Neediness vs. Valid Relationship Needs: How to Navigate Both

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By Grace Wood, MA

 Few of us want to be labeled the “needy” one in a relationship. We like to seem independent and in control, rather than insecure or clingy. Neediness in our romantic relationships hints at an insatiable desire to be affirmed, validated, sought out, and attended to. We tend to think of a needy partner as someone who strains and emotionally exhausts their partner. Not the most attractive qualities.

Yet, sometimes our desire to not be considered needy interrupts the more healthy, necessary, and appropriate process of sharing our relationship needs with our partners.

How do we know where normal relationship needs end and clingy behavior begins?

Consider the following tips to understand the difference:

1. Recognize that Your Relationship Requires Interdependence

The truth is, giving and receiving time, love, attention, and affection in a fulfilling and mutually satisfying relationship means embracing interdependence. Humans have many needs--food, water, shelter, and human connection, just to name a few. We do need each other, and that can be frightening. When we feel vulnerable and insecure, we often overcompensate. We tend to go hard in the opposite direction to appear independent and strong, thereby missing the joy of relating to each other openly.

Recognizing our interdependence is beneficial. We are hard-wired for this type of connection. It isn’t needy to want to take care of ourselves and be safely taken care of, too.  Neediness is an issue only when we try to make our desire to be taken care of our partner’s primary or sole focus.

2. Willingly Examine Your Relationship Expectations

It is important that you and your partner do some internal soul-searching and thorough communicating as it pertains to your relationship expectations. Be willing to tell yourselves the truth without demanding that either of you force the other to be something you aren’t.

Many times, a good connection devolves into disappointment, neediness, and breakdown due to unrealistic assumptions about how partners should behave to make the relationship work.

It’s important to understand that expecting your partner to consider and respect you is valid. But to expect that making sure you’re always okay is unrealistic and draining.

In addition, be sure you’ve chosen a partner who can meet your needs. You must both be ready and present to love well. A partner you know is emotionally unavailable, has a history of unfaithfulness, or is generally nonchalant regarding intimacy, may create a relationship environment that is incompatible with your needs. Don’t pretend you can talk, beg, or cajole them into being who you need them to be. That’s neediness too. It won’t work and does a number on your self-respect.

3. Master Self-Awareness and Open Communication

To get our needs met in a healthy relationship requires self-awareness and effective communication.

First, knowing and taking responsibility for yourself is a vital part of eradicating neediness. No one person is responsible for your happiness. You have the power to seek it and, ultimately, share it with someone else. Understanding this makes you much more self-assured, emotionally stable, and capable of developing lasting love. If you need assistance determining your own goals or struggle with self-esteem issues, talk to trusted family members and friends, or reach out for the professional help of a counselor.  You can then improve self-awareness and solidify your understanding of what you bring to a relationship. The ensuing confidence may be a game-changer.

Second, knowing how to communicate love and respect, prioritize your relationship despite conflict, and assert your needs without coercion or manipulation, are vital relationship skills. In truth, most of us need help with them. 

To avoid neediness or codependence, it helps to have an objective third party, like a couples counselor, highlight and help us through our unproductive communication habits. Most of all, there is no shame or blame in recognizing a tendency toward neediness in your relationship and addressing it. This can help preserve what’s working in your relationship and provide tools for making healthy changes in areas of your relationship that are challenging.

Are You Ready to Resolve Neediness?

Finally, understand that neediness is not the worst thing that can happen to your relationship. You can turn things around with support. It will take effort to work through how neediness plays a part in your connection or how the fear of neediness may be creating too much distance between you and your partner. 

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Grace Wood, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Grace can help you talk about needs with your partner in an effective and productive way, and can work with you to implement healthier communicative habits in all areas of your relationship. To schedule an appointment, call Grace at (512) 270-4883, ext. 116, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We hope to hear from you.

Overcome Sexual Anxiety! Tips to Reclaim Fully Functional Intimacy

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Do anxious thoughts, self-sabotaging behavior, and a troubling disconnect with your partner seem to accompany attempts to get close physically? You may be experiencing sexual anxiety.

Doubt, insecurity, and worry are not the kinds of feelings that you want to characterize your sex life. Yet, if you’re experiencing them on a regular basis during intimacy, the joy of sex may now be seriously hindered. But don’t worry. You and scores of others can overcome sexual anxiety, recover your confidence, and make mutual satisfaction a reality again.

How? The following suggestions and strategies can help turn things around quickly:

How to Overcome Sexual Anxiety

First, extend yourself some patience and your partner some credit.

No one wants to feel that they are disappointing someone they care about. Especially during such an intimate act. However, anxiety tends to test our ability to remain logical and maintain perspective.

Therefore, try not to get bogged down in thoughts of how badly you are performing. In fact, shift your thoughts from your sexual performance:

  • Breathe and look at your partner.

  • Remember that they want to be with you.

  • Intentionally interrupt the cycle of worries thoughts in your head.

  • Focus in on who you’re with and why. You may find you’re better able to relax.

Second, get mindful.

To reduce anxious feelings when it comes to sex, it’s important to slow things down and pay close attention to what’s happening in your body and mind.

Try to get quiet and notice how you feel when you think about sex. Do certain memories arise? Are various sensations uncomfortable? What thoughts recur?

Don’t judge yourself or beat yourself up. Simply use the information as a path towards self-understanding and consider ways to ease into sex and intimacy more comfortably.

Next, give your body the appreciation it deserves.

Body image is a huge contributor to sexual anxiety. Many of us experience real apprehension in intimate situations. Some of us hide our bodies beneath the sheets or the cover of darkness and even more of us run ourselves down before sex with unhelpful self-talk or self-deprecating remarks. None of this, of course, paves the way for desire or confident exploration of each other’s bodies.

To overcome such unproductive and automatic thinking requires two practices:

  1. Intentional attempts to notice and challenge negative self-talk. Pay attention to what you say about your body. Make a habit of rejecting internal shaming with prepared positive, encouraging, thoughts or mantras to help stem the negativity fueling the anxiety.

  2. Routine celebration of your body as it is. Remember, your body is not simply a mass of flesh and bone to be compared to fashion models and professional athletes. It has its own strengths, power, and gifts. Reflect on them, write them down, review the list often and show your body the appreciation it’s due. Teach yourself to value your body for its uniqueness and inherent worth.

Then, release yourself and your partner from your sexual “shoulds.”

Often, we get caught up in the sexual programming of society, media, and our childhoods.

Give yourself permission to look at how your parents, faith, past relationships, social position, and even the movies you watch might inform your ideas about sexual performance. Talk to each other about how you’re affected and make decisions about what really matters to you.

Do you like certain positions, activities, or locations? Decide that the only things you “should” do in your sex life are to please each other and enjoy the experience thoroughly.  It’s perfectly okay to customize your sexual relationship. If you and your partner are on the same page, you can express yourselves however you wish.

Finally, open your mind to support and good ideas for your sexual anxiety.

Sex is such a private thing that we sometimes get stuck regarding problems in that area of our lives. Why? Because we let shame, stigma, or self-criticism keep us from our best selves and our most connected relationships.

Sexual anxiety can go on too long if we let our worries overwhelm our desire to connect intimately. 

That’s why a safe, experienced counselor may be a good option for you individually or for you and your partner. Therapy can help you with tools to address sexual anxiety. You can explore the thoughts and emotions involved, how communication affects your connections with your partner, and whether any past issues need to be resolved.

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If you are experiencing sexual anxiety in either your single life or your relationship, Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, can help. Jill works with both couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin to reclaim fully functional intimacy. To schedule an appointment with Jill, call her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How to Cope with Family Estrangement

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By Roy Faget, MA

Some of us enjoyed highly functional family lives. Others of us have to face hard facts about our family’s dysfunction. Stepping firmly away from key members or an entire group of family members is sometimes the best way to protect yourself from hurtful or damaging connections. In fact, for some of us, family estrangement is the best way to limit the interactions that cause pain and promote chaos in our lives.

However healthy and prudent, separating from family is difficult. We expect that our family bonds are perpetual, unbreakable relationships. There is, at least, some comfort in that. So, the decision to separate yourself from family may be fraught with periods of self-doubt, loneliness, deep sadness, and grief. In addition, you may endure some pushback, judgment, criticism, or disapproval from loved ones and outsiders who disagree with such separation.

Still, you may find that certain family relationships often deserve the dignity of distance for the sake of peace and progress.

The fact is, our families are a fundamental part of who we are as individuals. How we interact, think of ourselves in the world, and how we view our worth and potential is inextricably tied to how well (or how unwell) our families are. When abuse, neglect, disrespect and more become relationship norms, the ill-effects can be devastating. If you’ve chosen family estrangement, it is important to acknowledge that creating distance may be painful, but you can maximize the amount of healing you experience as a result. How?

The truth is family estrangement is marked by feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. Without the usual, built-in bonds and ties that kept life predictable and connected, you’ll have to find ways to cope productively.

Let’s explore 5 Ways to Cope Well with Family Estrangement:

1. First, tap into compassion for the family member you’re stepping away from.

You needn’t harbor ill-will or carry around a load of negative thoughts regarding this person. Consider that their behavior toward you indicates mental, emotional, or relationship problems or patterns that make a relationship with you unproductive or unsafe. That’s okay. They may simply be incapable. Allow and accept that your family member, or members, may not yet have the tools to maintain a loving relationship with you right now.

2. Next, release the guilt.

Be careful to listen to your self-talk and intentionally tone down your inner critic. Your decision to cut ties doesn’t signal that you don’t love or respect your family. Quite the opposite is true. Your choice to be estranged simply relieves you both of roles and beliefs about the connection that aren’t working or aren’t true anymore. 

3. If physical or emotional safety is an issue, take the necessary precautions.

Is your estrangement the result of abuse, controlling behavior, or threats?  It is important to incorporate safety measures so that you can cope well and move forward without fear of your family member, or fear of retaliation for cutting ties. In order to help this cause, limit the information you share with other family members. Consider removing or reducing social media connections and any listed contact information they might use to force unwanted interactions. Allow your decision for family estrangement to be a positive step toward self-preservation and taking control of your life and needs.

4. Set clear guidelines for those relationships you retain.

If you are not estranged from your entire family network, navigating around those with whom you’ve severed ties can be tricky and stressful. Be sure you are upfront and clear with loved ones about your desire to keep your distance from the other person. Though they may balk, be firm about your decision and let them know that you will spend time with them separately or via special arrangement.

5. Finally, deal with your pain.

Facing the anxiety, hurt, anger and pain of the relationship is crucial. Seek out tools and guidance that will help you use the estrangement as a time to recover. Family estrangement, despite the losses, provides space and time to cope through sharing and healing. Use the estrangement as a time to reflect, journal, work with a counselor, and work on yourself. Explore the ways your family has shaped your perspective. Challenge the assumptions you’ve made about yourself, your family, and your potential relationships.

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Roy Faget, MA, LPC Intern, LMFT Associate, works with couples, individuals, and families at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you are facing family estrangement or dysfunction and need guidance on the healthiest way to navigate through, Roy can help. You can call Roy to schedule an appointment at (512) 270-4883, ext. 109, or you can request an appointment with him online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

 

5 Strategies for Establishing Strong Emotional Bonds

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By Roy Faget, MA

We all dream of being close to the ones we love. But what exactly is an emotional bond? And what can we do to establish healthy emotional bonds or connections? Furthermore, how can you decrease the chances of disconnection and detachment with the important people in your life?

David D. Burns, author of Feeling Good, describes an emotionally bonded relationship like this:

When two people respect each other, the ability to be vulnerable and to reveal hurt feelings can create a powerful emotional connection that is the source of real intimacy and friendship.”

Essentially, to be emotionally bonded means that you feel securely attached or connected to another person you know cares for you.

We have an innate need for that sort of bond with our parents or primary caregiver when we are young. Yet, our need to bond to other adults is clear too. We need friendship. We need emotional and physical intimacy. The need to belong to a community, even if that group is just a few safe people, is vital to our mental health and optimal self-image.

How You Can Establish Strong Emotional Bonds

For healthy, mutually satisfying relationships, consider the following tips for bonding well:

1. Study and Learn

Pay attention to your friend, loved one, or romantic partner. Listen and reflect your interest in the other person’s passions, goals, and concerns. Be curious and engage often to further demonstrate how much you value knowing and hearing from them.

2. Develop Trust

No healthy emotional bond exists without trust. This aspect of your bond takes time and must not be broken. It cannot be forced and should evolve naturally. Be gentle with each other and value maintaining trust and trustworthiness.

3. Deal with Relationship Obstacles

Every relationship has limits and barriers. Emotional bonds are built when you face and deconstruct the walls between you and the other person. Do your best, to be honest with each other. Work through your pasts, your beliefs, your values, and your assumptions. The process of tackling the things coming between you shows that you respect each other and your connection.

This allows for consistent vulnerability. Without it, you keep yourself from being hurt, but you also keep key parts of your emotional self separate and unknown. The desire to communicate care and concern for the sake of establishing harmony is a significant way of cementing a connection.

4. Resolve Conflicts Well

Unresolved conflict can wear away at established and evolving bonds. Be sure that you value your relationship above your disagreements. Keep past grievances in the past by staying in the moment and on topic. Let logic and cooler heads prevail. When your friend or loved one sees that the relationship can weather emotional storms, the bond grows more secure.

5. Employ Compassion and Empathy

Work hard at putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Consider their point of view and the “whys” behind the things they say and do. Be curious and mindful about their responses to life situations and avoid jumping to conclusions or making judgments.

Be a gentle and understanding observer.  Imagine what it must be like to live their life and do your best to keep these things in mind as your relationship progresses. Relationships deepen when both people feel considered and understood.

Are You Emotionally Available? 

Perhaps you realize that you need help developing emotional bonds, or that your bonds with important others are not as strong as you would like. Not to worry! Many people grapple with relationship disconnection. If you find yourself struggling to connect in a deeper and more meaningful way, talk to trusted friends and family, or contact a counseling professional who can help you discover insights and develop the emotional tools you need to move toward your relationship goals.

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Roy Faget, MA, LPC Intern, LMFT Associate, works with individuals, couples, teens, and families at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you have been experiencing disconnection in your relationships and are looking to form deeper emotional bonds, Roy can help. Schedule an appointment by calling him at (512) 270-4883, ext. 109, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

 

5 Ways Mindfulness Improves Sex

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By Grace Wood, MA

Sex is not just a physical activity, it is a mentally intimate experience, too. At least, it can be when you know how to tap into the best sexual experience possible. How can you do that? The practice of mindfulness improves sex in ways you and your partner can find exciting and wholly satisfying.

Why is Mindfulness Important for Better Sex?

The practice of being present makes it possible to experience sex with fresh eyes. You can enjoy it intensely, in the moment, fully attuned to what’s happening. You are alive and responsive.

Mindful sex is focused, conscious sex that benefits you in the following ways:

  • You improve your connections internally with your thoughts and emotions.

  • Your connection with your own body and physical sensations is improved.

  • You connect more fully and deeply with your partner.

In essence, when you implement mindfulness, you learn to focus on your emotions and sensations as they happen. And the more you can do that, the better it feels. With those things in mind, let’s explore how mindfulness improves five specific areas of your sex life.

How is Mindfulness Important for Better Sex?

1. Mindfulness Can Reduce the Robotic Routine

Sex can be something that connects us deeply with our partner, with both people tuning into each other’s needs--it can also be repetitive, automatic, and boring. Mindful attention to yourself and your partner means developing the ability to tune into your body and stay present.

The goal? To get away from worry, self-consciousness, or hang-ups from your pasts. You’ll enjoy each other much more by bringing complete attention to the here and now.

These mindfulness tips can help you:

  • Focus on the sensations. Tune into sensuality. Use your senses.

  • Consider and control your breath, muscles, and body position.

  • Minimize diversions and intrusions. Turn off your screens. Make sure you can’t be interrupted by pets or kids.

  • Silence intrusive thoughts and mental chatter (the grocery list can wait.)

  • Be curious. Allow yourself to be curious about your body and your partner’s body. Maybe one or both of you wants to try something new, or you notice that you have a sudden urge to do something different. 

2. Mindfulness Improves Sex by Forming New Sexual Sensibilities

Aside from interrupting routine sex, mindfulness helps create a habit of bringing your mind back to what feels best and most connected. The more you do this, the more you create new neurological pathways. You literally change your mind as it pertains to sex.

Over time, you don’t have to try hard to be mindful or break sexual routine. This increases your chances of wanting to remain physically and mentally linked in the here and now. This easily and naturally shifts the way you approach each other and increases the odds of great sex on a regular basis.

3. Mindfulness can Lower Stress & Elevate Libido

When you are mindful, you practice being aware. You notice your thoughts and responses. This is perfect in a sexual sense. By noticing what thoughts stress you,  you gain the power to calm yourself and reduce stress hormones that reduce libido. As your hormones normalize, you’ll likely begin to want sex more often.

4. Mindfulness can Promote the Practice of Acceptance

The beauty of mindfulness is that it is rooted in acknowledgment and acceptance of yourself and your partner. 

The benefits of such acceptance are that you’ll:

  • feel that it’s okay to be authentic and free with each other.

  • distance yourself from shame and destructive self-talk.

  • connect more deeply with your bodies and be less prone to criticize them.

  • be more accepting of your unique and loving process. 

  • release yourself from the pressure to be perfect or perform. 

5. Mindfulness can Amplify Connection and Deepen Intimacy

Mindfulness can make it possible to slow down and rediscover true lovemaking. Paying attention to the aspects of each other that may get lost in the daily grind is important. Sex becomes decidedly more intimate as mindfulness allows you to tune into the sense of belonging, appreciation, and cooperation flowing between you. Thus, you can relax and trust each other emotionally and sexually.

Finally, Make Pleasure and Connection Your Primary Goals

Learning to be mindful with your partner has no downside. Your relationship, sexually and otherwise, deserves your attention. Embrace the chance to notice and respond to each other in more deeply connected ways. You both deserve to receive and give pleasure in ways that make sex and intimacy natural and gratifying.

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Grace Wood, MA, LPC Intern, can help you and your partner practice mindfulness to deepen your sexual experiences with one another and attain an even closer connection. To schedule an appointment with Grace at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin, call (512) 270-4883, ext. 116, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We hope to hear from you soon.

 

How Negative Self-Talk Affects Intimacy with Your Partner

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By Grace Wood, MA

Closeness and intimacy are the joys of your relationship with your partner. That is what we see in romance movies and crave--a sense of closeness. However, we can easily dismantle that joy if we fail to curb the critical, snarky, insulting voice so many of us have in our heads.

That voice can be a constant soundtrack of negative self-talk that runs down your self-perception, self-esteem, and partnership. This can happen so thoroughly that you end up sabotaging yourself, your love, and your libido. Intimacy just doesn’t have a chance in that environment.

To be close to your partner, it’s crucial that you recognize the thoughts that put up walls, turn you away, and skew deep understanding in your relationship.

How many times have you let negative self-talk about your ability to be loved or to be a good partner keep you from reaching out? Do you remember the last time you allowed yourself to be emotionally vulnerable? How long has it been since you were physically uninhibited without a mental wisecrack about your body?

Those kinds of thoughts and inner dialogue soon wear on your ability to shake off insecurity and relax into emotional and physical intimacy.

It’s Important to Remember that You are in Control

Deep down you know you want to be intimate with your partner. You surely want that much more than you want to waste time engaging your inner critic.
Fortunately, you have the power to establish a deep, mutually trusting connection. You simply need to recognize the influence of the negativity and choose your thoughts with more inner love.

What’s the first step? Learn to be present and notice negativity when it is happening.

Pay Attention to How Negative Self-Talk Impacts Intimacy with Your Partner

To get started, consider these common ways your intimate time together may be affected:

#1: Negative Self-Talk is an Attack on Your Desire to be Known, Loved, and Accepted

When you are at your most vulnerable, wanting closeness and tenderness, negative self-talk can take advantage of your emotional tender spots.
It picks at anything and everything that makes you insecure and self-conscious. Soon your lover’s gaze feels uncomfortable. You may not want the light on. Or, your defenses go up about what you’ve shared together.

As a result, you withdraw or pull away, insecure about pursuing anything closer.
Negative self-talk can keep us in our heads, too absorbed in bullying ourselves to notice that we’re attacking intimacy, as well.

#2: Negative Self-Talk Weakens Your Feelings for Your Partner

Negative self-talk isn’t satisfied to stay on its own side of the street. It will attack your choices and eventually your choice of partner. Your own negative thoughts become a dark lens, destroying the positive, loving view you once had of your partner. Over time, you may even notice that you’ve become comfortable saying critical and cynical things to yourself about your partner or their attempts to get close to you.

What negative self-talk do you notice affecting your treatment of your partner? Do you wrestle with persistent thoughts that you need to back away from someone who (1) couldn’t really love you, (2) isn’t serious about your relationship, or (3) probably isn’t who they seem?

Perhaps you withdraw from your partner as your self-talk exaggerates little annoyances and personality differences. Do their flaws become an excuse to resist vulnerability and deeper interaction?

# 3: Negative Self-Talk Attacks Your Love Story

Negativity can get even sneakier and more subversive as it becomes a regular narrative, wedging itself between you and your partner.
You may sabotage your relationship and your desire to be intimate with thoughts that your relationship can’t survive or that it never was as strong a connection as you thought.

A constant stream of this type of thinking robs your union of fun and pleasant togetherness. Without correction, your partner may indeed succumb to the hopeless distance and give up on trying to draw closer.

Changing Your Negative Inner Narrative

It’s time to put your inner bully in its place. Quiet down the mean-spirited drain on your attempts to be intimate, and address the thoughts that drive it.

You have a choice. Choose to change your mind.

Find solid support and guidance from trusted friends and family or seek assistance from a counselor to help you switch the inner negative narrative to a positive one. Then commit to the proactive practice of challenging negativity. With practice, you can ward off negativity and discover the joys of love and intimacy freely again.

You may even find that loving yourself is a wonderful aphrodisiac!

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Grace Wood, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If your inner negative narrative is creating barriers between you and your partner, we can help restore intimacy. Schedule an appointment with Grace by calling (512) 270-4883, ext. 116, or request an appointment online at the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How to Deal with Condescension and Criticism in Your Marriage

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By Ellen Rohr, M.Ed.

Do you find yourself succumbing to critical thoughts when disapproving of your partner’s behavior? If so, you may in dangerous marital territory.

When negativity, criticism, and a condescending, superior attitude begin creep in to your marriage, you may be on a slippery slope toward letting these relationship-damaging factors begin to override the positives in your relationship.

Hurtful, damaging behaviors such as criticism and contempt may be difficult to identify as it often becomes ingrained in spousal interactions over time. Consequently, it becomes an unfortunate and alienating part of your communication.

Marriage is meant to be a safe, accepting environment.  The last thing you want is for your partner to resent and avoid you. Yet, your relationship will suffer if you don’t have a plan to avoid and recover from such negative obstacles.

Here are steps toward putting a stop to this negative behavior and begin to heal your relationship:

What Do Condescension and Criticism Look or Sound Like in Marriage?

If a condescending tone and criticism in your marriage are routine, it may be difficult to accurately identify them because you have become accustomed to this pattern of communication.

However, with mindful and diligent attention, eventually you can identify unproductive exchanges and hurtful communication. Sometimes contempt and criticism will be hidden in humor or sarcasm. Most often, criticism comes out so easily that you are unaware of it. The first step is to be aware of your hurtful words and negative behaviors, and then review and challenge your own thoughts and commentary repeatedly to make the necessary change.

For example, ask yourself the following:

  • Are your compliments genuine?

  • Are you constantly correcting your partner?

  • Do you in any way demean or dismiss your partner?

  • Do you often take over conversations or limit your partner’s expression?

  • Do you use the word “you” often when having a disagreement with your spouse?

Additionally, take stock of any power struggles in your relationship.  How respectful are you of each other’s needs, time, careers, and parenting styles? Do you both feel that the marriage allows for growth and change without ridicule or resentments?

Why It’s Crucial to Nip Negative Communication Now

Continuing condescension or criticism in your marriage hurts you both. Though you may release steam in the moment, you slowly erode your connection and damage your marriage.

When you use contempt and criticism in communication with your partner, you question your partner’s worth and character, insinuating that you feel you are superior to them. As a result, loving feelings and goodwill deteriorate, straining your bond. Ultimately, condescension and criticism build walls of dissatisfaction and disconnection in your marriage. Closeness, intimacy and forward movement are lost.

How to Cut Out a Habit of Condescension and Criticizing Each Other

Once you’ve acknowledged and accepted responsibility for your offensive words and behaviors, you’ll need to commit to a better communication practice. Try these:

  • Forgive yourselves and each other for the negativity.

  • Commit to practice better, more edifying interaction.

  • Practice more active listening to understand your partner, and less opinion-sharing and advice-giving.

  • Assess your own feelings and emotions, and use “I statements” to express your disappointments to your partner.

  • Talk about your expectations, listen to your partner’s expectations, and learn to be more generous toward each other.

Lastly, try to shift your perspective and become more open to dialogue and compromise. Train your mind to look for positives rather than negatives. Actively look for ways to be grateful and express your appreciation to your spouse. These actions will help break down the tendency to use condescension and criticism in your marriage as verbal ways to connect.

Remember, too, that stress and anxiety can negatively impact a marital connection. Check-in with yourself and your partner to ensure emotions have a voice and that you’re available to support each other. Release steam together instead of at each other.

Finally…

Healthy communication is vital for the life and success of your marriage. If you recognize a pattern of damaging condescension and criticism in your marriage, seek the help and guidance of a skilled couple and marriage counselor.  You and your partner can find more loving, supportive ways to express yourself and your needs, which will repair and reinforce the foundation of your marriage.

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If you recognize any of your own marital patterns in this post, Ellen Rohr, M.Ed, LPC at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin can help. To schedule an appointment, give Ellen a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 115, or request an appointment with her through the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We hope to hear from you soon.

Lonely? Tired of Trying to Find Love? – Individual Relationship Counseling Can Help

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By Mirela Bitkowski, MA

If you’re like many people, you may have assumed that relationship counseling is reserved only for those already in a relationship. Although relationship counseling is typically focused on couples, it is beneficial for single people, as well!

You have a unique history of romantic relationships; perhaps you have a list of simmered out flames, ghosting stories, or even a romantic void.

No matter your situation, individual relationship counseling can help uncover some of the layers and wrinkles that may be preventing you from finding love.

Here’s the scoop on how individual relationship counseling may be helpful for you.

What Is Individual Relationship Counseling?

Individual relationship counseling tackles the concept of relationships using a two-fold approach. In addition to examining how you relate to others, this method also looks at the relationship you have with yourself.

The relationship you have with yourself tends to set the standard for your other relationships. In short, it’s ultra-important! Individual relationship counseling gives your self-identity, self-compassion, and self-esteem plenty of time on center stage.

Individual relationship counseling helps to map toxic patterns and identify old wounds, rooting back as deep as childhood. Plus, this type of counseling promotes a deeper understanding of human interactions and why you do the things you do in relationships.

How Can Individual Relationship Counseling Help You Find Love?

Counseling has the potential to uncover a lot of mystery in your relationship patterns and habits. It may even answer lifelong questions to help you find solutions to your relationship hold-ups.

Encourages Self-Love

Counseling helps promote a deep love and respect for yourself. The more you learn about yourself, the more you acknowledge and embrace your core values. As a result, you begin to develop an authentic love for who you are.

Respecting and valuing yourself is an unrivaled healer and can do wonders for your other relationships, too.

Examines Relationship Patterns

Individual relationship counseling takes a magnifying glass to your relationships, not just romantic interests and previous partners, but with other important people in your life, as well. Rather than pointing out what you’ve done wrong or how you’ve failed, it simply identifies patterns.

People can unknowingly sabotage their romantic relationships because of painful inner wounds that are getting in the way. These wounds can be difficult to spot and nurture back to health on your own.

Talking to trusted friends or family members, or an experienced counselor, can help you spot areas in your life that need to recover from past hurts. This type of inner healing supports vulnerability in your life, which is a fundamental characteristic of healthy romantic relationships.

Establishes Good Relational Habits

As well as identifying patterns in relationships, individual relationship counseling helps to establish good relational habits in your life. These positive habits trickle down throughout your entire life, impacting all your relationships.

Relational habits may include communication skills, intimacy rituals, goal-setting, self-expression, fighting fairly, etc. When you display these valued traits, you begin to attract the right kind of people to you.

When Should You Seek Individual Relationship Counseling?

Many people believe that counseling is only beneficial when things in an existing relationship are bad—rock bottom kind of bad. However, there is no reason to wait for that! Take control of how you want to be in a relationship that’s healthy for you.

It may be that you have trouble attracting the right kind of partner. Perhaps, you don’t know what you truly want in a potential mate. It could be that someone really hurt you in the past and you are having trouble moving forward.

The reasons are endless for feeling unhappy with your current relationship status. The good news is that you don’t have to remain lonely or unhappy. Be proactive! Read books and articles on good relationships, notice couples whose relationships you admire and ask them how they make it work, or seek the help of a relationship counselor who can walk with you in your journey of self-discovery.

By exploring topics such as what a healthy relationship is, and learning more about what you want in a relationship, you are setting your heart and mind on the right course to find love.

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Are you ready to find more satisfaction and happiness in your relationships? If the answer is yes, Mirela Bitkowski, MA, LPC Intern can help. To schedule an appointment with Mirela, give her a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 103, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

 

 

Overcome Your Fear of Therapy: Try These Tips

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By Grace Wood, MA

Many people google therapists, read articles like this one, and even drive around the parking lots of potential therapist’s offices…but they don’t schedule an appointment and follow through.

Often, people struggle far too long with concerns they would like to talk about with a counseling professional because they are worried about the risks, the process, and how they’ll be perceived by loved ones or even the therapist they see.  Fear, stress, and anxiety can get in the way of treating our fear, stress, and anxiety!

Here are some ways to overcome your fear of therapy and find relief in the safety of the therapy room:

1. Stand up to Stigma

As much as we educate ourselves about mental health, the stigma of being unable to manage challenges on our own still looms, even though we long for support. Is that what worries you? Or, are you afraid your loved ones, boss, or even your partner will wonder what’s wrong with you instead of what’s right about getting the help you need?

You’re not alone. Mental health stigma can be scary; it’s scarier to suffer without knowing how to stop your pain.

Try to think about this differently. How would you respond to a family member or friend who felt terrible physically and suffered daily? What if they told you how much they wanted to feel better, but that they were afraid you’d look down on them for going to the doctor? Would you say they were weak, or that they were faking their illness?

Of course, you wouldn’t! Don’t wait to get relief. The stigma around seeking help for your mental health is an obstacle you have every right to bulldoze on the way to feeling better!

2. Rethink Your Problem with Labels 

Diagnoses can feel scary, as though we are being physically branded with a label for the rest of our lives. It can feel as though we are no longer ourselves.

Yet, to go on suffering for fear of finding out what’s wrong cannot be the answer either! Your relief is too precious to sacrifice to the fear of having a label. Again, let’s turn this on its head: knowing what is going on for you is the freedom to know yourself better. It’s the freedom to find the right counselor and treatment for your needs.

If your therapist diagnoses you with a mental illness (which, often they do not), you can use your diagnosis as an opportunity to find friends and supporters who get you. Even better, you can be a support for a community of people who need you and know you understand them.

3. Assert Yourself and Talk Back to Your Inner Critic

Negativity can sink motivation and perseverance if we let it take hold for too long. When you start to think thoughts like, “I’m too far gone for therapy,” or “I’m not hurting enough for professional help,” recognize them as fear-based self-talk. Don’t let that voice steal your chance at peace and progress. The inner critic doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

You have every right to pursue happiness and well-being. Assert your right to speak up for yourself, first in your own head, and then in the safe, supportive environment of your counseling sessions. You deserve it.

4. Be Mindful, Compassionate, and Patient

We can get worked up and upset when we need help. Therapy may seem like a slap in the face to our self-sufficiency and independence, as though we have failed at being healthy, strong, and self-sustaining.

But that isn’t the case at all. We are wired for interdependence and belonging. We’re made for cooperation.

It’s okay to be different, to struggle, to feel whatever you feel; and it’s okay to deal with that in therapy, a support group, or through your own self-reflection and exploration.

Notice and allow yourself to feel the fear of therapy. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Patiently start to work on yourself. Set a goal to call a therapist. When you’ve made the appointment, set another goal to attend the first appointment or have a friend drive you and keep you accountable. Take it one step at a time.

Remember, you’re not in this alone. Therapy is a first step you can make to take care of yourself. It’s okay to reach out for help in navigating the challenges you face in your personal life and in your relationships.

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Grace Wood, MA, LPC Intern, is currently accepting new clients at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you are still unsure about beginning therapy, start by reaching out and giving Grace a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 116, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We’ll take care of the rest.

How to Keep Your Relationship Strong When Struggling with Anxiety

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By Ellen Rohr, M.Ed.

Anxiety disorders have been documented from antiquity to the present. Anxiety is a normal emotion, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to manage.  

If you or your partner are struggling with chronic anxiety, you know the impact it can have on your relationship. It’s important to do whatever you can to keep your relationship strong despite struggling with anxiety. You and your partner will both need to be understanding, flexible, and willing to work together to combat anxious thoughts and feelings.

It’s possible to have a wonderful, fulfilling, successful relationship, even if one or both partners are struggling with anxiety symptoms.

Use the following tips to keep your relationship solid.

Live in the Moment

Anxiety can make a person fearful of what might happen or what is to come. In a relationship, that will eventually cause a lot of distrust. It’s important to live in the moment and be fully present, rather than thinking of the “what ifs” of the future.

If you’re the person with anxiety and you struggle with fears of the unknown, you’re not alone! One of the best things you can do is to pause, tune in to your emotion, and reflect on the cause of the anxiety. Rather than focusing on what you don’t know and what you can’t control, try pinpointing what you do know and what you can control.

If you’re trying to support your partner with anxiety, encourage them to breathe deeply and slowly to regulate their anxiety. Using tools, such as breathing exercises, to regulate your nervous system and slow down, will help you to work through the anxious thoughts and fears together.

Communicate

Communication is important in any relationship, but it’s necessary when someone is struggling with anxiety. The more you keep your anxious thoughts and feelings inside, the worse they’ll become.

While you might be embarrassed or feel silly about your anxious thoughts and worries, it’s important to share them with your partner. The more you communicate what’s going on in your head, the easier it will be for two of you to tackle it together.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Struggling with anxiety often leads to fear and feeling limited in what you can do to alleviate your unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions.

Learn skills that will prevent uncomfortable thoughts or ideas from completely taking over. Try focusing on the emotion you feel, give it some space for a couple of minutes, acknowledge that it’s there. Notice where you feel it in your body. Start to get comfortable with what is uncomfortable, rather than spinning a thought around in your mind. You might find your anxiety easing.

If you’re not the partner struggling with anxiety, it’s also important that you are understanding and compassionate. Don’t force your anxious partner into anything but encourage them calmly. Remind them to breathe, focus on the discomfort in their body, and provide support and positive reinforcement to help them.

Understand How Anxiety Impacts Your Relationship

The more both partners in a relationship know about anxiety, the better. When you learn more about the signs and symptoms, it’s easier to focus on how you can both manage them. Having a support system, or someone on your side can be a big help.

Understanding anxiety often means having a better idea of what causes or triggers your anxious thoughts. That’s a scary road to travel, for most people. Having a partner who understands how anxiety impacts you and your relationship and being with you along the way can make the process much easier.

Once you better understand why you are struggling with anxiety, you can seek help to treat it.

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Ellen Rohr, M.Ed, LPC, is a senior staff counselor at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you or your partner struggle with anxiety and need guidance, Ellen can help. She can work with you to develop a plan to manage your anxiety and build a stronger relationship with your partner every day. To book with Ellen, call her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 115, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.