November 4, 2019
Hijacking airplanes, trains, and ships …. That is relatively infrequent these days!!!
Hijacking Relationship Complaints, well that is another story.
Many people are not paying any attention to who makes a relationship complaint first, and they give a defensive response. I call this jumping over the Relationship Repair Counter. Instead of staying behind the Metaphorical Relationship Repair Counter, the person who hears a relationship complaint about their behavior or personality flaw jumps over the counter and files their own complaint.
Except no one is behind the Relationship Repair Counter. Everyone is at the Counter filing complaints and no one is listening… quite literally.
One of my couples started calling this problem “hijacking” each other complaints, which I thought was a hilarious metaphor. (I told them I was going to write a blog post about it). And it’s so true…
For example, let’s say my husband complains about how I am no longer cooking delicious Nebraska farmer’s daughter type dinners like I used to because I am growing my business. He misses those regular meatloaf and mashed potatoes kind of dinners!
Imagine if I were to hijack his complaint and hold him hostage to my own counter-complaint, let’s say I start complaining about how I don’t have time to cook because he is not helping me enough with the kid’s homework. (***None of this is true by the way, this is only a pretend example…)
Now he feels helpless and as if I don’t even care about his concern. I have hijacked his complaint and am filing my own complaint at the Relationship Repair Counter.
However, imagine what happens if I don’t hijack his complaint…
Instead, I listen and say, “You’re right, I haven’t been cooking as much lately. I miss being able to do that. What do you think would fix that?”
This is proper complaint resolution, and he would probably suggest that we pay for some other service that is less important so I will have time to cook at least a couple times per week. Great, now that’s resolved and there was no hijacking, no defensiveness, no fighting…
If you or your family member is in the habit of hijacking complaints and your complaint resolution needs some help, please Reach Out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates today…
October 28, 2019
It was a busy evening at my Relationship Repair Shop…
This is the name I affectionately call my private practice in the suburbs of Washington DC. Although it was over 7 years ago, I still remember the solution-focused approach I creatively tried out with a stuck client.
Influenced by Gottman’s research and writing about predictors for marital failure, I knew that Defensiveness was one of them!
The husband sitting in my office was a very successful small business owner. Yet, when his wife brought up a complaint he looked like a deer in the headlights. Like most people, he appeared as if he had no idea what to do! After overcoming the initial shock of hearing his wife’s complaint, he then became defensive – explaining his mistakes and telling her why she should not be so sensitive!
Instead of taking responsibility, showing value, listening, and finding a resolution…
I am from a business-oriented entrepreneurial family, so I knew that this client probably had the skill set to show value, provide complaint resolution, and find solutions for his customers!
Suddenly, I found myself asking the husband about how he handles his customer complaints and commented on his strengths as a business owner.
The husband quickly gave me the rundown about how he effectively provides customer service. He now appeared confident as he explained how he listens to his customers and shows understanding – then he inquires “What can I do to resolve this?” I asked him if he defends his employees or explains why a mistake was made during customer complaint resolution. Nope, he doesn’t do that with his customer.
In a quick solution-focused move, I asked the client what would happen if he were to use his strengths in business to apply similar complaint resolution strategies with his wife.
A light bulb came on in his head, and we practiced using a customer service response with his wife’s complaint. He resolved her concern; and she felt valued and respected.
Using this solution-focused approach has become my Anecdote for Defensiveness. Gottman’s anecdote for defensiveness is to help a client to take responsibility.
However, I have found that a lot of people struggle with how to take responsibility. This Customer Service solution-focused metaphor gives people an idea of what complaint resolution is supposed to look like. After all, most people have either had to provide Customer Service at some time in their life or they have experienced good Customer Service.
I have a worksheet with six steps that people can walk through in order to take responsibility at the Customer Service Counter for their relationship. What I call the “Relationship Repair Counter” has become a focal point for work with my clients, most of whom struggle with defensiveness to some degree.
Gottman’s marriage research found that good complaint resolution and not being defensive is a predictor for marital success. Likewise, the most successful businesses also have amazing complaint resolution approaches. They are influenced by their customers and show them value.
I have taught workshops and given speeches about the numerous ways that we can translate the concept of business customer service into our personal and workplace relationships for maximum success and value. I construct my Relationship Repair Counter each time I speak, and I love helping my audience to practice role plays whereby they bring up complaints using Soft Start Up methods and then respond to complaints without defensiveness at the Repair Counter.
We all want to be valued in our relationships, and not just our customer relationships. Receiving and providing complaint resolution and finding reconciliation with our helpmate, our family members, and our work team is truly the core of what makes us human. After all, each of us has a deep yearning to know that we are loved and valued… not just when things are good but when we are feeling wounded, hurt, and concerned.
If you need more help with complaint resolution and opening up your Relationship Repair Counter, please Reach Out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates today!
October 24, 2019
Most of my customers tell me at some point in our journey that therapy is work!!! I agree… it is not easy to work on healing your relationships and issues. Many therapists have gone to their own therapist as required by our ethics code, so we completely understand that psychotherapy can be emotionally tiring and mentally difficult for some people. It can be challenging to find extra money to pay for psychotherapy for a process that requires work and emotional discomfort!
However, the Fall is a good time to get in some sessions before the end of 2019 while your costs are lower. Remember, if you have a deductible – that will likely start over on January 1, 2020!
Also, I urge you to remember that therapy is temporary for most people, so you may want to look at if there is a place in your budget where you can cut back for 2-4 months to be able to afford to get the emotional support and help that you need.
In addition, here are some other ways to pay for therapy services
1) If you have a FSA or HSA Card with funds, remember that you can use those funds to cover therapy services.
2) We have helped many people to make progress towards treatment goals even when they can only budget in the cost of one or two appointments per month. If you tell us what your price point is, then we can discuss what your options are.
3) At our office, we have two interns who will see clients on a sliding fee scale for a lower cost. I still supervise the interns, so you still have the benefit of my expertise at a much lower cost!
4) After your first session, ask your therapist for a treatment plan with goals for each session. For many people on a budget, it can help to know that after you have completed four sessions and paid X amount of Dollars certain goals and interventions will have been addressed. We find that when people know what to expect from therapy sessions, they can do a better cost and benefit analysis.
5) Be sure to tell your therapist what your priority goals are, and start with those first. That way, even if you have to take a break from therapy for financial reasons you will have resolved most of your concerns.
To get more information about how you can make therapy sessions a priority without breaking the bank, please Reach Out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates right away!
October 23, 2019
As you know from my homepage at www.drstephanieonline.com, we promote repairing your relationship with self.
Every so often this means some self-care in addition to whatever therapy you are doing. After all, it’s tough to focus on yourself without some TLC and pampering.
Today, I am reflective of the importance of self-care after a much-needed day off. I still took care of some business appointments later in the day, but this morning I had time for kickboxing, sitting in the sauna, a healthy lunch (Southwest Chicken Wrap), and then some shopping for a pair of new fall boots and jeans.
I must plan my self-care on a weekday when my boys are in school, because on the weekend they want my attention and there is always stuff on the calendar!
Most of my days are filled to the brim between household duties, parenting activities, seeing clients and running the business. But this past week I have been getting a little grouchy. Yesterday I snapped someone’s head off when I shouldn’t have. It was time for a day off. Fortunately, I had planned a day without seeing clients today – I was going to use it to get caught up on administrative work but opted instead for a Mental Health Self-Care Day.
A huge sigh of relief when I woke up this morning and remembered it was a day off. I found myself singing along to a tune by later in the morning. Throughout the day, I noticed negative thoughts popping in my head that have been plaguing me. I cleared them out, wrote them down, and planned out what I would like my positive thoughts to be starting ASAP.
Self-care can mean different things to different people. But the goal is about re-connecting with yourself instead of taking care of others or working. Here is my Top 10 List!
- Heated yoga, Zumba, cycling, an exercise class, or walking outside
- Eating a healthy lunch or dinner at a restaurant (I have no problem sitting by myself and thoroughly enjoy my own company)
- Reading a few chapters of a good book (non-therapy related)
- Browsing in Target (without kids or a deadline)
- Organizing a closet or space in my home that hasn’t been touched in a while
- Journaling and writing down my thoughts
- Hot stone massage therapy (have you tried?)
- An episode of Law & Order SVU (new or old)
- Baking a batch of M&M Monster cookies
- And of course, the best self-care = New boots 😊
I am feeling much better, ready to take on another few weeks of the Metro DC rat race.
How about you? When will you be able to make a little time for self-care and what’s on your top 10 list?
If you need to re-focus on yourself, changing out your negative cognitions, and reducing your stress and anxiety, reach out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates today!
October 21, 2019
Unhealthy control can manifest itself in different ways, however in some cases it can be when a parent or spouse or a friend simply will not listen to you.
Some people are so controlling of other people that they will say things such as, “you shouldn’t feel that way” when someone says they are sad. Or when someone orders coffee, they will say “Why would you like a vanilla latte? Vanilla is so boring; you should get chocolate.”
No. No. No.
We are all different and if someone in your life likes vanilla, they are not boring. They are unique and they happen to think vanilla is a wonderful flavor. Accept it. Buy them more vanilla.
A common hurt that people discuss in therapy is the following: “I feel like he or she doesn’t really know who I am, what I like, what I don’t like, how I feel, what my opinions are. When I try to say what I would like he or she don’t listen.” This leads to feelings of helplessness and frustration because we all want our parents, our spouse, our friends to listen and take notice!
Patricia Evans talks about this in her book, Controlling People, which I recommend. (I am an Amazon affiliate and money from books that I promote in my blogs helps to cover my time writing blog posts and content that can be helpful to my clients and followers)
For example, a bride and groom are telling their parents during wedding planning what kind of ceremony they envision. But one of the parents just won’t have it. The parent wants to control the wedding plans instead of listening and really getting to know their child’s likes and dislikes. While the parents should have an influence with wedding planning, they also shouldn’t completely disregard their child’s feelings and wishes. Rather the child’s feeling and wishes should be front and central.
This can be challenging for all of us. Believe me, there are times when my first reaction is that it seems to me that someone in my family should want to make a different choice. Ironically, it’s usually the choice that I think I would make for myself. LOL. We all have the tendency to think our perspective is the best one!
But when it comes to relationships, if you put control onto other people then you are ultimately creating distance in your relationship instead of creating love and intimacy. You are likely creating power battles instead of acceptance and respect.
Intimacy includes really knowing and celebrating the preferences, needs, likes, dislikes, opinions, and feelings of other people.
I urge you to stop telling other people what they should think, like, or feel because they are likely to stop telling you their innermost thoughts and feelings! You are blocking intimacy.
Instead focus on really accepting what people are telling you they are thinking or feeling. This will build your relationship closeness.
If you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t accept you, causing you to feel helpless, we hope you will seek support regarding how to change your relationship patterns. Or if you recognize yourself in these words and want to learn to no longer control the people whom you love, please reach out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates today.
October 11, 2019
We are co-facilitating a Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Support Group at Capital Women’s Care in Maple Lawn. It will be on Mondays at 7:30 pm beginning on November 4, 2019. The group is a nonjudgmental therapeutic support group for Mothers with children 2 and under.
Any mother who is struggling with stress, sadness, or adjusting to the needs of her new baby and family are welcome to attend – there is no need to have a formal diagnosis of postpartum depression or anxiety.
Registration is required in advance of group attendance to best prepare for the needs of all group members.
Supporting new mothers in our community is so important and we are excited to offer this group with the partnership of Capital Women’s Care and Postpartum Support International.
The group will be co-facilitated by Jennifer Riley, the Postpartum Depression Coordinator for Howard County and Dr. Stephanie Weiland Knarr, Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist.
October 10, 2019
We are looking for a new full time or part time therapist (LGMFT, LGPC, LCMFT, or LCPC) at our Howard County and Upper Marlboro locations. All therapists are being hired as employees. Guaranteed pay is available while therapist is building a caseload.
We have a group private practice model with incentives and commission pay for working efficiently and effectively with clients.
This opportunity is time limited as we are looking to hire a therapist within two weeks, so please Apply right away if you are interested.
October 8, 2019
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Here’s what that means to me…
As a society, we have become more knowledgeable and accepting in recent years that people struggle with mental health concerns … Diagnosis such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, adjustment disorder, eating disorders, PTSD, autism, ADHD, and many more. Most of us are more aware that one in five Americans at any given time is suffering from a mental health problem.
I have noticed that it has become far more common now to hear men and women, teens, and people of all ethnic backgrounds to talk about seeing their therapist. I really didn’t hear this as much back when I started my career in 1999.
However, as my clients have complained about… we still have a long way to go before we treat mental health problems the same as physical health problems.
The source of many mental health problems is relationship problems, family problems, and spiritual emptiness which is why Relationship Repair is so essential, even if we are just Repairing our Relationship with Self!
I know all too well about the stigma. When I post anything on social media about anything to do with marriage therapy, my business, or anything related – it barely gets any likes. But if I post a video, I sometimes will get over 100 views but less than 5 likes, comments, or engagement. No one wants anyone else to know they liked a therapist’s post, but they will watch the video to hear my ideas and advice.
I understand the stigma is still real. I have been through a couple of depressive episodes in my life due to life’s challenges … and it’s not like I ran around openly telling everyone about my ailment the way I did when I have had a sprained ankle. But then again, a sprained ankle is so much more obvious. Which is the point, right?
This post is my part in encouraging everyone to really let this truth sink in… “People with a mental health diagnosis need acceptance, support, treatment, and interventions just the same as humans with physical health problems.”
Just today, one of my associates was telling me how much she wants to help a youth who came to only two therapy sessions. He then stopped his appointments because family members discouraged him from continuing treatment. His family’s opinion is that he does not need therapy or treatment despite a recent suicide attempt and being in the highest risk category for succeeding in a future attempt.
This is only one example of how mental health diagnosis and treatment are sometimes not taken seriously enough!
My clients have more difficulty getting the support of work supervisors for time off work due to a need for mental health treatment. Whereas supervisors are much more understanding for the need to go to the primary care physician or the physical therapist.
These struggles for people to have more treatment and support when they are suffering from various mental health concerns come at a time when the anxiety and stress of many Americans is at an all-time high.
As I see it your brain is a part of your body and we all have problems. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. If only we all could trust each other to be able to talk about those problems more openly in a Judgment Free Zone. I know that’s not realistic but still… I can dream about it!
If you have been putting off therapy intervention but know that you need it – please Reach Out to a Relationship Repair Associate right away for an appointment in a Judgment Free Safe Zone. I sincerely hope you won’t let stigmas and societal confusion about mental health keep you from living your best life…
P.S. If you have tried previous therapies and did not get the right treatment, you can schedule a consultation with me to review what treatments you have tried. I will help you problem solve what might be able to finally get you the relief from symptoms. I want you to have a happy, productive life within your budget and schedule.
October 7, 2019
Today, I was working with a client who really regrets putting his parents as a priority over his wife for the first years of their relationship. He is now doing a lot of repair work on his marriage and learning how to set healthy boundaries with his parents.
When someone puts their parent first over their spouse, this does not happen in a vacuum. It frequently occurs within the context of a young adult who was controlled in an unhealthy way as a child.
I recommend that adults read more about how to recognize and heal from a controlling relationship with their parents. A common book that many clients have found helpful is “If You Had Controlling Parents” by Dan Neuharth. You can find the book on Amazon.
The child grows into an adult whose body and mind are still conditioned to feel afraid of their parent. They are so afraid of their parent’s reactions due to past emotional control sometimes paired with harsh physical discipline that they are afraid to set boundaries with their parent.
Because the adult child is still afraid of his or her parents, they do not put their spouse first. This can come in the form of “we are going to dinner with my parents even though my spouse wants to stay home and rest.” It can come in the form of, “even when my parent is critical of my spouse and gives advice that was not asked for, I am not going to say anything to stand up for my partner or my relationship.”
There are lots of ways this can play out, but the worst part is that the marriage bond is severed. I cannot even begin to unravel the damage that occurs when someone fears their parent’s reactions and then repeatedly does not put their partner as #1.
Your significant other is supposed to be your #1. Your priority is supposed to be first and foremost to the needs and benefits of your partnership, not the relationship with one of your parents or a sibling or anyone else.
If you need help breaking free from the bonds of control by a parent so that you can make your partner your #1 priority, please Register to see of our Relationship Repair Associates today.
September 30, 2019
If you have reached your breaking point, that’s no surprise to me!
During my training as a marriage and family therapist, we were taught that when one person reaches a breaking point they will then push for systemic change within their marriage or family relationship. This push for change often leads other family members to backlash against the person who has pushed for change, creating some turmoil and conflict.
Usually after a period of time, there is a settling in as people adjust to the new changes and expectations.
The breaking point might be someone saying:
- I will no longer stay married if my partner continues to drink and drive
- My child’s behavior problems are getting worse, I have to be more consistent about setting behavioral consequences to extinguish bad behavior
- My partner has been neglecting my emotional needs for too long, if there is not an improvement, I will have to get a separation
- The children’s other parent is mistreating them, I will have to step in to protect my kids
- My parent is critical more than they are kind, and I am adult and will distance myself until this behavior changes
Breaking points can be for many different reasons, and it’s not that I advocate for people to threaten a separation or divorce or to create distance or cutoff in relationships.
However, sometimes I have observed that these threats and pushes for systemic change do ultimately help relationships to improve!
There have been situations when someone leaves or threatens to leave that their partner finally goes to anger management or gets sober or takes initiative to learn how to be more emotionally engaged with their family.
Every household environment is its own family system, and if you are fed up with yours …. if you have reached your breaking point….
Well, it might just be time for a behavioral change that will get the full attention of everyone else in the family. It might push your partner or other family members towards a systemic change that is healthier for everyone in the family.
If you have reached your breaking point and you would like support while you are pushing for systemic change in your relationship, please Register for an appointment with one of our Relationship Repair Associates today!