Get Creative in Your Relationship

Hi, my name’s Katie, and I’m a workaholic.

Funny to hear that coming from a therapist, right? It’s true. And it’s not often we get to hear about the issues or problems plaguing the therapist. Every so often a bit of self-disclosure from your therapist is necessary, helpful even, to put into perspective that we are all human and we all struggle in our lives. A therapist’s self-disclosure can be a useful teaching moment in the therapy session, a guiding and hopeful anecdote of the possibility and power of change.

My self-disclosure is that I’m a workaholic by nature and while I didn’t enter a Twelve-Step program (which I probably would have tried to run, along with 15 other programs if I allowed myself) in 2008, a rough year for me, I did have to learn how to undo many of my previously learned work behaviors.

The truth is, I enjoy working. I love it even. I love business, leadership and entrepreneurship. In spite of my love for work, I NOW know the value or relaxation, laughter, and fun. It is in these moments when we allow ourselves to be free of constraints (either internally or externally imposed) that we find creativity, excitement, and passion, all things we need to live a balanced life. Since January was Get a Balanced Life Month, I’m reminded to put into practice the many things I learned about easing back on the workload and into relaxation.

Creativity isn’t discussed often in our social circles, relationships or home life, maybe not even our work life (unless we’re in a creative field) yet creativity is paramount to our well-being and functioning as individuals and couples. Dr. Brene Brown one of my favorite speakers and authors talks about creativity as 1 Guidepost #6– Cultivating Creativity in her book The Gifts of Imperfection.  Just look at your Mac laptop (if you happen to have one, or any other Apple product) and reflect on the ingenuity and creativity that placed that product into your hands.

You probably can’t imagine life without it!

When you’re running low on creativity life can feel a little empty. We get caught up in the doldrum of everyday living, errands, chores, appointments, meetings, etc. What little free time we have left isn’t always used to our best abilities (like 5 hours of watching TV on a Netflix binge, anyone?).  We are most often doing those things because we are so exhausted, so overwhelmed that we just need a way to numb out and decompress.  I am totally guilty of that at times as well.  

Want more proof of why you should get creating? Check out this article on Huffington Post on how “[sic] Making Art is Good for Your Brain”. There’s a reason adult coloring books have become so popular lately.

Being creative allows us to tap into a whole other side of ourselves, one we don’t get to use all that much. Fear not, those of you who think you are artistically challenged:  I once heard a Bonsai class instructor say, “it’s not about the finished product, it’s about the journey.” You don’t have to create the next masterpiece which will hang in the Louvre for decades, or write the great American novel, or even get a hit single on the radio.

What’s most important is that you allow yourself to simply create. A drawing, painting, coloring sheet, poem, short story, diary entry, the lyrics to a song, music with pots and pans, a movie plot, whatever you imagine. Dust off your the creative gears in your mind and get to work.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it’s almost impossible for me to let an idea go without relating it back to my work with couples or more other passions. I cannot stress enough the importance of creativity within a relationship. Many couples I work with, especially those who’ve been together for long periods of time, lament the slow fade of passion and excitement from the relationship, with dire consequences.

Getting creative in your relationship takes practice, especially if you’ve shied away from trying anything new lately, or simply haven’t had the time, or whatever your excuse. Yes, they’re all excuses. I’m a firm believer in the power everyone holds within themselves to make whatever changes they want in life, regardless of circumstances. The only things standing in the way of you, is you!

One of the most helpful technique couples have shared with me about how they brought creativity back into their relationship is taking time to connect, be silly, having no agenda, reminiscing about all the first dates they went on together…  In revisiting the past, when the relationship was new and fresh and each one was trying just a little bit to impress and excite the other, coming up with creative ideas for dates and things to do together seemed easy. Couples who return to this mentality of trying to explore a world of opportunities together and getting to know the new person their partner is becoming report increased satisfaction in their relationship. Together, they’ve gotten creative.

Whether you’re in a relationship with a significant other or yourself, I encourage you this month to spend some time exploring ways you can let your inner creativity shine, either at work, home or play. If you find yourself struggling to get creative and need a little support to get you started on your journey, don’t hesitate to reach out, I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com.

Does Your Relationship Need a Check Up

Does Your Relationship Need a “Checkup”?

How’s your relationship been feeling lately? Any fever, aches, pains? What about congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes? No? Okay.

What about communication, how often are you and your partner communicating? Hourly throughout the day, every few hours, or just once when you get home before you go bed reporting back what I call “the business of the day”.  It kind of sounds like… “What’s for dinner?  How were the kids?  Did Rebecca do well at swimming?  How was work?”  You know this I am sure! This communication is necessary but not deeply intimate or connecting.   

How about satisfaction? How satisfied are you currently in your relationship, on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being completely unsatisfied and 10 being completely satisfied.

If any of these questions got you thinking about the quality of your relationship, you might need a relationship check up. It might seem odd at first to think about giving your relationship a check up although nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the most disheartening statistics I’ve come across as a couples counselor is that the average couple waits six years before reaching out for help. Six years! While couples may wait to enter couples counseling for a variety of reasons, this means there’s a long time where one or both individuals in the relationship is feeling hurt and these feelings are going unresolved.

Another common complaint I hear when couples enter counseling is while the relationship is “alright” at the time, the couple isn’t experiencing the same level of happiness or satisfaction as they previously were in the relationship.

This is where I like to introduce the concept of a “Relationship Thermometer” to the couples I work with in therapy. Just like the first step in checking your physical health is to take your temperature, the first step in checking your relationship health is to see where you’re at as a couple.Does Your Relationship Need a Check Up

Checking in frequently and regularly with your partner about his/her level of happiness and satisfaction in the relationship, as well as your own feelings, is crucial to the long term success of your relationship.

It’s a shame this key piece is often overlooked in relationships yet it’s crucial for you and your partner. Most couples get hung up on the necessary, yet unrewarding, communication habit of conducting the “business of the day”.  These topics are important for the continued functioning of the household while at the same time keeping couples stuck on a “merry-go-round” of topics.

This merry-go-round isn’t hurting anyone, but it certainly isn’t helping you and your partner get the relationship you want.

So, how do you start using your relationship thermometer and get you and your partner off the merry-go-round? My colleague Susan Block, LMFT and I have a great video on “How Code Words Can Help Improve Your Relationship” that looks at ways couples can incorporate code words to quickly and easily communicate with one another about their feelings.

Phrases like, “I’m so well done” might indicate a particularly tough day at work and can help partner’s respond in a meaningful way. Code words work best in relationships when both individuals know and can agree upon the code words and their respective meaning. (You might not get the results you want if you start speaking in code without letting your partner know!)

Think you might want to delve a little bit deeper into your relationship check up? Another great tool I use with the couples I work with is the “Gottman Relationship Checkup”.  

The “Gottman Relationship Checkup” looks at 60 areas within the relationship and helps couples identify and highlight what’s going well, what needs improvement, guides the overall focus of the couples counseling as well as gives you tools and activities to do outside of session.  I would love to get you started on the Relationship Assessment it is backed by 40 years of research on couples, good stuff!

If you’re taking your relationship temperature right now and realizing your relationship isn’t so well, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Remember, the average couple waits 6 years before getting any kind of professional help. Maybe you’ve waited long enough. I’m just a phone call or click away at 954.401.9011 or Katie@FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com, talk with you soon!