Posts Tagged ‘couples therapy’

Article The Good Men Project: Men, Electric Shock, Feelings



Here is my most recent guest post for The Good Men Project, Preferring Electric Shock to the Shock of Being Alone. A recent study by psychologist Timothy Wilson and his colleagues at U.Va. showed results that 67% of male participants choose to engage in electric shock versus be with their own thoughts. Upon hearing the results of this study I began to think about the men I have seen in my practice and their relationship to their feelings and thoughts, as well as to how this study might impact couples. Find my thoughts here: Article The Good Men Project: Men, Electric Shock, Feelings

Want More Sex In Your Relationship: Make More Psychological Space

Want More Sex In Your Relationship: Make More Psychological Space

The fact is, is that for most  couples  sex becomes less frequent the longer they stay together. Different couples have different responses to this phenomena. For some friendship is enough and neither person feels negatively impacted, for others the change in sexual patterns increases stress and conflict, and in worst case scenarios, a distance occurs that results in either infidelity, separation, or divorce.

While some couples find the situation more difficult than others, most wonder why the change has happened to them. They always promised to themselves and each other that they would not become on of “those” couples. Life is certainly partly responsible for this occurrence, when a couple has been together awhile they tend to have bigger things on their plate than they did during their early years. Buying a house, moving up the career ladder, and having children all impact the couples levels of stress. Higher stress means less sex.  In addition, these big aspirations can be exhausting.

But theres another reason why sex decreases, and that is a lack of separation. When attachment grows a strange thing can happen. We can feel securer in some ways but less safe in others. A person might feel better about staying home on a week night, more comfortable leaving the house in their “crazy” hair, or leaving the door open when they pee. But simultaneously a deeper anxiety grows. The risk of loosing that person becomes more looming. We become aware that it will hurt bad if that person is gone. Our behaviors shift and change to protect us from this anxiety.

Even those in the most trusting relationships have to manage anxieties around loss, since death takes all of us at some point. Many people start to blend with their partner in an effort to control their anxieties of loss. They might not say what’s on their mind as frequently, they care more if their partner is angry, they compromise more on their needs, they try to avoid conflict, or they become more agreeable.  Too many of these behaviors causes less psychological space, and in turn harms a couples sex life. In her book “Mating in Captivity”, Esther Perel discusses the animal instinctual drive needed to engage in sex. That to have passion, the couple must on some level must think solely about themselves and their own needs. They must be driven to want orgasim, and that orgasim itself is a very individual experience.  That to keep sex in a relationship, each person must temporarily set aside the fact that they know their partner as well as they do.

Negotiating the balance between sexual individualism and the every day relationship walk of compromise is tricky. Couples must talk about how to reclaim the instinctual passion once lost. They must try to take risks with each other again and be conscious of when they are playing things too safe. They should prioritize doing things that create more psychological space.  They must remember that while too much conflict in a relationship is destructive, a relationship needs some conflict in order to be alive, engaging, and sexual. They should notice if they are agreeing to things because its easier, if they are believing in their partners opinion rather than taking the time to develop their own, or if they need to build more tolerance to anger and conflict.  So if you  want more sex in your relationship, make more psychological space.

7 Tips on How to Manage Jealousy

How to manage jealousy

Jealousy isn’t an easy state of mind. In fact admitting one is jealous is hard to do. Often times we are not aware that we are jealous and are thus oblivious as to how it is guiding our decision making and interpersonal skills. But the fact is, is that people get jealous. Here are 7 tips on how to manage jealousy:

1. Jelousy is rooted in insecurity. Jealousy and anxieties surrounding abandonment and failure go hand in hand. Typically when we feel jealous it’s because we don’t feel like we are as good as another person and so we are replaceable. The less secure we feel in a relationship the more prone we are to jealousy.

2. Jelousy is rooted in distortions. 99% of the time what we are jealous about is based upon something we created rather than actual reality. “They are prettier than me so happier”, or “They are more successful than me so are better at what they do”, are beliefs not based in reality. The fact is, is there are lots of angles to a person and their situation. It takes a long relationship with a person to understand their full story.  One strength doesn’t mean someone’s whole life/career/relationship is better than yours.

3. Jealousy is a form of idealization. Most of the times when  we are jealous of someone we are idealizing them. Recognizing our idealization and bringing human qualities back into the person can help us to manage our insecurities.  No one is perfect, by nature being a human means there are struggles.

4.  Understanding your sibling dynamics can help you manage your jealousy. While having a sibling can be great, research shows us that it’s also hard. When someone has a sibling they have someone to compare themselves too. Jealousy is a natural part of a sibling relationship since both people are competing for their parents attention and affection. Understanding what your sibling triggers in you will help you understand what things you find most vulnerable.

5. Accept your limitations. As Americans it is very hard to accept we have limitations. But in doing so, you can save yourself agonizing moments of being jealous. You can’t do, be, or become everything. You have limitations, and that’s fine.

6. Try your hardest to be who you are rather than who you think you “should” be. If the “should” is hard to shake get professional help. The sooner you do, the more secure you will feel.

7. Stop leveling the playing field. Many people desperately try to keep things equal in their relationships. They bring themselves down when they notice they have a strength someone else is lacking or are extra hard on themselves when someone else is better at something. Try to be more okay with moments where things feel uneven.

Jealousy is very painful because it is frequently connected to shame we feel about ourselves. But by admitting you have it and being aware of it, you can feel more in control.

Having Difficult Conversations: 8 Things to Keep in Mind

Having Difficult Conversations: 8 Things to Keep in Mind

It can be very stressful to know that there is something you want to talk to your partner about that could be difficult. Many couples avoid having difficult conversations because they are afraid of the conflict that can arise from a difference of options. Avoiding these conversations tear down a relationship in the long run. The most unhappy couples are those that don’t fight at all, but they also tend to not talk about things. Take a deep breath before you start the conversation and spend some time remembering the following things, it can make the conversation more successful:

1.  Difficult feelings will arise, that doesn’t mean you failed. Sometimes the most valuable discussions are filled with challenging emotions. As long as there isn’t name calling, blaming, or screaming the topic is being worked through.

2. Remember that a difference of option doesn’t mean it’s a fight. Many times people feel like the person has to think about the topic the same way they do or they aren’t being heard. This isn’t true; you can still get your needs met even if you disagree on things.

3. There’s a strong chance that even once you agree to something you will still disagree about something else. Don’t think you are going to get your partner on your side 100%. In order to hear your partner and have a successful discussion, you need to emotionally let go of having your partner 100% on board.

4. You are you and your partner is themselves. Remembering that you are two different people is important. As soon as you start to feel ungrounded and lose track of your needs, the possibility of being triggered increases. The same is true for your partner. Give both of you the space needed to be an individual and to work through feelings.

5. Blaming, criticism, and withdrawing means it’s time for a break. Once these defenses enter the room its best to call them out and agree to take a break. These defenses make hearing and compromise impossible.

6. You are a team. Remember you are working together. That means using empathy with your partner and really trying to understand their side of the story. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but it does mean that you stay in a place of wanting to understand them.

7. It takes time. If it’s a difficult conversation it’s a difficult issue. Difficult issues take time to sort out and can’t be solved in one discussion. Remember it’s a process of getting to know each other and compromise. Don’t expect things to be solved overnight.

8. Everyone makes their own choice to compromise, trust that. Once compromise starts to happen trust that your partner is thinking it through and making the decisions they need too. When guilt and distrust enter the picture compromise becomes more difficult. If you find it difficult to trust them talk it out. On the other side, make sure you are truly fine with your compromises so that your partner can trust you.

Talking to your partner about difficult topics can be extraordinarily stressful and hard. Be kind to yourself as you try to implement the above tips. It takes a lot of learning and courage to be vulnerable in a relationship and to make sure both people’s needs are met.




About me

Patricia O’Laughlin, licensed therapist and Art Therapist, providing EMDR and therapy to individuals, couples, teens, and adults. Silver Lake/Los Feliz, Los Angeles. or (323)761-2221.