Chances are, if you know other human beings, you know someone who is queer. Since we still live in a heteronormative culture in the United States (aka a culture where it is assumed from birth that you will be heterosexual), many queer people go through the process of coming out. Coming out can be a complicated process – often, it’s ruled by fear and shame, but it can also be a celebratory time. Many people fear losing their loved ones if they tell the truth. It can be a weight off of a queer person’s shoulders to be able to tell the truth about who they are. It can be a surprise to learn something new about someone you know. Our culture is becoming more accepting of LGBTQ folks, but there is still a lot of unlearning we have to do before the stigma is gone.  

Having to hide something fundamental about yourself can lead to grief. Many queer folks experience some level of homophobia on an external level, but there is also internalized homophobia to deal with. When we grow up in a culture that tells us being straight is the norm, realizing you’re not straight can cause complicated feelings to come up internally as well. Even if we don’t believe it on a conscious level, the message we get in our culture is that being gay is weird or shameful, so it’s hard to completely avoid that, even for out + proud LGBTQ people.

Understanding that there are larger cultural forces at work than just an individual’s decision might help you come to terms with why coming out can be such a struggle. The pull between being your authentic self and risking the rejection of everyone you love is agonizing. 

If someone comes out to you, there are some important things to keep in mind to make sure the experience is a positive one and not traumatic. Here are some things to keep in mind when someone comes out to you: 

Remember it’s an honor

When someone comes out to you, they’re trusting you with their true self. Many queer folks have to make hard decisions about who it is safe to come out to. LGBTQ people run the risk of losing their relationships, being rejected, being discriminated against, and being misunderstood when they make the choice to come out. Even if this is not how you feel, it’s important to recognize that someone coming out to you is an honor. This means they feel safe enough around you to share this important information. 

Never ever out someone

There are absolutely zero circumstances where it is okay to out someone without their permission. Outing someone without permission is an act of violence. LGBTQ folks face a lot of discrimination and violence in the world, and sharing this fact about them with others can lead to more of it. They get to decide when to come out and to whom. Remember, someone who is out to you might not be out to others. Many queer folks are out in social spaces, but not at work or in their family lives. Coming out is a personal decision that should only be made by the person themselves.

Ask who knows (so you don’t accidentally out someone)

Related to the last point, when someone comes out to you, make sure to ask who knows. This is an important step to make sure that you don’t accidentally out someone. Ask if there are certain people who don’t know. Make sure you understand exactly who you can talk to about this. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and don’t say anything. 

Don’t make it about you

Sometimes to help us understand things, we relate them to situations we’ve experienced ourselves. This is not the time to do that. Someone’s coming out is not an opportunity for you to make the situation about yourself or your reaction. If you’re having a hard time with the news, wait until you’re no longer with them before you begin to process your feelings. It’s okay for you to have your own reaction, but don’t add your reaction to their to-do list. 

Remember they haven’t changed

Even after someone has come out, they are still the same person. They are just able to stop hiding their true selves. Instead of feeling as though you’ve lost something, remind yourself that you’ve gained something more precious: their trust. 

Be polite

Just because someone has come out to you doesn’t mean that you can let all social graces fly out the window. It’s still inappropriate to ask people invasive questions about their sex life, their body, their medical history, their plans for having children, or other private matters. Even if they’re choosing to share one aspect of their lives with you, that doesn’t mean that you have unlimited access to everything. Remember your manners! 

Celebrate them

Too often coming out is seen as a bad thing, and that’s because of our largely homophobic culture. While the tide does seem to be turning and LGBTQ folks are more accepted these days, many people still see coming out as losing something rather than fully stepping into who you are. Coming out doesn’t need to be a devastating experience but it is way too often because people see being queer as a bad thing (even if it’s subconscious). Let’s celebrate people who come out instead of seeing it as something taboo. Throw them a party! Take them out for a special dinner, or write them a card about how excited you are to know them even better. A positive loving response to coming out can go a long way to making an LGBTQ person feel affirmed and safe. 

If you or someone you know is questioning their sexuality or in the process of coming out, our LGBTQ+ affirming therapists can help support you during this process of self-discovery. Get in touch today to find a therapist that fits your needs. 

What You Should Know About Nonmonogamy (Even If You’re Monogamous)

When you hear the term “nonmonogamy” what do you think? Does it make you feel tense or threatened? Does it make you curious? Do you feel confused? Don’t worry – there are no wrong answers. Nonmonogamy is something that is starting to become more mainstream, but many folks don’t really understand what nonmonogamy can mean other than infidelity. Obviously, infidelity is a huge betrayal, but all nonmonogamy isn’t necessarily cheating. Nonmonogamy can cover a wide variety of relationship structures.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll be talking about ethical nonmonogamy – a nonmonogamous relationship structure where all parties involved are informed and consenting (rather than someone who is cheating, where not all parties are informed).

Nonmonogamy isn’t right for everyone, but there are things everyone, including monogamous folks, can learn from relationship structures unlike theirs. 

You may have also heard the word “polyamory” used in addition to or in place of nonmonogamy. While they are similar concepts, there is a difference between nonmonogamy and polyamory. Nonmonogamy is a type of relationship structure that allows for participants to have more than one intimate relationship at a time. This is an umbrella term that can include polyamory, but it can also include things like swinging or more casual encounters where there is less emotional intimacy. Polyamory, on the other hand, is the ability to fall in love or be emotionally intimate with multiple people at the same time. Just as some folks are more comfortable in a monogamous relationship with one partner, some people prefer having multiple partners. It’s just a preference!

Nonmonogamy has become a more popular topic, perhaps because as a society we’re becoming more accepting of people loving who they want to love in the wake of LGBTQ+ marriage equality in the US. With this increased popularity is more easily available information about nonmonogamy. Even if you’re monogamous, there are still helpful things that we can learn from nonmonogamy and apply to our relationships, whatever form they take. 

Here are some important things that anyone can learn from nonmonogamy:

Attraction is human

Just because you’re in a monogamous relationship with someone doesn’t mean that you’ll never find anyone attractive again. Although there can be a feeling of security that comes from thinking your partner only has eyes for you, it’s not really realistic that you or your partner will never find yourself attracted to anyone else. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to experience attraction – it’s human nature. If experiencing attraction to someone outside of your relationship is uncomfortable for you, that can be a good jumping-off point to explore why.

What feelings does the situation bring up? What are you feeling in your body? Where are those sensations? How can you soothe yourself? What do you want your partner to know about what you’re feeling?

Communication is essential

Many people wonder to themselves how nonmonogamous relationship structures work, and a big part of the answer is communication. Nonmonogamy is something that will naturally bring up a lot of intense emotions – jealousy, joy, shame, curiosity, freedom, fear, overwhelm, loneliness,  etc – and it’s important to be able to talk about those feelings with your partner. However, nonmonogamy isn’t the only relationship structure that brings up those kinds of emotions – many monogamous relationships and even platonic relationships can bring up these feelings. It’s helpful to any kind of relationship to improve your communication skills. Learning how to communicate effectively can help build a sense of trust in your relationship, whatever the structure is. 

People aren’t possessions

One big aspect of monogamy is the idea that you “belong” to your partner and vice versa. While this isn’t representative of every monogamous relationship, it’s common enough that it’s seen as relatively normal. However, even if you’re in a monogamous relationship, your partner isn’t “yours” – they are their own person with their own agency and own ability to set their boundaries. Feeling possessive over someone you care about isn’t something to be ashamed of, but it is important to recognize that feeling something and acting on it are different. When these feelings come up, it’s a great opportunity to bring it up in your relationship. 

One person can’t meet all your needs

Do you know how you have friends that you hang out with for different reasons? You might have a friend that is more adventurous, or a friend that is a great listener, or a friend who knows your whole backstory so you don’t have to explain it. The point is, different relationships meet different needs. The same can be true of romantic relationships. You might have a romantic relationship that is built around sharing a home or raising kids together, but there are other needs that you have that your partner just won’t be able to meet. That’s not a knock on your partner, but it’s impossible for one person to meet every single need of their partner. Expecting them to sets them up to fail and it sets you up to feel disappointed or resentful. 

Even though nonmonogamy isn’t for everyone, it’s a relationship structure that can teach us a lot. If you want to work on any of these areas, our clinicians can help you apply them to your relationships. 

When was the last time you took stock of the relationships in your life?

Any kind of relationship, not just romantic. Think friends, coworkers, family members, neighbors – the list can go on and on. Some relationships we don’t have much control over. We might work with people we ordinarily wouldn’t spend time with, and we certainly can’t choose what family we are born into. However, there are relationships where you can decide what you’re willing to give, even if you’ve never considered that an option before. Some friendships wax and wane in intensity over the years. Some romances are lifelong and committed, and others are more casual. We all have an idea of the relationships we currently have in our lives, but it’s helpful to regularly take a step back to consider our relationships and if they’re serving us. Journaling can be a great way to do this!

Why is this important right now?

We’re in a period of uncertainty right now on a number of fronts, but one thing you can control is who you give access to you. Taking the time to carefully consider the relationships we have in our lives gives us a chance to set boundaries. Boundaries are always important, they are especially important right now in 2020 so you can help manage and protect your energy and your mental health. 

Boundaries are there to help us protect the relationships that are important to us while also giving us space to be honest about what we need. Instead of starting a fight or creating awkwardness, boundaries should be a sign that the relationship is treasured.

Since we typically don’t understand what boundaries actually are, we might think they’re too harsh, or that they’re putting restrictions on us. In reality, boundaries are just another way to practice self-care. Remember: self-care is about doing things that will actually take care of you, and that can sometimes mean you have to have an uncomfortable conversation or stick up for yourself once in a while. Boundaries are there to help prevent us from burning out and they allow us some kind of control on where we spend our emotional and social energy. 

Isn’t that a little harsh?

It might sound harsh to talk about considering relationships in this way, but you do yourself a disservice by not digging deeper into your feelings on your relationships. Going with the flow and never questioning anything can lead to resentment, discomfort, and arguments, among other things.

When you think about your relationships, consider:

Relationships involve people, so of course, they can get complicated. However, it’s normal for relationships to change over time. We tend to think of a relationship as being over if there is a decrease in closeness or connection, but it’s okay to realize that sometimes the best way to serve yourself and your relationship is to step back. Realizing that a relationship needs to change is hard to swallow, but it can be a way forward where you thought there was a dead end. Asking for what you want and need in your relationships shows that you care enough to make changes and communicate with the other person. It’s really a compliment, when you think about it!

Think about it like this: someone cares enough about your relationship to come to you and figure out a plan to keep the relationship going, even if it has to take a new form. That’s pretty amazing!

If you’re interested in examining your closest relationships, journaling is a great place to start. It’s cheap, it’s simple, and it can get you in touch with your emotions and help you notice patterns that you wouldn’t normally see. 

Here are some journal prompts to examine the relationships in your life:

  1. What does love mean to you? 
  2. What does intimacy mean to you?
  3. What relationships make me feel seen?
  4. What actions can someone take to make me feel seen? 
  5. What are three things I admire about ?
  6. I feel drained after spending time with
  7. I feel energized after spending time with
  8. I feel like I can be myself around
  9. How satisfied are you with your social life? 
  10. What is something special about ?
  11. How would I describe this relationship to my best friend? 
  12. How do I feel about asking for help? 
  13. What are three important qualities you look for in a friend? 
  14. When we spend time together, who initiates it? 
  15. Is this person reliable?
  16. How do you like to communicate hard things? 
  17. How do you like people to communicate hard things to you? 
  18. Do you tend to hold grudges, or do you forgive and move on? 
  19. What is the ideal size of your social circle?
  20. What am I grateful for about ? 
  21. Does inspire me to be a better person? 
  22. Does take an interest in my life? 
  23. Do I take an interest in life?
  24. What is my Love Language? 
  25. What are my deal breakers in a friendship?
  26. What are my deal breakers in a romantic relationship?
  27. What does good communication look like to you? 
  28. What qualities do I bring to a relationship? 
  29. Who do I rely on most for support? Why? 
  30. Who do I dread seeing? 
  31. Who is the last person I said “I love you” to?
  32. What frightens me about relationships? 
  33. Have you been hurt in past relationships? How? 
  34. Describe your ideal friendship.
  35. Describe your ideal partnership. 

Journaling isn’t the answer to everything, but it can be a nice place to start while you work out what you need from the relationships in your life. Realizing relationships need to change can make you feel guilty or sad, but remember that setting boundaries with someone can actually make the relationship stronger than it was before. If you need help examining the relationships in your life, our clinicians can help. 

Relationships take a lot of work.

While the good times feel easy and wonderful, there are times of conflict in every relationship. And, there are a lot of things about relationships, boundaries, compromising, and communicating effectively, that most of us just don’t learn. (Until we have to learn them the hard way.)

Sometimes we need outside help. Whether that’s seeing a therapist with your partner, or seeking advice elsewhere, there is nothing wrong with asking for help when your relationship needs it! So we’ve put together this list of books on relationship conflict, communication and intimacy to help. 

For self reflection to improve your relationships:

Relationships thrive when we are able to show up, 100%. This means that to have healthy relationships, part of the work has to be on ourselves first.

Deal Breakers: When to Work On a Relationship and When to Walk Away by Bethany Marshall:

A deal breaker is a boundary that smart people set for themselves because they know that falling in love can make them do stupid things. Through case studies, deal breaker scenarios, and suggested courses of action, Deal Breakers expertly guides frustrated women. By defining your deal breaker, you hold all the power to create the happiness you deserve.”

When the Past Is Present: Healing the Emotional Wounds that Sabotage our Relationships by David Richo:

In this book, psychotherapist David Richo explores how we replay the past in our present-day relationships—and how we can free ourselves from this destructive pattern. We all have a tendency to transfer potent feelings, needs, expectations, and beliefs from childhood or from former relationships onto the people in our daily lives. Whether they are our intimate partners, friends, or acquaintances. When the Past Is Present  helps us to become more aware of the ways we slip into the past so that we can identify our emotional baggage and take steps to unpack it and put it where it belongs.”

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum:

Mira Kirshenbaum provides expert guidelines that are the key to making all your choices, concrete steps that you can implement right now, and the ultimate way to determine your personal bottom line—what you need to be happy.”

For increasing connection & strengthening intimacy:

It’s normal for passion in a relationship to fluctuate: when you first get together it’s probably very strong. After a while, you may know each other better and surprise each other less. But that doesn’t mean that connection and intimacy are less. Learning to recognize how connection and intimacy show up in all stages of a relationship (and how you & your partner feel intimate and loved) can help keep your connection strong, no matter what stage you’re at in your relationship.

The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman:

In The Relationship Cure, Dr. Gottman: Reveals the key elements of healthy relationships, emphasizing the importance of what he calls “emotional connection”; introduces the powerful new concept of the emotional “bid,” the fundamental unit of emotional connection; provides remarkably empowering tools for improving the way you bid for emotional connection and how you respond to others’ bids; and more!”

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman:

In the #1 New York Times international bestseller The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner—starting today.”

Mindful Relationship Habits: 25 Practices for Couples to Enhance Intimacy, Nurture Closeness, and Grow a Deeper Connection by SJ Scott:

With the relationship advice outlined in this book, you will get insights and lessons learned from a variety of relationship and mindfulness experts — all backed by scientific research. Each habit presented offers a clear explanation of why it’s valuable to the health of your relationship and instructions on how to make the habit a natural part of your interactions with your partner.”

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find–and Keep– Love by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller:

Attached guides readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mates) follow. It also offers readers a wealth of advice on how to navigate their relationships more wisely given their attachment style and that of their partner. An insightful look at the science behind love, Attached offers readers a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections.”

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman:

Packed with practical questionnaires and exercises, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is the definitive guide for anyone who wants their relationship to attain its highest potential.”

Couple Skills: Making Your Relationship Work by Matthew McKay:

Couple Skills, Second Edition, revised and updated from the therapist-recommended classic, will show you how to work smarter in your relationship. You’ll learn to improve communication, cope better with problems, and resolve conflicts with the one you love in healthy and creative ways. Each chapter teaches you an essential skill that supports greater relationship satisfaction and deeper intimacy.”

Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel:

Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships. Wise, witty, and as revelatory as it is straightforward, Mating in Captivity is a sensational book that will transform the way you live and love.”

For handling & resolving conflicts:

Avoiding conflict often means ignoring feelings, neglecting needs, and being dishonest. Instead, couples can learn to “fight fair” and handle conflicts productively in their relationships, to honor their own needs, and the needs of the relationship. 

Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding by Aaron T Beck:

With eloquence and accessibility, Dr. Aaron T. Beck analyzes the actual dialogue of troubled couples to illuminate the most common problems in marriage–the power of negative thinking, disillusionment, rigid rules and expectations, and miscommunication.”

Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In by Laurie Puhn:

In Fight Less, Love More, readers will learn how to identify the bad verbal habits, instinctive responses, and emotional reasoning that can cloud judgment and ultimately lead to the deterioration of otherwise healthy relationships. With exercises, examples, and sample scripts, Puhn’s modern voice presents simple 5-minute strategies create immediate, positive changes and provide long-lasting communication skills that couples can continually employ when faced with conflict.”

Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love by Nancy Dreyfus:

This revised edition features two new sections—one on making love and another on deepening trust—containing over 25 new “flash cards for real life,” written statements that hold the power to express what we wish we could say to the person we love but for which we can’t find either the right words or the right tone in which to say them. Each of the statements in this book is accompanied by “field notes” from the author that explain when, why, and how to use the statement, as well as real-life stories from the author’s practice.”

Ask for help when your relationship needs it: 

If you can’t find common ground or resolve the conflict on your own, that doesn’t mean that hope is lost. Sometimes we need an outside perspective to help us get to a more honest and natural understanding of our relationship and our partners. If working on the issue on your own isn’t working, consider taking the conversation to couples therapy

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for HuffPost.

“For someone who has recently gone through a loss, understand that “one of the best things you can do as a friend, family member or support person, is to hold space for them,” said Maureen Werrbach, owner of Urban Wellness Counseling in Chicago.

All too often, we offer quick fixes or minimize a person’s feelings because of our own discomfort in watching them grieve, she said. “But the best thing we can do is actually be a witness to their pain, acknowledge it and hold that space with them.””

Read the whole article here.

3 Tips for a More Peaceful Roommate Relationship

Living with a roommate can be great!

It can help take off the financial pressure of handling everything on your own, and it can be fun (if you get along). But when two people, no matter how friendly and compatible they are, start living together, there can be a pretty big learning curve. 

What if they have a totally different expectation of how roommates should live together than you do? Or if they do something to upset you? What if, no matter how much you personally get along, your living styles just seem to clash?

How can you come together and make your home a safe and relaxing space for both of you? While part of it is simply finding a roommate who is compatible with you, there are ways you can go about brokering peace with a roommate who’s lifestyle clashes with yours: 

Establishing Boundaries

Before moving in with someone else, you should have a general idea of what type of home environment works best for you. Think back to previous living situations. What worked? What didn’t? 

Think about what’s important to you at home. Do you need lots of personal space? Do you have expectations for how chores will work? What are your feelings on overnight guests? Can you share each other’s groceries? Is your bedroom off limits? 

Keep these boundaries in mind as you look for a roommate.  

Communicating Boundaries

Boundaries are hugely important in any relationship, but it can be tricky to figure out how to make them clear to someone you live with. Establishing exactly what your boundaries are is only the first step. Your roommate is not a mind reader, and subtle hints aren’t enough to communicate your needs clearly.  

What not to do: 

Don’t just send them a text that says “House Rules” and then lists out how you want your home to be, without ever consulting them. 

A better approach: 

Prioritize time for you and your roommate to come together and talk about expectations and boundaries. Make a list of your hard boundaries–things you are absolutely not willing to compromise on–and a list of things you would prefer but that have some wiggle room. 

Right when you move in, say something like: “Hey! I’m so excited to be living here, and you seem like a great roommate. I think it’s important we start off on the right foot. Can we set aside a night to talk about house rules and personal boundaries?” 

You can make regular roommate meetings part of your schedule–especially as you’re first living together. Get together now and then, have a cup of coffee and mention what’s working well about living together, and what still needs work. 

Then, if a boundary is crossed, it will probably be time for a difficult conversation. 

Having Hard Conversations with Your Roommate

Living with someone, whether you’re close friends, friendly acquaintances, or something else entirely requires the same intentional care as any other relationship. This means, at some point you will have to have some sort of difficult conversation (probably more than once!). 

There are a lot of ways to approach difficult conversations with roommates. (Unsure how to get started? Check out our guide Should I Text It or Say It In Person?) What is important is that you take time to think of exactly what you want to discuss and make sure it’s an open space for both of you. 

Having difficult conversations with a roommate will probably feel uncomfortable–that’s okay! But keep in mind that you are roommates–you’re sharing a home that you both want to be comfortable and happy in. And the only way to do that is to make it clear what will make you feel comfortable and happy and open the conversation up for them to do the same. 

What not to do: 

Texting your roommate out of the blue with a laundry list of things you’re upset about and demanding an apology is probably not going to get you anywhere. Likely, it will just upset them. 

When you don’t give the other person in the conversation the opportunity to understand where your feelings are coming from, you aren’t actually giving them all the information they need. If all they know is that you’ve sent them an angry text, how will either of you know that the core problem has truly been addressed? What’s not to say it will all happen again? 

A better approach: 

If you still feel the urge to write out that angry text, do it. But don’t send it. Let yourself get it all out–sometimes we need that release before we’re able to approach something calmly. When it’s all written out, go back and delete the whole thing. 

Replace it with something simpler that allows them to engage in the conversation. Say something like, “Hey I’ve been thinking a lot about X. I have some roommate concerns about it, can we find a time to chat?” 

Telling them what you want to talk about will help them feel less blindsided, and give them a chance to figure out their own needs and priorities around the issue to discuss with you as well. It also lets them know in a clear and calm manner that things need to change, but it doesn’t place blame or point fingers. 

Remember that likely your roommate is not setting out to upset you with their behavior. You are two different people who have your own specific needs and preferences. And when two people with different needs and preferences come together, it can create conflict. When having those difficult conversations remember you’re trying to find a middle ground where both of your needs are met and you are able to compromise so that you are both comfortable in your home. 

We’ve all been there.

You need to say something to someone. Set a boundary. Air your grievances. Communicate your needs. But the idea of saying something difficult to someone’s face can be unthinkable for some folks. Not everyone is taught to communicate in the same way. There may be very legitimate reasons for your dislike of face to face conversations including past bad experiences sharing and social anxiety, just to name a couple. While we are moving toward a culture that’s more accepting of casual forms of communication, there are still some things that are best discussed in person. The tricky part, sometimes, is deciding what method of communication is appropriate. 

So, what are your options for communicating with other people? In general, our choices are texting or other written communication, voice messages, and in-person chats. These options range from not super intimate (texting) to potentially very intimate (in-person), so keep that in mind when choosing your method of communication. 

There are definite benefits to communicating via text instead of face to face.

With texting, you can remove some of the awkwardness of having a hard conversation face to face. You can also think carefully about your words before you send them to the other person. Having a serious conversation over text can also be helpful to the other person – it gives them time to compose themselves if they’re upset and to reply in a thoughtful way instead of having to respond instantly in person.

However, there are also reasons why texting might not be the most appropriate method of conversation. When you have a talk over text, you have to wait for the other person to respond. Waiting for a message back after you’ve texted something serious can heighten the anxiety of the situation. It’s also nice to keep in mind that not everyone communicates well through the written word, so texting isn’t always the way to go. Finally, texting offers the least information of any of the above communication styles, so misunderstandings are more common via text message. Without the benefit of tone and nonverbal communication like body language, your message might not get through at first. 

One way to decide what method of communication to use is to decide what message you want to send.

There are different aspects of communication to consider. Of course, words are a part of conversing, whether they’re spoken or typed. There’s also tone to take into consideration – the way someone says something can be as important as what they say. Another aspect of communication is body language – this can be an important source of information during a conversation. 

When you think about the methods of communication that you use, consider which aspects of communication they provide.

You can kind of think of these options as a spectrum. The first option, texting, offers the fewest aspects of communication, while in-person talks offer the most. However, sending a text is generally less involved than talking to someone in person. As the available information increases (tone, body language), the task becomes harder. 

Trying to decide which type of communication is right for you is probably going to depend on the situation. What works for talking to your best friend about canceling plans probably won’t work for talking to your boss about getting a raise. 

In general, a good rule of thumb is that the more serious the conversation is, the more clear the communication should be.

Since texting is the simplest and least clear method, a serious conversation might not be appropriate in a text-only format. Talking in person can be uncomfortable, sure, but it can also lead to fewer misunderstandings and can be less time consuming than a long text thread. 

Another option is to directly ask the other person how they communicate best. You might be nervous to have a serious talk via texting and then find out that that’s how they’d prefer to talk too. Everyone communicates differently, so what works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa. If you feel safe enough to do so, get in touch with the other person and ask how they like to have serious conversations. 

Finally, some folks have intense anxiety about talking to other people. If the only way you can communicate effectively is through text message, then it’s probably better to communicate that way than not at all.

You deserve to communicate your needs in whatever way works for you. Just know that sometimes you might have to clarify further or explain yourself when you communicate over text.

Our options for communicating are only growing by the day. Because of this, it’s nice to find your boundaries for different types of communication. Remember, your communication method of choice will probably vary from situation to situation, and that’s okay! Think carefully about what message you want to send. Then choose the communication method that matches up with that AND lets you communicate confidently. If you need help deciding how to communicate best with other people, our therapists can help you come up with a plan that works for you. 

Conflict, in any relationship, is inevitable. 

No matter how perfect you and your partner are for one another, no matter how much you love each other, and no matter how much you usually bring out the best in each other–it’s just a fact of life. You are different people. And the differences that make you unique and special will, at some point, cause a bit of conflict. But conflict isn’t the end of the world–or the end of the relationship.

When handled well, it can be a mirror on just how strong you and your partner are as a team. Because partners who are too afraid to be vulnerable, too scared to offer up how they’re really feeling in the fear that it will cause conflict–they aren’t being honest with one another. 

Conflict, when handled well between partners, shows you that you trust one another enough to be honest with each other. 

(This doesn’t mean you should be screaming at your partner any time they disagree with you. Just that removing the pressure to agree and be in harmony all the time is actually a sign of strength in your team, rather than weakness. We’ll get to how to best handle conflict below). 

If you’re struggling to find resolution to your relationship conflicts, remember that it is not you vs. your partner, but rather the both of you vs. the conflict

Learning to reframe arguments and relationship tensions in this way can help remind you that you are a team–and most often, you’re a team that works well. The disagreement between you won’t be solved by playing the blame game. So take a step back and ask yourself, how can we, as a team, find a way to resolve this? 

There are a few key guidelines to fighting fair in your relationship. Along with reframing the conflict as we did above, these guidelines include: 

Not reacting in the heat of the moment:

It’s very easy to say something you don’t really mean in the heat of the moment. When you feel vulnerable and hurt, there can be an instinct to lash out, to try to hurt the other person back. But reacting in anger probably won’t help you find a resolution. Instead take some time to calm down, to release your feelings on your own (in a journal, vent to a friend, talk about it in therapy, etc.) before confronting your partner. Then when you’ve both had a chance to cool down, come back together and work from a place of wanting to solve the problem instead of wanting to react to it. 

You can say something like, “I’m very upset right now and I know that it’s important that we talk about this. But I’m feeling too hurt to work through this right now. Let’s each take some time to cool down before coming back together to figure this out.” Make it clear that solving this problem is a priority to you–but that you need some space to work through your own feelings first. 

Reminding yourself that you’re both trying your best:

Just as you are trying your best, so is your partner. They likely didn’t set out to hurt you (just as you wouldn’t set out to hurt them). But we all react differently to things. Remind yourself that you’re both on the same team. And if you both commit to understanding one another, you probably can solve whatever problem you are facing. 

Being as honest as possible: 

Your partner can’t read your mind. Even if it feels like they understand you better than anyone else, they can only respond to what you tell them. When something upsets you, tell them. Remind yourself that they didn’t set out to upset you, but that they need to know about it going forward. Keeping things in to avoid conflict isn’t actually avoiding the conflict after all–it’s just keeping it within yourself. 

Give them a chance to be a part of the conversation: 

Just like they can’t read your mind, you can’t read theirs. So, don’t work out what you’re going to say based on how you want them to react. Be truthful and honest, and trust that they also want to resolve the conflict. And ask them to be truthful with you too. You might say, “I know we both want to work through this. The only way that will happen is if we allow ourselves to be open and honest, no matter how scary it might feel. I trust that you don’t want to hurt me on purpose, so I’m going to tell you the truth about how I’m feeling and why, and I hope that you will do the same for me.” 

Giving your full attention to the issue at hand: 

Problem solving shouldn’t be happening in the in-between moments. You shouldn’t be watching a movie or scrolling on your phone while you and your partner are having a serious conversation. Set aside time specifically for the two of you to come together and discuss the issue at hand. 

Speaking from the self: 

This means talk about what you’re feeling and what you think would help it, instead of accusing your partner of something. If you constantly fight over one of you not doing the dishes, instead of saying “you don’t ever do the dishes, you don’t care about our home!” explain the feelings behind the anger. You could say something like “I feel sad when I come home to a sink full of dishes. I want our home to be a nice space for the two of us to spend time together. I would feel loved and appreciated if you would help me out in maintaining that.” 

Ask for help when your relationship needs it: 

If you can’t find common ground or resolve the conflict on your own, that doesn’t mean that hope is lost. Sometimes we need an outside perspective to help us get to a more honest and natural understanding of our relationship and our partners. If working on the issue on your own isn’t working, consider taking the conversation to couples therapy

When you hear the word, “boundaries,” what do you think of? In a relationship context, boundaries are both necessary and helpful. Even though boundaries are a part of every relationship we have, folks tend to think of setting a boundary as something that means the relationship is unhealthy. However, establishing a boundary in a relationship can actually improve your interactions with the other person. Setting a boundary can actually be a sign of a healthy relationship. 

Boundary setting might be foreign to you and that’s okay. Many of us grow up as people-pleasers, so the idea of actively sticking up for our own needs feels strange and even difficult. As with most things though, it gets easier with practice. However, there are so many benefits to setting boundaries in your relationships. Even though it’s intimidating, it’s a valuable practice. 

What’s a Boundary?

First of all, what even is a boundary? A boundary is just a limit that you set in a relationship. You can have a boundary in any kind of relationship, not just romantic. In fact, you probably have more non-romantic boundaries than romantic ones! The purpose of setting a boundry is to help protect your sense of self and is an advanced form of assertiveness. Setting a boundary in your relationships can even be a form of self-care.

A person with no boundaries in their relationships might get pushed around by others and feel like they have no control over their life. This loss of control can feel really overwhelming, and it can even lead to putting up emotional walls to protect yourself. Establishing boundaries in relationships can help balance that feeling of overwhelm. When you feel less overwhelmed, you can be more present in your relationships on a day to day basis. However, boundaries are not nagging, attacking, threatening, blaming, or criticizing. 

Some Examples of Boundaries:

There is an infinite number of boundaries you can set – all that matters is that it works for you and that you can communicate it to others. 

Why Are Boundaries Important?

Boundaries can improve the emotional health for both parties

Instead of feeling distressed or unsure when you’re around this person, knowing what you expect of each other can take off some of that pressure. 

Setting a boundary allows you to feel enjoyment over resentment

It can be wildly frustrating to feel misunderstood by or resentful of someone, especially someone close to you. Before setting a boundary, you might feel bitter at the idea of interacting with this person because you aren’t sure if you’ll be respected or heard. After talking about a boundary though, it’s easier to let go of that resentment and enjoy the moment because you’re on the same page. 

Boundaries let you feel more present + mindful in interactions

Sometimes we get so in our heads about an interaction that we kind of miss it completely while worrying about it. Has that ever happened to you? The idea of interacting with someone with no boundaries might make you nervous, leading you to stress out the entire time and focus on how they’re going to treat you instead of on the actual topic. When you talk about your needs, though, it’s easier to relax into the interaction because you have established the trust beforehand. 

Setting a boundary can help increase confidence

It feels pretty great to ask for what you need and then get it. Boundary setting takes practice, and you can build that practice over time. Start with something small – maybe say, “Actually, I’m not done speaking,” the next time someone interrupts you. It might feel super aggressive to you at first to ask for what you want, but after seeing people respect your wishes, you’ll feel more confident the next time you need to establish a boundary.  

Boundaries lead to intentional interactions

How many of our interactions happen on autopilot? We tend to follow the same scripts for interacting with people until we decide otherwise. Sometimes, we just let interactions happen to us, instead of going into them with purpose and intention. Setting boundaries is one way to make your interactions more mindful and intentional. Both parties can lay out what they want and need with respect, and use that respect to improve their interactions. 

Boundaries give you a script to follow – if x happens, my response will be y.

Another great thing about boundaries? They give you a script to follow. For example, let’s say that your boundary is that you don’t want to speak about your weight or your body. You can let people know that bringing up that topic means the end of the conversation. Then, if your boundary is crossed, follow through on what your boundary says. 

Setting boundaries let you feel more in control

You are in charge of you – no one else is. You have to be the one to make and enforce your boundaries because no one is going to do it for you. Like we said earlier about building up confidence, setting boundaries successfully can help you feel more in control of your relationships.  Setting boundaries helps you go from being passive in a situation to being an active participant, and it is totally in your control. 

Boundaries help improve communication overall

One of the most frustrating things about relationships with other people is that sometimes you just don’t understand each other. Instead of wondering what’s going on in someone’s mind during an interaction, talking about your boundaries beforehand can help you understand their perspective. Clear, up-front boundaries can help cut down on misunderstandings that come from trying to read someone’s mind or expecting them to read yours. 

Can you think of a boundary of yours off the top of your head?

What do they look like? Are they spoken or unspoken? Do your boundaries support your relationships (including the one you have with yourself)?  Which ones are working for you, and which ones do you need to tweak? 

Your boundaries can evolve over time, so make sure to check in with yourself regularly to see if your feelings about a boundary have changed. Once you put in some practice sticking up for yourself and your needs, setting boundaries in the future will be a lot less intimidating. 

If you need help figuring out what your boundaries are, get in touch with one of our therapists today for support!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Bustle.

“Finding humor in your relationship goes a long way. “Studies show that couples who laugh together often are more emotionally connected and enjoy being around each other,” says psychotherapist Maureen Werrbach, LCPC over email. “Having inside jokes and being able to laugh together is a surefire way to keep the excitement up in your relationship.” According to a study published in Personal Relationships, couples who share laughs together have longer, healthier, more vital relationships.

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Bustle.

“As psychotherapist Maureen Werrbach, LCPC tells me, you two should sit down, make eye contact, nod to show you’re listening, and ask questions. “Anything that lets your partner know you are actively listening and interested in them,” she says. It’ll make all the difference in the world.”

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

As a therapist who often works with couples or individuals with relationship issues, it is fascinating to see the patterns that emerge. We all have them. It seems in every relationship we are in, varieties of the same issues come into play. Of course, depending on the intensity of the relationship the trait can vary from annoying to extremely painful. For example, it may be a slight annoyance if it seems like the sales person is not really listening to us. But when it seems like our significant other is not listening to us, it can become painful and isolating. The point of this article is not to take the blame for others insensitivity, but to better understand what “pressure points” are and how we can protect ourselves when it feels like ours are being pushed.

What is a “pressure point”?

According to the dictionary, one definition of a pressure point is “an area of the body that is sensitive to touch”. If someone has a sore back, when that specific area is touched that person may wince in pain. The same spot can be touched on someone else and they will not even feel it. When it comes to interpersonal relationships it can be helpful to apply this physiological concept of pressure points to emotional aches as well.
Consider our example of feeling like people don’t listen. One person may be able to laugh it off as the other person being a space cadette, while another person will feel deeply pained by it. What is fascinating, is that that same person who feels pained by being unheard might be totally ok with something like harsh insults. The point is, it cannot be concluded that someone is just hypersensitive. It seems that there are specific emotional pressure points that can be pushed by those we are in relationships with.

How Can we Identify Our Own Pressure Points?

Think back to your earliest relationships– your parents, your siblings, family members, childhood friends. Can you identify some of the conflicts you have had with them? It could be something extreme like childhood abuse or substance abuse issues. Or it could be more subtle like slight criticism or just a vague feeling of being uncared for emotionally. Our earliest relationships often create the patterns we are forced to understand and compensate for later on in adulthood. The intention is not to blame our parents for our issues, but to understand where our pressure points may be. Here are some common examples of pressure points and understanding their origin:
  1. A woman gets mad at her husband for drinking too much alcohol, even just occasionally. It turns out, she had to deal with her alcoholic father as child and felt quite embarrassed by it. When her husband drinks (even responsibly) that pressure point is pushed.
  2.  A man has a very hard time at his job. He was reprimanded by his boss that he is unable to accept criticism, even when it is simply just constructive criticism. It turns out, as a child he was very harshly criticized by his father. Criticism (even constructive) is his pressure point.
  3.  A woman is struggling to be in a long term relationship. She notices her past boyfriends report she can be “too needy” or “clingy”. It turns out, many years ago this woman’s father left her mother and went on to start a different family with a different woman. The woman on a conscious level feels that she has moved forward from this. However, the fear of people leaving has become her pressure point.

How Can We Use This Idea to Improve Our Relationships 

We cannot possibly expect our significant others to never push our pressure points. However, it can definitely be helpful to sit down and have a conversation about this concept. In the first example above, the woman can sit down and explain to her husband: “I know you are not an alcoholic. But I just want to explain to you why I react the way I do when you drink too much, even occasionally.” By doing this, you make it more about you and your own struggle and less about criticizing the other person. You are not ignoring or suppressing your feelings. Rather, you are addressing them in an open, honest and non confrontational way. Sometimes, just the understanding of one’s pressure points can diffuse the conflict.
One last idea that could be helpful:  It’s important to try to figure out what our partners’s pressure points may be. Some people may be less capable of expressing and exploring this concept than others. If we can try to figure it out and avoid pushing it when able, the whole relationship could dramatically improve.

About the Author

Heidi Kalman, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park and Sauganash locations. Heidi works with adults, couples, and families. Heidi’s specialties include EMDR, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. If you are interested in working with Heidi, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for The Gottman Institute.

“Positive Sentiment Override (PSO) or the Positive Perspective is something that couples can work on every day. Having a Positive Perspective of your partner and your relationship helps to more effectively problem solve during conflict, make more repair attempts (an action or statement that aims at reducing escalating conflict), and generally see your partner in a more positive light.

Negative Sentiment Override (NSO) or the Negative Perspective, on the other hand, distorts your view of your partner to the point where positive or neutral experiences are perceived as negative. Couples in the Negative Perspective don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt.” –Maureen Werrbach, LCPC | Therapist at Urban Wellness

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Psych Central.

“It’s an inescapable truth that you and your partner will argue or fight. Often in therapy, I see that couples are unable to resolve a conflict, especially if it is regarding what renowned couples therapists Drs. John and Julie Gottman call “gridlock issues.” When this happens, couples often argue, then one partner or both exhausts the argument until someone walks away from the fight. Other times, couples resolve the fight they are having, but not the underlying problem. This means the fight will happen again when one partner’s underlying problem resurfaces in a different argument.” –Maureen Werrbach, LCPC | Therapist at Urban Wellness

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Psych Central.

“So you’ve scoured the Internet, read a bunch of self-help books, and even seen a therapist to help you learn how to communicate effectively with your partner. Eventually you come to the conclusion that no matter how fairly you fight with your partner, he or she just doesn’t fight fairly in return.” –Maureen Werrbach, LCPC | Therapist at Urban Wellness

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Psych Central.

“…The foundation and inside of a healthy relationship rest on things like trust and commitment, fondness and admiration, turning towards and a positive perspective of your partner, as well as a healthy conflict style, and shared meaning.” –Maureen Werrbach, LCPC | Therapist at Urban Wellness

Read the complete article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Psych Central.

“Love is what connects us to others. It provides us with fond memories of those around us. The truth about love, though, is that it often links our own happiness with the happiness of others. We feel compelled to make those we love who are unhappy, happy.” –Maureen Werrbach, LCPC | Therapist at Urban Wellness

Read the full article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Psych Central.

“The beginning of a relationship is a lot like buying a new house. Everything seems terrific, and that initial excitement can last for weeks, months, or even years. But like any house that isn’t taken care of, eventually your relationship may start to fall apart, leaving you wondering where it all went wrong.” –Maureen Werrbach, LCPC | Therapist at Urban Wellness

 

Read the full article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!