Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships

Healthy Relationships vs. Unhealthy Relationships

Today’s topic is addressing the differences in healthy and unhealthy relationships.
A healthy relationship is based on mutual respect, trust, partnership and support. It seeks to be fair when addressing any conflict and seriously takes the other person’s point of view into consideration. This usually plays out in a few key characteristics that are necessary. According to the Duluth Model’s Equality Wheel, a healthy relationship has 9 key elements: Non-Violence; Negotiation & Fairness; Non-Threatening Behavior; Respect; Trust & Support; Honesty & Accountability; Responsible Parenting; Shared Responsibility; and Economic Partnership.
Based on Duluth Model from

During counseling sessions with couples, one model used is the Gottman Model. It was developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman.  It uses the Sound Relationship House to address and maintain these elements of a healthy relationship. There are specific activities and skills practiced to address each level of the house.
The Gottman Institute Sound Relationship House from

An unhealthy relationship usually presents as quite the opposite of the above examples. At least one partner is critical of the other, there is aggressive or passive-aggressive forms of communication or conflict management, there is an absence of mutual respect, there is very little compromise, and there is an absence of being able to accept responsibility for things that might need to change in the relationship.  According to the Duluth Model’s Power and Control Wheel, an unhealthy relationship also can have 9 key elements: Violence (Physical and/or Sexual), Using Intimidation, Using Emotional Abuse, Using Isolation, Minimizing, Denying, Blaming; Using Children; Using Male Privilege (or the Dominant Partner Privilege); Using Economic Abuse; and Using Coercion & Threats.

Counseling with qualified clinicians can effectively address both types of relationships. Healthy relationships with minor challenges or a goal of strengthening the current bond can utilize couples counseling to be proactive. This can help those relationships stay ahead of the statistics, which shows that most couples wait until 6 years after they have started having problems before seeking professional help. Use couples counseling as maintenance and Preventative Care vs. Emergency Room level attention.

Couples with more serious issues can also benefit from couples counseling to retrain ineffective and harmful behaviors in their relationship. There is one caveat, relationships that have a partner who engages in  “characterological violence" (one who frequently uses abusive tactics, especially physical violence, as a way of controlling and manipulating their partner) are usually less successful in couples therapy without individual counseling being utilized by the abuser. A decision might even need to be made by one or both people in this type of abusive relationship to separate or end the relationship.

Disagreements will occur in any relationship. How you deal with those disagreements and with each other determines a healthy vs. unhealthy relationship. Counseling can help you navigate Conflict Management vs. Conflict Resolution. The Relationship Boosters is a group of Gottman approved educators and licensed counselors. Feel free to contact us if you are interested in couples counseling. You can also seek out other couples counselors in your area for further help. has great resources for people who are in abusive relationships. If further help is needed in that area, try their link in order to get resources where you live.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why You Started Dating Your Mate!

Bringing Back The Good Ol' Days

Remember the days when your relationship was new and everything was so exciting?  When relationships are new, you may anticipate your next interaction; it may feel like waiting in line for a roller coaster ride! This excitement creates an intense interest to see each other.  There is also a great deal of concern and interest in your partner's feelings.  When the sparks are flying, there is an increased focus on connecting emotionally.  At this stage in the relationship, you are more likely to center your life around your partner.

Many people ask, “What can I do to bring back that experience?”  It all starts with focusing on your partner and your relationship.  Listed are some ideas to heighten the focus on your partner. 

  1. Get out of the routine.  Switch it up so that your partner can experience some things that are unexpected.  For instance, show up for lunch at his or her job.  Have a romantic evening planned at the house. Routines can become boring; it makes life seem like it’s on autopilot.  Getting out of the routine can help add some spice to your relationship.
  2. Take the day and plan a date with the focus on your partner.   Think of something that he or she might enjoy, and make a Saturday of it!   This will give your spouse the idea that you have been thinking about him or her during your time apart. 
  3.  Re-create a date that was meaningful to you and your partner.  What date do you recall being highly connected with your partner?  If your first date was your most memorable experience, why not do it again?  Re-create that night or day.  Bring back the romance from the intense connection that you had at that time. 
Remember, keeping the spark lit can contribute to having a long lasting connection.  Recalling your courting days can always help you maintain an interest in one another.  It allows you to remember the reasons for being together.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Getting the Most Out of Pre-Marital Counseling

Being engaged and taking that next step toward marriage is one of the most exciting times in life. Many of the engaged couples that I counsel have used terms like: bliss, peace, a high, content, or satisfied to describe the feeling of finally finding "The One" with whom they are committing to spend a lifetime! Since getting married is a major life change, many people make it a priority to seek couples counseling or pre-marital counseling.

Couples come to counseling for various reasons. Research has shown that married couples tend to wait six years after a problem arises in the relationship before going to counseling. Naturally, it can take time to work through feelings of apprehension about sharing the details of your relationship with a stranger.  The stigma of going to counseling still persists, and that doesn't help couples to feel comfortable with seeking services.  However, many couples find that once there, counseling is a very helpful means for repairing or maintaining the health of the relationship. Pre-marital counseling is a great way for couples to be proactive by addressing some of the challenges of long term commitment, before problems arise. Here are five helpful tips for getting the most out of pre-marital counseling:

1. Never Fear.

Don't be afraid to consider what could go wrong in the marriage. This may be difficult because the first couple of years are blissful. There is the tendency to have blinders on when you're in the "in love" phase of a relationship.  Consider this, mature love develops from both good and bad times.  It's OK to talk about things that you feel may cause problems later on as opposed to ignoring them and hoping they will go away.  Every relationship has problems. It's better to face them now so they won't be such a shock to your union when times get rough.  Through counseling, you will learn how to talk about your problems effectively in order to work together and solve them. What are the challenges or barriers to happiness that you forsee?

2. Be Honest

A good counselor will provide a safe and open environment, which allows you and your partner to feel comfortable talking. It's important to use this time to be really candid, not only with your partner and your counselor, but with yourself. Don't hold back your true feelings.  Give yourself permission to go deep and to be vulnerable.  Besides, the more open and honest you are, the more you and your partner will gain from this experience.

3. Capitalize on Your Strengths

Identify your strengths as a couple. Your strengths are the assets that you both bring to the table of your relationship. They are what, quite possibly, keep you together.  Is it the chemistry? Could it be the friendship you share? Whatever the strengths are, give yourselves credit, and plan on how you can keep growing together based on your strengths. 

4.The Art of Listening

Take advantage of this time to learn the art of listening to your partner, without judgment. Often, people are quick to respond without getting all of the necessary information before reacting.  So much gets lost in conversation when you are planning your response versus really hearing what your partner is trying to convey.  Tip- ask questions for clarity prior to giving a retort. Look for ways to validate your partner when he's talking, then respond or give your feedback.  Learn the skill of listening, this will come in handy down the road.


Consider your own personal qualities or patterns that may hinder the relationship.  Do you tend to start arguments often? Are your spending habits out of control? Now is a good time to take an objective look at what things you can change about yourself in order to be a better partner. Be willing to discuss this in sessions and be open to feedback. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

6 Habits of Happily Blended Families


Parenting can sometimes be intense; it is one of the most trying roles that many of us take on in life. Blending a family to include children from your partner’s prior relationship can sometimes add even more of a challenge.  Here are some tips if you are in a blended family system. 

Set time aside to spend together.
·        Despite the hectic schedules that go along with raising children and making a family work, it is always important for the parenting couple to take care of the intimate relationship.  Whether you choose to go on a date once a week or have alone time in the house without the children, make sure you are giving your relationship the nurturing and time it needs in order to keep the connection alive.  
 Encourage children to express their feelings openly.
·        Giving your child or your stepchild “a voice” and the chance to express how they truly feel can be a gift. When someone shares their deepest feelings about something, it makes them feel special that you took the time to listen.  This provides an opportunity for growth for that child.  Children are no different than adults in this way.  Besides, when you take the time to listen to a child and validate how they are feeling, it deepens your connection with them and builds trust.
  Remain committed to the partnership by focusing on what brought you together.
·       The strongest couples have a “united front” attitude.  They are able to recognize that they are in “this” together.  Even though there are disagreements, they are able to reconcile quickly and maintain positive regard toward their partner.  Children are very observant, and if there isn't a crack in the couples relationship, the lack of a united front will give the illusion that there is.
Keep expectations realistic
·        Conflict will arise in any family system, and it has many faces.  The effective couple who finds themselves in a blended family uses every opportunity to work together in order to come up with solutions to problems and manage them every step of the way, instead of avoiding conflict.  Every conflict that arises is not going to be handled perfectly, and sometimes you may have to step back and allow the biological parent to handle his or her child independent of you.  Remember, there is more than one way to handle a conflict. Since blending a family is like a journey, be flexible and always look for opportunities to learn the lessons that lie ahead.
The step parent defers to the bio-parent when it comes to discipline
·        In the beginning stages of blending a family, it can be confusing for both the children and the adults.  Everyone is working hard to find their place in the family to define their role and meaning, particularly when the previous relationship abruptly had to come to an end.  It is particularly important for the step parent to give the bio parent room to discipline their child; this is to avoid increasing any negative perceptions the child may already have about the step parent.  As the relationship strengthens and the trust develops between the step parent and step child, things may change in the disciplining department. 
  Encourage one anothers children every chance you get.
·        Children love to be praised, even for the smallest of things.  Make sure you and your partner are taking the time to recognize every good thing that your children/stepchildren are doing right. Point it out to them constantly.  This will encourage positive behavior from them more often than not.  Praise is one way to make everyone feel a part of your union and not feel left out.
Copyright 123rf Konstantin Sutyagin 

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Art of Flirting In Your Relationship

When relationships begin, many couples show their desire for each other in the courting process.  Early in the relationship, showing affection is high on the list.   Over time, this attention to the relationship can be lost.  Flirting or engaging in behavior that shows that you are attracted to someone is a sure relationship booster!  What did you do early in your relationship to flirt with your partner?  How can you bring this flirty behavior back? If you don’t know where to get started, here are some ideas to get you going.
  • Do you recall those times when you would spend late nights on the phone talking to your boyfriend or girlfriend? Have an interesting conversation at night.  Talk about what things you love about each other and things that you're interested in doing together in the near future. Learn more about your partner and build a stronger connection.
  • Get out of that rigid old habit of predictability.  Have a fun filled day of spontaneity and surprise. See what you guys can get into with the agenda of having a day of stress-free relaxation.
  • When is the last time you gave your spouse a compliment?  Give him or her an unexpected compliment for an ego boost!  Tell your partner about his or her “sexy” body parts.
  • Take the compliment a step further, and share your desires and fantasies about each other.  Tell your partner exactly what you want him or her to do and vice versa.  This can rejuvenate a more intimate connection.
  • Stay connected through physical touch. Sitting on your partners lap is a great way to flirt.  You can also hold your mates hand or slip your shoe off and play footsie under the table. Send your partner the nonverbal message, “I can’t keep my hands off you.”
  • There is nothing like receiving some good old fashioned attention.  Send your partner a text or sext message.  Show your partner that you are thinking of him or her while you are apart.  This lets you partner know that he or she is out of site, not out of mind.

Don’t wait for flirting to come to you.  If flirting is absent, initiate it in your relationship. Acknowledge and share your sexual and overall attraction with your partner!  This can increase your connection and improve your relationship.  What are you waiting for?  Get in the habit of giving your relationship that extra boost. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I love my partner, but my life is just so busy.

An Invitation To The Clean-up  Man or Woman

We meet so many couples who say that they don't have time for their relationship.  Of course, the statement is not as direct, but the communication has the same meaning.  Some common statements are:

I am so tired when I get home, I just want to go to sleep.
My work schedule is so busy, and we just don’t get around to spending time together.
I have so many events to attend.
My friends and I have gatherings weekly.
We spend time together when we get around to it.
Our focus is on the kids, they have us so busy.

We understand life can be hectic; however, relationships require focus; relationships need to be nurtured.  Letting your relationship flounder can lead to unhappiness, separation, even the demise of your relationship.  There is so much time and energy spent courting, however, many couples don’t spend enough time and energy maintaining their relationship; this is equivalent to researching and purchasing a car, yet failing to put gas, oil, or even wash the vehicle to optimize its use. 

What did you do to build a career or to be successful at school.  Did you just allow your career or your grades to sit on the back burner?   If you don't go to work, will that help you to reach the goal of a promotion?  Lack of attendance typically ends in termination.  If you fail to attend to your relationship, the relationship will demise in some shape or form.  Of course, there should be focus on paying the bills, and being financially stable; however, this is not at the expense of your relationship.  You need to give just as much time and energy that you've given to your career to your relationship.  

A relationship is an emotional investment and commitment to your partner.  Your relationship and your partner require time and energy to keep the flame lit.  There are many ways to gas up your relationship:
  • Connect with your partner during the day.  He or she is only a text or a phone call away. Reach out and let your partner know that you are thinking about him or her.  Share some important details about your day with your partner.  You can even use this communication to increase intimacy. Sexting can alert your partner that there is an intimate desire that you have for him or her at the moment.
  • Dating is important.  A date does not have to be extravagant.  Your date can be as small as a picnic or as big as a trip to an island.  Either way, it must happen.
  • Create scheduled time that each of you agree to use for couples time; think of it as an appointment devoted to your partner. This means your partner has your full undivided attention.  Leave the phones and electronics out of the picture.  Remember, this time on your schedule should not be treated less important than your time scheduled for work.  If you are on time for work, be on time for your partner.  If you are dependable, there is no reason that your partner should not be able to depend on you to be present.  You and your partner can use this time to focus on building the romance and trust in your relationship. 
  • Take 20 minutes every evening for couples share.  Talk to each other about your day.  Share your hopes dreams and desires with each other.
Assess the importance of your partner and your relationship.  If your partner is extremely important, and you don’t have time for him or her, you may want to re-evaluate your focus. Don’t wait until he or she is fed up, or even worse, the clean-up man or woman is in the picture.  If your desire is to have a long lasting relationship, put the focus on your relationship and stick to the commitment. 

Did you find this article helpful?  Feel free to share it on Facebook by using the buttons below!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring Dates in the DMV

How to Date Economically in the DC Metropolitan Area
After a blistery winter, we are on our way to the first day of spring on March 20th. It's time to start thinking about possible spring date locations for you and your mate.  Let's work on getting our date on.  Dating does not always have to be expensive. There are definitely economical dates in the DC metropolitan area. 

There is nothing like kicking off the season by taking your date to The National Cherry Blossom Festival.  The festival has daily events for you and your significant other to participate in. You can check out the fireworks festival, live music, and the parade.  Take time to enjoy the Japanese street festival, and learn about Japanese culture.  Finally, you can just go to see the blooming of the Cherry Blossoms.  If nothing else, you can hold hands and experience the beautiful Cherry Blossoms.

Next, you can head out to Hains Point Park. This park is surrounded by the Potomac and Anacostia River in DC. You can go to the park for a picnic lunch, and spend the day with your significant other.  At Hains Point, you will get to see the planes fly overhead while you eat surrounded by water. It's a nice place to sit, talk, relax, and get to know each other a little bit more.

Our next stop is Brookside Gardens. Brookside Gardens is a 50 acre public garden in Wheaton, Maryland. Here you can view many tropical plants and experience the colors and smell of spring. In May, Brookside Gardens has a live butterfly exhibit; you and your spouse can go and check it out. If you or your mate are into visualizing and experiencing scenery, this may be a great date for you. There is also an opportunity to learn how to garden together; you can take these skills and work together at home to develop a garden.

Another all-day date destination is The National Zoo. At The National Zoo, you can view a variety of animals, including pandas and cheetahs.  The zoo has designated picnic areas for you and your date to eat. There are also many local restaurants downtown close to the zoo that would bring about a nice romantic atmosphere after spending the day at the zoo.

As you can see, dating does not always have to be expensive.  Since dating should be frequent, you should have a few dates that are short, cheap, and sweet.  Ready set date your mate!