Therapy That Works...

Marriage & Divorce – How Life Before the Wedding Can Impact Your Marriage - By Chris Gearing

Monday, October 06, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how factors from before your wedding may shape and change your future marriage - click here.

Most of us think that when we walk down the aisle, it’s the first step in a brand new life.

However, new research from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia has found a link between premarital behavior and marital satisfaction from ages 18 through 34. Here are some interesting facts from the study:

The Grass Is Always Greener

If you have had a high number of romantic partners and relationships over the years, you may have higher expectations of your current marriage. We can end up unfairly comparing our spouse to previous romantic partners, which can lead to high levels of marital dissatisfaction and even outright conflict. Another side effect of a long relationship history is that we can become pros at breaking up. Repeatedly walking away from dating relationships instead of trying to work things out can be a rehearsal for a future marital break up.

Sliding Versus Deciding

The researchers observed that some couples tended to slide into major, life altering decisions such as getting married or having a child together. They make major decisions based on shallow criteria such as the length of the relationship or their or their partner’s age rather than on the strength and long term viability of the relationship. Those of us who intentionally enter romantic relationships and proactively nurture and grow the romantic bond tend to do better in marriage.

It Takes A Village

Weddings are the ultimate ritual of connection and commitment. According to this study, having a large wedding is linked to having a sturdier marriage. The psychologists were careful to point out that how much money was spent on the ceremony was not important. Instead, they argued that having a strong community and social network that supports each of you and your union is a wonderful foundation for a happy and successful marriage.

Source:

Galena Rhoades & Scott Stanley, “Bigger Weddings, fewer partners, less ‘sliding’ linked to better marriages.” The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, Science Daily, 19 August 2014.

Grumpy Husband Syndrome - By Chris Gearing

Friday, April 11, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on KTXD 47 discussing the new trend of "Grumpy Husband Syndrome" - click here.

Marriage – Dr. Gottman’s Distance and Isolation Cascade - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe Dr. John Gottman's research on how marriages can fail and the signs of the distance and isolation cascade - click here.

When partners break up, it is very common to experience a process of physical and emotional separation. Emotional separation is often completed before either partner realizes what has happened, and they struggle to recognize that the relationship is in critical condition. Dr. John Gottman’s landmark research fully described the steps that lead to the end of relationships.

Flooding

Once anger and frustration become too overwhelming, the emotional centers of the brain heighten the experience of already intense emotions. Resentment builds and magnifies every disappointment, and the relationship becomes a constant powder keg. Negative emotions frame every interaction as each partner gathers evidence that the other partner has failed them and always will.

Problems Seen As Too Severe

Rather than talking things through, the partner becomes so hostile to their partner’s opinion that they avoid interacting in any meaningful way. They begin to see the situation as helpless and hopeless and it defines how they see their partner. Most importantly, they no longer see their partner as a reliable person. That belief fundamentally rearranges the emotional relationship.

Work Problems Out Alone

People tend to separate emotionally first and physically last. Estranged partners no longer look to one another as a resource and an ally. Problems are no longer shared, opinions are no longer asked for, and the mundane details of their lives are the only topics they feel safe to share. Over time, the opinions of others outside the relationship are sought out, valued, and remembered as their partner is quickly discarded to the same status as a roommate.

Parallel Lives

Unhappy spouses are very effective at arranging their lives on parallel tracks. They change their schedules to avoid seeing each other—eating fewer meals together, attending fewer school events, or regularly working late or on the weekends. They carefully distribute their time elsewhere with social and business obligations that keep them far away from spending time with their partner.

Crushing Loneliness

Perhaps the most difficult part of the cascade is the deep loneliness that haunts many unhappily married people. There is a constant grief for the marriage that once was and the loss of hope for the marriage that could have been.

Source:

"What Makes Love Last?" by Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver

Marriage and Divorce - Dr. John Gottman's Four Horsemen for Marriage - By Chris Gearing

Friday, November 22, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the four horsemen for marriage from marriage expert Dr. John Gottman's research - click here.

There are always signs when a marriage is headed to divorce.

Dr. John Gottman, one of the world’s leading marriage experts, has identified four negative communication habits that usually mean the end is near. His decades of marital research and therapy have found that although defeating the four horsemen won’t entirely solve your marital problems, they are a big step towards repairing your marriage and living happily ever after.

1.) Criticism

The first horseman is Criticism. Criticism is not only expressing your unhappiness about a situation but using it to emotionally assault your partner. A temporary frustration becomes a lifelong character flaw; a minor miscommunication becomes an intentional attack. Instead of using neutral language and focusing on what needs to be done, comments focus on how one partner is at fault and use negative language to describe what is wrong with them.

2.) Contempt

The second horseman is Contempt. As you probably suspect, contempt uses heavy doses of sarcasm, name-calling, and character assassination. You may hear phrases such as “Can’t you do anything right?” or “Do you have some kind of mental problem?” Contempt frames every event as either a failure or par for the course – there are no true victories and the other partner can never win. It fundamentally changes the playing field of the marriage since it elevates one partner over the other instead of keeping you and your partner allied and equal in the marriage.

3.) Defensiveness

The third horseman is Defensiveness. Defensiveness is usually a response to the last two horsemen, criticism and contempt, and often is a last ditch effort to end the verbal attacks. Dr. Gottman finds that defensiveness can include righteous indignation, launching counterattacks, whining, or acting like an innocent victim. However, research has found that defensiveness doesn’t necessarily end the conflict and it can even escalate the tension.

4.) Stonewalling

This often leads to the fourth and final horseman, Stonewalling. Most couples think that stonewalling is caused by indifference or anger, but it is often cause by overwhelming emotions. When one partner is flooded with emotions and cannot process everything they are feeling, they short circuit and often stop actively listening and participating. They become completely blank in an effort to calm down and regain control. The other partner can only see the lack of responsiveness and they often give up hope about resolving the situation.

Dr. Gottman’s four horsemen are very serious marital issues. If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from these signs of marital conflict, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Source:

"What Makes Love Last?" by Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver

What Is An Eating Disorder? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 18, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing explain what eating disorders are and when you should get professional help - click here.

Eating disorders affect millions of people every year.

They happen to people across all socioeconomic levels, all ages, to both genders, and they can vary in intensity and duration. Fundamental to all eating disorders is the presence of unhealthy eating habits that are disruptive to a person’s health.

Eating disorders take over peoples’ lives and become central to how they define themselves. They’re often difficult to detect since they start with small changes that become large problems, and they are usually well hidden – particularly when they start. The chief reason that eating disorders begin and flourish is heavy doses of denial. They come out of nowhere and can become very serious, very quickly.

From my clinical practice, I’ve learned that patients develop their eating issues for a variety of reasons including the following:

Trauma Disorders:

Eating disorders can be triggered by a trauma like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a stable life style (like the divorce of parents or the loss of income), or an event or series of events that threatened their safety or even their lives.

Perfectionism:

The psychological need to be perfect can be overwhelming. These individuals are excessively dependent on the opinions and the approval of others. In their own minds, they are only as good as their last success.

In Control:

Some people have a relentless need to be admired and an entitlement to being the center of attention. Controlling their weight is a method of controlling others.

Affective Disorder:

In some cases, affective disorders like depression and anxiety are the basis of the eating disorder. An underlying depression can cause abnormalities in many areas of life including eating and self-regulation.

Family System:

Certain families emphasize performance and weight can become a central focus, especially in females. Issues of adequacy emerge and the eating disorder becomes a defining way to control anxiety.

Eating disorders are very serious conditions, and they can even be lethal. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

The work of Dr Christopher Fairburn

Their Cheating Heart - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on YouTube.com explain the different reasons men and women have for having affairs - click here.

Most people think that those who cheat on their spouse are terrible people, but the answer is usually much more complex. Affairs begin for different reasons depending on the person and their circumstances. New research has just clarified how the genders are different when it comes to sex outside the marriage.

One out of four married men have had an affair at some point in the marriage, where as only one out of nine married women cheated on their husbands. In fact, most men stray very early into the marriage – usually within the first two to five years. It’s usually not for emotional or psychological reasons – in fact, most cheating men said that they cheated because they had an opportunity and they took it! Wives who cheat often are not meeting their emotional needs at home and look for love and fulfillment outside the marriage.

If your or your spouse engage in an affair, make sure to seek the help of a licensed psychologist who can help you mend your marriage and repair your relationship with your spouse.

SOURCE:

Men’s Health, March 2012

Deion Sanders' Public Divorce - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia on CBS 11 discuss Deion Sanders' divorce and the media's role in public court battles - click here.

Why do celebrity divorces play out in the media?

Dual Relationship: Celebrities have a dual relationship with the media. They insist on having the media work on their own terms, and they also need the media to stay top of mind with the public. However, they are also subject to media scrutiny when things are difficult or ambiguous. That puts a lot of stress on top of an already terrible situation.

Publicity Makes Things Worse: As the conflict is played out in the media, the publicity can only make things worse. The spouses become highly polarized in the glare of public opinion. They hear exaggerated versions of their spouse’s conversations and they can become even more enraged. Divorces that could have been handled effectively explode into battles that are waged in the public spotlight.

Why do divorces like this get so heated?

Fusion Delusion: Many powerful people tend to idealize and then fuse with their partner. The line between each individual partner ceases to exist in this kind of relationship. They only feel good when they are attached at the hip.

Idealization & Devaluation: Strong personalities love intensely and hate intensely. With some people, you will inevitably disappoint them and when you do, there is a sudden fall in affection. The idealized become the devalued. The partner becomes a walking injury to them.

Control At Any Cost: Control is how they lessen their injuries. Anger is a direct result of anxiety and a feeling of vulnerability. Control is the central issue in divorces that are highly conflicted. Each partner wants to win and that means that the other partner has to lose - it's a zero sum game. The partners struggle to remain in control by bullying and intimidating the other person. There is a rush in being the one who calls the shots and who humiliates the person they once pledged to love forever.

Is being married to a celebrity a harder road?

Unrealistic Expectations: Celebrities are usually driven by relentless ambition and vision. Expecting one another to be emotionally present all the time is unrealistic, especially with the demands of celebrity life. The challenge is to remain grounded, stable, and realistic in the marriage.

Strong Opinions and Big Personalities: Being a celebrity usually demands a big personality that often comes with strong opinions and a lack of compromise. People of influence are often stubborn and they want their way.

Failure to Listen: They fail to understand what the other person is saying to them. They talk but they do not listen. Therefore, if there is a disagreement, things can get heated quickly. Partners are bound to clash when inevitable disappointment occurs.

Many of us have very strong personalities in our lives. Any advice for coping with difficult people we love?

Here are a few tips:

1.) Remain aware of your own tendency to buy into the idealizations and devaluations of charismatic people. Guard your own self interest in a healthy way—owning what is true but keeping things in perspective. We are all imperfect and must be forgiven for our shortcomings.

2.) On the other hand, if you are chronically feeling unhappy, devalued and criticized, ask two sets of questions. Are you accurately understanding what they are saying? If you are, then ask if you are with someone you can never please.

3.) Strong personalities often insist on taking their unhappiness out on you, even when you have nothing to do with their unhappiness. You cannot reason with someone who will not listen to your point of view and strive to work it out with you.

4.) Stay away from people who overly idealize you. There is always a price to pay if you are on a pedestal. The higher you sit in their opinion, the farther you will fall when things don't go perfectly.

5.) Remind yourself that the unkindness is not personal in any way. The person striking out at you does not really understand the damage they are doing.

SOURCE:

"Why Is It Always About You?" by Sandy Hotchkiss

Valentine's Day Surprises: Love Gone Bad - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how Valentine's Day could actually be the end of your relationship - click here.

According to a recent report, filings for divorce increase by up to 40% around Valentine’s Day. Why would partners think about calling it quits around the biggest romance holiday of the year?

The bill comes due on Valentine’s because many of us begin to think a little harder about our relationships—what we do have compared to what we wish we had in the relationship. As we consider those differences, that’s when trouble often begins.

To make matters worse, it often seems like everyone else has it better—flowers are being delivered, reservations are being made, and we are alone in what now looks to us like a loveless relationship. If your relationship is already in a rough patch, then you are more likely to focus on this day as a last ditch effort to pull it out of the fire. He either “gets it” or he doesn’t and many of us make large decisions based on what happens around this holiday.

In addition, people like to have simple stories or narratives to explain relationship endings. Valentine’s Day can be a perfect example of the serious failures in the relationship. Often what did happen—or didn’t—is played out in the social network of each partner.

So what happens when people talk about breaking up?

Certain conversations can redefine the relationship. Often times, people will fight and say things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment. However, even talking about breaking up can leave a permanent mark. It can actually be traumatizing for one or both of you.

When you talk about breaking up, you are rehearsing the death of the relationship. While your partner may move past the moment and forgive what you said, he will always remember your threat to leave even if you didn’t actually walk out the door. The bottom line is if say anything about breaking up, you need to be very sure that it is something you are serious about. You can’t take back the words once they are said.

So what are the basic questions you should ask yourself if you are considering breaking up?

Have you exerted every effort to repair the relationship? Have you talked to friends and family? Have you worked with a psychologist? This self inventory includes taking a hard look at what you may have done to your partner. Don’t sweep past that point since many of us don’t realize how we also have failed in the relationship.

Is your marital misery insurmountable? Are you really able to live without him forever and will you be less miserable as a single person?

Do you believe that your partner is incapable of being your ultimate partner? Have you lost your belief in the relationship but most of all in her basic personality fitting with yours?

Are you making an emotional decision? Are you so angry or so disillusioned that you are inaccurate about the potential of the relationship? Remain balanced and look at some of the positives that exist even if negatives are pronounced.

Are you making a decision using both your rational mind and your emotional mind? Research shows that the best decisions are made using both parts of your mind to weigh the pros and cons.

Are you ready for the aftermath of the divorce or break up? All the financial, logistical and social consequences? Are you willing to share your children on the weekends and holidays? Are you willing to win your freedom by making vast changes in your life? Make sure that the consequences are worth it.

Emotional Detachment: How emotionally detached have you become? Do you fundamentally not care anymore and do you define yourself as separate and on your own? Research shows that emotional detachment is the number one predictor of divorce.

But don’t you worry – there is hope if you are thinking of breaking up around Valentine’s Day.

I believe almost any relationship is fixable if the following factors are present:

First, Early Warning: You have the best shot at fixing your relationship if you catch serious problems early and address them head on. Most people wait an average of six years before they seek help for a struggling marriage. By the time they make it into the counselor's office, one or both partners has already left the relationship either physically or emotionally.

Accountability Is Key: Remain personally accountable even if the truth is painful. Relationships are our greatest teachers because our greatest faults are always in play. If you have difficult parts of your personality, don’t blame your relationship for your own personal problems. Face the challenges and overcome them with the help of your partner.

Meet In The Middle: Problems have solutions if both parties can compromise and commit to working as a team. You won’t always get your own way, but you can strike a balance between the needs of both parties if both of you will give a little bit.

Never Give Up: Resilient couples push through even when things get tough. If you truly love your partner, remain committed to them and keep trying to get your relationship back on track.

Sources:

Avvo.com

Huffington Post

The Work of Dr John Gottman

How To Protect Yourself From Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 27, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on YouTube explain how you can protect yourself and the ones you love from domestic violence - click here.

A recent study released by the CDC found that one in four American women have been severely beaten or assaulted by a romantic partner.

Here’s how you can protect yourself from a violent partner:

Denial Is Your Biggest Liability: Most women underestimate the threat and do not recognize the warning signs such as a history of possessiveness, intimidation, and overly jealous behavior. These are psychological "red flags" warning you of potential danger. Pay attention.

Intuition Is Your Best Defense: Thirty one thousand women die each year in America and the majority die at the hands of a romantic partner. Respect your own intuition about your partner and don't talk yourself down or normalize violent behavior. Stop debating and prosecuting your own observations. Your brain is hardwired to protect you, pick up on signs of danger, and tell you to run.

Speed Is Your Best Strategy: If you are threatened, respond quickly. Do not hesitate and remain frozen. Experts estimate that you have approximately five seconds to make a difference in your own self-defense and potentially save your own life. Move quickly and get out of the dangerous situation.

If you fear your partner, you must surrender your life to getting away from him and remaining safe. Remember that you cannot reason with him, convince him, or change him since he is intent upon reclaiming you as a possession. He only wants to regain control.

Make sure to not take this step on your own – please contact a local group, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or visit TheHotline.org. These organizations can help you find a safe place to live, set up new jobs and bank accounts, and can help you take care of your kids. They all have the strategies and knowledge to help you leave safely and successfully.

Source:

“1 in 4 US women victims of severe violence” by Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

The Work of Gavin De Becker

The Warning Signs of Potential Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia on YouTube discuss warning signs that you may be in danger at home - click here.

A recent study issued by the CDC found that one in four women had been severely beaten or assaulted in a previous romantic relationship. Many women are wondering how they can protect themselves against a possible threat at home.

Here are some warning signs of a potentially violent partner:

Fast Paced Relationships: Societal definitions of how long a couple should be together before getting married were established for a reason. Many violent men and predators want to move very quickly in a relationship and go too fast. They are trying to establish control over you and get you into a bad situation.

Won’t Take No For An Answer: Anyone who will not hear “no” as an answer is trying to control you. Too often, when men say “no” that is the end of the conversation. However, some men view a “no” from a woman as the beginning of a negotiation. When you say no, mean it and follow through on it. Whether it’s for coming upstairs after a date or a marriage proposal, don’t let him bully you with what looks like persistence.

Symbolic Violence: This behavior includes the destruction of objects dear to the partner or symbolic to the relationship. The intention is to intimidate the other person and cause emotional havoc. Destroying wedding pictures, personal items like perfume or lingerie, or even violence against a beloved pet are all efforts to symbolically bully.

Physical violence can never be undone and has permanent effects on relationships. Make sure to protect yourself and watch out for these red flags in your relationship.

Check back tomorrow to learn how to protect yourself from domestic violence and how you can stop it.

Source:

“1 in 4 US women victims of severe violence” by Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

The Work of Gavin De Becker


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