Why I Became Obsessed with the Gottmans

Why I Became Obsessed with the Gottmans

The Gottman Method of Couple Counselling is the type of counselling I was trained in and, frankly, fell in love with. The photo above was from a workshop I attended in Seattle on the topic of Couples and Addiction Recovery many moons ago. I attended numerous additional workshops after receiving the Level 3 training, such as this one on addiction recovery.

Why do all of this training? Well, because, their shit works. When you work with me, we always get to the root of the problem. Most couples come to me thinking they know the problem but often do not.

Their methods help turn conflict into compromise and allow individuals to actually understand their partner in a way that allows them to feel the way all humans need to feel. I don’t mean feel about each other as much as I mean feel about themselves.

The Gottmans are fantastic at excavating the individual’s feelings and turning them into words so their partner understands them in a way they never did before. You see, the reason you are likely having the conflict is because you haven’t expressed your true self to your partner. Your partner doesn’t even know who you are. It’s no one else’s job to explain who you are but you. Mindgames do not work.

I am not trying to convince you that the Gottmans’ methods are the best, but instead, I want to let you know that I have a strong connection with their methods because I have used them repeatedly and received great results.

Great results do not mean all couples that have worked with me were able to save their marriage, but it provided couples with a means to communicate with THEMSELVES first, then communicate well with their partners.

What I am saying is that the individual needs to become an expert in a loving self-dialogue, that is, how they speak to themselves, what thoughts are occupying their minds, and to ensure they are able to question whether or not these thoughts/or stories are true.

The most important point here is for you to know that to self-evolve and understand your partner’s perspective, you must realize that there is no universal truth in any relationship. There is your truth and their truth. Nothing more.

What to Keep in Mind when Searching for a Therapist?

What to Keep in Mind when Searching for a Therapist?

I often get asked the question, if I am searching for a therapist, what is the most important thing to keep in mind? Here is my advice.

There is no ‘one most important thing.’ I could tell you that connection is the most important thing, but being deeply connected may turn into this person becoming your best friend, and your best friend is someone who typically doesn’t want to hurt your feelings.

Search for a therapist that will trigger you. Yes, you heard me correctly. Let the therapist bring out your trauma and the woundology you carry. This is just baggage that you need to drop.

So if your therapist is validating you constantly about why you get resentful, angry, or sad…this is not a good therapist.

As a client, you are allowed to talk about your feelings, and in fact, this is really why you are paying this person so that you can tell them all your feelings and know that you will not be forsaken, judged, and scrutinized for having those feelings, and it is confidential.

But a good therapist will tell you whether those feelings are true or false and when you need to do a reality check. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you can’t see what you can’t see.

A good therapist will call you on your bullshit, lies, and excuses and ask for results rather than reasons.

A good therapist will tell you when your ego is running your life and when to park it.

A good therapist will remind you of the important lessons you learned in kindergarten. Which are before you open your mouth, ask yourself, “ Is it important? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” and if it passes all three, only then are you allowed to speak.

A good therapist moves you towards curiosity and creativity for yourself rather than having your eyes and mouth focused on others. (PS – this is why social media is so dangerous.)

There is more, but this is what is coming up for me right now. I hope this helps.

The Most Important Decision of your Life.

The Most Important Decision of your Life.

Personally, I feel this is the most important decision of your life. The ripple effects are immense, to say the least. Your future DNA, your legacy, and your heritage are dictated by this decision. That is, if you choose to have children – but for purposes of this article, let’s just say you do.

Your offspring is just one aspect of why choosing your partner is important. How about the fact that you will be looking at this person every single day until death do you part? This is the person that you will be sitting across from the dinner table hearing them chew their food. This is the person who will likely be chosen as your emergency contact or health proxy. Let’s face it, this person may be wiping your butt when you no longer can. In summary, this person (hopefully) has your back for life.

Yet, sometimes these decisions are made so quickly. Or, heaven forbid, they are made for us.

Most of us do our due diligence to make the best choice at the time, with what we know. It’s like using the same reasoning as we do when we are trying to forgive our parents for screwing us up the way they did. We like to think they didn’t intentionally mess up our minds… did they?

Anyway, back to couples deciding to marry, or remarry, how can they possibly feel more confident about their choices? Well, as a therapist and coach who has helped hundreds of couples reconnect or disconnect, and who has heard the most common reasons for conflict in a marriage, I decided to do some reverse engineering and bring these topics up prior to marriage so that we can do damage prevention after tying the knot.

These topics are:

  • Why are we together anyway?
  • I use a questionnaire I created to review your standards and values and how this measures up to your partners’ standards and values—a review of the non-negotiables in a relationship.
  • What types of conversations must you have daily (connection, curiosity, and conflict)?
  • What does balance in a partnership mean to you?
  • How okay are you with conflict?
  • What does independence mean to you?
  • What does intimacy mean to you?
  • What does commitment mean to you?
  • Finance!! Oh boy, let us talk about money honies…
  • Drop the expectations, period. Be crystal clear that your partner is not changing for you.

I am not sure about you, but when I married in my late 20s, I was convinced I would change my husband. His flaws were quite apparent to me and in some delusional way, I felt that surely, after being around my presence for long enough he would just miraculously see my brilliance and start changing his behavior to mirror my own.

I don’t think I need to explain to you what transformed – he is the same person today as he was 26 years ago, more or less.

This is why we need to get crystal clear on what our expectations are in the marriage prior to the marriage, but also, get deep on topics that we might otherwise not speak about.

Is Your Partner Willing to Do The Work?

Is Your Partner Willing to Do The Work?

Recently a man reached out to me primarily to better his relationship with his son. He separated from his spouse a couple of years ago when his son was 13. He and his ex have a good ‘texting’ relationship and are co-parenting quite well.

When I asked him further about his interactions with his son, he described very little talking, despite the open-ended questions the father was asking his son. He received only one-word answers. He presumes his son is angry about leaving his mom and perhaps spending the time between the two houses.

I still wasn’t convinced that the father was seeing the whole picture. He was presuming his son was angry at him when maybe his son was just sad and still processing the hurt he felt.

We don’t know what we don’t know, but if we let judgment and shame take over us, our thoughts can send us into a tailspin. Suppression of his feelings could lead to defensiveness and stonewalling.

My work with this man is for him to process his feelings about the separation and his new life with partial custody of his kids. What if his inability to process and express his own emotions is what led to the communication shutdown between him and his son? If the dad modelled suppressing his feelings, the son is likely to do the same.

It is never too late to turn it around however only if you are willing to do the work. What does this look like?

It is not the ‘processing of trauma’ (and yes, we all have trauma), but instead – how we manage our behaviours that stem from the trauma.

The trauma doesn’t go away.

But with the right techniques interwoven into our everyday lives, we start communicating from our hearts instead of our heads. We get to be us, unapologetically.

And guess what? People love us more because of it.

We get to have both.

So this man reaching out to a therapist was his first act of self-care, self-love and a statement of how much his son means to him. How he is not willing to compromise that relationship by blaming it on ‘teenagers’. When he asked his ex about how he behaves at her house, she replied ‘the same’. Well, to him, ‘the same’ is not good enough! He made phone calls to arrange therapy for the boy as well.

Bottom line, if he chooses to work with me I will take him through the three pillars:

1) Self-Care;

2) An Individualized personal approach of how he could incorporate his idea of self-care and reflection might look like a.k.a what tools work best for him;

3) Continued practice and testing what it might feel and look like as he navigates life’s challenges coming from a place of love and being accountable towards himself with this new self-love and expression of feelings. And in this case man-to-man. How beautiful would that be?

Why Shifting to a Positive Mindset Often Isn’t Enough When In a Difficult Marriage

Why Shifting to a Positive Mindset Often Isn’t Enough When In a Difficult Marriage

Positive thinking: something we are told we should be doing more. Don’t like the weather? You should be thinking positively, it could be much worse! Don’t like your husband right now? At least you have a husband! Let’s be honest, for the most part – these helpful tips do not work.

They don’t because you tend to the thought: yes, it could be worse, but only for a short moment, and then you default to your normal patterned ways of thinking which are: it is shitty weather and my husband is incapable of having a meaningful conversation.

Positive thinking plays on the mind, not the heart, so this is really the reason it is not as effective as we might like it to be.

Positive thinking is just that – thoughts. Thoughts can only make you feel better if the feeling behind the thought is better.

Wouldn’t my life as a therapist and coach be swell if it was just that easy? If someone comes in noting that they are incredibly sad, bored, lonely, and borderline depressed in their current relationship, and I respond, “But you have a nice house, and by the way, it is sunny today”. They pay me $$$ and leave feeling wonderful!!

Let’s be honest. It doesn’t work. What does work however is focusing on a better feeling thought. What do I mean by that? Well, it would be different for everyone, but it usually means focusing on what brings you joy. Thus, despite what is happening around us, we can focus on what has always brought us joy in the past. Maybe you were once an avid reader and life distracted you from it, or maybe you stopped playing music when kids came along because the house needed to be quiet, and you forgot how much music moved your energy.

Life changed when we got married and if you had children, it really changed. We forget who we are as a person. What lit us up when we were younger? Remember when you use to have those deep belly laughs? What made you laugh? Do you laugh with your partner? Why not? Has life taken these moments away from you? Guess what, you get to have them back.

When I focus on a better feeling thought (for me, this might be upcoming events that I look forward to, a special dish I want to prepare, a nature walk, or the simple fact that I have my health, full mobility, my morning coffee, or my bed…) it quickly brings me to gratitude. Gratitude radiates from the heart (not the mind) and that is why it works. But it would help if you went to the feeling first…not the thought. Look inside your heart, take a deep breath, and transport yourself to the sense of peacefulness that you get from doing the things that bring you joy.

Practice this and watch how your outlook on life and your relationship changes. You will see that you will naturally prefer these feelings/thoughts over all the reasons why your partner is not the right person for you. Has this helped you? Let me know.