Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I have a healthy relationship?
Healthy relationships don’t just happen, they are built and both partners must work on improving themselves first as well as the partnership. Here are 10 important characteristics of a healthy relationship:
- Time Together – The very definition of a relationship: “the way in which two people are connected.” Go on dates, video chat, and make each other a priority with time.
- Time Apart – It’s also healthy to have separate interests, friendships, and hobbies too. You’ll both grow as individuals and appreciate each other more.
- Boundaries – Give each other privacy and personal space, and know where you end and your partner begins.
- Safety – Both partners feel safe without any physical, verbal, sexual or emotional abuse.
- Trust – Trust is a key component, and you must be vulnerable. Time to build will vary, but you should be able to rely on each other’s loyalty and honesty overall.
- Communication – Open and honest communication while sharing your wants, needs, and feelings – even when they differ from your partner’s.
- Managing Conflict – Every couple experiences conflict from time to time, and the key to managing your differences is connecting without insults, name-calling, sarcasm, and other types of negativity.
- Teamwork – A couple in a healthy relationship views themselves as a team, and teams work together – they don’t compete against each other.
- Intimacy -Mutually satisfying sexual relationship and the ability to share thoughts, feelings, and needs with one another. Physical and emotional intimacy maintains the connection.
- Commitment – Maintain your commitment with boundaries between your relationship and the outside world. Work to block any “exits” in the relationship with an effort to thrive.
When you hit a roadblock, you work on rebuilding that connection again, which may include seeking therapy.
Written by: Norene Gonsiewski, LCSW
What’s the real reason you disagree with your partner?
- We are attracted to the differences between our partner and ourselves yet the differences often bring conflict. The attraction and the conflict mean you’ve found the right person. You also tend to fall in love with someone with the same amount of baggage, and we all bring baggage into our relationship.
- When one partner understands the other, the content of the conflict can become irrelevant. The couple develops a deep understanding and appreciation for their differences, and is thus less triggered by them.
- Our behavior and our defenses represent our unmet needs. We fall in love because of certain qualities the other person possesses that meet those needs. However, the quality changes after time, and that same quality represents the lost part of the self.
- Part of our attraction to our partner is to once again feel our wholeness and aliveness because the attraction represents a need to connect to lost parts of the self.
How do I know if things are “bad enough” to need therapy?
- A key reason that individuals and couples put off therapy is that they aren’t sure if they really need it. In the moment of the conflict or “flare up” of stress, anxiety or depression it feels urgent to get help. Once this subsides, it no longer feels urgent. Unfortunately, the inability to work through it is still there, so it is certain to happen again. Repeating these cycles without developing the ability to work through them will entrench the problem and make it even more difficult to resolve.
- By coming to counselling you increase your ability to handle it more effectively the next time, thus weakening rather than reinforcing the cycle. Counselling helps you to face the issues head on, rather than avoiding them, thus ensuring they don’t become even bigger problems later on.
- Couples and individuals who come in when things are mostly ok to address specific issues in their lives or relationships often experience a great deal of benefit from short-term, issue-specific support.
- Those who wait until a big problem happens, like an affair, find that the repair is harder and more painful, requiring at least 6 months of counselling.
- Think of counselling like sunscreen – not only does it protect you from immediate sunburn, it dramatically reduces the long term risk of skin cancer. While your relationship will survive the occasional “burn”, constant re-injury can lead to irreversible damage.
- The bottom line – When thinking about counselling for yourself or your relationship sooner is always better than later. This is definitely an area where a few simple tools and a bit of awareness early on can save you the time, money and huge amounts of stress that come from avoiding dealing with issues head on.
I really want to do this, we need this, but I need to ask my spouse. What if he/she won’t come?
- In my experience, even if only one person begins working on the relationship, significant improvements will be experienced. Your own self-growth and development work is a huge part of the work that needs to be done to have a healthy relationship. As you increase your self-awareness, develop a thorough understanding of all your parts and learn to embrace them and use them with more intention, you will better understand where you reactivity comes from, identify your triggers, and learn how how to successfully get your needs met.
- If you know that this is something that you think would benefit your relationship, I recommend we book you in for an initial consultation. We can begin working on enhancing your ability to deal with and positively impact the areas you are having challenges in. If your spouse wants to join later he/she can, but you will still benefit from developing tools and awareness for creating positive change on your own in the meantime.
What is Imago therapy and how can it work for your relationship?
Imago therapy is based on the idea that your partner is your image of love. Your partner provides healing and helps you to experience growth. You learn to listen and hold onto your reaction that comes up, so you can be present and attentive for your partner. Plus, you learn to take responsibility for your reactivity and feel fully alive within yourself, which improves your connection with your partner.
How can Imago therapy support your relationship?
- A couple’s experience in Imago therapy will evolve from voicing frustrations about your partner to noticing and sharing your own self-struggles, experiencing and re-experiencing connection and differentiation.
- Through Imago practice, the dialogue rewires the reptilian or automatic responses in the brain, causing us to behave defensively, to become learned and intentional behavior and communication.
- You reflect on yourself, and how you affect your partner and how what you say makes you more or less connected to your partner, and how you wish would respond.
- The Imago therapist provides a safe environment for a dialogue to occur and guides the couple in connection. The therapist teaches you to be hopeful, to get your needs met, to think and reflect, to know your contributions, and be aware of obstacles.
- We take the therapy hour to listen, understand, and empathize with our partner. You learn how to communicate to your partner in a respectful way, where you express your experience, your feelings, in a way that benefits your partner.
- The couple first understands each other’s concerns, in a safe environment, and then they are able to solve or accept them.
A couple learns that all people make sense all of the time if we listen long enough. Taking the time to correctly perceive our partner can then cause us to act and project our energy in a healthy manner.
How much does it cost?
- $140 per 60 minute individual session
- $175 for a 90 minute couple’s session
How can I find the time and money for counselling?
- Counselling is more likely to be significantly less expensive than getting divorced.
- If you are happy in your relationships, you thrive in all areas of your life.
- It is true that counselling requires an investment of both time and money. There are the actual fees for counselling, the coordination of two people’s schedules with that of the therapist, and possibly even the need to arrange childcare. All of this can seem to add a barrier that is insurmountable to taking action.
- Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether this investment is worth it for you. How much time and energy do your conflicts take out of your life, your work, and your family? How much more time and energy might you have for yourself, your relationship, your family, your career, and your dreams if you could resolve this conflict? What are the potential costs if this issue continues or even gets worse? (Think of both the financial and emotional costs of divorce for you and your family if you are having relationship issues. If you are dealing with stress, anxiety or depression, consider the potential cost of lost wages or even a lost job that might result from inability to cope at work.)
- Counselling helps you put more time and energy into positive connection with yourself and your significant other, allowing you to more effectively and efficiently manage issues. The enhanced energy, confidence and well-being positively impacts the amount of time, energy and money you have available for creating the life you desire.
- Your marriage, sense of self, and parenting are just as important as your job. We should all invest in our relationships as we do our jobs. Counselling appointments are like going to the gym – we have to go frequently and regularly to experience the benefits. Generally speaking, counselling sessions are once a week.
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A Tribute to Anne Walsh
Anne is a local talented artist who lives in Crescent Beach, and her paintings capture the beauty of our community. I’m honored to have her work on my website, to illustrate the importance of taking care of your family.