Relationship Resolutions

by Diamond Greene, LCMFT

Friday, January 14th, 2022

Have you identified your goals for 2022? Do not neglect your marriage/relationship when you think about the things you would like to improve this year. Your relationship requires just as much attention and effort as your savings goals or wellness goals. Here are three goals to consider as you begin a new year with your partner:

  1. Fight Fair: Utilize your communication skills. I-statements, reflections, and VALIDATION are your friends. These will also help to improve communication between you and your partner. Conflict is inevitable, so when it does occur, make sure to fight fairly. This means not using degrading language, no stonewalling, taking turns talking, no yelling, and taking a time out if things get too heated.2.Prioritize Your Emotional Connection: Do you know your partner’s love language? If not, you both should take a quiz to find out and take time to do something to fulfill one and another’s love languages. When was the last time you all went on a date? Try to make it a goal to have weekly or bi-weekly dates. These do not always have to be outside of the home if this is not realistic for you all, but be intentional about spending quality, uninterrupted time together.

    3. Commit to the Daily Question: Is there anything I can do to make your life easier today? Teamwork is very important for successful couples. Figure out how you all can support each other and be sure to express gratitude when your partner fulfills your request.

2022-01-18T11:40:46-05:00January 18th, 2022|

Therapist Spotlight: Tamara Hull

Tamara Hull

by Tamara Hull, LGMFT

December 3rd, 2021
Q: On behalf of the Relationship Counseling Center of Maryland (RCC), thank you for being on staff as a therapist! What has been the most exciting part in working with RCC and its clients?
A:  The most exciting part of working with RCC and its clients has been being part of a warm, caring, and highly skilled team that is focused on supporting each other and helping every client produce the results they are seeking. I love the fact that while we may be working independently to serve RCC’s amazing, courageous, and fiercely committed clients; we are not doing it alone!

Q: In your style of therapy, do you like to tackle the main issue head-on, or focus on the deeper issues first?
A: I believe all relationships, including those between therapists and clients, build over time as both parties grow in trusting and investing in each other. Consequently, in my style of therapy, I like to address each client’s stated goals first and address the deeper issues as they naturally unfold throughout the course of therapy.

Q: Have you yourself been to therapy?
A:  Yes! I sought the services of a therapist in my 20’s to help me with a long-term relationship that I found particularly troubling.  I have never forgotten how helpful it was to have the support of my therapist as I went through a significant transition in my life. That early therapeutic relationship helped start me on a journey of personal growth and development that still continues today, and I hope, will continue to unfold and expand throughout the rest of my lifetime!

Q: What was the moment you realized you wanted to be a marriage and family therapist?
A:  I was in a personal growth and development workshop segment that focused on pursuing your dreams, when I realized I wanted to be a marriage and family therapist.  At that point, all of the training, skills and experiences gained throughout my whole lifetime culminated in a flash of insight and inspiration.  It occurred like the last, giant piece of a jigsaw puzzle being settled into place so that I could clearly see my purpose and vision for the future, in the context of all that I had already accomplished in the past.  Afterwards, I started taking steps towards my vision, (including returning to graduate school), and I began happily working as a licensed clinician in the field less than 3 years later.
Q: What do you like most about working with people?
A:  I feel it is the ultimate challenge, responsibility, privilege, and reward to work with people and walk with them through some of their most difficult challenges. I find it inspiring and deeply satisfying to support my clients as they have breakthroughs and take new actions that help them create the kinds of relationships and experiences they want for themselves.
Q: Outside of being a therapist, what are some of your hobbies?
A: Outside of being a therapist, I enjoy singing, photography, planning and attending fun social gatherings to connect with family and friends, traveling, beach-going, and interior decorating.
Q: What do you do for self-care?
A: For self-care, I seek to maintain a healthy balance in my life which includes attending to my spiritual, physical, financial, emotional, occupational, and social health.  I prioritize spending time with family and friends, engaging in Bible study to ground me and give me perspective, and taking long walks to enjoy the outdoors (including spending time at the MD/DE beaches). I also maintain my own therapy as a commitment to my self-care.  For me, it is both an act of “pouring in” to myself so that I can “pour myself out” for my clients from a “full cup,” and it also helps me stay in touch with the experience of being a client.

Q: In your experience, what is the most important thing that can strengthen a relationship?
A: I think the most important thing that can be done to strengthen a relationship is to actively listen to your partner with compassion and an open mind.  Specifically, I believe this includes seeking to understand situations from your partner’s perspective and demonstrating to them that you really heard and understood what they have said (regardless of whether you agree with their thoughts or not).

2021-12-07T12:14:21-05:00December 7th, 2021|

Enjoy Fall’s Transitions and New Beginnings

by Tamara A. Hull, LGMFT

November 3, 2021

Fall is traditionally a season filled with transitions and new beginnings. While there is excitement about growth, as well as opportunities to return to something that more closely resembles the “normal we used to know,” there is still much stress associated with the fall transition. Students are returning to school in person, as others make their way back to the office. People are returning to these public environments despite the ever-changing COVID-19 health epidemic. So, it is of utmost importance, now more than ever, to maintain a healthy balance in our activities and the expectations we have of ourselves and our loved ones. The states of our mental, emotional and physical health all impact our ability to manage stress and enjoy our lives. If stress is beginning to affect you and/or your family in a negative way, consider trying these tips that are designed to help get you and your family back on track:

  • Adjust Your Attitude – Recognize the added stresses you, your partner and your children may be experiencing and try to give yourself and others “a little grace,” (i.e. a little unmerited forgiveness; the benefit of the doubt; kindness and favor; easing of expectations). Shifting your thinking and easing the height of the expectations you hold for yourself and others you care about during periods of transition can provide everyone with a little more room to be “perfect in their imperfections” and reduce stress.
  • Stay Connected to Your Loved Ones – Taking time to talk about your concerns, joys and fears, as well as listening to the feelings of others can help. Even if you are unable to solve a problem expressed by a loved one, just listening to them can help relieve stress because they know that you heard them and that you care. If appropriate, you might try making a simple, specific request for, or offer of support, (i.e., “Would you help me fold the laundry while we watch a movie together? “ or “You look a little tense. Would you like me to entertain the kids while you take a 20-minute walk after dinner?”)
  • Stay In Tune with Physical Needs – When you prioritize getting enough rest and exercise and complete a short mindfulness meditation over finishing one more thing on your to-do list, you can greatly reduce the harmful effects of stress.
  • Seek Professional Assistance – If you feel the stresses are compounding and “getting out of hand,” know that it is okay to ask for help, and to seek professional assistance.

By allowing ourselves to prioritize care of our mental, emotional and physical needs as this pandemic continues, we are giving ourselves and our loved ones the best chance of riding the waves of stress successfully, while vigorously enjoying life during this unprecedented fall season of transitions and new beginnings.

2021-11-04T10:50:01-04:00November 4th, 2021|

Healing the Relationship from Your Affair

by Wilson Llerena, LCMFT

August 26th, 2021

You made a mistake. There are plenty of reasons why this happened, but now it’s time to own up to your lapse in judgment. You go to therapy (because your good pal Wilson told you to ☺), but you’re finding the process to be slow, and it just feels like you and your partner are arguing more now. All you want to do is fix the problem and pretend it never happened. The journey to healing is a long one, but there are some things you can do to help move things along more smoothly.

1. Be Transparent: Your partner’s trust has been badly damaged now. You can’t rely on your previous experiences with them to re-establish trust because the foundation is gone. You must go the extra mile. Your partner will come back to you again and again to ask you to repeat the story of how everything happened. You need to do your best to be honest and not leave anything out. You need to take responsibility and be patient with your partner’s process, because they are questioning everything that they thought was true in your relationship. Yes, it will be repetitive and painful to retell the story over and over again. Keep in mind that your partner needs to know you will protect the relationship from damage going forward.

  1. Identify Triggers: Your partner is hypervigilant right now. They are on edge when you get a text or a phone call after work, or when you leave home. Trust that your partner doesn’t enjoy feeling this way. It is important to continue being transparent and inquiring about their triggers so that both of you are aware of them, and so that you can set reasonable expectations. You may need to show more effort by notifying them regarding any changes in plans or schedules and being transparent about phone calls and text messages after-hours. This includes setting appropriate boundaries with people who may be threats to the relationship. This part of the healing process is temporary, as your partner needs to see that they can trust you before allowing themselves to be vulnerable again.
  2. Validate Fears: Once triggers have been identified, you may be able to more easily empathize with your partner. Your partner will continue to come back to you and express fear about your actions when they coincide with one of their triggers. Biologically, the part of our brain that controls emotion is right next to the part of our brain that controls episodic memory. Validate their fears based on your past actions, then re-direct and remind them of your efforts by saying, “I hope you can trust me based on the effort I’ve been making recently for the relationship.” Invalidating their fears will be detrimental to the progress made towards healing. Your partner needs to know that they are being heard and that you are being mindful of their needs in the relationship. Do your best to reject that knee-jerk reaction to defend yourself. Take a breathe, validate, and re-direct.
2021-08-26T15:29:23-04:00August 26th, 2021|

Meditation for Two

by Jasmine Mauss, LCMFT

July 8th, 2021

Meditation is often conceptualized as a solitary practice, used ritually for stress management and mindful living. While it certainly can be those things, it doesn’t have to stop there. Let’s spice things up a bit and get your partner involved! Intentional meditation with a partner can help to expand feelings of gratitude, promote relationship satisfaction, and cultivate deeper physical and emotional intimacy. Adopting this simple practice of stillness and reflection helps to slow down the monotony of life and its challenges, create intentional self-awareness, all the while simultaneously bringing you closer to your partner. Here’s how:

  1. Co-regulate: Co-regulation is the meditative art of synching up your breathing, gaze, and heartbeat with that of your partner. Find a comfy place to lie down or sit with your partner. Lock your eyes together and make eye contact. It may feel awkward at first, but that’s okay! Embrace it. After you pay attention to your own breathing for a minute or so, see if you can hear or sense your partner’s breath next to yours. Attempt to synchronize your breathing with your partner’s and maintain a slow steady rhythm together. Practice this for 3-10 minutes. This is a natural way to help self-soothe, minimize stress, and calm down the central nervous system. Our partners often serve as a “safe space”. Therefore, our bodies will naturally slow down and relax as a response to being proximal and close.
  2. Set an Intention: Going into a meditation practice with a goal or intention can help to create a specific focus during the time you and your partner have together.  Maybe your intention is to connect deeper emotionally or to have better physical intimacy this week! Perhaps, it is to reflect and share moments of gratitude.  Maybe you would like to focus on being more aware of your partner’s emotions to feel more attuned to them. Communicate to your special someone on what you are hoping to get out of your meditation practice.  When both people have a similar agenda, it can create a powerful energy! This is especially important after a tense argument. You can set an intention to “reset” and repair after a period of disconnection or misunderstanding.
  3. Debrief afterwards: The moments following a good meditation together can be an excellent opportunity for communication and connection as well. Sometimes when we allow our minds to be still, certain thoughts and emotions float to the surface. Some of these things that come up may be thoughts/emotions that we have neglected to address ourselves. Conversely, there may be things that have been running on repeat in our minds for some time. Spend a few moments discussing with your partner some of the things that came up during meditation and are currently in your heart. This is where you can take your intention and turn it into action! Now is your time to brainstorm ways you can help bring some of those original goals into fruition and optimize the health and vitality of your relationship. Consciousness breeds communication, and communication breeds connection and compromise.

Meditation has the power to deepen your connection and strengthen your interactions by intentionally carving out time to sync together spiritually and emotionally. Take advantage of these moments of silence and stillness that can nurture your relationship both with yourself and with your partner.

2021-07-08T14:52:00-04:00July 8th, 2021|

Say Something Nice

by Meg Tenny, LCMFT

June 10th, 2021

June 1st is National Say Something Nice Day, which originated from Mitchell Carnell (also the author of Random Acts of Kindness). Carnell implores you to “be a lifter” and lift others up instead of tearing them down. Carnell understands the importance of positive communication and verbal appreciation in relationships. When was the last time you said something nice to your partner? Do you criticize your partner more often than you uplift him or her? Today is a good day to take part in an honest evaluation of yourself and how you speak to your spouse.

1. Avoid Criticism – Relationships, whether familial relationships, friendships or romantic relationships, do not benefit much at all from criticism. Criticism takes the form of a character attack and gives the message that there is something wrong with the person who is being targeted. We all gain some positive self esteem from healthy relationships in knowing that our friends, family and spouse love us unconditionally. Criticism takes that away from us by making love conditional. Never underestimate the power of positive verbal feedback on the recipient. However, communication lines must be open to express both positive and negative experiences. So how do you address negative interactions without using criticism?

2. Learn How to Complain – There is a difference between criticism and complaint. Healthy couples do occasionally complain to one another if they see something going wrong in their relationship. The proper way to complain is to be specific, take some responsibility, use “we” language and avoid blaming language. It is more effective to discuss behaviors that can be changed as a team. You can also leave the complaint until your couple therapy session so that your therapist can help you present your complaint fairly to your spouse.

3. Be Genuine – Make an effort every day to be a “lifter” in your relationship. Chances are that you already notice when your partner looks nice or does something helpful, but do you take the time to point it out to them? When you give a compliment or say something nice to your partner, make sure it is heartfelt and genuine. If you don’t have anything nice to say, sometimes it is better to say nothing at all. Making small changes like this can make a huge difference in how your partner feels about you and your marriage.

By avoiding criticism and learning how to complain properly, we are able to master the art of being a “lifter” to our loved ones. It creates space for us to be heard but to also maintain genuine and emotionally gratifying relationships. Let’s practice ways to uplift, so that we may receive the same acts of grace and kindness in return.

2021-06-11T12:18:37-04:00June 11th, 2021|

Transition Time: Let’s Talk About Stress


by John Hart, PhD, LCMFT

Thursday May 6th, 2021
Over the last year, the pandemic has impacted our well-being and the well-being of our loved ones. One of the underlying reasons for the high levels of stress endured over the last year can be attributed to transitions. Transitions are defined as the process of changing from one state or condition to another. The reason that therapists work closely with couples to focus on their transitions in the therapeutic process is because transitions are stressful (Note: even the positive events such as school graduation, purchasing a home, wedding planning, etc.). Remember, when we are stressed, some of our unhealthy habits, tendencies and behaviors start to resurface. As this pandemic continues, there is a good chance that many more transitions will come our way. It is critical for couples to keep these three skills in mind and work together to reduce relationship strain:

  1. Identify Stress Triggers: It would be helpful for you and your partner to open up and honestly identify recent triggers that have caused stress. Sharing this information prevents each partner from feeling alone when trying to manage stressors. Your partner becomes aware of how the stress is affecting you emotionally. As for the triggers that may relate to the relationship and/or parenting, when identifying your triggers, share them in a non-judgmental way, express how the trigger is impacting you by using descriptive feeling words, and share what you have been doing to cope. Trust me, that amount of information is helpful and allows your partner to empathize and work together with you. That’s teamwork!
  2. Use Stress Management Techniques: Even outside of couple therapy, both partners should take advantage and utilize the basic techniques of stress management. These techniques include: sleep hygiene, nutrition, exercise, deep breathing, meditation (and yoga), relaxing activities (e.g., reading, coloring, aromatherapy), etc. I know reading this, most folks are confused, as in “tell me something I don’t know.” I am not sharing these techniques to insult anyone’s intelligence, but basic techniques tend to be often overlooked. These techniques are sometimes more accessible and effective in stressful moments than trying to implement all-out clinical interventions.
  3. Implement Stress Check-In: This is an idea that I have stressed (no pun intended) when working with my couples. The idea of a stress check-in works similarly to a couple emotional check-in. A stress check-in during a transition allows you and your partner to gain insight as to where each partner may be on the stress scale. There is no uniform scale to use. Whatever method you want to use to identify your stress level during a check-in is fine (e.g., numbers, colors, weather reports, etc.). During a transition, check-in more often than not and make sure there is space for each person to identify where they are on their scale. Follow up by asking them “Is there anything I can do to help relieve stress?” Reply with something basic for your partner to do. It’s a win-win!

Handling abrupt and stressful transitions can be quite overwhelming. Especially during the pandemic, it is important for couples to have a plan for how they want to remain emotionally transparent with each other and handle the stress using a team-based approach. Let’s make handling our life transitions less stressful and lean on each other to make it happen.

2021-05-06T19:37:40-04:00May 6th, 2021|

Who is Your Support System?

by Jannel Thomas, LGMFT

April 1st, 2021

You may be asking: what is a support system and why is it important to have one? Well, a support system is a network of people who can provide you with emotional and overall support. Research has shown that having a strong support system can have many positive benefits including better physical and mental health, the reduction of depression and anxiety symptoms, and a decrease in stress. A support system is important because it can help you manage everyday stress, combat loneliness, assist with making difficult decisions, and provide hope to find solutions for problems you may be experiencing. If you struggle to understand what your support system should look like, here are a few ways to build and strengthen it:

  1. Identify family and friends who you can reach out to. Think about people who you love, trust, and care about as well as the people who feel the same about you. These are the friends and family who can provide you with emotional support. Feel free to send a simple text message or video call to get the conversation going.
  2. Connect with people who share your interests. Consider volunteering or joining a club that highlights your interests and hobbies. This can be a great way to meet and interact with people who enjoy the same likes and interests that you do. There are many virtual, online, and/or COVID-19 friendly options for you to explore.
  3. Find a mentor. Mentors can be helpful in significant areas of your life including religion, finances, relationships, etc. Mentors are great people who can help guide you and provide you with advice as you navigate through life. For example, contact someone who is highly experienced in your professional field or reach out to a local faith leader and ask if they have the availability to be your mentor.

Having a strong support system is extremely beneficial to your mental health and everyday life. It is important to strengthen and utilize your support system during times of crisis, like now while living in a global pandemic when it can be easy to self-isolate. So, feel free to tap into any aspect of your support system whenever you feel the need to. Chances are that you’ll feel better after doing so.

2021-04-01T15:35:03-04:00April 1st, 2021|

Social Media and Your Mental Health

by Diamond Greene, LCMFT 

March 4th, 2021

As human beings, we are social creatures and need relationships to thrive. With social distancing becoming our way of life, many of us have turned to social media more often than not for social interactions. Unfortunately, excessive social media use has also been linked to anxiety and depression. If you notice that you are spending more time on social media than with your friends, comparing yourself to others on social media, experiencing sleep problems, or are distracted at school or work by your social media use, you may want to consider making modifications to your screen time.

  1. Reduce Time Online: In order to reduce your social media use, it may be helpful to use an app (Screen Time for iPhone users and Digital Well-being for Android users) to track how much time you spend on social media each day.  These apps help you to set goals and find ways to reduce your usage. Additionally, the apps will help you to set limits on how much time you spend on other apps. You can try turning off your phone at certain times of the day, not bringing your phone to bed (or to the bathroom), disabling social media notifications, setting specific times when you will check social media, and even removing social media apps from your phone altogether.
  2. Improve Social Time Offline: While social distancing makes this a little more difficult, you can still connect with your friends. Fun things to try at home may be hosting a virtual cook-off or taking an online class together. For outdoor socially-distanced activities, try walking or running, having a picnic, or doing an outdoor fitness class. Try limiting phone use as much as possible while engaging with friends.
  3. Express Gratitude: Excessive social media use can often lead to feelings of discontent. You may begin comparing yourself to others and holding yourself to unrealistic standards. Taking time for reflection and practicing mindfulness daily can decrease the negative impacts of social media use. Expressing gratitude will help you focus on things that are going well in your life and mindfulness will help you be more in the present moment.

 

2021-03-09T11:30:49-05:00March 9th, 2021|

Love Hurts

by Rolonda Williams, LCMFT

February 4th, 2021

Experiencing hardship is almost like a right-of-passage for every relationship. Even the healthiest marriages encounter very dark times during which the relationship is jeopardized. Most relationships experience challenging moments where partners might feel that it would be less painful if they just called it quits. Although this is the time of year that love is in the air, we are also living through unprecedented times that drastically exacerbate the stress placed on our relationships. What should we do when partners feel that they are at their wits’ end?

  1. Disrupt Your Cycle: Usually when partners are experiencing difficulty, it becomes even more challenging to communicate effectively. This is the point at which couple therapy is most helpful. It provides partners with tools to disrupt unhealthy communication patterns that leave both partners feeling unheard. The goal is not only to have your thoughts and feelings heard, but also to understand where your partner is coming from. This often requires taking a time-out, regulating your emotions and coming back to the conversation with a new way of thinking and talking. This is a healthier method of relaying your feelings and receiving the feelings of your partner; even if they are negative. In order to feel heard, you must also be willing to objectively listen without internalizing your partner’s negative emotions.
  2. Don’t Wait Too Long: Unfortunately, some couples wait to begin couple therapy after the relationship has already suffered extensively. Explore couple therapy as an option before the relationship gets to a place of no return. Some partners make the mistake of refusing to attend couple therapy after their partner has requested it. Be open and flexible to learning something new that can assist your relationship in growing over time rather than becoming stuck in a rut. There’s nothing wrong with getting help and support.
  3. Break Up Monotony: In some cases, our relationships suffer from the reality that things have become monotonous. This is especially true during the pandemic during which coping is very limited. Routine is incredibly important especially for those couples with children. However, sometimes it becomes necessary to break the routine in order to gain perspective on the relationship. Break routine for a breakthrough! Our relationship can be rejuvenated in many ways, whether through a small trip, a creative date night, a weekend at a hotel, virtual yoga, a picnic or simply doing something out of the norm. The relationship is much less daunting when we are able to connect emotionally and spend time enjoying one other. In those moments, we are reminded of why we are together.

Most couples recognize that love is not enough but it is a foundation. Love requires maintenance in addition to respect and willingness. These two components allow us to give our partners the benefit of the doubt, gain perspective and realize that we have bad times. However, bad times do not necessarily equate to a bad relationship. Happy Relationship Wellness Month!

2021-02-05T14:35:39-05:00February 5th, 2021|
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