Featured

Sara Featured in Fatherly!

Sara was recently interviewed as a relationship expert for a featured article in Fatherly!

This article is entitled, “9 Clear Signs of a Relationship in Trouble, According to Experts” by Graham Techler.

Check out the article here!

Like many relationship issues, it is beneficial to identify the presenting issues early on so they can be worked on by everyone. If you aren’t able to manage or work through your relationship issues, that is when relationship therapy is most needed.

It takes all partners to have willingness to make things better in order for change. Change cannot occur from one partner only. If any of the red flags in the article are occurring your relationship, take action to improve your dynamic today!

Reach out to Sara to get started with relationship therapy!

If you’re wondering what other issues you may have in your relationship that can eat away at the bond of the union, reach out to Sara to start services. During the intake assessment process, Sara can fully assess your relationship and provide feedback on suggested dynamic improvements based on what is proven to work for a healthy relationship.

According to their website, Fatherly, “empowers men to raise great kids and lead more fulfilling adult lives through original reporting, expert parenting advice, and hard-won insights into a challenging, but profoundly rewarding stage of life.” Although Fatherly is written in context for men, half of their audience is also women!

Check out their main website here! Fatherly provides insight into parenting, health & science, love & sex, life, wellness, and other trending topics.

Featured

Tips For Dividing Household Chores

Household chores are a part of domestic relationships that throughout history have involved ever changing roles and responsibilities. Research shows that when living together, there is no right way to split up the duties so long as everyone is on the same page and genuinely happy with the arrangement. However, figuring out how to get to the bottom of an endless to-do list can be a daunting task for couples. Who takes on the cleaning, cooking, errand running, organizing finances, yard work, and more? Here are some tips below for splitting and managing those lingering chores.  

Don’t Take on Too Much

Often times one or both partners try to take on more than what is necessary on a given week. Especially for parents, the term “supermom” or “superdad” gets thrown around as a way to say they really can do it all. However, it’s just not possible to do everything every week. Recognizing what is important and prioritizing what needs to be done is paramount to staying afloat. Each week partners have to filter through what can and cannot be accomplished. Those items left undone for the week will either not be completed or put on the backburner for another time.  

Ask for Help When Needed

Not only is asking help from your partner essential, but asking for help outside of the home is beneficial too. Often times couples and families try to take it all on without asking for assistance. This can be due to their own insecurities of not wanting to appear inferior or uncapable to friends and family. However, identifying where you can outsource some of the responsibility once in a while can help to lower stress and keep the relationship intact. For example, if you have children, this may mean asking the grandparents or a babysitter to watch the kids for a day so you can get the to-do list dwindled down. Or if finances allow, using a housekeeping service once in a while. This does not mean that your partner is off the hook! It merely helps to alleviate some of the load so you can focus as a team on the rest of the list.  

Say “No” When Necessary

It can be hard for partners to say no to activities or social events in order to get things caught up at home. However, this may be a necessary step when the household to-do list piles up. In a given week, prioritize what the most important events are and postpone the less important events when necessary. In order to keep friendships intact however, make sure that rescheduling happens if possible, so others don’t feel blown off. Also, saying no early on in the event planning is easier on everyone rather than waiting until the last minute to cancel.

Split Chores Effectively

Many couples don’t have explicit conversations about how to split household chores. They often expect their partner to just see things around the house and do it on the spot. However, when it is expected that both partners do all chores at all times it becomes unrealistic. The solution to this is identifying which chores can be “assigned” to which partner. Does one person not mind as much to do the cooking or the laundry? Does another person not mind as much to mow the lawn or take out the trash? That way, partners can focus on which chores they do best.

No one loves to do any chores, but there are certain tasks that are hard for some due to personality differences. For example, an extrovert may not mind doing the grocery shopping or errand running as much as an introverted partner. Someone with a better attention span may not mind doing the more detail-oriented tasks, while the partner with a lower attention span may struggle. A partner with a dust sensitivity may not enjoy dusting, while another partner may be repulsed at the smell of taking out the garbage. In a nutshell, figure out what you do well and take the lead in that area!  

Respect Boundaries

When a partner expresses that they are exhausted at the end of the day, those boundaries need to be respected. That is, as long as there is a plan for movement towards that goal in the near future. An example of setting a boundary may sound like, “Honey, I understand you want to get chores done tonight but I am burnt out from work today and need a break. Can we come back to these chores tomorrow?”. The key to this is respecting the request, coming up with a solution together on how to get it done later, and both sticking to that promise.

Also, understanding each partner’s individual needs is important. This helps everyone to identify how they can balance their time with household duties versus time for those needs. For example, if one person is an extrovert and gets fueled by social interactions outside the home, then allowing for a quick break from household chores on the weekend (or time off) to engage in a small amount of social activity might be necessary.

Identify When a Break Is Necessary

When one or both partners try to do too much without resting it can lead to burnout. When burnout happens, nothing gets done, so it actually has the opposite effect intended. Identifying when to take a healthy break can in fact provide restorative energy. This energy helps for when going back to the task at hand and yields more productivity in the long run.  

Praise Each Other Using Love Languages

Often times partners don’t know how to show appreciation in the way that their significant other likes to receive it. After witnessing your partner putting in the effort, even if it’s a part of basic household functioning, it helps to acknowledge that you know they are working hard.

There are five main love languages which categorize how partners like to receive love in their relationship. These include words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, physical touch, and quality time. For example, if the partner’s love language includes quality time, that could mean setting up an evening together without interruptions. If the partner’s love language is physical touch it might include holding their hand or giving a massage. Gift giving does not have to be expensive; this could mean picking up some flowers or making something by hand. When praise is received it shows partners that what they are doing is recognized and appreciated.  

Seek Therapy

Navigating the household duties and to-do list can be difficult to maneuver in a relationship. Need help working through this? Reach out to Sara today to start relationship therapy!

Want additional reading materials on the five love languages in a relationship? Check out the official book by Gary Chapman below:

The 5 Love Languages®

*Please note: Sara Miller / Confluent Relationship Therapy does not receive any compensation for the links or books listed on her website. They are suggested based on expertise and experience as a relationship therapist*

Featured

Starting Couples Therapy: How to Approach Your Partner

Are you worried about how to approach your partner to start couples therapy for your relationship? No matter what stage your relationship is in, couples therapy can help, but often times partners can be hesitant in the beginning stages. This hesitation can be due a multitude of factors including stigmas surrounding therapy, worry about the relationship ending, and feeling uncomfortable talking about feelings. This article discusses how to initiate the difficult discussion with your partner so your relationship can get the help that it needs!

Find the Right Timing

When to bring up this conversation to your partner might be the most important step of all. Using therapy as a weapon or a threat in the relationship is never a good way to bring up the subject, as it can be perceived as a punishment for your partner. Post-argument or during feelings of strong resentment are also a bad time to bring up the conversation. Make sure that you and your partner are in a moderately good headspace and aren’t still recovering from any individual or relationship problem that day. When that is not possible, try to self-soothe beforehand! You can do this by deep breathing, going for a walk, or whatever you need to do for total relaxation.

Listen To Your Partner

You may initially receive feedback of uncertainty or defensiveness about the process, and that is okay! It is understandable that your partner might be hesitant, especially if they don’t know much about how therapy works. Be open to listening to what your partner has to say about the process, whether you agree with it or not. Validate their concerns and try to be as supportive as possible of their feelings during this time.

Don’t Blame Your Partner for the Problems

One of the worst ways to initiate couples therapy or relationship counseling is to make your partner the “identified patient”. Blaming your partner for the total destruction of the relationship will not help. Especially if your partner is already hesitant about therapy in general, insinuating that couple’s services will “fix their character flaws” could actually turn them away from the process all together. Couples therapy is meant to better the relationship dynamics, and not “fix” the individual people.

Provide Information

Giving your partner information about how therapy works, and what couples therapy may look like, could help ease some of their concerns. They may find it interesting or helpful to do their own research as well. You can also write down questions you or your partner have and bring these questions to the phone consultation. Giving your partner the time they need to feel well educated about the process before taking the next steps will help facilitate a smooth transition into starting therapy.

Keep Them a Part of The Process

If your partner does decide to start the process of couples therapy, it is always a good idea to keep them included in the steps you take along the way. This could be adding their email address in the email dialogue between you and the therapist. Or making sure to include them in the initial phone consultation! Starting this process with as much transparency as possible will help your partner to feel just as aligned with the therapist as you are. If you both don’t blend well with the initial therapist you choose, see if there is another therapist out there that you both want to work with and make the switch! Finding the right therapist is essential in fostering motivation to put in the work and achieving your relationship goals.

Starting couples or relationship therapy can be a scary process for many people, and how you start your journey with your partner can set the tone for the steps to follow. These first few steps can be difficult for some due to many factors but commend yourself for the brave journey you are taking in starting this process!

Reach out today for relationship support with Sara! A free 15-minute phone consultation is only steps away.

See Sara’s verified status on Psychology Today!

Featured

Past Trauma & New Intimate Partner Relationships

Recovering from trauma is not easy, and unresolved past traumas can present a plethora of challenges while adjusting to everyday living. Whether your trauma involved an intimate partner or not, the long-term effects can continue to show up in many forms within your relationships. Trauma is known to transform the way we relate to people in our lives, so it is no surprise that it will change the way you relate to your significant other. For example, it can deplete your sense of safety and security. Your confidence or self-esteem could drop, and the lens through which you view the world will never be the same. Read on to better understand how trauma changes our relationships with romantic partners!

What is Trauma?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations (SAMSHA), trauma is defined as, “an emotional or physical response to one or more physically harmful or life-threatening events or circumstances with lasting adverse effects on your mental and physical well-being” [1]. These events include but are not limited to: actual or threatened death of yourself or loved one, serious injury or accident, sexual violence or assault, exposure to a distressing event, terrorism, war or combat, emotional/physical/psychological/sexual abuse, being a victim of a crime, displacement, natural disasters, bullying, childhood neglect, and more. In summary, traumas are extreme life events that threaten your physical and psychological survival. These events unfortunately leave us more susceptible to emotional triggering and reactivity in our interpersonal relationships.

How Trauma Changes Intimate Partner Relationships

Trauma, especially unresolved past trauma, will continue to be apparent in your intimate partner relationships whether intended to or not. Here are five of the many ways it may be manifesting itself in your relationship:

Trust

After experiencing trauma, it can be hard to trust others when (understandably) your trust for people in general has been broken! This may result in the belief that your security is threatened when expressing feelings in relationships, so in turn your thoughts may be repeatedly kept to yourself. Feelings of emotional safety with a partner are hard to establish after trauma, and you may not feel relatable to those who have not experienced the events you have. On the flip side, you could be trusting too easily or become open to the wrong person in order to seek perceived feelings of love and safety.

Unexplained Anger

Anger is commonly expressed in relationships in order to avoid the vulnerability it takes to express the underlying emotions. This is because vulnerability in relationships means putting your guard down to potentially get hurt. Doing so can feel unsafe for many trauma survivors. Similarly, in a relationship it can be hard to communicate about serious subjects without getting emotionally flooded or overwhelmed easily. Your criticism towards your partner might become a subconscious defense in order to create distance from a perceived threat, which is a side effect of wanting to create a safe space. This subconscious pushing away of others often results in unintended isolation from loved ones.

Sense of self and self-esteem

Many trauma survivors experience feelings of shame and guilt from the event(s), which become falsely internalized as having something “wrong” with them (by the way, there is nothing wrong with you!). These thoughts frequently lead to low self-esteem and low self-worth. Due to this low self-esteem, you could have difficulty accepting fondness or admiration from your partner. Also, without a sense of self and self-worth, you could easily become a doormat for abuse by others without even realizing that you’re displaying people-pleasing tendencies.

Emotional distance

After trauma, you may perceive emotional disengagement from your partner to be easier than engaging in difficult conversations. This emotional distance especially occurs when the partner doesn’t know about the trauma or doesn’t fully understand it. This will result in you turning away from your partner during times when your partner may be expecting you to turn towards them, and can lead to misunderstandings or hurt feelings by all.

Physical touch

Hypervigilance is a side-effect of trauma, and can lead to sensitivity for physical touch. You could be perceiving any form of touch as dangerous without even realizing it! Sexual intimacy can also be extremely difficult for trauma survivors, particularly if the trauma was sexual in nature. If there is a lack of sexual intimacy in the relationship due to not feeling safe or comfortable, this can lead to gridlocked conflict where your partner may not understand your lack of sexual interest. Side note: do not force engagement in any activity you do not feel comfortable with until seeking help from a licensed professional therapist!

Relationship Therapy Can Help

Does any of the above sound relatable to you and your relationships? If you have experienced trauma, individual therapy or counseling is the first step, and is essential. After working through the events and processing your feelings, individual therapists can also help with improving your self-worth. You can finally move from being a victim to a survivor of trauma, which is empowering! Along with individual care, relationship therapy with a trauma-informed couples or relationship therapist can help as a conjoint service for your relationship.

First, relationship therapy can provide a safe and supportive space to express yourself to your partner. After experiencing trauma, you may unintentionally be vague with your partner when explaining the traumatic events, which is understandable since you’re still trying to make sense of everything yourself! Unfortunately, vague explanations can leave your partner with a lack of understanding about the trauma and what your needs are in the relationship. Relationship therapy can provide a place for healthy dialogue while disclosing your traumatic events, but only when you are ready.

Secondly, identifying and expressing your needs, which have changed due to the trauma, can also be worked on in relationship therapy. You’ll need to identify your triggers in the relationship and learn how to express them to your partner. This is because your partner may not understand why certain seemingly neutral people, places, or things are triggering for you. During the therapy process a professional can also help your partner to better understand trauma through what’s called “psychoeducation”.  

Resources

While working with Sara at Confluent Relationship Therapy, she can provide the necessary supplemental trauma resources tailored to you. Individual therapy with a trauma therapist can help you process and work through the events. However, Sara can also help connect you to a professional. She will recommend individual trauma therapists or sex therapists and collaborate with them on your care. Please also see the resources page for crisis organizations or additional services you may need.  

Reach out today to start working with Sara for relationship therapy with you and your partner(s)!

[1] Read more about SAMHSA here: SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990.

Disaster Distress Helpline: Get Immediate Crisis Counseling and Support | SAMHSA

Recovering From Infidelity:

10 Vital Questions to Ask After an Affair

Moving forward from infidelity in a monogamous relationship can pose many challenges for a couple, including the new task of repairing the broken bond between partners. It is possible to overcome and work through events of infidelity! Just as long as both partners are willing to put in the effort to re-construct the union after betrayal.

To start, the partners must open a dialogue. Being able to communicate about the affair is essential for the partner that endured the pain of hearing their loved one was with someone else.  For that betrayed partner, they must be given the space to express their all of their feelings which could include anger, shame, resentment, and sadness. These feelings must be listened to and validated by the unfaithful partner. In this atonement phase, the unfaithful partner must except full responsibility for their wrongful actions.

After the ability to discuss the feelings surrounding the events, the betrayed partner will have looming questions. These questions may surround the basics of who, what, when, where, and why. During this conversation the unfaithful partner has to commit to being transparent about the affair. However, it can be hurtful to hear some of the graphic details from the events of infidelity.

Appropriate Questions to Ask the Unfaithful Partner 

1) “Is this the first time you have been unfaithful in our relationship?” Has an affair happened in previous stages of the relationship?

 

2) “Are you done seeing and talking to this person?” Is the unfaithful partner still in communication with the individual? Do they have plans to put an end to the affair? Repair of the relationship cannot begin until the affair is unequivocally over.

 

3) “Where did you meet this person?” Was this through a dating site? At work? At a bar or club?

 

4) “When did you see or talk to this person?” Was it while the betrayed partner was out of town? Was it while they were sleeping?  

 

5) “How long did you see or talk to them?”  Was this an affair that lasted days? Months? Years?

 

6) “Where did you say you were at the time when you saw or talked to them?” At the time of the affair, did they say they were working late? Did they say they were going to a friend’s house? It should be known to the betrayed partner what lies covered up the meetings for the affair.

 

7) “What were your reasons for participating in this affair?” How did the unfaithful partner validate this affair to themselves?

 

8) “How do I know that this person will not contact you again?” Will the unfaithful partner block this individual’s phone number, if they can? If it is a work setting where the affair started, are they doing their best to limit interaction with the individual?

 

9) “What boundaries do you have in place for yourself so that this does not happen again with someone else?” Will the partner who was unfaithful commit to staying away from places that elicited these types of interactions? (i.e.-bar or club, online dating sites, etc.)

 

10) “Why did you continue the affair after I found out?” This question may not apply to every couple but could apply if the affair continued after the betrayed partner became aware of the events.  

 Starting Therapy

These conversations should include an open, honest dialogue to allow the unfaithful partner to divulge all secrets involved in the betrayal. Couples therapy can provide a supportive space to process the feelings that arise immediately after infidelity and help with navigating through these difficult questions. A therapist can also guide partners through the next phases of the relationship repair, including attunement and strengthening the broken bond or attachment. Moving forward from betrayal is possible, if both partners are willing to put in the work.

Reach out to Sara today to start your process of recovery!