and closeness in our marriage or love relationships.

Closely linked to these mental filters of schemas are emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, and shame, followed by behavioral urges that may include anger (fight), withdrawal (flight), or paralysis (freeze).  The most common primary schemas that lead to "love traps" relate to how you see yourself (self-esteem) and relationships (with caregivers, romantic partners, and peers). 

The Most Common Schemas in Marriages or Love Relaitonships

  • Abandonment: you expect instability, unreliability, or loss of anyone you are close to
  • Mistrust and Abuse: you expect significant others will hurt, abuse, humiliate, cheat, lie, manipulate, betray, or take advantage of you
  • Emotional Deprivation: you believe that significant others, including your partner or spouse and caregivers, will never meet your primary needs for nurturance, empathy, affection, and protection 
  • Defectiveness or Shame: you feel you are bad, unwanted, undesired, inferior, or invalid
  • Social Exclusion: you feel different or not part of any group or community; you minimize similarities with other people and maximize differences, usually with peers and groups

Your parents gave you a basic template for loving relationships. Sensitivities may also originate from wounding relationships with your siblings, members of your family, mentors or caregiving authorities, and your past and present romantic relationships.

How Do You Know When You're Stuck in a "Lovetrap"?

 

When your schema is perceiving something with your partner or spouse in a negative way, you’ll either detach from him or her and go numb to "protect" yourself, or experience an intense emotional reaction that you’re aware of, such as anger, fear, sadness or shame. Emotion moves fast, as a protective response to help you survive the potential of danger or threat. If you want to recognize what is occurring in a situation with your partner or spouse, you’ll have to regulate your central nervous system by breathing while doing muscle relaxation or focused attention exercises to help you connect your emotional brain (usually your right hemisphere unless you’re left-handed) with your logical, linguistic and linear brain in your left-hemisphere (unless you are left-handed). If you are able to successfully slow your central nervous system down from a hyper-aroused state through regulation, you will then be able to use your left-hemisphere brain to assess the situation in a more logical, rational way. 

When your schema is triggered, you’ll most likely notice that you’re feeling off-balance, disoriented, disorganized, angry, or numb. The urges that come up for you in the situation may puzzle or startle your partner or spouse in the situation, as they often don’t seem to relate to the degree of severity the experience or situation warrants. For instance, if you have an abandonment schema, where you are afraid that relationships don’t last and expect instability, your coping strategy of anger that protests against a disconnection with your partner or spouse ends up causing more distance and disconnection in your marriage or love relationship.

Your Brain is an Anticipation Machine: Your Past Shapes How You See the Now

Your brain responds to cues in your current marriage or love relationship with associations from past caregivers, unless your past hurts have been resolved. For instance, if you have a “Mistrust” schema, your partner or spouse arriving home an hour late may easily be interpreted as a “cue” that he or she is having an affair, and will most likely hurt or betray you like a significant past caregiver or partner did. As you’re waiting for him or her to arrive home, your body responds from your brain with alarm, as the danger of getting hurt is linked with your past hurts. You may get angry when your partner or spouse arrives home, accusing him or her of misleading or lying to you. Your anger pushes your partner or spouse away from you, and you most likely feel distance instead of closeness and reassurance. It’s hard for any partner or spouse to respond effectively to the emotion of anger. In reality, your partner or spouse may simply have been running late from work, instead of having an affair.

Many of us are afraid to express our sensitivities or vulnerabilities to other people, especially our partner or spouse. More than anyone else, your partner or spouse may hurt you, and you may fear that he or she may see you as weak, try to control you, or ignore your sensitivities so that you feel even worse. However, your partner or spouse can’t respond to your schemas if you don’t regulate yourself when you’re activated, and reflect on what theme is interfering with your ability to see what is happening in your current situation. Courage and a leap of faith are needed to help you express your sensitivities to your partner or spouse so that he or she can respond in a way that helps you feel better.

esources to Help: Reinventing Your Life & Mindsight

chema therapy, developed by Dr. Jeffrey E. Young, is an empirically validated approach that combines the best methods from cognitive behavioral therapy, emotion-focused therapy, and behavioral therapy. You can read more about schemas and how they may impact you and your relationships in the self-help book, Reinventing Your Life, by Jeffrey Young and Janet Klosko. The Loving at Your Best Plan uses schema therapy as a foundation for our approach to improving marriages and love relationships.

Mindsight, developed by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, is at the forefront of brain science, using interpersonal neurobiology to help change your brain. At the Loving at Your Best Plan, we use advanced techniques from the Mindsight approach to help you in your marriage or love relationship. 

Share Your Experiences from Your Marriage or Love Relationship

Do you recognize times when you become very upset, or go numb, when your partner or spouse does or says something? Do you recognize what upsets your partner or spouse? Share your experiences of getting caught in your "lovetraps," and help others in our community to learn from your wisdom. Have a question about how to help your marriage or love relationship? Complete the space below, and join the conversation about how to help your marriage or love relationship thrive.

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

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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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Have You Checked In With Your Partner or Spouse Today?

Do you and your partner or spouse find it easy to talk to each other, even about the smallest things in your lives? If so, you’re most likely in a healthy place in your marriage or relationship. If not, this can be a warning sign that you may be disconnected from each other, a danger sign that can lead to separation or divorce, without making a change in your relationship. Especially in today’s world of constant distractions, it is easy for all of us to focus on the inbox of our emails instead of stopping to take the time to connect with our partner or spouse, even in small ways.

A simple example of how you want things to could be that when you ask your partner or spouse if you need more soap for the bathroom, she or he responds by saying, “I’m not sure, but I’ll grab some anyway.” This is a moment when your partner anticipates your needs, reinforcing your belief that he or she is there for you. This may seem like a small, unimportant moment, though the reality is, this can be a sign of a relationship thriving, or of a relationship in serious distress.

Even a Text Can Make a Difference

If you know your spouse or partner has a stressful day coming up at work, do you pause and take a moment during the day to either text him or her, or better yet leave a voicemail to let him or her know that you’re thinking of him or her, and expressing words of support? If you do this, you are choosing to support your marriage or relationship in a way that strengthens your emotional connection.

When you try to engage with your partner every day, even in small ways, you’ll keep your marriage or relationship strong, and be more likely to weather storms between the two of you. When you’re not engaging in these small moments, most likely it is either because you’re simply not thinking about it, getting distracted by something, or because your partner or spouse has hurt you, and you’re distancing yourself from him or her to not get hurt more.

Do You Have a Relationship Injury that Needs to Be Healed?

 

Part of the work we do with marriage and couples counseling and therapy in NYC at the Loving at Your Best Plan is to help couples who have experienced significant loss or betrayal with each other work through these injuries and help them heal the wounds. Engaging in emotionally focused therapy with a schema therapy foundation, we help identify the sensitivities in relationships and give couples a way to feel safe with each other again, rebuilding trust in the marriage or relationship. When these injuries heal, couples find it much easier to engage in these small moments with each other that help you know that you’re not alone in the world—that your partner or spouse has your back.

4 Steps to Help Your Marriage or Relationship

  1. Every day, create moments with your partner or spouse to engage with him or her, even in small ways
  2. Know the signs of a healthy relationship: happy couples notice almost all of the positive things their partner or spouse does for them, while unhappy couples underestimate their partner’s thoughtfulness by 50%, according to John Gottman, PhD of the Gottman Institute, the creator of Gottman Method Couples Therapy.
  3. Tell your partner or spouse at least 5 things you would like to have in your relationship to feel closer to him or her
  4. Help each other to meet each other’s requests

Share Your Experiences

Have you found that it is hard to engage with your partner or spouse in small ways? Do you know what is getting in your way? Have you been able to work through this challenge, and improve your emotional connection? Share your experiences in the comment section. 

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