Posts by ksnyder

Bookends of Relationship: Ask, Make Room for Your Partner’s Answer

Posted by in Blog | Comments Off on Bookends of Relationship: Ask, Make Room for Your Partner’s Answer

Last week I introduced, here on the blog, the idea that life gives us sets of bookends within which to operate.  We usually think of these as sets of opposites.  They are the sort of opposites where both are required in order for life and the endeavors of life to be balanced.  Some examples are night/day, dark/light, nurture/teach, work/play, make a mess/clean up, etc.  Today I want to talk about a particularly important set of “opposites” in marriage.  On one hand is the importance of asking for what you need and want.  On the other hand is the importance of making room in your thinking and behavior for your partner to give you their true answer. Occasionally I run into folks, or have a client who does not believe they have the right to ask their spouse to change.  That is the language they usually use: ask my spouse to change.  When we get to the bottom of this belief, we usually find that it is a conflation of the two principles under consideration here.  It’s true, you cannot make someone change, and therefore you shouldn’t go into a relationship expecting for someone to change.  Everyone has the right to live their life as they choose and it is a deeply respectful person who keeps this ethical principle in mind in all their relationships.  When clients voice this objection to my suggestion that they ask for what they need and want, they are sometimes keenly aware of the fact, if so, that they themselves hold a strong value about not being controlled by others, including (and often especially) by their husband or wife.  They don’t ask for what they want and therefore you shouldn’t either.  Or sometimes this person is simply too conflict avoidance to speak up.  They may even be a person who gives, and gives, and gives, but does not ask for much themselves.  Folks who voice these concerns seem to be upholding the second of the two bookends: making room for your partner to give their true answer.  In so doing, however, they are cancelling out the imperative of asking for what you need and want, the other side of the coin to making a marriage work. This “other side of the coin,” or other bookend, as we are saying, also has its set of proponents who may or may not be aware of balancing it with its opposite.  We all know of people who move through life with entitlement, whether consciously or not.  They assume that others will do their bidding and are usually very successful in achieving goals because they make things happen.  They may or may not be aware that they are sometimes infringing on others’ rights when they come on strong with their own agendas.  They may be well aware that they are being controlling of others and simply believe they have the right to do so, or they may be so filled with enthusiasm and desire that the pure force of their energy and personality just clears a path in front of them most of the time.  In truth, the person who gets what they want at the expense of others is usually not asking.  They are “telling,” either verbally or by their actions.  They are leaving little or no room for other people’s input to be considered. The reason to consider these two principles as bookends of a healthy relationship is that they inform and balance one another.  They keep each other from either taking over or from going extinct.  You cannot have a partnership of equals, without the deep...

Read More

Is Your Introvert, Extrovert Difference Flying Under the Radar?

Posted by in Blog | Comments Off on Is Your Introvert, Extrovert Difference Flying Under the Radar?

This week, I have on my mind the topic of Introversion and Extroversion as they appear in the lives of many couples.  My goal in marriage counseling is to help couples with this difference to understand, navigate and optimize it.   What brought it to the forefront of my mind, like most things I write about here, was this week’s session with a couple who were having difficulties with this difference.  I’d like to share with you some insights to help you minimize the downside and optimize the upside of this difference.   Research shows that the characteristics of introversion and extroversion are what we would call hardwired.  They do not come about through socialization, but rather through genetics.  They come about through “nature,” not “nurture.”  Introversion and extroversion have to do with the amount of stimulation which is optimal for each person’s particular well being.  Introverts thrive on less stimulation and extroverts on more.  By stimulation we mean primarily the volume of sensory input, like visual, auditory, tactile, etc., but also pace of input such as moving through space fast or slowly, or listening to content delivered at a fast clip or at a more leisurely pace.  The volume and pace of sensory input for an introvert would be low/slow enough for that individual to take it in, mull it over, possibly to let it “sit inside” awhile, and then to respond to it.  Its as though introverts don’t respond until they have fully experienced and thought something through; then they deliver their response in a neatly prepared package.  Introverts usually know a few people very well and often have known their friends over a long period of time.  Introverts, especially as children, are slow to warm up to new situations.  They need time to observe and familiarize themselves before they are ready to participate.   On the other hand, extroverts thrive on more stimulation: input that is more visually complex, louder, and more tactile.  They find a faster pace and a larger crowd exciting rather than overwhelming, for example.  Extroverts are known for thinking “out loud.”  They realize what they think about something as they hear themselves talking it out.  (Don’t take what an extrovert seems to be concluding on any given topic until they are finished!  Even then, you might ask!)  Extroverts often have many, many acquaintances and include among those they consider friends people they know only superficially.  You might say that introverts go DEEP and extroverts go WIDE.  Extroverts usually feel comfortable jumping right in to new situations and may themselves be the instigators/initiators.   Under stress each individual resorts to the characteristics of their wiring to cope and manage to bring themselves back to optimal well being.  When introverts cross the stimulation threshold and become overstimulated they need to spend time by themselves to restore their energies.  If they are not able to do this, their attention and engagement will involuntarily begin to shut down.  Extroverts find just the opposite kind of situation stressful.  If there is not enough stimulation, e.g. no one to hang out with, things “too quiet,” or nothing going on, an extrovert will become restless and antsy, and likely go looking for something or someone to liven things up.  Extroverts restore their energy in this way.   Couples can inadvertently build resentments towards one another if they do not know that their partner’s need for time alone or time together comes in part for their hard wiring.  If they do not realize this they are apt to interpret the mismatch between them under stress as either purposely intrusive or...

Read More

Everything in Marriage is About Balance

Posted by in Blog | Comments Off on Everything in Marriage is About Balance

If you think about it, everything in life, and marriage (since that is our topic here) is about balance.  There are very few times in a marriage where what is at issue is a definite Right or Wrong.  We can probably all name those on the fingers of one hand.   Most things is life happen in the interplay between what we might call bookends.  Many aspects of marriage happen between the bookends of two life principles, both of which are necessary for balance.  Let’s look at one example and then we will enumerate some of the others.  For example, parenting happens between the bookends of structure and nurture. I would say that these are the bookends of good parenting, because good parenting includes both. Structure has to do with how things work.  Some other words for structure include principle and discipline.  Structure is something that we give to our children in order to teach them how the world works, what they can do to achieve certain goals and how to set up routines so that everything must not be thought about as though for the first time. This aspect of parenting is about showing the child how to do something they didn’t already know how to do. Nurture has to do with cherishing the child just as they are.  When we nurture a child we validate and express appreciation for whatever they feel in the moment.  We reflect back to them in a nonjudgmental way, just what we experience of them in the moment, for example, “you are drawing a picture,” or you feel angry about that,”  or “you like to choose what to wear.”  Nurture takes into account extenuating circumstances and allows for exceptions to the rule.  Nurture lets the child lead with how to proceed in any given situation. Between the bookends of life is where we are challenged to find balance.  In the case of parenting, if we do not strive for balance we will be doing the child a disservice.  For example too much structure kills initiative on the part of the child.  If the child is overly consumed with what is expected of them, they will either become compliant or rebellious.  On the other hand, if a child has too much nurture, they will lack abilities that must be learned in order to get along in the world, like how to respond to other people’s needs and how to achieve things that they will want in life.  What is optimal for children is to have a balance between structure and nurture. Here are some other bookends of marriage:  separateness and togetherness, doing things for others and doing things for the self, spending time together with friends and spending time together one-on-one.  Emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy.  Getting stuff done, relaxing.  Resolving conflict, having dates.  Security, adventure.  I’m sure you can think of many others. Finding the balance that is just right for each couple is one thing I do in couples therapy.   Oftentimes, one spouse is upholding one of the bookends, and the other spouse, the other bookend.  When this is the case, it is easy for the dynamics between the two to polarize.  That is, the more one touts the merits of their bookend, the more the other lobbies for theirs.  Differences can become too wide to resolve when polarizing sets in.  I help couples stop the polarizing and find the balance.  Working out the differences in marriage counseling is often about finding a balance between the two aspects of the whole.  That is exactly what I help couples to do.  I help...

Read More

Reality TV Distorts Couples Therapy

Posted by in Blog, Couples Therapy | 0 comments

VH1’s newest hit television show, “Couples Therapy,” is shining a light on the practice of couples therapy. Along with new shows such as “Felt,” which uses puppets as stand-ins for real-life couples in therapy, it seems that reality television has chosen couples therapy as its latest source of inspiration. Unfortunately, like much of reality television, these shows do more to confuse than illuminate the reality of couples’ therapy. Couples therapy and marriage counseling are, to begin with, not simply things which can be managed to fit into short time-blocks for TV programming; they are an ongoing process that includes not only the time spent working with a therapist, but also the time that a couple takes to put the principles that they learn about to use. Additionally, real couples therapy doesn’t have the convenience of editing to resolve issues. Instead, it requires the honest, open efforts of both spouses to find a common ground that will allow their relationship to flourish. It may be entertaining to watch couples therapy on television, but it’s important to remember that that is all that these shows are:...

Read More

My Logos: Old and New

Posted by in Blog | 0 comments

I love my new logo.  What better image than that of a tree at dawn to capture the enduring, incrementally growing union of couplehood, from sprout to fully contributing giver of life: to children, to community, to extended family, to the inspiration and empowerment of many? My first logo, created in Seattle, Washington by Puget Counseling Center was also a tree at dawn, none other than the familiar and majestic Texas oak.  Starting my career at PCC in 1986, how was I to know that I’d move back to Texas and adopt this lovely logo for my marriage counseling practice?  Here is a rendition of that logo which I created for PCC as a farewell gift upon my departure in 1993. My new logo takes the tree image deeper into the meaning of couplehood.  If you look closely you will see that it is two trees in one.  This image gets closer to the meaning at the heart of a marriage that thrives:  two individuals, both growing and learning, becoming stronger in the winds of life, intertwining their lives for the betterment of each other and all.  You’ll find my new logo at the top of any page here on my website. What image would you create to capture the aspirations of your...

Read More