I wanted to follow up my video on using Gottman Method in couple therapy by talking about Gottman Method’s Four Horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling).  I discuss how to recognize if these are happening in your relationship, as well as some ideas for how to respond in a more productive way to your partner.  Please watch the video here.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you’re interested in setting up an appointment for individual, couple, or family therapy you can contact me at the following:

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

Aaron D. Kirkwood, LAMFT

I have posted a new video discussing my use of Gottman Method in session when working with couples.  You can view it here.

I see clients on Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 am until 7 pm and on Saturday from 9 am until 1 pm.  I gladly offer reduced fee services if financial circumstances are prohibitive for potential clients.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you’re interested in setting up an appointment for couple, family, or individual counseling you can reach me at:

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron D. Kirkwood, LAMFT

We’ve all seen those “click bait” links on the side of an article, or as we’re scrolling through social media.  There really is a “weird trick” that you can try if you want to improve the frequency of love making.  This applies if you’re married or in a long-term relationship, if you’re a heterosexual couple or a same-sex couple.  I will say, because of social scripts that tell us how a man and woman are to behave in a heterosexual marriage, this may be more of an issue for those types of relationships.  Hopefully you’ll understand once I reveal the “weird trick”.

So, what turns men and women in long term relationships off in the United States?  Per a 2013 study “Both women (49 percent) and men (37 percent) say stress causes them to lose their desire for sex more than anything else. Other top distractors include exhaustion for women (46 percent) and having an argument with their spouse for men (29 percent). A third of women and a fifth of men say lack of romance is a factor, too.”  Put a pin in that because we’re going to come back to it.

improve married sexI have some GREAT news for you.  Guys, do I have your attention?  Ladies, you listen up too.  Throw away that bottle of cologne with pheromones, you don’t need to buy two dozen roses, and don’t even think about that “aphrodisiac” you saw in the bathroom vending machine  of the service station.  You likely already have all the ingredients you need to brew up a homemade aphrodisiac.  It can be sort of messy so guys you should probably put on some gloves, safety goggles could come in handy, and an apron wouldn’t hurt.  Ladies, change into your most comfortable around the house clothes, maybe pour a glass of wine.

Now listen up because here’s the “one weird trick”.  Guys, I want you to go into the kitchen and run a sinkful of HOT, soapy water.  Pay attention because this next step is key!  You have a sinkful of hot, soapy water?  Grab a sponge, a brush, or some similar cleaning implement and I want you to wash the dishes.  Bonus points for drying them and putting them away.  See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?  The next step is important too.  I want you to grab a broom or a vacuum cleaner and clean the floor.  If you’re up for a challenge and you really want to seal the deal throw some laundry on before you start the dishes.  Are you getting turned on yet guys?  No?  That’s okay, you’re not supposed to be aroused by cleaning the house.  But your partner?  Well she might want to rip that apron right off you.

According to numerous studies cited by AARP.ORG, the more housework men do the more sex they have.  And that’s the “one weird trick”.  Remember earlier we learned that stress and exhaustion are major turn offs for women.  By pitching in and taking on some of those household chores you are allowing your partner to relax.  If you have children and you help with the kids she may have time to switch from mom mode to sexy wife mode (as opposed to bathing the kids, putting them to bed, and then being expected to immediately feel like having sex).  Further, it shows her that you respect her and appreciate her.

We’re asking men to pitch in and do some of the household chores.  What about women, what role can you play in this?  Speak up and let your partner know what you need help with.  There is a video on social media about the “magic table” that takes care of things whenever this husband leaves his things there.  He leaves dirty dishes and they “magically” take themselves into the kitchen and get washed.  The basket of laundry he left on the table?  It “magically” folded itself and puts itself away.  The video is jesting about it but I suspect many men take for granted what the women in their lives do for them and the whole household.  Women, don’t let them take you for granted.

Of course, all of this centers around good communication, whether that means letting your spouse know that you would like to have sex more often, or you would like to come home and prop your feet up while someone else cooks dinner.  Then, if your request is met, show appreciation and gratitude so that your partner is encouraged to keep doing it.

Want to know how your sex life is going?  Fill out this quiz and ask your partner to fill it out separately.  Then call me to set up an appointment if you have some issues you’d like to work on.

Aaron D Kirkwood

Aaron Kirkwood, LAMFT

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

five-magic-hoursThe Magic Five Hours is not a brand new concept from Dr. John Gottman.  After reading about it, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about it sooner.  Just like so much else that has been developed by the Gottman Institute over the years the idea behind the Magic Five Hours is quite simple.  Yet it is immediately impactful to almost any relationship.  This was not surprising as I have come to expect nothing less from the Gottman Institute and their research-informed strategies for improving relationships.  At its core, the Magic Five Hours is about enhancing, or re-establishing, the emotional connection in our most intimate relationships.

How many of us have felt time slipping past while our best intentions for ourselves and our relationships seem to be neglected and put off until tomorrow?  Guilty as charged.  The Magic Five Hours is a way to illustrate that you don’t need to spend a lot of time to make a big impact on your relationship.  Just five hours a week can help you feel more connected to your partner.  The Magic Five Hours are actually broken up into blocks of minutes so that it becomes much easier for even the busiest couple to understand how they can incorporate these connection enhancing techniques.

The five magic hours Small investments in time, big relationship return
1.) Partings 2 mins/work day X 5 days/week = 10 mins- Find out one thing about your partner’s plans for the day
2.) Reunioins 20 mins/work day X 5 days/week = 1 hour 40 mins- Find out how your partner’s day went
3.) Admiration/appreciation 5 mins/day X 7 days/week = 35 mins-Find one thing to admire/appreciate about your partner
4.) Affection 5 mins/day X 7 days/week = 35 mins- Find time to kiss, hug, touch, laugh with your partner
5.) Date 2 hours/week = 2 hours- Find time to spend alone with your partner
Small daily investments  Add up to Five Magic Hours!

 

Check out this video for a discussion of The Five Magic Hours.

If you follow this simple formula you should feel more connected with your spouse.  You will each be more aware of what the other is experiencing on a daily basis.  The Five Magic Hours can also be a great stress reducer because it makes time in your schedule to share with your partner what might have bothered you about work.  The reunions act as a buffer between work stress and time at home with your partner allowing you each an equal opportunity to get things off your chest as you transition out of “work mode” and into “home mode”.  The 2 hours of alone time can be particularly important for couples with children.  It’s not always easy to make arrangements to have that alone time but it is a clear signal, a way of saying to your partner and yourself, that I value our relationship and I am willing to invest time into “us”.

I prefer to think of the Five Magic Hours as a general outline that can be tweaked to suit your relationship needs so long as the spirit of enhancing your connection is maintained.  As an example, if you are a couple who does not have children it may be less necessary to find two hours a week to spend alone.  If you feel that your “love life” is suffering, you might put more emphasis on the affection component.  One of the suggestions from Gottman is to try a six second kiss.  Six seconds does not sound like a lot of time but if you close your eyes and count out six seconds while imaging that you’re kissing your partner you will see that six seconds is pretty substantial for a kiss.

Aaron D KirkwoodDo you feel your relationship could use a tune up?  Please call me at (706) 534-8558 or e-mail me at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com and let’s set up an appointment to help improve your connection using the Five Magic Hours.

Couples counselingI would love to say that couples couseling is always successful.  The question of whether it will work or not is determined by a number of factors including whether the couple is willing to put in work towards repairing and improving their relationship.  There is no easy answer to such a complicated question and each couple may experience a slightly different result.

The truth is we don’t often “solve” a couple’s problems in couples counseling sessions.  Instead what we do is give them the tools to address their problems and deal with them in a more productive way.  According to findings from the Gottman Institute who run the “Love Lab” in Seattle, Washington only about 31% of a couple’s problems are “solvable”.  What couple’s counseling is really about it is developing skills for effective communication so that a couple can learn to live with these problems by acknowledging their partner’s thoughts and feelings and in turn feeling that their own thoughts and feelings are being validated.

Imagine a scenario where you have gotten your way when a conflict has arisen in your relationship and your partner throws their hands up in exasperation and exclaims “Fine we’ll do it your way but I still think I’m right!”  You’ve gotten your way, sure, but how satisfied do you feel?  Now imagine a scenario where your partner says “I hear what you’re saying and I know why you would like to do it this way but I really think it’s better if we do it this other way and here’s why…”  Now you may not get your way in this second scenario but you’re likely to feel much more positive about the situation because your partner has truly heard and understood your point of view.  Through the use of roleplaying and modeling these strategies couples counseling can help you learn how to be a better partner and what you should expect in return from your partner.

My own work with couples is heavily influenced by the work of the Gottman Institute.  They have spent decades researching what makes for happy, lasting relationships and what leads to the inevitable demise of other relationships.  Using this research, I help couples develop the skills (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work) that bolster healthy, loving relationships while avoiding the pitfalls (The Four Horsemen) that mire couples in patterns of conflict and ill communication.

Are you willing to work to change the unhealthy patterns that have developed over time?  Are you open to constructive feedback about what you already do well and what you can do to improve?  Do you desire to get back on track and live a long and fulfilling life with your current partner?  If so, then couples counseling may work for you.

If you would like a better idea about the kinds of communication and conflict resolution skills that I assist couples in working on you may want to watch this excellent video of a presentation given by Laura Heck, who is a Master Trainer for the Gottman Seven Principles Program.

Please contact me today and let’s setup an appointment for couples counseling to help get your relationship back on track.  I can be reached by telephone at (706) 534-8558 or by e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com.

Aaron D Kirkwood

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Most parents are aware how important attachment is for our children and we may go to great lengths to ensure we develop secure bonds with our babies so that they grow up with a sense of security in the world.  We now know from current research with couples that secure attachment is also crucial to an adult’s well-being.  Dr. Sue Johnson, who was called the best couple therapist in the world by John Gottman, arguably our most prolific relationship researcher, has been studying how attachment affects our romantic relationships for decades.  In this video, she decribes how one partner’s sense of physical pain can be changed by secure support and is even visible on MRI :  http://youtu.be/2J6B00d-8lw , and further that attachment bonds can be strengthened.

John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist, first made the psychological world understand the necessity of secure attachment with parent figures as vital for the well-being of children.  He and others noted some children’s “failure to thrive” in hospital and orphanage settings without consistent and loving caregivers.  Although we accept these more nurturing attitudes today toward children and none of us would leave a little one alone in a hospital overnight to tough out such a stressful situation, we often overlook the healthy aspects of interdependence in our adult relationships.  Our culture is one of rugged independence, self-sufficiency and fears about losing our individuality. These are valid concerns as we want to maintain our voices, boundaries, and our identities in relationship, however we may sometimes overcorrect and not allow ourselves the vulnerability and openness that healthy intimacy require. Bowlby coined the phrase “effective dependence” to describe secure adult bonds which allow us to reach for others when we need help and support. Dr. Sue Johnson and others working on Adult Attachment research are validating this healthy dependence is as vital for adults as it is for children.

I recently had the opportunity to complete a 4 day externship in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy.  For years I have read Dr. Johnson’s books and was excited to learn more.  I am certified as an Imago Couples Therapist and value my training and years of experience, but I am always interested in learning more about the enigma that is modern romantic love and committed relationship. I find the newest brain and attachment research to be fascinating as it confirms what Couple therapists have seen for years about the value of a secure bond.  We are healthier, happier and more successful when our most significant relationships are nurturing and work well.

What does a secure adult relationship look like?  Dr. Johnson has an acronym to describe the goal we are aiming for:  A.R.E.  Accessibility asks can I reach for you, Responsiveness asks can I rely on you to respond to me when I need you emotionally, and Engagement asks will you stay close to me and value me?  Essentially, a securely attached adult relationship is one of emotional responsiveness and safety, one where partners meet each other halfway and honor each other’s needs.

Luckily, there is a lot we can learn as an adult about our own attachment style individually and with our partners. We can look at our attachment history, our interactive dances and patterns, and our emotions that are triggered when we are in conflict and feel our relationship security is threatened.  Conscious partners can be part of each other’s healing of earlier attachment wounds, our present emotional safety and ultimately our overall well-being.  And when we feel we are solidly on that path, that is when Love makes sense.

If you would like to learn more about your own relationship patterns individually or as a couple and work toward improving them, please contact me at 706-425-8900 or email me at suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com.

suzanne

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www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/08/22/study-to-the-human-brain-me-is-we/

We are wired toward connection! This is an exciting time in terms of the emerging knowledge regarding our minds and our behavior in relationships.  I highly recommend you read the article linked above.  Interestingly, recent MRI studies show that participants react to a threat against a loved one with the same intensity as they would a threat to themselves.  Daniel Siegel, who is a pioneer in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, has written and spoken prolifically for years describing how our minds develop through interactions with others and that processes to integrate the mind heal relationships (and the reverse is true as well).  These MRI studies confirm what therapists have known for years about the importance of empathy in our relationships.  Also, this type of research is confirming what we know about couples: partners become emotionally attuned to each other and react to the other’s emotions and moods.

The really good news is that when we learn to have attuned communication with others, we actually integrate and improve the wiring in our brains.  Attuned communication is defined by Siegel as resonating with another’s inner world.  This connects with John Gottman’s research with couples also that happy spouses know each other’s inner worlds.  Siegel says we cannot just focus on the thoughts and feelings, but we have to be mindful of the energy in our exchanges with others.  Mindfulness practices and meditation can improve our ability to be present in relationships as well as improve our well-being.

If you are interested in improving your understanding of your own behavior in relationships and learning tools to enhance them, I am a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist and Certified Hatha Yoga Instructor with expertise in helping individuals and couples improve their communication and lessen their reactivity as well as change patterns that are painful.  Please call 706-425-8900 or email Suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com with questions or to schedule a session.