relationship counseling nyc

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

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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Take Our Couples Quiz Now


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.
  2. Answer each question (all 10 questions must be answered for the quiz to be valid). 
  3. Once you have finished, you'll receive your total score. 
  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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Are You in Danger of a Relationship Breaker?

Headed for Disaster? In your marriage or relationship, are you and your spouse or partner headed for separation or divorce? You may find it hopeful to know that thousands of couples have been studied over 30 years to help us predict with up to 94% accuracy if a marriage or relationship is headed for disaster


In this week's marriage and couples webinar from the Loving at Your Best Plan, I'll be discussing what the six key relationship busters are.
If You Do Nothing: one key thing for you to know is that even if you and your partner or spouse are falling into some negative patterns that predict separation, there is still a way to turn your relationship around and become a relationship master. The high accuracy of separation and disaster only counts if you and your partner or spouse do nothing to change your dynamic. 

Register Now: tune in this Wednesday, January 23rd at 12:15 until 12:45 to see if you and your partner or spouse are falling into some of the relationship busters, and find out more about how you and your partner or spouse can stay away from the disaster zone.

Directions: To register, simply complete the form on the right, and you'll receive an email with information to join the webinar on Wednesday. You'll have the opportunity to ask questions, and see how knowing the warning signs of divorce or separation and help you avoid the pitfalls.