Category: Healthy Relationships

Emotional Children

How to Help Young Children Manage Emotions Without Leaving Emotional Scars

One of the biggest — and toughest — jobs parents have is helping children manage strong emotions.  When our child is acting out or has an emotional outburst, it can make us as parents feel anxious, helpless, and sometimes angry.  Typically, those feelings are remnants from how we were raised. Parenting emotional children may sometimes feel overwhelming. 

Recognizing our own responses in the moment is so critical to effective parenting. But this is often easier said than done! 

Understanding a bit about how children develop emotional awareness can help parents understand their child’s behavior better. This knowledge can help us avoid making negative judgments and allow healthier ways to help children manage their emotions.

Young Children Express Feelings Through Behavior

Children handle emotions and express distress differently, depending on age.

Younger children use behavior, not words, to express emotions. Signs of stress in younger children include:

  • Being clingy
  • Crying
  • Whining
  • Screeching
  • Hitting
  • Running

As they progress through elementary school, middle and high school, children may learn better impulse control. They may be less obvious … Come Read the Rest

Anorexia and how to respond

Anorexia: What You Need to Know About the Deadliest Mental Health Disorder

Anorexia has the highest death rate of any mental disorder says the NIH. That’s why I want more people to know about eating disorders, and how to respond to those who are struggling.

Eating disorders are among the most difficult mental health conditions to understand and treat. Because they are so often misunderstood, eating disorders can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for a long time. Delay is a concern, because the earlier someone gets treatment, the better.  

More of us can help those impacted by eating disorders. We can start by learning how anorexia shapes the way someone may think and act. Family and friends can make a huge difference by learning how to reach out to those who are suffering. Clearer understanding and recognition are keys to helping people with anorexia find the support they need.

A Definition of Anorexia

Anorexia literally translates as “loss of appetite.” Unfortunately, this literal meaning gives us a rather poor idea of what a person with anorexia is going through. 

Digging deeper, we find anorexia comes from … Come Read the Rest

how to rekindle intimacy

How to Rekindle a Marriage or Relationship: Part 2

How can you rekindle a marriage or relationship? When you think, “there’s no emotional connection,” it really hurts. It’s only human to spring into action. There’s an urge to “fix it” and attack the issue at its source. This is especially true when something important is at stake, like our closest relationship.

But when partners think the way to bring closeness back is to fix their partner’s flaws, things can quickly go from bad to worse. Patterns like blaming are common in relationships. But they make it harder to rekindle love and affection.  Restoring romance and intimacy starts with recognizing and stopping negative patterns (Part 1).

Fortunately, the science behind relationships, love, and attachment has come a long way.  We can build more positive patterns into relationships to deal with problems in healthier ways.

Researchers like Dr. Sue Johnson, Dr. Brené Brown and Drs. John and Julie Gottman have learned from decades of data in their work with couples and individuals.

They identified different patterns and qualities that rekindle relationships and keep them … Come Read the Rest

How to Bring Intimacy Back Into A Relationship: Part 1

Couples want to know what to do when the spark fades in their marriage or committed partnership. How can a couple that is struggling bring intimacy back into a relationship?

Couples find themselves having little or no sex for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons romance disappears are:

  • A loss of emotional intimacy
  • A pursue-withdraw dynamic has developed
  • Few patterns exist to build openness, trust, and safety

Despite these challenges, couples can bring the spark back in their marriage. They can rekindle the spark by finding ways to be more emotionally present to themselves and each other.

There’s No Magic Needed to Bring Intimacy Back

Good sexual chemistry may seem like something magical. This is the feeling people often think of when they want to bring intimacy back. Early in a relationship, couples seem able to look past each other’s flaws easily. They are living examples of the saying, “Love is blind.”

Even the idea of “falling in love” implies a force of attraction that is out of our control. It’s as … Come Read the Rest

emotional connection keeps relationships afloat

Why You Need to Restore Emotional Connection When You Argue

For a relationship to feel good, both partners need to feel safe in each other’s care. They need to talk through what problems come up, understand each other, and still enjoy the relationship, even if they can’t agree on every issue. That’s what secure emotional connection does.

At their best, partners create positive ways to talk about the good and the bad:

These are some of the way strong couples manage to keep a positive climate of emotional connection between them.

Some partners have more success than others in handling disagreements. Fortunately we’ve learned a lot about how to protect your relationship when you argue.

Disconnection Is Usually the Real Problem

When we’re feeling unsure or unheard, especially with a loved one, two things happen. First, partners feel shut … Come Read the Rest

Perspective-taking in relationships

How to Manage Feelings With Perspective-Taking

The way you look at things — your perspective — has a lot to do with your mental health and happiness. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” That says something about the power of perspective-taking.

But do we really have control over our emotions through point of view? You could argue that we can’t help feeling what we feel.

Emotions Are Both Automatic and Manageable

It’s true that emotions can just happen. That’s a good thing. When a baby is hungry or scared or hurt, it becomes upset. The baby’s cries help ensure needed care arrives.

In adult life, when your partner doesn’t come home as expected, you worry. Voicing your concern would (ideally) help you both adjust to improve your trust and safety. If someone you care about smiles and says, “I’m so glad you’re in my life,” you would probably feel good. You might share the feeling of happiness back in some way. These emotions arise naturally.

Yet we also need to function … Come Read the Rest

how to keep love alive

How to Keep Love Growing in a Relationship (2019)

“Love has a kind of magic. It’s able to do amazing things.”  That’s what researcher Dr. John Gottman said about great friendships and love relationships, in a TEDx talk

Social science tells us, those who enjoy healthy friendships and love also enjoy:

  • Greater physical health
  • Greater mental health
  • Greater wealth
  • Longer life (10-15 years longer)
  • More successful children

Despite these benefits, we know about half of US marriages end in divorce. Knowing so many relationships die before partners can enjoy the gifts of long-term love is sad.  What don’t we know? What we can learn?

Falling in love is terrific. You feel fireworks without even trying. You’re so happy together. You feel excited, desired, and thrilled to give and receive attention. That’s not the problem.

The challenge is learning how to make love grow after it starts.

Why Lasting Love Takes Different Work than First Love

Lasting love is different, because now you’ve had a chance to annoy each other. Can you still let the good times roll? Can you still feel positive right … Come Read the Rest

getting your teen into therapy

How to Get a Resistant Teen Into Therapy

You may have decided to get your teen into counseling because an issue has you concerned. Signs your teen may need therapy include:

  • Your teen’s life seems full of anxiety or stress.
  • You’re worried about how much time they spend online or gaming.
  • You’re fighting all the time. You may want to connect in a more positive way.
  • Your child may be out a lot, and you’re worried about the lack of contact.
  • Your teenager seems shut down.
  • You’re worried about risky behaviors, such as cutting, alcohol or drug use.
  • You can see your son or daughter is emotional or hurting, and you don’t know how to help.

You want to be supportive. You want to see your child happy, enjoying friends, and embracing life.

But sometimes it seems your words and your love can’t get through. Your family may simply need more resources, especially if your relationship is strained at the moment.

Why Some Teens Resist Therapy

One challenge of raising a teenager is that everything is in flux. Your child is indeed thinking, … Come Read the Rest

Family counseling Alexandria VA

​Family Therapy: You Don’t Need a Crisis to Benefit

“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”

Bessel van der Kolk, MD, from The Body Keeps Score

When I think about a family, I think about a place where it’s okay to be who you are, and feel safe. Family therapy is where we help you build a system of safety and support together.

In a healthy family, you feel you belong in its circle of friendship and care. You know deep down you don’t need to have a perfect body, a certain kind of success, or a pre-approved lifestyle to feel accepted as a member.

Family life teaches you about boundaries – your own, and how to honor each other’s. You learn what you’re afraid of, what makes you happy, and how joy grows when you celebrate together. In a healthy family, you feel able to trust each other with your needs and stand up for yourself when you need to. 

Family Therapy Helps

Come Read the Rest
what is purpose of marriage (non-religious)

The Purpose of Marriage: To Secure Your Safety and Connection First

Three relationship experts share their findings about the purpose of marriage for strength, safety and belonging.

Drs. John Gottman, Sue Johnson, and Stan Tatkin have studied how relationships impact each partner’s sense of wellbeing. They identified traits of healthy relationships and the struggles or weaknesses of troubled marriages in their research. Here’s what each might say on the purpose of marriage (non-religious):

Dr. John Gottman: Marriage is where partners learn to build a rich climate of friendship, love, respect, and meaning.

Dr. John Gottman once told a crowd: “For a relationship to feel right, it has to be a very rich climate of affection and humor and fun and intimacy and empathy.”

That doesn’t mean you should avoid talking about what’s not working.

Being happily married isn’t about denying problems.  That’s not even possible. 

It surprises many to learn, most issues married couples argue about aren’t solvable. Even in happy marriages about 2/3 (69%) of problems don’t go away. They keep showing up in one form or another.

But partners who stay happy make sure … Come Read the Rest