How To Make A Difficult Decision

As an online therapist, I have a lot of clients coming to me for advice on how to make a difficult decision in their life. So I thought I’d make a quick blog on what I’ve found to be helpful.

Here you go…

While yes pros and cons lists are often great in decision making, they probably aren’t going to help too much when it comes to a really difficult decision.

The decision wouldn’t be a difficult one if there were more pros than cons.

So, what can you do?

One thing that I have tried to focus on, when I have had to make difficult decisions in my own life, is my values. What is it that you value in your life that is effected by this decision?

Let’s say you are deciding between staying where you are and moving to another country. This is a complex big decision with a seriously long list of pros and cons.

Start by looking at what you value in staying and what you really value in leaving.

For example, staying might serve your values of security and familiarity and certainty. Whereas leaving might be in line with your values of being with family and of being adventurous and embracing change.

While all of these things might be values to you, it’s often easier to prioritise our values at a given point in  our life.

For example, while I really love security and familiarity and I’m such a creature of habit; I know that in this point in my own life, I’d rather prioritise adventure and embracing change.

I hope you found that helpful and that you start to live more and more of your life in line with what you truly value.

If you are interested in working therapeutically with me, I am currently offering a FREE consultation session to people. This is to give you a chance to get to know me and to see if online therapy feels comfortable for you.

If you’re still reading this, then perhaps you and I would be a good fit and you can

go ahead and book a free consultation today.

Book A FREE Consultation

Why I do therapy ONLINE

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s look at what online therapy with me is all about?

What is online therapy all about?

Online therapy is similar to conventional therapy but instead of the therapist and the client sitting together in an office, it takes place, well. you guessed it, online. We will use the webcam on your phone or computer to see one another as we talk. So we will still see and hear each other and we can have a proper conversation.

This is very similar to a skype conversation, but instead of using Skype, I use Zoom as it’s more confidential.

So why do I work online, you ask?

 

I was tired of having people say to me,  “I want to go to therapy, but I just don’t have the time”.

Doing therapy ONLINE, makes it suuuper convenient for you in this fast paced world. You can be absolutely anywhere and still get the therapy you need (as long as you have privacy).

Having online therapy is great if you travel a lot or have a crazy busy schedule. You save time by eliminating the time spent getting to a therapist’s office, waiting in the waiting room and driving home in traffic.

Also, and this is quite a big one,  you don’t have to worry about bumping into anybody in the waiting room. This ensures a higher level of confidentiality than in-person therapy.

Many of my clients have told me that they feel more relaxed and open, when they are talking to me online fro their own couch.

Let’s face it, the thought of having a therapy session from your own couch with a big old cup of homemade tea, just feels less daunting than going to a therapist’s office.

Another big pro is that couples who live far away from one another are still able to work through relationship difficulties by meeting online with the therapist. We can all meet together online and have a session even if one person lives in a different time-zone.

Yes, finally some support for couples in long-distance relationships!

Now, it must also be mentioned that online therapy isn’t for everyone. It also requires a stable internet connection.

If you are still reading this, then perhaps you’re interested in online therapy? If so, you can go ahead and book a session with me and see if it’s right for you.

I look forward to meeting you

Donna

4 Red Flags in a relationship and how to change them

According to Gottman every relationship contains these 4 difficulties from time to time, but the more you can reduce them in your relationship, the stronger it will become.

1. CRITICISM:

While honest conversations  are important, criticism can be especially detrimental when it’s targeted at our partner’s character flaws.

Blaming a problem in a relationship on a personality flaw of the partner probably never inspires transformation, only resentment.

For example, saying “You’re so dramatic and never let me get a word in” probably won’t help your partner to change their behaviour. This is partly because it’s really difficult to change your character  I mean, where do you even begin to go about not being dramatic any more.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THIS?

Instead of criticising a character flaw, try to keep the ciriticism focused on the situation. Also, if you really want something to change, tell your partner exactly what it is about the situation that they need to change.  Be specific! This way they aren’t left in the dark, wondering how they can be less dramatic.

For example, you could say something like “I’m upset because I really want you to hear how I feel, please listen to all I have to say before you respond.” This is an easier pill for your partner to swallow, they aren’t being criticised directly, rather you are explaining a situation and telling them what you would like them to do.

2. CONTEMPT

This is often expressed through superiority, mockery, rolling your eyes etc.

We’ve all been at the dinner table when one person says to her partner “oh babes, nobody wants to hear that boring story again” or watching someone say “yes” with their words but “no, I don’t care” with their body language as they roll their eyes.

Interestingly, and very sadly, Gottman has found that contempt not only destroys relationships, but it’s correlated with a weakened immune system of the listener. By observing how many times a partner expressed contempt in a fifteen minute discussion, he was able to predict how many infectious illnesses the listening partner would get in the following 4 years.

HOW TO CHANGE THIS?

Understanding the effects (both mental and physical) of contempt on a partner may help to motivate a change in contemptuous behaviour.  You and your partner can agree to call one-another out whenever one of you slides back into old contemptuous patterns.

3. DEFENSIVENESS

Defensiveness is a natural response to feeling unjustly blamed/attacked.  We have a natural instinct for self-preservation which drives defensiveness.

There are two main types of defensiveness:

  • INNOCENT VICTIMHOOD: which is when people claim to be mistreated while they are entirely free of fault.  For example, you might say something like “I try so hard and it’s never enough for you.”
  • RIGHTEOUSLY INDIGNANT: which occurs when people counter-attack and throw criticism right back at their partner to avoid dealing with the initial complaint. For example, saying “well, at least I don’t …”

Not surprisingly, neither approach is good for conflict resolution.

HOW DO YOU CHANGE THIS?

In order to overcome defensiveness, partners need to accept responsibility. This means saying things like “Ok, fair enough” and “Good point, I never thought about it that way”.

This can be particularly difficult for someone with low self-esteem or self-loathing. Even though people who are more defensive may appear to be more conceited or arrogant, they probably have deep-rooted self-esteem difficulties.

You can understand this by viewing defensiveness as a shield to protect you, people with the biggest shields are the ones who feel the most vulnerable and afraid.

Such people might be afraid that by taking responsibility for their actions, they are giving their partner evidence of how worthless/ terrible they truly are. However, the opposite effect tends to be true, by taking responsibility, most partners feel heard and loved and respect one another even more.

4. STONEWALLING

This is when you shut down your verbal responses and turn your body away.

Generally when men stonewall they go silent, fold their arms and look down/away from their partners for an extended period of time.  When women stonewall on the other hand, they tend to maintain eye-contact, but their eyes glaze over and their body friezes.

Gottman found that when people are stonewalling, they may not look bothered or even interested in the conflict conversations, but actually their bodies are going through flight-or -fight symptoms. The blood flow is diverted  out of the brain’s rational problem solving centers and sent to the motoric centers. Their hearts race, their muscles tense, they may shake and feel unable to think clearly. Because they are on high alert, they tend to perceive everything their partner says as an attack towards them.

It’s not difficult to see why it’s unlikely for the conflict to be resolved when the person is in this state.

A person experiencing stonewalling may retreat or withdraw and not want to continue the conflict conversation. This isn’t necessarily to punish their partner, but by being aware of what they are going through internally, we can understand their withdraw as them calming themselves down.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO CHANGE THIS?

The first step is to learn to identify when you or your partner are stonewalling. Then the best course of action is to take a short time-out. As the body relaxes, the fight-or-flight symptoms will reduce.  A cool-down of about thirty minutes can be really helpful for both of you.

It’s not always easy to take a timeout during a conflict discussion, and this is one of the areas where having a couple’s therapist is really beneficial as they can guide you through the process.

Like I said at the beginning, every relationship has these red flags to a certain extent. The main difference between happy and unhappy relationships is that partners in happy relationships don’t sweep these under the rug when they occur, they repair.

If you and your partner are needing to do some repair work on your relationship you can book an online therapy session with me  🖤

 

 

 

 

What does it mean to “process something”?

 

We get told to ‘go and deal with’ or ‘process’ our issues all the time. But what does this really mean.

As an online therapist, let me break down how I would help a couple ‘processing’ something in couple’s therapy.

I’d start by asking each partner about a past incident, and we’d review it together. Note here that memory is biased and not a perfect recording of the past, so respecting each partner’s view of how it went down is important.  I’d also ask questions about how, whatever it was that happened, went badly and why this sucked for each of you respectively.  I always let both partners express their perspectives on the issue.

Often when people get a chance to express how they truly feel about something and to explain why it is important or so hurtful to them, they get surprised by themselves and end up learning more about themselves as well as learning about their partner.

For example, I had a client who’s partner was irritated with her for refusing to put away the Christmas decorations weeks after Christmas. When she got the chance to talk about this together in therapy she realized that, Christmas was the only time that her family were happy and nice to each other during her childhood.

She figured out that the reason that she wanted the Christmas decorations to stay up was because things were going so well and she was actually a bit scared that she and her partner would start fighting like her parents used to when the decorations were down and Christmas was over. In a way, she didn’t want Christmas to ever end, and by keep the decorations up, she subconsciously thought she could trick herself and her partner into believing that it was still Christmas time.

`She wasn’t consciously aware of this before discussing it in therapy and learned more about herself that day. Her partner was way less irritated with her now too, as he understood where she was coming from.

We also looked at why having the decorations up, irritated him so much and he said that he gets really anxious when things are left around and not put in their place. He was already stressed about work and desperately needed his house to be a place that he could come home to and relax. But seeing the decorations there week after week caused him to get more and more anxious and irritated. Before this talk he just could’t understand why his partner wouldn’t let him take them down, and that made him feel unsupported by her.

Now having both shared their perspective and gotten in touch with their emotions around this issue it was time for them to make a change. They were able to reach a compromise and agreed to leave the decorations out until 2 weeks after Christmas.

Pro tip: A good way to check that a couple has fully processed an incident is to bring it up again at a later stage and see if you are both able to talk about it calmly without getting back into an argument.

If you have some things you need to process in therapy, you can book a session with me today.

I look forward to meeting you.

Donna

Let’s talk online dating…

Did you know that personal ads account for the meeting that leads to a sixth of the marriages in the US. And seventy percent of same-sex relationships start online. Yet, there is still a bit of a stigma towards online dating… What, why?

Here’s a great piece of info that you can refer to the next time someone makes you feel bad about online dating:

In a 2013 study by Harvard and the University of Chicago, it was revealed that relationships that started online we less likely to end in a break-up and were associated with higher levels of satisfaction than the couples who met offline.

It wasn’t a huge difference, but large enough to be statistically significant. The couples who met online were found to be more satisfied with their marriage and reported a slightly higher quality relationship.

This makes a lot of sense though right,  because online dating breaks the boundaries of location, class and social grouping etc. It can allow you to find someone who shares many of the aspects that you may find more important such as education level, religion and diet such as being vegan.

Of course this doesn’t mean that online dating works for everyone. Many people end up feeling even more lonely while using online dating. It’s just not for everyone.

You might think that if online dating doesn’t work for you, you’d just stop, right? But we actually continue to do a lot of things that don’t work for us.

Whether or not online dating is for you, it clearly works for a lot of people around the world and therefore shouldn’t be looked down upon.

🖤

 

 

What does it mean to Stonewall?

Stonewalling is when your body shuts down your verbal responses, and you turn your body away. This usually occurs in a quarrel.

Interestingly, men and women don’t generally look the same when they stonewall.

Usually when men stonewall during a conflict, they go silent, fold their arms and look down/away for an extended period of time.

On the other hand, stonewalling may be a bit harder to notice in women. Women tend to maintain eye-contact, however their eyes glaze over and their body friezes.

Researchers such as Gottman, have found that partners who are experiencing stonewalling are also experiencing flight or fight symptoms. They are in distress, their hearts race, they may experience tunnel vision and they usually perceive the things their partner says as an attack against them.

Because of this, it’s quite unlikely that the conflict will be resolved well until the person experiencing stonewalling gets a chance to calm down. If you can identify stonewalling in yourself or in your partner during conflict, it’s a good idea to have a short break or cooldown.

I know this is a tall order during a heated conflict, but explaining to your partner that you both just need a short time out (no longer than 30 minutes) to collect your thoughts may become a significant pillar that holds your relationship up.

If you and your partner would like a bit of help figuring it all out and strengthening your relationship, you can book a couple’s therapy session today.

 

Take That Stone Out Of Your Shoe

“When  a couple has a troubling incident but choose to avoid discussing it, the memory of the event stays like a stone in your shoe” Gottman.

William Faulkner once said “the past is never dead. In fact, it isn’t even past.” When we ignore a troubling event and choose to rather continue without ever addressing it and processing it, we end up carrying it around with us like a stone in our shoe.

So in a way we end up continuing to live in the past. Because, until the past has been processed, we can’t let it go. It keeps sneaking up on us.

Ignoring the stone in your shoe can end up being more painful than dealing with it.

If you find that you and your partner often end up bringing up the same issues in a quarrel, time and time again. Then perhaps there are a couple of stones in your shoes that you need to take out.

Sometimes all this takes is a few honest conversations with your partner. While these might seem uncomfortable at first, and no-one ever wants to sit down and have a difficult time. These conversations can lead to a stronger and more intimate relationship.

If you aren’t used to this, and you don’t know where to even begin, a couple’s therapist can help to guide you gently through this process.

Choose a stronger relationship, choose to address the troubling events that we are all presented with from time to time, take that stone out of your shoe.

 

PS

If you are unsure about whether or not online therapy is right for you and your partner, I offer a free consultation. It’s just a chance for us to meet each other, and for you to get a sense of what online therapy with me is all about. You can book a free consultation on my website.

xoxo

 

Can the way that you raise a complaint predict the outcome of your relationship?

Gottman found that by observing the first three minutes of a conflict conversation, he could predict not only how the rest of the conversation would go, but also how the relationship would go 6 years down the road…with high accuracy!

He found that couples who approach conflict gently by explaining how they are feeling about a situation, rather than by bringing up a flaw in the other person’s character had a much better chance of success.

For example, saying something like ” I’m frustrated because the bills aren’t paid” works out better for the couple than saying something like “You’re so lazy, why haven’t you paid the bills yet?”

Being specific about the problem that you want changed is also key in conflict. The more specific you are, the easier it is for your partner to know what to do differently in the future.

For example saying “You need to be more responsible” is vague and unsurprisingly ineffective because it doesn’t give your partner much direction. However saying something like “It would be so helpful for me if you could pay the bills by the end of the week”. This is a much easier for your partner to change as it is clear and direct.

You may not be able to completely avoid conflict in your relationship (as even the strongest relationships have conflict) but you can control how you approach the conflict. This is important because you don’t want to keep repeating the same negative approach as  Gottman has shown that this can have a devastating impact on the relationship.

So remember to gently talk about the situation as opposed to a flaw in your partner and to be specific.

 

 

Betrayed Partners suffer from PTSD

The Psychologist, Shirley Glass found that betrayed partners almost always suffered from a form of PTSD.

In a similar way to how a soldier may feel after returning from war, betrayed partners are hyper-vigilant and on guard for enemies hiding behind every tree.

They may also experience flashbacks or intrusive negative thoughts in which they imagine their spouse together with the other person.

These thoughts often bring on bouts of rage, panic or numbness. They may also suffer from nightmares and insomnia.

No matter how many times their spouse apologizes, their intrusive thoughts are difficult to stop. They are at the mercy of their PTSD.

It is important to take your feelings seriously and not to expect yourself to just ‘get over it’. This is a difficult time and seeing a therapist might help you to make sense of what is going on.

 

“Every Marriage is a Mistake”

Minuchkin famously said that “Every marriage is a mistake it’s how you deal with it that matters”. Here’s what I think Minuchkin was getting at.

All couples will have perpetual unresolved problems. Yes some couples may have fewer of these than others, but no relationship, no matter how great, can ever be entirely free of these.

This is because, unlike the belief passed on to us through pretty much every soppy love song throughout time, there are no perfectly complimentary couples. No two puzzle pieces that fit together and complete one another.

Don’t worry, this is a good thing, I promise, because it means that you are already a whole human. You don’t need to find someone else to complete you, you are whole in and of yourself.

It also means that you and your partner will sometimes clash. Friction is inevitable, it’s how you deal with it that really counts.

So next time you and your partner find yourselves clashing over something, don’t spend energy getting angry with yourself for clashing, accept that this is a normal part of being in a relationship and devote your energy to dealing with the issue at hand.