Relationships Thriving Despite the Pandemic Have These 3 Qualities

Relationships thriving during the pandemic

The pandemic has put pressure on so many areas of our lives. And relationships are definitely one area that may be suffering right now. Pre-pandemic, we had our offices, our nights out with girlfriends, our family gatherings and churches to take the pressure off. Now we are stuck at home with our spouse and kids, no outlets for anyone. 

 

The added stress that we take on adds pressure to our relationships. But we can still survive, and even grow! Here are three qualities that couples that survive (and even thrive!) possess:

 

  1. Good Communication

Now with telecommuting, you may be with your partner 24/7 and the issues that were conveniently pushed aside are now glaring at you all day. You can’t escape to the office, or go have drinks with your friends to get space. The tension often times leads to a big argument, often over small things. 

 

The silver lining is that being together all the time is allowing you to see where you need to address the issues in your relationship. So talk about what is bothering each of you. Work out some of these things that maybe you have been pushing under the rug. And if it gets too much, see a therapist or other trusted person to help you get through it. 

 

Be aware of your needs, either for closeness or for space and let your partner know. Sometimes we feel like “this is the way it’s always been; I don’t want to change.” “I feel guilty for asking for space,” or “I feel guilty for asking for more intimacy.” This is normal. Change can feel scary and unnatural. Asking for what we need can feel vulnerable. However, you can use this time to be an opportunity for growth, for your relationship and you personally. 

 

Find ways to work out the small things that annoy you from being together all day. Learn how to communicate so that the small things don’t blow up into big arguments. Sometimes small tweaks to communication can prevent hours of arguing over small things. If you don’t know what to say, read books, go to youtube or find a therapist to help you make these changes. 

 

2.  Acceptance of the Messiness of Life and Relationships

Life is messy with the pandemic. Kids are having to do school over screens, we are having to meet our friends over zoom; everything feels less than ideal.  This is no different from our relationships. Things will be less than ideal. Date night? Forget the romantic candlelit dinner at the 5 star restaurant (it’s closed). Need some alone time with your spouse? Forget it, your kids will be there! 

 

In your relationship, you may be bickering more. You may feel less excited about being with your partner since you are with them all.day.long. Don’t let this immediately send you into wondering if you should break up with this person. Life is messy and right now our relationships are going to be messy. We can acknowledge that right now things feel a little out of whack. And we may need to reassess and tweak things to make our relationships work.  And that’s ok. 

 

  1. The Ability to Find Creative Ways to Have Fun

Everything is closed. And if you have kids, you have no babysitting. This makes it (really) hard to have fun. And although Netflix is a fine way to pass the time and bond with your partner, finding creative ways to have fun can spice up a relationship and break up the monotony of being home all day. 

 

Be open to new things. Many of us have had the same routine for many years. Our day to day lives have become stagnant, and maybe our relationship reflects this. This is a time where you can open your mind to new activities and bond with your spouse. Trying new things together often brings a new spark into a relationship. 

 

Find a new hobby together, learn a language, cook a new dish. We can’t go to museums or restaurants, but we can do things outdoors. Depending on the weather, and where you live, there are many things to do outdoors. If anything, take a walk and have a quality conversation with your spouse. Got small kids? Put them in the stroller and have them go with you. Take the dogs too! Exercise, sunlight and nature are excellent for our mental health. And if you are both happy, you will be better partners. 

 

We are living in unprecented times. Things have shifted and changed. And with that, our ways of life have also changed, in our work, our schools, and our relationships. Being flexible to that change, learning to adapt and be creative, can allow our relationship to not only survive but grow into something amazing. 

 

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in couples counseling. She serves the San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont, Cupertino, and surrounding Bay Area. If you are interested in couples counseling to survive the pandemic, find out more about her here

 

How to Stop Arguing Over the Smallest Things (video!)

 

How to Stop Arguing Over the Smallest Things | Relationship Advice

 

Do you ever find you and your partner arguing over the tiniest things? Something so small that a day later you don’t even remember what you fought about? Well today I’m going to talk about why this happens and how to stop doing it. So you can stop arguing over the smallest things and get on living your life! 


Now Arguing about small things, we have all been there. We are all there right now! And I would argue that arguments over small things are actually harder to deal with than arguments over big things.

Say for example your spouse cheats on you with their coworker. There is no doubt who is at fault who needs to apologize, etc. But when it’s a small argument, its there is a difference in reality. To you, it’s a big deal but to your spouse it’s nothing. So it’s hard to get on the same page. And you end up fighting about whether or not it’s a big deal.

So much of this has to do with communication, unspoken wants and needs and misguided assumptions. And I’m going to help you wade through some of this today.

So let’s get started with  some Do’s and Don’ts to stop arguing about the smallest things:

 

For the person who is angry/annoyed:

Do
:  be mindful about when you are starting to get annoyed. 

Take a breath. When you are annoyed, I know the first thing you want to do is let it out. My advice is to slow down a little and think about what outcome you want. Don’t settle for short term gains–yelling and getting angry are short term forms of relief. However, you will end up arguing with your partner potentially for hours or days. So think about your goal.

Do: figure out why this small thing bothers you so much.

What does this small thing symbolize? For example, I see a lot of wives who ask their husbands to run small errands while coming home from work and the husband forgets. The wife, in return, gets very angry. Why does this happen?  Come to realize that the wife knew her husband was very on top of things at work but when it came to home, the husband was more relaxed. She felt that he cared less about home than work and felt less important. Less valued and ignored. 

So when she could communicate why it hurt her so much, the husband was more open to hearing her. When she could say “it hurts when I see you put so much energy into finishing tasks at work but you forget just a small thing for us, I feel forgotten and unimportant.”

VS “you always forget. You are so irresponsible and I don’t even know why I bother asking.”

Maybe you don’t want to go that deep for whatever reason, you can communicate using the lighter version:

Do: Use the sandwich method.

The sandwich method is simply two sides of bread which is positive, and the meat which is your ask. I simple template like this can be used: 

First part:
“I appreciate that you ______________  (made dinner for the kids)“or 

“I know that you ___________________(are exhausted from working 12 hour days)”

Second part:

“I’d love it if you could remember to put the milk away. I don’t want it to spoil and not having to see it out and worry about it would really just make things easier for me.” 

Third Part:

I know you do a lot for us, so doing this one other small thing would really help.

Do: Be mindful of your tone.

So much of our communication is body language and tone of voice. If you come to your partner with a negative tone, your spouse is likely to be defensive and not give you the listening ear and validation that you need. Sometimes just reminding yourself that your spouse in general is a good person, a good partner, and all the things that you are grateful for can help calm you down so you can communicate in a constructive way.

 

For the receiver of the complaint:


Do: Take the ask seriously.

Maybe the issue is small to you but it probably has a deeper meaning for your spouse. Don’t ever assume that this is an issue about “going to the grocery store.” Ninety nine percent of the time, there’s something else underneath. 

So if for your spouse you keep forgetting to go to the grocery store, basically you are telling her over and over again” you are not important.” and this erodes trust in the relationship

On the other hand, you just remembering to do the little things makes a huge difference. It shows you value your spouse, it shows you understand what is important and you are taking it seriously and not blowing it off. You will come across as dependable and trustworthy. 

And this is for doing the small things. 

Don’t: tell your partner that they get mad about “the littlest things.” 

Or that they get angry over things that “aren’t important.” Maybe it is important to them. Your partner is not you and does not hold everything that you hold important and unimportant in the same way. Try to understand why things are important and try to come up with a compromise that will help your partner be heard and understood. If you can do this, this will build trust, and they are likely to loosen up their expectations as well. 

Do: Validate, own up to your mistake and fix it. 

A simple “oh shoot, I forgot, sorry about that, I’ll go right now. I’ll try to remember next time by setting an alarm on my phone.” Takes about 30 seconds to say but can prevent hours worth of arguing. 

Do:  look to make permanent changes.

Do not do it for a few weeks until you’re in your partner’s good graces again and then go back to what you did before. This will erode trust in your relationship. Make your best effort to do it for good. If you cannot, talk to your partner about why and come up with a good compromise. 

 

For the person who is angry/annoyed:

Do: look for progress, not perfection.

If you see that your partner is genuinely trying, give them some grace to mess up from time to time. Understand that (like I said above), what is important to you may not be important to them, so give them some time to adjust and build a new habit. 

Do: Affirm and appreciate when your partner is trying to make a change.

Your SO is doing this for you and they do it because they love you and want you to be happy. Your affirmation helps solidify that this new habit is something worth doing. Just like with our kids, we want to connect a good behavior with a reward so they want to keep doing the good behavior. If your partner connects putting the milk away, washing the dishes, helping with the kids, with a “thank you, that really helps!”, they will be more likely to do it. 

You may be thinking “I have to appreciate my partner for something they should already be doing?!?” I hear this a lot. I’m not here to say what is right or wrong, only what works. And if you want your partner to change their behavior, appreciation is a way to reinforce the desired outcome.  If something inside you doesn’t feel right doing this, I would suggest you talk this out with your therapist or trusted person to figure out if there are deeper issues going on. 

So try those things and see if you don’t start seeing your arguments become smaller, shorter and less explosive. 

 

About the author: Lia Huynh LMFT is a therapist who specializes in high conflict couples. Her private practice serves the San Jose, Fremont and Milpitas areas of California. She also sees people all over the state of California through online therapy. If you’d like to learn more about her, click here for more information.

 

Here is a direct link to the YouTube Video

 

How To Talk After An Argument (video!)

Couples Trust Building Therapy

Couples Therapy | Let’s face it, after an argument, when things have cooled down, the last thing some of us want to do is bring it up again. And yet we know that talking after an argument is a good idea. Some of us don’t really know how to do that. Maybe it wasn’t modeled to us in our own families–everyone just swept it under the rug and moved on. Or maybe you’ve tried talking about it but it just ended up erupting into another argument.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In a loving relationship, you can safely discuss these issues and grow stronger as a result. You can find closure about some of the hurt caused during the argument. Here are some steps to do this: 

Watch the video or keep reading down below:

How to handle an argument
Link To The Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRIxSDsiL8k

Here are the steps:

1. Make sure you are calm and in a cooperating mood.

Make sure have some bandwidth to hear some difficult things from your partner. If you are in a calm and non-defensive place, this will put your partner in the same place.

2.  Ask them to tell you how they are feeling. 

This is self-explanatory. You can ask them if they are ready to talk, or if they would like to discuss the argument. The key is to ask permission. This will show respect and consideration for your partner.

3. Listen well

Listening is one of the most powerful and underrated things you can do in your relationship. You can find out more about listening here. Listening does something chemically to the defensive brain that calms the other person. Here is how to listen well: 

Show empathy. This is hard when you may be feeling like someone is unfairly accusing you of something. Put your own feelings aside and put yourself in their shoes. For example, if someone says “you went to play basketball last night, I was expecting you home, you never spend time with me!” Now you may be thinking “I always play basketball on Tuesday nights and I only play twice a week, why is she saying I never spend time with her?” Instead of saying that, put yourself in her shoes. She’s had a rough week and she was hoping I’d skip basketball tonight and she felt alone. The way you talk to her will be very different than if you didn’t have empathy. And this would produce a very different outcome for the discussion. 

 

Give reflections. Basically you are mirroring what the other person is saying. It seems cheezy to some, it seems ingenuine but trust me, it works. I will oftentimes have partners practice with one another and it’s beautiful to see the faces of the people receiving the reflections. I hear things like “I wish you could say this to me at home.” or “I’ve been waiting so long to hear you say that.” Basically they are repeating what their partner is saying and their partner is loving it! 

Here is an example I use in Couples Therapy: 

Angry partner:  “you went to play basketball last night, I was expecting you home, you never spend time with me!” 

Reflection: “you’ve  had a rough week and we’re hoping I’d skip basketball last night to be with you.” 

The key is it needs to be done with empathy. Otherwise, it will not feel genuine. And it will not feel good to you or to your partner. 

 

4. Take responsibility for your part.

Don’t take responsibility for something you didn’t do just to appease your partner. This will only make you resentful and it will not be genuine. For a majority of couples, the hurts that come from arguments stem from unintentional hurts that the other was not aware he or she was inflicting. If you purposely cheated on your spouse it’s easy to apologize!  It’s in the day to day arguments where both feel they were right, where it’s harder to take responsibility. 

So take responsibility for your part. Maybe you weren’t as sensitive as you needed to be. Maybe your spouse was giving you signals and you were distracted so you didn’t catch on to what your spouse wanted. 

Here is an example from Couples Therapy the basketball scenario:

you went to play basketball last night, I was expecting you home, you never spend time with me!” 

“You’ve had a rough week and we’re hoping I’d skip basketball tonight and you felt disappointed because you were home by yourself. (reflection)”

“I’m sorry that I didn’t catch on to that. “(taking responsibility)

 

5. Problem solve and follow-through

Showing how you will change helps your partner feel secure. You can start by saying things like “how about next time…” or “in the future, I will…” 

Example: 

“How about next time if you are feeling sad I will ask if you want me to stay home? Also you tell me what you need and I will honor it. “

 

6. When they are calm, share your own feelings. 

By this time, if you followed the steps, your partner should be feeling calm and feeling safe. He or she is ready to hear you out. They are in a loving place, not a fighting place. 

Take this opportunity to lovingly share your own feelings and hurts.

Here is an example: 

“Are you ok if I share something? I would love it if you would just share with me what you would want me to do instead of saying ok but getting angry and giving me the cold shoulder when I come home. “

At this point the hope is that your partner would be able to follow the same steps that you took to listen, take responsibility for their part, and problem solve. 

 

Conclusion:

Talking after an argument is not easy. Many times it is not smooth. Be ok if things get heated again. Take a break and try again. Life is messy and relationships are part of this messiness. We don’t have to get everything perfect. We can try it and make progress and see that we are moving closer to the goal. Communication takes practice, and if we continue to practice, we will make progress. 

 

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in couples therapy in the Milpitas, San Jose and Fremont areas. She is passionate about couples reconnecting, rebuilding trust and building happy lives together. Good communication takes practice and oftentimes is not easy. If you would like to find out more about working with Lia to improve your communication with your partner, see more here. Couples Therapy San Jose CA

Couples Counseling: Be a Better Listener to Your Partner: 5 Steps

couples counseling, marriage counseling

Couples Counseling:

In a healthy relationship, no one gets to have the last word all the time. Loving someone means accepting that they are a unique individual with their own thoughts and ideas.

This isn’t easy. Too often, we dismiss our partner’s opinions and feelings. Sometimes we feel misunderstood. Or we feel that our partner is unfairly criticizing us, so we shut down or argue back. On the other hand, sometimes we are distracted or stressed out–we don’t have the capacity to listen. Couples counseling can help!

Maybe after a long and hard day, our partner wants to complain about work…again! And so we choose to zone out. Or maybe you are busy checking your stocks and so when your partner asks you to take on the trash, it goes in one ear and out the other. (“What trash? I don’t remember you telling me that!?!)

These small, seemingly innocuous mistakes can blow up and lead to big arguments. Oftentimes at the heart of the matter, I hear people saying that they feel like their partner just doesn’t take them seriously. That somehow they are unimportant, and invisible. And this hurts deeply.

Healthy relationships take work, and learning how to listen is part of this work.  Listening is one of the most powerful things we can do in our relationship. But it is also one of the hardest. 

We may think we are listening, but there is a big difference between hearing and truly listening. And if you often hear the complaint “you never listen!” Then read on!

In Couples Counseling We Try These Tips:

1. Make sure you aren’t distracted.

Put your phone away when it’s time to have a conversation. Stop whatever you are doing, and give your partner your full attention. I often tell clients to pause whatever they are watching (e.g. the basketball/football game), or put down their tablets and phones.

If you are truly busy at the moment (e.g. changing a diaper, on the phone with an important client), say something like, “I’d like to give you my full attention. Can we talk about this in 10 minutes?” And don’t forget! 

2. Check your body language.

Keep your facial muscles soft. Turn to face your partner. Make eye contact.  Eye contact is very important! Remember when you were first dating, you couldn’t stop looking into each other’s eyes?   

In the therapy world, we talk about babies who don’t get enough eye contact from their care givers in the early years of life end up with lots of social and emotional issues in later life.

In the same way, as adults, we need eye contact from our loved ones to feel important and heard. Keep your posture open; do not fold your arms or cross your legs. Show your partner that you are open to them and what they have to say. Body language speaks a thousand words. 

3. Let them talk uninterrupted. Don’t give advice. 

Do not interject, offer advice, or argue.  In my experience, this is one of the hardest things for couples. We often love our partners so we don’t want them to be sad or angry anymore. And we have the solution! So  we feel like if we can just tell them what to do so their problem will go away, the problem is solved! Not so fast. 

I often tell couples that their partner is smart and probably knows the solution already. However, they feel stuck. When people feel stuck, they panic and they can’t think straight. If you can help your partner express their feelings in a safe space, your partner will calm down. When people are calm, guess what? They can think clearly. And when they think clearly, they can make the right decision.

So your role as a partner is not to give them the solution, but rather help them calm down so they can think clearly. Anyone can give advice. Your partner can go to google and get advice on anything in the world. Your role as a comforter and listener is so powerful, google can’t do that for us!

So keep quiet, and focus on what they are saying. Remind yourself that you will get a chance to voice your thoughts later. When you get the urge to interrupt, tune into your body. Just noticing where the feeling comes from can be enough to make it ebb away.

4. Mirror your partner’s words to check you’ve understood.

Rephrase their main points in your own words. Say, “I just want to understood I’ve understood you correctly. It sounds like you’re saying X,Y, and Z. Is that right?” This shows them you have been paying attention.

I know it feels cheezy but this is one of the most powerful things you as a partner can do. I have seen in happen in my office time and time again. It seems easy but it can be incredibly difficult.  A lot of the work I do is helping those who have trouble listening to learn how to listen well, to know how to reflect and listen actively.

5. Ask clarifying questions.

If you’ve given your partner a chance to speak, but still don’t quite understand what they are saying, ask simple follow-up questions. Questions like, “Could you tell me exactly what you mean by that?” or “Could you give me a specific example?” work well.

Adopt an attitude of calm curiosity rather than judgment. Curiosity is the keyword here. If you don’t know the answer to something, ask your partner. Try to understand, not condemn, your partner. Put aside your assumptions and think about the situation from their perspective.

Couples Counseling: Active Listening Isn’t The Same As Agreement

Active listening is particularly difficult whenever your partner criticizes you or raises a sensitive issue. Your first response might be, “How dare they!” or “I won’t listen to this!” In other words, you go on the defensive, and communication breaks down entirely.

But that’s exactly when you and your partner need this technique. Active listening is a tool that helps you put aside your emotions for a few minutes and focus on your partner instead.

For example, your partner might say “Yesterday when you went out to lunch with your mom instead of me, that showed that you value her more than you do me.” Maybe you haven’t seen your mom in a month and you assumed your partner was busy so you didn’t bother asking your partner.” Your first reaction is to say “You’re wrong! Nothing I ever do is good enough!” And an argument ensues.

Listening doesn’t mean you agree with your partner, or that you have to give into their wishes. But you can put yourself in their shoes. In this example, if you can put yourself in your partner’s shoes: that maybe this whole week you’ve been busy at work. And she is alone with the baby all day, cooped up in the house. You don’t agree with what she’s said but you can understand how she’d come to this conclusion. 

You can say something like, “I can see how you would feel that way. You see I’ve been busy at work. And you’re cooped up in the house all day with the baby.”

Ninety nine percent of the time, when a partner is able to do this, you can see her relax. She is not so angry anymore. And she can have a real discussion. You can tell her how you just didn’t think she would want to go to lunch. You can tell her you meant to take her out the day after but just didn’t get around to it and you’re sorry.

Listening helps both of you understand the other, which is the first step to finding a solution that works for you both.

Putting your ego to one side and connecting with your partner can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort. By taking time to understand their perspective, you’ll have less fighting and greater intimacy and joy in the relationship. 

 

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in helping couples reconnect and rebuild trust in the San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont areas. If you  or your spouse are still needing help finding the motivation to connect emotionally, or if you are finding the time but not connecting, marriage therapy/couples therapy can help. I have helped hundreds of couples in the San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont areas connect again. You can reach out today here or find out more about couples counseling here

To learn more about Couples Counseling please check out our dedicated page.

How Does Marriage Therapy Work?

Couples therapy

Does Marriage Therapy Work?

Marital therapy, and therapy in general, can seem like a pretty mysterious and anxiety-provoking process. People often picture opening up their deepest darkest secrets to a stranger they’ve never met. If this is what you imagine, you are right–in part. 

Yes, in order for therapy to work, you will have to be honest and open up about what’s really going on in your relationship. However, it doesn’t have to feel mysterious and nerve-wracking. As a therapist, I try to make you feel as relaxed and natural as possible.

Marriage therapy can be a place where you can connect to your loved one again. It can be a place to finally resolve some of your old issues that keep coming up over and over.  As your therapist, I work hard to get you to your goals. Where you were hitting your head against the wall, you may finally see a solution.

So what is marriage or couples counseling and how does it work?

 

Many people wonder does marriage therapy work? I liken the work that marriage therapists do to a mechanic. When you drive your car, you might hear a squeal or rattling coming from your car. Or it might break down often. If you are not knowledgeable about cars (e.g. myself), you will have no idea what is going on. You just know your car is breaking down and you want someone to fix it! 

In comes the mechanic to save the day. They open up the hood. They drive the car, listen for the sounds. They know where to look to find the culprit of what is causing the trouble. And then they go for it. 

Where this analogy breaks down is in the case of a broken car, you just drop off the car at the shop and they take care of it. In the case of therapy, you bring yourself to the therapy room and I teach you how to fix your relationship yourself. 

Sometimes I model what it looks like and have you practice. Then I’d send you home to practice.  It’s like the mechanic giving you the tools to fix your car and teaching you how to fix it! The hope is that in the future, you will be able to fix your relationship on your own, or just come in for “tune ups.”

As a couples therapist, where are the areas I look for to find problems?

 

  • Family of origin issues. Oftentimes the expectations and hurts we bring in from our family of origin can cause tension in our relationships.

 

  • Current stressors. I call them the “Big 5”– chores, finances, in-laws, sex and children. Most of my clients are dealing with at least one of those stressors and some are dealing with multiple stressors all at once.

 

  • Mental Health issues: Dealing with mental health and addiction issues can be very confusing, both for the person experiencing it as well as the partner.

 

  • Past unresolved issues. Lots of couples come in with unresolved issues. Maybe a past infidelity, an incident that hurt someone to the core where there was no closure. A lot of times the couple just moved on but the hurt was still there.

 

  • Communication Patterns & personality differences. One person may be very introverted and feel pressured by an introverted partner to always go out, or vice versa. One person may shut down when in conflict while the other may yell. 

 

These are just some of the factors I look for when I’m assessing a couple. 

Once I see what is going on, I take the time to let you know where I feel things broken down. I direct people during session and out of session to do certain things that will build their relationship and make it stronger.  

Oftentimes one or both people don’t want to change.  Through gentle and respectful exploration, I figure out  what is keeping that person from change. (Usually it’s fear, shame, or a childhood wound).  

Lastly, I instill hope. I remind them that they are here, and if you are going to take an hour out of your day to sit in front of a stranger and talk about some pretty painful things, and pay for it, then you must be committed. And if we have that, we have a lot. 

 

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving the Milpitas, Fremont and San Jose areas. She is passionate about helping couples rebuild their bonds and trust each other again. If you are interested in couples therapy or marriage therapy, find out more here

To answer the question, Does Marriage Therapy Work? YES, If you work it.

3  Fun Spots to Build Trust and Closeness with Your Spouse

Couples Trust Building Therapy

Trust Building :

Connecting Is Important

Finding time to connect with our spouse is paramount to having a good marriage. Carving out the space to have a conversation about how you are really doing. 

 

I often recommend couples who are trying to rebuild trust to have these conversations at least a few times a week.  However, it is often the first thing to be put on the backburner. Kids, jobs, chores and other “musts” often take the place of connecting with our significant other. 

 

Planning check-in times

I always tell my clients that they need to build in time to “check in.” Otherwise it will never happen. Take time to ask your spouse how they are really doing. Ask how your relationship is doing and how you can be better as a partner. 

 

Some barriers to finding time to check-in

While some people enjoy having this time, for others, it may bring up some anxiety or even dread. Some people were not brought up in homes where they were vulnerable with each other. 

 

Or they learned as a child growing up that opening up leads to exposure and punishment. So opening up feels scary. Some people are introverted and they just don’t know what to say. Or they don’t know how to articulate how they feel. 

 

Make check-ins fun

I often recommend clients like this to make this time fun. You don’t have to be sitting on the kitchen counter with dirty dishes every night hashing out your feelings. Get outside, get some fresh air, or do something that would be fun so that you naturally want to start talking. 

 

Here are some easy, fun, and cheap ways to have a check-in time. I have put some of my favorite places to connect with my spouse here in the San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont areas. 

 

One tip: 

Remember, don’t just drink coffee and surf the web on your phone. Take the time to really connect. Talk about your day. Talk about how your relationship is doing. 

 

How are you both feeling about each other? What are each of you doing that’s working? Not working? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What makes you fearful/anxious these days? 

 

Some ideas in the San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont areas: 

 

  1. Find a cute coffee shop where you can enjoy coffee and enjoy each other. 

Here are a few: 

 

Community coffee

1000 S Park Victoria Dr

Milpitas, CA 95035

 

Devout coffee

37323 Niles Blvd

Fremont, CA 94536

 

The Grind Coffee House

2050 Concourse Dr

Ste 2

San Jose, CA 95131

 

Hannah

754 The Alameda

Ste 80

San Jose, CA 95126

 

  1. Take a hike and connect with nature and each other to increase trust building.

Some good trails: 

 

 Mission Peak

43600 Mission Blvd

Fremont

 

Ed Levin County Park

3100 Calaveras Rd

Milpitas, CA 95035

 

Alum Rock Park

15350 Penitencia Creek Rd, San Jose, CA 95127

 

  1. Enjoy your dog and your spouse’s company

Some dog-friendly parks:

 

Butcher Dog Park

1782 Lancaster Dr

San Jose, CA 95124

 

City of Milpitas Dog Park at Ed Levin Park

Tularcito Trail, Milpitas, CA 95035

 

Central Park Dog Park

1740 Stevenson Blvd, Fremont, CA 94538

 

  1. Create art while creating connection

Some good art studios:

 

Color Me Mine–Pottery Painting

Address: 5337 Prospect Rd, San Jose, CA 95129

 

Vino Artist–group painting classes

Address: 3777 Stevens Creek Blvd #300, Santa Clara, CA 95051

 

Have fun trust building!

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in helping couples reconnect and rebuild trust in the San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont areas. If you  or your spouse are still needing help finding the motivation to connect emotionally, or if you are finding the time but not connecting, marriage therapy/couples therapy can help. I have helped hundreds of couples in the San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont areas connect again. You can reach out today here or find out more about couples counseling here

 

Should I Wait For My Boyfriend To Change?

Should I wait for my boyfriend to change

Should I Really Wait For My Boyfriend To Change Or What?

Are you in love with someone who swears they want to change, but can’t quite seem to make the leap? Have you started to wonder how long is too long when waiting for someone to change? Should you cut your losses immediately and walk away, or stay and hope they come around? Should you wait for your boyfriend to change or for your girlfriend to change?

 

You’ve probably heard “People don’t change,” “Leopards never change their spots,” and other well-meaning pieces of advice. The problem is that these are generalizations. If they were true all the time, no one would ever change or improve. 

 

Because every situation is different, there are no hard and fast rules. The good news is that you can steer yourself in the right direction by asking yourself a few questions:

 

  1. Are you betting on potential?

 

Are you in love with who your boyfriend is, or just what he could become? It’s OK to want someone to change, but are your expectations realistic? Do you need him to change a couple of bad habits, or are you holding out for a personality transplant? Be honest! 

 

  1. Has your boyfriend taken any steps to change, no matter how small?

 

It’s easy to make promises, but change only happens when someone takes action. If you’ve been trying to get him to change for months and nothing has happened, it’s unwise to assume he’ll suddenly wake up one morning and decide to be a better man.  

 

  1. What are your family and friends telling you?

 

When you’re in love, it’s easy to become blind to your partner’s faults. Although they can never know the full story – they aren’t in the relationship, after all – a trusted friend or relative can gently point out patterns in your partner’s behavior. This can help you weigh up the likelihood he’ll change.

 

  1. What is your intuition telling you about your relationship?

 

If your gut is screaming at you to run, or whispering that he’ll never change, it’s time to listen.  

 

  1. On balance, does the relationship bring you more pain than joy?

 

Love isn’t supposed to hurt. Sure, every relationship has its challenges, but staying with someone who brings you down isn’t healthy. Not every relationship works out, and that’s OK. Sometimes, you need to date lots of people before “the one” comes along.  

 

  1. Are you willing to support your boyfriend as he makes changes?

 

Even if your partner shows true commitment to change, it doesn’t mean you have to stick around. For instance, supporting someone with an alcohol dependency as they move to a sober lifestyle is mentally taxing. If you don’t feel ready or able to offer that kind of support, that’s OK. You don’t have act as an unpaid caregiver.

 

How To Set Boundaries

 

Everyone has the right to decide what they will and will not tolerate in relationships. You need to establish your limits, and tell your boyfriend what will happen if he doesn’t make changes. For instance, you could say, “If you don’t join a rehab program within a month, I won’t be continuing this relationship. I need to be with someone who takes their health seriously.”

 

Note that this isn’t the same as an ultimatum. Ultimatums are threats, whereas boundaries simply set out what you will do if the situation doesn’t change. Boundaries empower you. 

 

It’s tough to walk away from a relationship. When we fall in love, we want to believe that our partners will work with us. We like to think that, with the right encouragement, they will become better, healthier people. 

 

Forced Change Is Worse Than No Change

 

Finally, remember that lasting change only comes from within. Forcing your partner to do something won’t end well. They will resent you, and your relationship will slowly crumble. 

 

Focus on your own needs instead. Is the relationship slowly moving in the right direction, or has it stagnated? It may be time to move on. It’s great to love and support someone else, but never forget that your mental health and wellbeing comes first.

 

Still confused about whether or not you should wait for Boyfriend To Change? change or let go? Consider talking things over with a therapist. A therapist is an unbiased third party who can help you process what you need. Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in relationships in the San Jose and Milpitas areas. Find out more about couples counseling here,  and individual counseling here.  

What To Do When Your Euphoric Love Fades

couples counseling

Euphoric Love

The beginning of a romantic relationship is a whirlwind of hormones, dreams, and fantasies of a perfect future. You wonder how you ever managed to live without your new partner. Everything feels magical. The two of you feel inseparable. It’s euphoric love. You overlook one another’s faults, and assume that you’ll always be able to resolve your differences quickly and easily.

Scientists say that the symptoms we feel when we are in love are similar to those who have OCD: the obssessed, can’t think straight, can’t eat, can’t wait to see him feelings are all too common. Furthemore, researchers say that the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain that is involved in addiction (say to cocaine, or gambling) lights up when we are “in love.”

Unfortunately (and fortunately), this stage doesn’t last forever. Many couples’ brains calm down after the honeymoon period is over. Some people transition into this comfortable, deeper, more secure stage quite nicely. However, others may feel like something is not right.  They may feel like the shine has worn off their relationship, and reality of being with a flawed human starts setting in. Some people might be left wondering, “What went wrong?”

Accept that all relationships lose their initial passion

Smart couples keep their expectations realistic. They know that, within two years, the honeymoon period will probably be over. The euphoric love will die down, and the relationship will move into a new phase.

Although the media might tell you otherwise, this is actually a good thing. If we all walked around in a state of obsession, society would soon grind to a halt. Euphoric love is exhausting, and can even distract you from your work and other important relationships.

If the passion has gone, it doesn’t mean you are no longer compatible. Neither does it mean your partner no longer finds you attractive. However, you do need to make a choice: Will you abandon your relationship and look for a new source of euphoric love elsewhere, or will you stay and embrace the next part of your lives together?

What comes after euphoric love?

If you are to stay together, you need to reframe the problem. Instead of lamenting that your relationship has lost its initial spark, embrace the chance to move to the next level and develop long-lasting love based on true intimacy. 

You start to realize that you are two different people. Contrary to your early expectations, you won’t agree on everything, and that’s OK. You can learn how to disagree and compromise, and you can love someone even when you don’t particularly appreciate their behaviors.

Your partner will frustrate you, and you’ll annoy them in return. That’s normal! The secret is to keep checking in with one another, communicate your needs, and make your relationship a top priority in your life.

Choose to love your partner

Love isn’t just a noun; it’s also a verb. Loving your partner is a conscious choice. Choosing to rededicate yourself to the relationship every day is the best way to let it grow. Spend time with your partner in meaningful hobbies and activities that develop you as individuals and as a couple. Every day, set aside a few minutes to talk. Share the most interesting parts of your day, and bring up any problems or worries you have at the earliest opportunity.

Set goals that will move you closer to the vision you’ve set for your life. Check in regularly to make sure you share the same vision. Supporting one another and working as a team fosters intimacy. This might not sound as exciting as euphoric love, but it’s actually more rewarding. Infatuation gives you a buzz, but there’s no substitute for a mutually satisfying relationship based on mutual appreciation and respect.

Euphoric love is an amazing experience, but it’s only the beginning of a meaningful relationship. Although there’s nothing wrong with reminiscing about your early days together, the healthiest approach is to look to the future.

 

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who provides Couples counseling in  San Jose and Milpitas. She can help you work together to build a satisfying life together that meets your need for love and intimacy. Learn more about couples counseling with Lia Huynh here

 

4 Practical Steps to Stop Arguments in Relationships

A couple embracing after learning how to manage their arugments in relationships

Arguments in relationships are normal. But when you get into a nasty fight with your better half, it’s easy to lose control. You’re overwhelmed by a whirlwind of emotions: fear, anger, sadness, regret. Often, both of you walk away hurt. Before you or your partner go head to head, take pause. Here are five ways to prevent a fight with your partner before it escalates.

Step 1: Keep Your Anger in Check

Anger isn’t a “bad” emotion. It helps us stand up for ourselves and set boundaries. But when your anger spirals out of control, you risk doing lasting damage to your relationship. If your partner isn’t listening, don’t raise your voice or yell to feel heard. Honestly and clearly state how you feel using “I” statements. For instance, “I feel that you’re not actively listening, and that really hurts.” Pay close attention to your body language: Watch out for trembling palms, teeth grinding, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, and feeling warm.

Step 2: Redirect the conversation

When you lose your cool, you forget that words have consequences. All it takes is one ill-timed insult for a spat to snowball into a fight. Before you get ticked off, stop and consider how your partner might react. If the situation was reversed, how might you feel if your partner yelled at you or said hurtful things? Empathizing with your partner eases your irritation. Better yet, it lets you redirect the conversation in a positive direction. Remind your partner why you want to talk it out: “I love you and I care about us. How can we work together to solve this?”

Step 3: Take a Breather  

If things still escalate, don’t let tensions get too high. When you are in an angry state, your body is in panic “fight or flight mode” and all you are thinking about is survival. This means either fighting or fleeing.  Not working things out. “I messages” go out the window. You will likely say and do things that you regret–which may have long term consequences.

So if feel your temper rising, tell your partner you need to take a break. Calmly explain that you need a moment alone before you can keep talking.

Make sure you let your partner know you will need a break and will be back in x minutes or x hours.  If you leave without saying anything, your partner will view your break as an abandonment. Or not wanting to deal with the issue.

Step 4: Find ways to calm down

This is the hardest part – – once you’ve left the scene, resist the urge to focus on the argument.

Don’t rehash what you or your partner said — focus on getting yourself grounded. Drink a cold glass of water, watch your favorite kitten youtube videos, or go on a short walk.  I once had a client who went to Costco when he got into an argument. It helped ground him and he was able to come home calm and ready to talk.

(BONUS Step 5: Talk it Out — and Listen)

Communicating with your partner can be challenging, especially when you feel frustrated or misunderstood. Having a history of lots of arguments in relationships can make the trust shaky. But being vulnerable with your partner brings you closer together. If you need to have a tough talk, prepare by making a list of what you want to discuss. Honor your partner with mindful listening. Maintain eye contact and resist the temptation to interrupt. If you’re confused, repeat what your partner said in your own words. When both of you feel heard, you’re less likely to explode.

Diffusing arguments in relationships takes patience, compassion, and forgiveness. But some arguments are too difficult to solve on your own. If you and your partner are struggling to see eye to eye, seeking professional help is the next best step.

About the author: Lia Huynh, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in the San Jose and Milpitas areas.  She has been helping couples to reduce arguments and find love again for over 17 years. Learn more about her here.

 

Remember Arguments in relationships are completely normal! Its all about how the argument in the relationship is resolved.

Is Chivalry Overrated?

I feel like lately there’s been a lot of talk among twenty somethings about chivalry. Interestingly enough, the talk has been initiated from the men, not the women. Usually the talk is from well-meaning, caring men who are eager to attract the right one using chivalrous tactics.

It’s a good value to have

And you know, I get it. And I do think it’s cute, I think it’s better than the guys I hung around with in my 20’s who liked talking about farting and taco bell and women’s body parts. It’s definitely a step up the maturity scale, that’s for sure.

Chivalry is too easy

However, when I listen to these young men talk about chivalry, I still feel like something is not quite right. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I don’t feel comfortable about it being the “standard” for treating a woman right. And quite frankly, I feel that taking chivalry so seriously lets a guy off the hook too easily.

It’s easy to pull out a chair. It’s hard to listen someone and genuinely care about them. It’s easy to give a girl your jacket. It’s hard to care about her purity over your own desires. It’s easy to open a car door. It’s hard to be committed to just her. If all it takes is a guy to open a car door, or go to Costco and buy a bouquet of flowers for $12.99 to be heralded as a “Prince Charming” we are not expecting enough from our men who are capable of much more.

Try doing what Jesus did

Jesus didn’t say that loving someone entailed paying the bill or putting your jacket on a puddle for a girl to walk on. Jesus said that loving someone meant putting their needs above your own (Philipians 2:1-8). That loving meant seeing a woman not as a sex object but as a precious sister in Christ (1 Timothy 5:1-2). That loving meant enjoying someone for who they were, not for what they could give you, whether or not they were interested in you or how cute they were. And ultimately, in marriage, to die for her (Ephesians 5:25).

Chivalry can be very valuable in the right context

Now before I start sounding like a man-hating bitter old woman who doesn’t have enough love in my life, I want to say that chivalrous acts are not bad in and of themselves. I think they are wonderful, and I personally love it when my husband acts chivalrous towards me. However, without the foundation of genuine love and sincere care for a woman, chivalry is frankly, meaningless. However, in the context of a godly Biblical relationship, chivalry is truly a beautiful and respectable thing.

So guys, chivalry is not dead and it is still very valuable! But don’t let it be your bread and butter. If you want to find a partner, spend time with a girl and get interested in her life . Learn to be a good listener. Serve others with no agenda. Be kind to others. Be courageous about following Him with obedience. Then go buy those roses and watch her swoon!