SUGGESTED READING TO SUPPLEMENT SAN FRANCISCO NORTH BAY & NAPA VALLEY COUPLES & MARRIAGE COUNSELING & SEX THERAPY

RECOMMENDED READING FOR A CALMER MIND & DEEPER CONNECTION TO SELF AND OTHERS:

In order to maximize the work you are doing in Individual, Couples or Sex therapy, our San Francisco psychotherapists & psychologists recommend that you do some reading in between sessions.  

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SAN FRANCISCO COUPLES THERAPY & SEX THERAPY READING SUGGESTIONS

 

RELATIONSHIPS & ATTACHMENT

SAN FRANCISCO COUPLES THERAPY & SEX THERAPY READING SUGGESTIONS

SEX

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BREAK – UPS

NON MONOGAMY

MINDFULNESS

TRAUMA

INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE & ABUSE

•    Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child by Laura Davis

•   The Courage to Heal Workbook: A Guide for Women and Men Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Laura Davis

•   Healing Sex by Staci Haines

•    Woman-to-Woman Sexual Violence: Does She Call It Rape? by Lori Gershick

•   Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationships by Claire M. Renzetti

•   Violence in Gay and Lesbian Domestic Partnerships by C.M Renzetti

•   The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani

•   Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them: Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence, by John Dececco, PhD

•   Surviving Sexual Violence: A Guide to Recovery and Empowerment edited by Thema Bryant-Davis

GET DEEPER LOVE AND CONNECTION THIS NEW YEAR!

SAN FRANCISCo BAY Area & Napa Valley COUPLES COUNSELORS & SEX THERAPISTS SPEAK ON HOW TO BUILD A SECURE RELATIONSHIP

As the year draws to a close many people create lofty New Years resolutions and set intentions and goals to have their best year ever. For many single people, finding love often ends up in the center of their vision board or top of their New Years goals list. What happens to couples once they have found the love they so desperately once longed for? Often love no longer makes it on the New Year’s Resolution list because we already have our partner, so why focus on more love? We tend to get more of what we focus on, so if we put energy and focus on love, the more love we can have in our life. Unfortunately, we often do the opposite and instead focus on what is not working, so we get more of that. It’s time to put love back on the list and keep it as a top priority.

Many couples end up in my therapy office because they have somehow drifted apart and have lost that feeling of love, intimacy, and connection they once had with each other. In today's fast-paced world it is so easy to get caught up and distracted by things like work stressors, children's schedules, family obligations, technology, and social media, just to name a few. When this happens couples may lose sight of each other and often one or both may start to feel neglected or taken for granted. During a recent session, one partner confessed that "I just assume that I'll catch up with my partner whenever because, after-all, were together for life". Meanwhile her partner has been feeling like they've become more like roommates, seeing each other in passing and not knowing what the other is going through. This lack of connection led one of them to question the relationship and seek out couples therapy.

SOUND RELATIONSHIP HOUSE THEORY

In renowned Couples Therapist and researcher Dr. John Gottman's “Sound Relationship House Theory”, he uses the metaphor of a house having different areas which need to be maintained and worked on in order to have a strong house. If one area is weak, over time it can cause the house to fall apart. In couples therapy there are exercises that couples can do to maintain and strengthen the different areas of the house. The foundation of the house is what Gottman refers to as “Enhancing Your Love Maps” which is essentially knowing your partner and staying current about what is going on in their world. This level often gets neglected in long term relationships because partners assume they know their partner already and they assume they will be alerted to any new information as needed. 

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LEARN HOW TO BUILD A SECURE & STABLE PARTNERSHIP

Our North Bay Relationship Counselors and Couples Therapists can help you build lasting, loving and satisfying relationships.

 

This assumption is a false one because just like the world is changing rapidly every minute, so are we and our partners. It’s a challenge to keep up with all of the new information coming at us from different directions and so much can happen in a day, let alone a week. Without staying current on each other’s worlds, partners may find themselves feeling distant, lonely, and like they hardly know their partner who lives under the same roof. Knowing your partner not only deepens your connection, but helps prepare couples for stressful events such as illness of a parent or having a new baby. In one study of new parents by Dr. Gottman it was found that after the birth of their first baby 67% of couples experienced a decline in marital satisfaction while the other 33% saw an improvement. The difference between those that saw an increase versus those who had a decline was, love maps. Those who knew their partners deeply and kept current of their changing worlds, continued to feel closer and more connected versus those who did not.

THE LOVE MAP GAME

Dr. Gottman created a fun game that can be used by couples to assess how well they know their partners, and to get current on each other’s world, using The Love Map Game, available as a card deck or free phone app. I’ve included some sample questions below if you want to try this at home with your partner or any other person you consider close to in order to deeper your bond and connection.

The way this game works is one partner pulls a card or picks a question from the list. They read the question out loud to the other partner and then that same partner answers the question. The other partner then confirms they are correct or provides the most current information. For example, Partner A picks the question: Name your partners two closest friends. Partner A then proceeds to name the people who they believe are their partners two closest friends (Jill and Jane). Partner B responds by confirming that they are right or gives them more current information. For example, Partner B may respond, “Yes, you are right that one of my close friends is still Jane and we talk daily, however I am no longer close with Jill because I don’t feel I can rely on her ever since she agreed to help with my party and then bailed on me last minute. That’s the 3rd time she has let me down, so I no longer consider her my close friend. Now I would say my second best friend is actually Patricia.”  Then you would switch turns and go back and forth picking and answering questions.

This is meant to be a fun and lighthearted game with the goal being deeper connection and allowing yourself to know and be known by your partner.

With this in mind, when giving your partner up to date information, do your best to keep it positive and acknowledge your partner for trying to answer the question even if they are wrong. It won’t feel fun if every time they get the answer wrong you criticize them for not knowing you. Instead, try to keep in mind that your partner is actually interested in knowing you and what is current in your world so it helps to encourage them to do this.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS FROM LOVE MAP GAME:

1. Who is my favorite artist or composer?

2. What was my worst childhood experience?

3. What personal improvements do I want to make in my life?

4. Who is my greatest source of support (other than you)?

5. What are some important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them?

You can see all of the questions in the Gottman Card Deck App- under Love Maps. These decks are currently available for free in the app store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gottman-card-decks/id1292398843?mt=8 There are several other card decks included that are great for deepening your knowledge of each other providing other insightful questions around life and sexuality.

IF YOU FIND YOURSELF WANTING TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR PARTNER YET UNABLE TO CONNECT WITHOUT CONFLICT, YOU MAY NEED SOME OUTSIDE SUPPORT


In some relationships there may be resentment and conflict present which may prevent you from being able to interact and have these sorts of deep, connected conversations with each other.  One of our trained and highly skilled therapists and coaches can help facilitate your reconnection.

LET US HELP YOU GET THE LOVE AND CONNECTION YOU DESIRE THIS NEW YEAR AND BEYOND.  

Our expert NORTH BAY AREA SEX THERAPISTS & COUPLES COUNSELORS help people have healthy, loving and equitable relationships. All of our psychotherapists and psychologists are highly trained in working with sexuality, relationship dynamics, communication, intimacy and attachment issues.

OUR HIGHLY SKILLED COUPLES COUNSELORS CAN HELP YOU TO SHIFT PAINFUL OR DAMAGING DYNAMICS.

As San Francisco Bay Area Relationship Experts, Couples Counselors and Sex Therapists, we help couples and individuals learn to deepen intimacy, desire and pleasure.  

 

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NORTH BAY LEADING SEX THERAPY & COUPLES COUNSELORS

Blog Author: Victoria King, LMFT, Sex & Relationship Therapist

 

 

How Sex Therapy Can Help You

How Sex Therapy Can Help You

Sex therapy addresses the root of the sexual issues and helps you develop understanding, compassion and skills to heal together. Couples often can’t solve these intimate issues on their own because they don’t have the tools needed and because sex and intimacy is closely connected to attachment issues. Our Napa Valley couples counselors and sex therapists can help you to have the satisfying sex life you long for. 

What is sexual health?

What is sexual health?

Napa Valley Sex Therapy can help you cultivate sexual health. Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences. 

The Pursuer / Distancer Dynamic in Intimate Relationships

BREAK THE PAINFUL PURSUER/DISTANCER PATTERN WITH NAPA VALLEY COUPLES THERAPY

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to understand & break your negative relationship patterns, learn effective communication skills and deepen your intimacy.

Early in relationship, couples typically experience an idealized bonding commonly referred to as the honeymoon stage. From a neurological standpoint, this occurs when the partners’ brains are awash with attachment hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins. The couple is largely positively focused on the other and is easy to overlook potentially problematic issues. Typical attachment styles may not manifest in this stage.

 However, once the couple’s shifts past the honeymoon stage, the individual relating styles, behaviors and communication patterns reemerge. This transition may trigger the distancing and pursuing behaviors in some couples.  This occurs when one partner, seeking security and to relieve anxiety, metaphorically reaches for the other (wanting more contact) and in response the second partner may feel overwhelmed and relieve anxiety by withdrawing. Once the withdrawn partner distances, the other partner often pursues even more, perhaps with criticism and anger. The cycle is then born.

For example, if Steve feels anxious because his partner Alice is spending more time with her friends then previously in the honeymoon stage, he may react by demanding more attention from her. In return, Alice may feel pressured and withdraw from the relationship by making more dates with friends and working late Steve, feeling insecurely attached, may then attempt to make emotional contact with Alice by texting and calling often. Alice feels invaded and withdraws further. This is the dance of the distance-pursuer cycle. Without an understanding and insight into each other’s styles and underlying needs, this cycle can spiral into a painful situation where neither couple feels secure or satisfied. The cycle can occur over everyday interactions.

Steve: “Why do you always do that?”
Alice: “Do what? I'm not doing anything”
Steve: “You ignore me when I talk.”
Alice: “No, I don’t. There is nothing to say”
Steve: “We need to talk about this, Alice. You’re doing it now!”
Alice: “I don’t a need to talk. It's no big deal. You’re overreacting.”
Steve: “No, I’m not! We need to talk!”
Alice: “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

Steve is pursuing and Alice is distancing.

In order to transform the distance-pursuer pattern into a healthy relationship, it is necessary to understand the dynamics of this power struggle.

Pursuers in Intimate Relationships

In order to feel secure and cared for, the pursuer wants and needs attention, closeness, and affection with her partner.  She is sensitive to being ignored or perceived rejections. A pursuer will feel afraid, disappointed and anxious when her partner withdraws from the relationship. She may ask many questions, make complaints, or criticize her partner to try to establish reconnection (despite its infectivity). However, the underlying need is a desire for deeper connection and reassurance. Unfortunately, due to her reactive behaviors, the pursuer tends to inadvertently push away her partner, thereby creating more distance.

 Distancers in Intimate Relationships

Someone who is wired to be a distancer when feeling anxious in relationship is much more likely to become quiet, turn inward and avoid problems/conflicts. He may resist being/feeling controlled by others by attempting to seek control first.  The distancer tends to get “in their head” and use intellectualized defenses, refuse to cooperate, and become rigid and critical of his partner. While he actually does want and need connection with his partner, the consequences of the avoidant behaviors provoke criticism from his partner, which leads to further withdrawal.

The Path to a Healthier Couple’s Dynamic

Pursuers are generally skilled in communicating their needs and wants, but typically look for external soothing from their partners. It is important that a pursuer learn ways in which she can meet her own needs in the relationships before looking to her partner to soothe her anxiety. Also pursuers are very observant and often point out what is not working in the relationship (in an attempt to have their needs met). One way to shift out of the cycle is for the pursuer to consciously name what she appreciates in her relationship and about her partner.

As the pursuer learns more skills to self-sooth her anxiety, show appreciation for her partner, and trust the process of the relationship, she will cultivate the safety and emotional space for her intimate to move towards her. This will create security between the partners.

A distancer can do his part to end the power struggle in the relationship by speaking up when he feels upset, troubled or uncomfortable. He must learn to share his feelings in a vulnerable way and openly listen to his partner. Sharing more time and attention with his intimate will cultivate closeness, intimacy, trust and safety in the relationship.

Expressing love to one’s partner in the way that the partner likes to receive love will also go a long way towards creating harmony in the relationship. The pursuer needs to receive affection and soothing while the distance needs the space to come forward and trust he will not be criticized.

Couples & Marriage Counseling cultivates insight into the dynamic, leading to greater awareness, self-compassion and practice.  With these new tools people can choose healthier ways to respond to their partner’s needs, rather than unconsciously reacting to their partner’s pursuing or distancing behaviors. Attachment styles can be changed through couples and individual therapy, leading to secure attachment and healthy intimate relationships. The wonderful news is that it only takes one person to end a power struggle and begin mending the relationship. Secure, loving, intimate and equitable partnerships are possible!

HOW TO MAKE COUPLES THERAPY WORK FOR YOU

Napa Valley Couples Counseling

 In order for couples therapy to be successful, both members of the couple must be engaged in the process and motivated by a desire to make things better. If one or both members of the couple is mostly interested in playing a blame game and looking for the therapist to “fix” their partner, then therapy will not work. Each member of the couple must become dedicated to working as a team in order to understand their ineffective patterns of relating, learn how to deepen trust and intimacy and to repair the relationship.

One key task of the couple therapist is to help each partner to understand his or her own patterns and specific contributions to the negative dynamics in the relationship. Once the individuals can identify their problematic thoughts, feelings, behaviors and beliefs about themselves, each other and the relationship, they can team up against the negative cycle. The therapist helps the couple to prevent and heal the distress caused by these unhealthy patterns so that healthy communication can be exchanged. 

Reunion Ritual: The Coming Back Together Embrace

The importance of reconnecting with your partner after even a short time apart is often overlooked by couples, who may then easily get caught in a negative cycle of hurt and misunderstanding. 

Having an established, intentional and routine ritual of reconnection is one way to protect and create secure attachment with your spouse or partner. This is a special time of attuning your nervous systems back towards one another and getting in sync after perhaps busy or hectic stress related to work, parenting or other life stressors. 

In his helpful video, Dr. Stan Tatkin, author of Wired for Love,  demonstrates how a simple coming back to one another embrace can deepen intimacy and protect the relationship from unnecessary misunderstandings, arguments and disconnection. 

At Napa Valley Couples Therapy Center, we recognize the importance of attachment, safety  and intimacy in relationships, and are trained to help  you create secure, happy and healthy partnerships. 

Call us today at (510) 982-6401 or click here to schedule your free phone consultation. 

Teaches couples to ritualize reunions after separations. Reunion mishaps are a common cause of couple dysregulation and arguments. This process helps partners regulate one another quickly and easily. www.ahealthymind.org