Linda Ramsey

Fight Fairly: Do You Know How to Do It? Take These Steps

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Some couples seem to have continual conflict while others want to avoid it at all costs. Other couples fall somewhere in the middle of the conflict spectrum. While intimidating and uncomfortable, conflict is an inevitable part of any healthy relationship. The key is to fight fairly when you and your partner have conflict. Take these steps to fight fairly and have more productive arguments:

Stay relevant

Try to avoid “kitchen sink” arguments where you throw in “everything and the kitchen sink.” This tactic is a defense mechanism and only serves to escalate conflict. It is not productive and won’t lead to a successful conclusion. If your fight is about finances, stick to finances. Don’t include in-law issues, parenting problems, or anything else if that’s not what your argument is about. Leave the past out of it as well, and don’t rely on generalizations about your partner’s character. Resolve the issue at hand and if something else crops up, agree to set it aside, and address it separately at another time.

Don’t interrupt

When a fight gets heated, it can quickly escalate into a screaming match where you both want the last word. Instead of viewing your conflict as something negative, try seeing it as a conversation where both of you have the same goal – to understand one another. Let your partner speak without interruption and ensure they allow you to do the same. Take turns and listen to understand your partner, not to formulate your rebuttal or response. Instead of interrupting and interjecting comments to get your point across while your partner is speaking, wait your turn and converse with them as you would outside of a conflict situation.

Attack the problem, not your partner

View the fight as a conversation with the same end goal. To fight fairly means, rather than attacking your partner, you work together to tackle the problem. Remember your partner is not the problem. Accept that it takes two people to have a conflict. Your partner may contribute to the problem at hand, but they are not the sole cause of the situation. Realize that you may be at fault, as well. Be willing to own your part. When you begin to play the blame game, your partner will shut down or play it right back. Blaming, criticizing, and returning a defensive response, will not get to the root of resolution or compromise.

Be open, be honest

When stating your wants and needs in a relationship conflict, be completely open and honest, and speak with kindness. Don’t expect your partner to assume what you want or need from them. Yes, sometimes you must clearly communicate your needs. Your partner is not a mind-reader. Remember, to communicate what you DO want and need. DO NOT list the things you are not getting from your partner and expect them to figure out what you do want. If you’re a people pleaser, try challenging yourself to be vulnerable and truthful to get your needs met. Alternatively, ensure you allow your partner to do the same. Ask and genuinely listen to your partner’s wants and needs without being presumptuous. Ask questions and be curious to be sure you are understanding your partner. Just as they may not realize what you need from them, you may not realize what they need from you.

Watch your body language

Actions speak louder than words. Regardless of what you’re saying, it won’t matter unless your body language matches. Kind words uttered through clenched teeth don’t add up. Your body language will carry more weight in that situation. Don’t roll your eyes, act exasperated, make huge sighs, and scoff or laugh-off what your partner has to say. Eye-rolling, scoffing, sarcasm, and laughing-off something are all signs of contempt toward your partner, a dangerous road to go down during conflict or at any time. Focus on your tone of voice, even try to talk in a lower level than you normally would. Arguments that involve sarcasm or passive aggression are almost always counterproductive.

Compromise

Relationships require compromise, and even during times of conflict. Compromise is about listening and engaging in respectful dialogue. Compromise is not about giving in or giving up to avoid or end a disagreement. You and your partner certainly don’t have to agree all the time, but you each need to, at least, seek to understand the other’s point of view. Research shows that two-thirds of a couple’s conflict is about unresolvable problems. This is the reason learning to compromise and continuing dialogue is so important to a successful relationship. You will likely compromise over and again on the same topics of disagreement in your relationship. Similarly, if you realize that you were wrong, put your pride aside, and own your part of what is going on between you and your partner; stay humble and apologize when you know you’re at fault.

You don’t have to agree with everything your partner says or does, and disagreeing does not mean you love them any less. So often we view conflict as something scary or negative when it’s a healthy part of any relationships. The key is to learn to have conflict and disagreement in a way that is productive and doesn’t harm your relationship. Continue to maintain a healthy and balanced relationship by learning to fight fairly and reframing your view of conflict.
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Linda Ramsey, MA, a counselor at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin, helps couples learn to communicate effectively and productively even during times of conflict. Do you and your partner need some help with this? Contact Linda at 512-270-4883, ext. 106, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How Healthy Boundaries Provide Just the Right Amount of Distance to Connect You

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Navigating close relationships can be tricky.

Especially close relationships with family members.  Often, you come together for winter holidays, graduations, baby showers or other milestones. And all you want is to gather for some low-conflict, person-to-person bonding. One big happy family. But before long, you may find that your family experiences what many others do.

Your father inevitably crosses a line at the Labor Day barbecue, your sister betrays a confidence at Christmas dinner, or your mother-in-law becomes a critic at your daughter’s June wedding. And eventually, your family’s gatherings become an experiment in all the ways you can get on each other’s nerves.

Why?

What’s blocking the path to family harmony?

Honestly, lots of personalities exist in families. Everyone has a shared history but there are also many individual hang-ups, opinions, issues, and backstories at play.

Sometimes the lack of boundaries creates enmeshed family units that have a hard time dealing with each other, unless they are all thinking the same way and deeply connected to the status quo. Other families guilt and blame each other (or certain members) for the trials of the entire group. Still, others maintain a hostile or disrespectful environment despite attempts to come together.

You don’t really need to manage all of that. However, a strong grasp on healthy boundaries could help you manage your own expectations and enjoy your family as much as possible.

Healthy Boundaries: what they are and how they can make your relationships better

Healthy boundaries? No doubt you’ve heard of them. They sound really good to most people.

Limits and parameters seem just the thing to help keep the peace and to promote the harmony you long for, especially in some of your more trying relationships.

“So, great,” you think, let’s “set some boundaries.” Easy, right?

Maybe. But if you’re like so many people who’ve grown up in families that made do without them, then setting firm boundaries may be a foreign concept.

That’s okay. With some loving persistence and knowledgeable guidance, boundaries can help you and yours relate confidently with ongoing connection rather than conflict as the primary goal.

  • What do healthy boundaries do exactly?

The beauty of setting boundaries is that they help you maintain personal values, respect, and emotional safety.

Sometimes families think the blood connection means anything goes. No punches are pulled. Too much is said. But that perspective can lead to families that become more and more toxic, damaged, or distant as time goes on.

Healthy boundaries can be relationship life preservers, keeping you safe in a flood of family upset, drama, or undue influence. Holding to your heathy boundaries will still allow you to reach out and maintain those relationships that are important to you.

  • What healthy boundaries are not

Keep in mind, too, healthy boundaries are not about making demands, power struggles, punishment, or shaming each other into compliance or silence. Limits in relationships aren’t concrete walls meant to stop you from connecting. They are more like hedges or picket fences that invite conversation and interaction, with just enough separation between you to make you think about whether it’s wise to enter another person’s space and prevent trampling each other’s values.

If the boundaries are respected, the hedges can stay low. If not, boundaries afford you a safe point of negotiation. You can clearly decide the nature of your relationship and interaction going forward.

Many couples, siblings, blended families, and groups of in-laws discover that scheduling some time with an objective, experienced family therapist or counselor is advantageous as you work to become more aware of the parameters you want to set in your relationships. Learning to recognize and honor the limits of relationships makes the entire family feel safe with their histories honored and their needs respected.

Healthy boundaries work if you remain curious, compassionate, and cooperative

In addition to tuning into what respectful, comfortable boundaries look like, you’ll become more capable of recognizing boundary breeches addressing them, and handling relationship repair without creating a lot of drama in your family. This holds true in your other relationships, as well. 

How? Healthy boundaries require promotion, protection, and encouragement of the individual, as well as the collective. Why have a family reunion if uniting feels emotionally exhausting or unsafe?

  • Stay curious. Ask questions and listen to each other. Does everyone feel valued and accepted? Is there manipulation, aggression, or resentment among you? Who has a voice and who doesn’t?
  • Setting healthy boundaries takes some courage and awareness. You’ll need to be brave enough to change the status quo and vulnerable enough to ask for cooperation.
  • Setting boundaries is tough work sometimes. You may have to bite your tongue at times to honor each other’s choices. Boundaries may need to allow for less family tradition and more individuality. Negotiated guidelines may need to address how to best deal with unacceptable behavior in the most loving way possible.

Most of all, boundaries allow everyone to take care of themselves and to be themselves, without pressure to accept behaviors or situations that are personally intolerable or becoming part of a mind-meld that doesn’t meet your needs. 
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Are you ready to put healthy boundaries in place in your relationships? Are there other changes you would like to make in your relationships? Linda Ramsey, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern and licensed marriage and family therapist associate with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. She works with couples and families to help them building and maintain healthy connections. If you are seeking support and guidance as you establish healthy boundaries for yourself, contact Linda at 512-270-4883, ext. 106, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page.

EMDR Treatment for Trauma? What Makes It Worth Trying?

By Linda Ramsey, MA, LPC Intern, LMFT Associate

Trauma – caused by abuse, natural disasters, or perhaps battlefield experiences – is a widespread problem. Studies have shown that unprocessed memories of the trauma are often at the base of the negative thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations a trauma victim experiences.

Professionals utilize several effective therapies for treating trauma, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) or psychodynamic therapies. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is one that has become popular in more recent years and shows promising results.

If you’re a trauma sufferer, is EMDR treatment for trauma worth trying?

To make an informed decision, consider what EMDR is, and how it treats trauma:

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is a powerful psychotherapy that can help those suffering from trauma reprocess the pain of their experiences and return to emotional health.

It consists of an 8-phase treatment that helps identify the experiences that lay at the base of your emotional problems. By accessing the unprocessed memories of an experience and activating the brain’s information-processing system, EMDR treatment for trauma addresses the root of your issues.

  • Phases 1-3 lay the groundwork for the treatment plan and reprocessing procedure.
  • Phases 4-6 use bilateral eye movements for processing and installing positive self-beliefs. This part is not complete unless you can think about the target memory without feeling any tension.
  • Phases 7-8 make sure that you feel better and continue to feel in control between sessions.

This step-by-step procedure of EMDR therapy helps the therapist and you to monitor your progress. The amount of sessions needed to resolve your emotional problem depends much on the level of trauma that exists.

How does EMDR treat trauma?

Your brain is wired to transfer episodic memory into semantic memory networks during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. During this process, your brain stores the meaning of an experience, while eliminating any negative aspects of it, such as negative thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

However, some experiences can be so traumatic that they upset this natural processing system. The brain ends up processing the event incorrectly, storing the unpleasant aspects with the rest of the information. Any future encounter with a similar situation can trigger the unprocessed memory, which then resurfaces with all negative aspects attached.

EMDR treatment for trauma takes the memory of those disturbing events and makes the appropriate connections in your brain. In other words, it re-processes the memory to allow you to return to emotional balance. How?

During EMDR treatment, you focus on a troubling memory, then your therapist initiates bilateral eye movements either by having you follow their two fingers held up and moved back and forth in front of you, or using pulsing tappers held in your hands. This stimulates the same processes your brain uses during REM sleep. This allows your brain to naturally make the associations and neural connections that are needed to process the traumatic memory, namely without the negative aspects.

Why is EMDR Treatment for Trauma Worth Trying?

Consider a few points:

  • Many randomized studies have proven that EMDR is a highly effective treatment for trauma. In fact, changes can occur in only weeks, depending on the scope of your trauma, that often take months or years with other types of therapy.
  • While it is necessary to establish a trusting relationship with your therapist, the procedure used in EMDR therapy does not require you to relive in detail or give deeply private information about the traumatic experience. All the specifics happen in your mind. Your brain is doing the reprocessing, the therapist is only the facilitator.
  • An EMDR therapist cannot give subconscious suggestions to your mind during treatment. They can’t make you discard appropriate negative feelings (such as disgust over a rape). Neither can they make you believe anything positive that is not appropriate (such as suggesting you need to learn self-defense methods).

EMDR treatment for trauma can help your mind recover from emotional trauma as fully as your body can heal from physical trauma. EMDR can work well enough to help your painful memories be transformed into a sense of empowerment.

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Interested in discussing how EMDR Therapy might help you? Click here for information on how to contact Linda at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin (RCC Austin).