Couples come for relationship counseling when conflict, trust, and security have eroded. Couples feel disconnect and have experienced a loss of intimacy. Couples want answers, solutions, and understanding of the upheaval in their relationship. Partners wish for the pain and suffering to stop and to fall back in love the “way it used to be.” As a marriage counselor for over 20 years and owner of a relationship counseling center, I can tell you from experience the process starts with FEELINGS.
There is some pushback, a slight resistance when feelings are presented as a starting point in therapy – I hear things like “no, we have to talk about the affair,” “feelings schmeelings, let’s focus on our awful communication,” “feelings are not the issue, it is her lying,” “feelings are not what is keeping us from sex.” I, of course, get on my soapbox and educate, “all of these things are happening because of the lack of attunement to feelings in your relationship.” I provide in-depth psychoeducation on the importance and significance of feelings and WHY. If we don’t start here, we will miss the core foundation of emotional safety, from which deep love, connection, and intimacy grow.
Feelings, how good are we at connecting to our own? If someone asks you, “how are you feeling?” the usual response is, “good, fine, okay, tired .”Am I right, or am I right? How often do we check in with ourselves and our bodies and truly understand how we feel at any
given moment? When we fail to understand how we are truly feeling, there is no opportunity for our partner to understand, which leaves both partners feeling confused and trying to assume what the other person is feeling, which, I can tell you firsthand, leaves us feeling alone, judged, and frustrated. Why? Because we assume wrong and create an entirely false perception of who our partner is, which paves the road to resentment in the relationship and often feeling misunderstood. Hence, increased arguments, infidelity, and chaos in the relationship.
The moral of the story is that every feeling is important and needs attention. The more we build our feelings vocabulary, the larger our compass is for the emotions that pass through. Begin to get curious. What am I feeling? Am I lonely, sad, joyful, content, confused, disappointed, angry, frustrated, irritable, proud, grateful, loving, or curious? Go beyond okay, fine, and angry and get to know “the feelings you have.”There’s a great chance that the more you understand yourself, the more your partner will get you, and it will also help attune each other to the relationship. Put up a feelings chart on the fridge, build that vocabulary and watch the relationship between yourself and your partner grow.
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