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Ask Eleanor
Ask Eleanor, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1517
Experience:  Marriage & Family Therapist/Prof. Counselor for 20 years
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Relationship issues

Resolved Question:

i am wondering if somebody can help me. i don't have the right tools in my current relationship to fix our problems and i need to talk to somebody who can give me ideas. we have had issues for several months and i neglected to address them b/c i didn't realize how serious they were until recently when the tables turned and i now get it. the issues have been a lack of intimacy and me being snappy and crabby. both i attribute to a job change with increased stress levels and not making enough time for myself. i also don't feel as confident as i did about my body as i did when we first started dating - so being intimate was not on my highest priority. my gf has been telling me for months that it was bothering her and i did make small efforts, but it wasn't enough. now she has started filling a void with having a crush or feelings or something that i can't label for somebody else. we have a lot to work through and we need to see somebody and our therapist is out of town until june 20. i am hoping you can give me ideas for tools or lists that we can create to help us cope until june 20. or any other ideas. thanks
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Ask Eleanor replied 3 years ago.

Ask Eleanor :

Hello, I am here for you and am happy to respond. Is your therapist a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Customer:

to be honest i am not sure

Customer:

and thank you

Ask Eleanor :

Was she working with you on couples issues?

Customer:

we went to her maybe 2 times in the past when we were first getting started in our relationship to work out some kinks but that was maybe 6-8 months ago?

Ask Eleanor :

Did she help you, were you comfortable with her?

Customer:

also i should say that this is a female and female relationship

Customer:

not sure if you have experience in that department or not :/

Customer:

yeah she was very helpful

Customer:

we are trying to brainstorm ideas of how to work through this difficult time until our therapist is back in the country june 20

Ask Eleanor :

Certainly, I have experience with lesbian couples. I am pasting in something I want you to read and then chat back.

Customer:

ok thanks

Ask Eleanor :

ASSERTIVENESS COMMUNICATION MODEL



STEP 1: Tell the other person that you understand how they feel, where they are coming from.


EXAMPLE: I know it is difficult for you to open up about your feelings and get angry when I encourage you to share your emotions with me.


STEP 2: Tell the other person how you feel, where you are coming from.


EXAMPLE: But I care about you and want us to be close and share our feelings and get very disappointed and sad when you close yourself off from me.


STEP 3: Ask for what you want (without the expectation that you will get it).*


EXAMPLE: I have found a model of communication, called ASSERTIVENESS, that I think could help us. Would you be willing to try this? It would mean a lot to me.



* The idea here is to use this model to improve communication, not to manipulate the other person into giving you what you want; if misused it will backfire.



When we adults have disagreements in our current relationship, we usually respond in one of two ways, withdraw or become aggressive. Neither of these responses facilitates an emotionally intimate relationship. We learn to withdraw or become aggressive in our childhoods as this is how we coped with discord in our families of origin. So we are programmed for an automatic response to conflict and need to re-program ourselves, our brains to respond in a healthy, assertive way. When we practice assertiveness we are honoring each person’s feelings (no one is right or wrong) and both have an opportunity to ask for what they want. The idea is to repeat the model over and over in working through the issue. For instance if in the example above if the person being asked to participate refuses, then the asker would repeat the model and say: Step 1: I understand that you are not ready for this right now and must find it a bit weird and feel uneasy about trying it . Step 2: I am disappointed, but I don’t want to give up just yet. Step 3: Will you a least take the paper and read and think about it and let’s talk again next week? Even if we do not get what we want from the other person, our self-esteem gets a huge boost from expressing our feelings and asking for what we want. The Assertiveness model also works well in other situations, work, siblings, friends, parents, etc. And it is the ultimate, healthy way to be able to say NO, which we often find difficult.


__________________________________________


ASK ELEANOR AT JUST ANSWER

Customer:

i am not sure how to apply that to this situation... neither one of us is unwilling to fix things or try. i am just sad and she is frustrated and mad that it took forever for me to try harder to fix things.

Customer:

so we both feel mad/frustration/sad just from different angles

Customer:

i can definitely see myself and my style is both withdrawing and aggressive

Customer:

and often a combo of both

Ask Eleanor :

I understand. This communication model should help the two of you a great deal until your therapist returns. I have never found a better communication tool for couples to use to promote intimacy in over 15 years of practicing couples therapy.

Customer:

one second sorry

Customer:

ok

Customer:

sorry i am at work

Customer:

and had a call

Ask Eleanor :

No problem. I also highly recommend the book Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix which you may find at Amazon.com. It is written for straight couples, but applies to all.

Customer:

that is a good idea - we were thinking of goign to a bookstore tonight and looking at books

Customer:

maybe we could read it together

Ask Eleanor :

Yes, definitely! The book has exercises for the two of you to work through.

Customer:

she feels frustrated that it took me so long to react to her needing more support and intimacy from me.... and now i don't know how to speak to her and get this fixing in motion.

Customer:

how do you think i can ease her frustration?

Ask Eleanor :

Use the assertiveness communication model, show it to her and the two of you practice it to talk about your feelings. When you read it away from work I believe you will see the value. She will know you are serious about working on the relationship problems if you tell her about the communication model and the book. You will then have concrete tools that will give her hope. Do you have any further questions, dear?

Customer:

can you help me word it?

Customer:

i am not sure how the model exactly works yet. can you give me an example with my situation (sorry i am clearly a slow learner)

Customer:

or can i practice writing it and you can give me feedback?

Ask Eleanor :

Yes, practice by all means and I will give you feedback.

Customer:

#1 - natalia i understand that you have been frustrated over the last few months, and i now can see where you are coming from.

#2 i am feeling very hurt and sorry for my lack of attention in those aspects and hurt over the events in the last weekend.

#3. this is where i am stuck

Customer:

#3 can we fix this and go back to a healthy and happy place?

Customer:

that is what i want but i know that isn't the right way to ask

Customer:

b/c i have already asked that and she is frustrated and can't get passed her frustration and says it can't be fixed overnight....

Ask Eleanor :

Excellent 1st two! How does the following sound for #3?

Customer:

thanks

Ask Eleanor :

I really want us to get back to a healthy and happy intimate relationship. I have found two things that I believe will really help us. Will you let me share them with you and consider giving them a try?

Customer:

i now can see how this model is helpful in the communication process.

Customer:

i do like that. and those two things are the ACM and the "getting the love you want" book, right?

Customer:

i also made reservations with our therapist when she returns and set up a standing appt each week

Customer:

so i will have 3 things . yay

Ask Eleanor :

Correct. Great, certainly tell her about the therapy appts. Do you have any further questions for me?

Customer:

sorry yes- maybe a couple more qusetions

Ask Eleanor :

Okay

Customer:

well i want to get your advice mostly on how i can internally cope with something maybe you have some insight

Customer:

my ex gf is still one of my best friends. nothing inappropriate happens with us - it is strictly a friendship. her and her gf broke up and i allowed her to move in my home with me and my current gf. well bc my current gf has been frustrated and had a void for so long she started to like the attention/the distraction from my ex. we all went away this weekend. and i confronted current gf and she said she might have a crush but doesn't know what it is. this is where i need your insight.... i know i don't want to lose current gf - i kicked old gf out. i requested neither of them talk to each other moving forward until i am comfortable again. i don't know how to get it out of my head tho- and it is causing more stress

Customer:

and more frustration

Customer:

(also she only lived with us for 2 weeks)

Ask Eleanor :

Well, good that you told her to move out! I would imagine that your current gf was highly uncomfortable and upset that she moved in with the two of you in the first place. And while she may not have told you this, she may be expressing her anger at what happened by telling you she has a crush on your ex. The answer is to focus on you current relationship and repairing it. I would discuss the ex with her using the assertiveness model.

Customer:

yes i realize we should not have opened our home now. it is sad b/c the ex is a very good friend of mine and i wanted to help her when she was in need opposed to her sleeping in her car, etc. do you have any tips on how i can not panic every time one of them doesn't answer their phone. i feel like i am going crazy/

Customer:

i don't think i can ACM with myself

Ask Eleanor :

Yes, when you begin feeling panic, focus on your physical symptoms, you rapid breathing and quickened heart rate, sweaty palms, any physcial manifestation of panic. Focusing on your body will engage the other side of your brain and the panic will ease.

Customer:

ok i can try that. it isn't so much a panic attack as it is i feel like i am going nuts thinking they might be sneaking off together or something insane and i know they wouldn't but i can't get it out of my head.

Ask Eleanor :

Should still work for you. Also, quit calling them unless you really need to talk to them. Any more questions, dear?

Customer:

no that is all thank you for your time and insight

Customer:

i am satisfied with the conversation and will gladly pay you-

Ask Eleanor :

You are so very welcome. I has been my pleasure. Please remember to click on the green accept button so that i will receive credit for my professional time with you. You may return to this Q&A for reference at any time after you accept. Thank you and take care, Eleanor

Ask Eleanor, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1517
Experience: Marriage & Family Therapist/Prof. Counselor for 20 years
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