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Ep 31 Mike Kosim | Heart Centered Care for Couples

No one likes fighting with their partner or spouse, but in this episode we explore why it can actually be beneficial.  How repairing a relationship can often make it even stronger, and why it’s more important to do this repairing than it is to avoid fighting altogether.

Mike Kosim is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who helps people heal their relationships.  In this episode we talk about some of the common dynamics couples fall into and how they can be more effective communicators.  He gives actionable tips, and he also helps us understand what it’s like to work with a couple’s therapist and when it’s a good idea for people to seek outside help.

Connect with him on his website:

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Lilly: So I am here with Mike Kosim a licensed marriage and family therapist who helps people heal their relationships. So we’re going to talk about some common problems that can come up in romantic relationships. A few tips for navigating some of those common issues that couples face, and then help people understand when and why they might need some outside help from a therapist and what it’s like to work with a couples therapist.

[00:01:35] So I’m really excited to jump into all of this with you, Mike, welcome to the show.

[00:01:39] Mike: Thank you. Thanks for having me on. I didn’t remember all that. So. I hope that you can just tell me when you want me to answer one of those. Oh, of

[00:01:47] Lilly: course, course. So let’s start off with kind of your background and your story of how you got into this work, because I think it’s such a unique story and it really shows your heart and why you’re in it.

[00:02:03] So will you tell us how you got started as a therapist?

[00:02:06]Mike: So there’s really like two entry points to starts here. One is where I started, as a therapist and where I started as a couples therapist. So I started as a therapist because I was working as an engineer, um, for a chip manufacturer. And. I one day saw this reality show and it followed some cops into, with CPS, into a home where there was a lot of neglect and it looked like, uh, the person was boarding and there were these kids around and there were there, it was just a wreck.

[00:02:50] You could tell that the. The home, wasn’t something that you would want to raise your kids. And, and in the corner I saw a computer and I thought, well, I’m helping this company make these. Microprocessors and yet it’s not making their lives any better. So I thought, okay, I need to really connect with something.

[00:03:14]That’s much deeper on a personal change level and, you know, through my own therapy that I did, I realized, Oh, this is something that I would love to do for people. I would love to help them in this way. I started working with couples after I worked both in hospice and for a group home and group homes are kind of the modern day orphanages.

[00:03:40] And I noticed that the, the pain that kids felt when their attachment figure wasn’t, there was something that stayed with people till the very end. Things that happen to people with love, stay with them until the end of their lives. And so I decided that, uh, couples therapy was really the, the place for me to really help people reconnect with love in their lives.

[00:04:12]Because I feel like especially now there’s a, a crisis of loneliness.

[00:04:19] Lilly: Yeah. I know we’ve talked about, this crisis of loneliness being partially spurred by social media and more people connecting online and you made a really great point about kind of, what’s different about connecting with someone online versus.

[00:04:36] In person. Can you explain that a

[00:04:37] Mike: little bit? Yeah. Well, I think online connections give you an illusion of connection. Um, there may be small amounts of connection, but there’s this requirement for a really deep connection. It’s the possibility that. You don’t get what you want. It’s the possibility that the person will judge you, is the possibility that they’re going to disconnect from you or, or not give you the love that you are asking for.

[00:05:11] And so that’s like a, a gap that you have to traverse and successfully jumping that gap. Is what builds up that connection with the other person. So there’s no real depth without the threat of loss. And so it’s like, I think one of the examples that I talked about before was, um, you know, when, when you’re going on a subway, and  there’s always that little gap between the train car and the platform and.

[00:05:48] In, in, in that moment, your foot has to, it has to, if, if the, the gap is wide enough, you’d have to, you have to jump over it. And it’s that moment where nothing’s touching the ground and there may be failure. And so the that’s the point at which bonds are formed is that gap. And then the, the catching of the person as they, as they land.

[00:06:17] Lilly: It’s like putting yourself out there being vulnerable and not knowing what’s going to happen.

[00:06:23] Mike: Oh, you used the word. Yeah. So yeah, it’s the vulnerability that,  is it’s the vulnerability that’s required, um, in order to, to have love

[00:06:33] Lilly: yeah. So let’s talk about what you do as a couples therapist, and what is couples, couples counseling?

[00:06:41] Like, can you, um, just give an overview of like what it’s like to work with a therapist for couples and what you do with people?

[00:06:51] Mike: Yeah. So, so with couples, it’s kind of like, Hmm. I use a lot of different metaphors. One of them is. I’m, I’m teaching you to learn how to dance together and you’re, you’re using this dance that has you stepping on each other’s toes.

[00:07:10] And by now they’re kind of bleeding and I’m helping you use a different dance so that you don’t injure each other. So that’s kind of the simplest way. It’s a different process. I think the really transformative thing is when you,  have emotion mixed into it,  In the session. I, I help you see what the other person is, is feeling and thinking and the feeling that’s coming out from them really validates what they’re saying. So I have a really good radar for each other if they’re in a couple.

[00:07:49] And so they, they can, they can sense when that person is being genuine and when they’re not, and. When the person is saying, like, I was really hurt that you don’t really listen to me that, um, I don’t, I don’t feel like I really matter  it impacts the other person in a way that, you know, a person on the street wouldn’t impact them.

[00:08:16] And then so. It, tells them how important it really is for that other person. And then when, that happens, the message is more clear the message lands. And so, then they can take that and see that, okay, that person is really hurt. It’s not that they’re just being a jerk and yelling at me.

[00:08:43] I’ll tell you a lot of the, a lot of the arguments are really about, you know, quote unquote dumb stuff, right? Even the couples who come in, we’ll talk about how dumb the fight was. You know, like squeezing out sponges, right? Um, yeah, I hate sponges. So I wrote, I wrote a blog article on squeezing out the sponges and my wife, my wife read it.

[00:09:08] And she said, “I don’t squeeze out the sponges!” She was feeling really bad.

[00:09:14] Lilly: I don’t squeeze out the sponges!

[00:09:16] Mike: I know, I know it’s not about squeezing out this sponges. It’s not about that. And that’s why people will find it. Um, sometimes what happens is people will have both surprise when arguments come up and kind of an eye roll of this is happening again because, um, the content can be different, what you fight over, but the pattern can be really similar.

[00:09:47] And so, um, because a lot of the things are that are on the surface, like sponges, aren’t really what you’re fighting over. A lot of times people are fighting over significance, um, and really mattering to the other person. Um, and that’s what I help couples communicate to each other, uh, that, Oh, this is, this is a fight over me, mattering to you.

[00:10:15] Yeah. And that. That carries so much more weight than I can’t believe you didn’t squeeze out that sponge again, that kind of stuff is just like, Oh yeah. So that makes sense. Yeah. The metaphor I use is like, Hey, when anger enters the room, it takes up all the attention. And you’re really mad because that anger is taking attention instead of what you’re telling your spouse or partner.

[00:10:44] Right.

[00:10:46] Lilly: That makes sense. Will you talk a little bit about some common dynamics that you see in couples and where that can get people into sticky situations or into trouble?

[00:10:59]Mike: So, so the, the most common dynamic, and this happens in 85% of heterosexual couples, I don’t know what the figures are for same-sex couples. And I think a lot of it is socially mediated, so. Um, I don’t think the numbers would be the same in same-sex couples.

[00:11:19] 85% of heterosexual couples follow this profile where one person,  seeks the resolution of an argument seeks to get to the root cause of an argument. And the other person tends to avoid the argument and both are really in service of reducing distress.

[00:11:42]the person who is seeking root cause resolution is really trying to get the heart of the matter. Once it’s done. We won’t have this problem, the person who is, wanting to avoid, it’s like, well, don’t, we know that when we, you know, go to our corners, we calm down and then we can get along. Right. And so both of those are actually needed in order to resolve arguments, you have to want to resolve these arguments.

[00:12:13] And at the same time, know that when. People are outside of their teachable moment that you need some, you need to back away and calm down first, you know, not have anger, be the primary thing you’re acting.

[00:12:28] Lilly: Yeah. Yeah. So they both serve a purpose, but what can happen when, um, it kind of goes too far or they don’t find a way back to each other?

[00:12:39] Mike: Yeah. So when, when each of them does primarily that, that thing that made them to do. The other person does more of what they, the other person tends to do. So one person can, um, um, pursue and it’ll feel like pecking it’ll feel overwhelming to the other person. And that person will avoid because of that.

[00:13:02] And that avoidance can really tend to tell the other person that they’re alone. And so they seek the other person harder. And that person, because they feel more overwhelmed, avoid even harder. Right. And then, so it kind of, each one adds energy into the system until it just kind of explodes. And that’s an explosion.

[00:13:26] Now, people, a lot of people tell me, um, you know, we don’t fight, which is a really popular option in Minnesota. But what I mean by fighting isn’t like Hollywood, like throwing pans and dishes at each other. It can mean argument. It can mean raised voices, but it can also mean, ghosting the other person, you know, just some, sometimes people just leave the premises, um, or it can mean, shutting down.

[00:13:52]so. You know, your contribution to the fight doesn’t necessarily look like,  a scene from my big fat Greek wedding. Does that, does that one? I’ve seen that

[00:14:04] Lilly: movie, right? I don’t really remember them fighting. I mean, I remember a lot of emotion,

[00:14:09]Mike: That’s the danger in referring to a movie you’ve never actually

[00:14:13] Lilly: seen you.

[00:14:14] Haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen it, but I

[00:14:17] Mike: was like, they have to find, look at them.

[00:14:19] Lilly: Oh, you mean like fighting, yelling? Yeah. Are we talking about like more extreme than that? Like physical.

[00:14:27] Mike: Okay, so that’s a good point.

[00:14:29] So, when it gets to something physical, when it starts becoming abusive, when it becomes a big violence, that’s when, as a couples therapist, we really have an ethical obligation to draw the line. Yeah. Because we’re there as dance teachers, we’re inherent. If, if, if you open up a shop as a dance teacher, you’re inherently saying dance is a good thing.

[00:14:56] Dance is something that people should learn. And so there’s kind of this implicit,  notion that  this is a good thing to do.  But when there’s been violence,  when there’s been regular interpersonal violence, what that means is that,  one or both people, Need to do a lot of personal work because the anger that happens needs to have a limit or else the other person can’t feel safe.

[00:15:24]Thank you for explaining that. I think it makes a lot of sense. So, what about maybe a more middle of the road example? If people are arguing in their partnership and feeling like they might need some support in how to have better arguments or more. Productive or heart-centered arguments that aren’t hurting each other as much do you want to talk about that and some tips that you have

[00:15:46]Mike: Yeah. So I’m really glad you bring that up because I think a lot of people really, really naturally want to avoid arguments. No one wants to have an argument, but way more important than an argument, avoiding arguments is an ability to repair.

[00:16:07] Once an injury has happened because an injury is always going to happen, no matter how hard you try, but if you avoid in service of. Not having an argument. What you end up doing is not participating in the relationship, the person, your partner does not get to see the real you. And so all of these warts and all of these hurts that you would have.

[00:16:36] Um, if you’re pushing them down, the other person doesn’t get to see them. And Hey, they’ll probably just randomly hurt you again. And they’ll never know. Hmm. Um, and then you’re going to reach a limit. Um, and then eventually you’re going to you, you won’t have the capacity to absorb any more of that hurt.

[00:16:57] So that’s the first thing is, learn how to repair is a higher priority than learning how to avoid injury. Sure.

[00:17:09] Lilly: And so how do you repair, like say you’ve just had a big fight and do you feel like you’ve come to a resolution? Um, but maybe there’s been some hurt on both sides. What tips do you have for people to look out for, or to work on in order to really find that healing together?

[00:17:31] Mike: Sure. So one of the, one of the things that. You’ll really have to do. If you said something that has really injured, the other person is you’re going to have to apologize. Then you’re going to have to apologize in a way that’s effective. And for whatever reason, I think a lot of men, don’t apologize, well.

[00:17:55] Actually the reason why is that most men are the ones who avoid the argument. So remember the 85% thing that 85% is a very specific profile. 85% of the couples have men as the avoidant partner. And then we have men as the pursuers. Okay. So it’s natural. Um, That men are gonna, uh, are gonna try to avoid, so here are some things,  be specific.  Talk about how the injury was related to your behavior and then try not to fix it. Those are like the three biggest things. Often times men are really, really surprised when they try to fix it and their partner doesn’t react really well.

[00:18:49] Because it seems like that’s what the other person wants. If you’re hurting don’t you want me to, to heal you, right? It’s the healing isn’t really in, in fixing it, the healing is in letting the other person know that you’re there. Hmm. Yeah. And so not fixing it is actually going to let them know that you’re there for them.

[00:19:16] Um, a it lets them know that you’re okay with all of their kind of warts, uh, and B you’re willing to hear and see them. That that’s the biggest thing is, being specific, not trying to fix, not trying to fix things. Yeah. And, um, owning and owning the, the way that your behavior impacted

[00:19:45] Lilly: them.

[00:19:46] That makes sense. I think I saw a tip somewhere and I can’t remember where this was. It might’ve been from you, but, um, it was, you know, when someone in a partnership is, is coming to the other partner and has a problem. For the other person to say, do you want to vent right now? Do you want me to listen? Or do you want solutions?

[00:20:10] Yeah. And making that distinction because I totally hear you that, like, I’ve seen that fixing before, go awry where it’s like, I don’t want you to, you know, solve this problem for me. I just want to talk about it. I just want to feel heard and seen and supported, and then I’m going to figure out what I’m going to do, you know, but I don’t want you to try, I know what you’re talking about.

[00:20:36] Apologizing specifically, but I feel like that dynamic comes up a

[00:20:40] Mike: lot. Yeah. I mean, I think because we’re trying to be protective. I think that that comes up right.

[00:20:50] Lilly: Yeah, the intention is good, you know, to want to fix is like, I love you. I want to fix this. I don’t want you to have this problem.

[00:20:58] Mike: And you just told me the pipe is broken.

[00:21:00] Don’t you want me to fix her? Do you want me to just sit there with you with the, with the water shooting where, um, but it’s not really about that, right? Just like, it’s not really about squeezing out sponges.

[00:21:16] Lilly: Yeah. okay.

[00:21:17] So let’s talk about, a little bit about, um, infidelity, because you mentioned that when couples come with an infidelity issue or, or something has happened in that realm, um, you talk about how it’s important.

[00:21:33] It’s really important to. Deal with that in a different way than, you know, other problems that couples can be facing. Will you speak to that a little bit and explain what’s an important approach when there’s been infidelity in a relationship?

[00:21:50] Mike: Yeah, I think it’s important enough that I tell people that it’s kind of a different step, um, that, uh, when we talk about the dance, teacher metaphor, I’m teaching you guys to dance a different dance, but if you feel like the floor is going to fall from under you, you’re not going to pay attention to any dance steps.

[00:22:15] And that’s kind of what infidelity does. It it’s it’s so gut-wrenching and so, um, traumatic relationally. I, I, I, I conceptualize it as a relationship trauma, um, that you’re not going to be paying attention to my instruction or my coaching or, or anything. You might not even be paying attention to what the other person is saying.

[00:22:42]So a lot of couples counseling falls flat when that’s ignored, um, or it’s just treated like just any other old thing. There’s a real, so th this step that happens beforehand, I call affair recovery. I didn’t, you know, I didn’t invent that term, but. It’s really important. And this is what people should do.

[00:23:03] Is there, if they’re looking for a couples therapist and there’s been infidelity, they should ask them how they would approach the infidelity. A lot of therapists have a consultation time, a free consultation, take advantage of that. Talk to them and say, we’ve had some infidelity, what’s your approach. And this is along along the lines of, this is what they shouldn’t be saying.

[00:23:28] We need to look at that first. We need to shore you guys up and make sure both of you are feeling safe enough in the relationship to work on your relationship. And it looks different for different couples. Some couples, you know, there are different methods by which the infidelity happened. And so if. For instance, it started on Facebook or it started through texts or it, you know, that’s how they come.

[00:23:58] The, the affair partners communicated then having access to those modes of communication, having, you know, passwords to the laptop or the phone. Are those, the things that will help you generate is that the transparency that will help you generate a feeling enough feeling of safety to continue working on the relationship.

[00:24:25]nobody feels good about doing that. even people who really want that. Don’t feel good about that because no one wants to be the police in there. Yeah. They want the other person to actually be there voluntarily. Right. Um, but, um, but that having that access is going to help generate that calm so that the other person, uh, so that the other person can, um, Can be seen as trustworthy enough to work on those dance steps.

[00:25:02] Does that make sense?

[00:25:03] Lilly: Yeah, definitely. And then I think you also talk about like, what are kind of the steps of working through processing an affair? I think you talked about like, making sure that you understand why it happened and then telling the story, right?

[00:25:23] Mike: Yeah. So I’ll use a metaphor. So for injured partners, it feels as if a bomb has gone off. And there’s, uh, it, it, it hurts. There’s a lot of pain.

[00:25:37] It feels like there’s a lot of injury. It can even feel physical. So people talk about a pit in their stomach or a hole in their chest or a headache  and then, because it felt really random, they are looking around every corner for this thing to happen again. Right. So that’s hypervigilance and that’s what happens in trauma is hypervigilance because, um, because nothing makes sense.

[00:26:06] This thing happened to you. And if it was truly random, that means you have to look for threat all the time, but 99% of the infidelity that I treat, there’s a. There’s a story there that happens. There’s a narrative about their relationship and the way it’s kind of, the way the partners have grown apart so that it creates a vulnerability to the affair.

[00:26:40] So that’s something that helps calm the injured party. And helps the person who was involved in the affair, understand what they did so that they can avoid it in the future. Right. Because, um, even people who are really well-meaning and, are saying like, Oh, that was horrible of me. I don’t want to do it again.

[00:27:07]If you don’t take care of that vulnerability, that vulnerability will still exist in the future. So it’s, it’s best for both people to really understand what that narrative is, so that, they can heal up that gap. Um, and, and, um, and not have that vulnerability. The, the interesting thing is the effort to do that.

[00:27:34] The effort to close that gap, even, even in the part where they’re just understanding the narrative really helps. It really helps them it’s as if, um, you know, their relationship is a house they’ve been living in and. Things haven’t been working. The pipes have been leaking. The roof has been leaking. The floor is collapsing and one of them decides to burn the house down.

[00:28:05] Right. And so now, Oh, they’re together. They’re walking around the house looking at, okay, well, what do we need to tear down? What’s rescueable what do we need to rebuild this? And even the effort to walk around that house, you know, metaphorically. And look at what needs to be repaired feels like, has you feel like you’re working on the same team?

[00:28:32] Right. So even that piece, which is a really early piece is really, really helpful. Um, okay. And, and here’s kind of a spoiler alert, um, that. You know, people, people tell me all the time you know that we can’t undo the past. I can’t undo this. I can’t undo this. And people who are involved in affairs are get hopeless very quickly.

[00:28:56] And if you, and if you don’t have hope, it’s hard to work on something, right? Sure. It’s not that you’re going to get in a time machine and undo it. That’s going to help heal the relationship. It’s the fact that you’re still there. You’re willing to accept responsibility and you’re willing to put in the hard work that it kind of, um, helps,  that split.

[00:29:25] It’s your willingness to be there and sit in the mud with your partner.

[00:29:31] Lilly: Yeah, I can imagine how that would bring people closer as they go through that, I guess, together. So there is hope if people have gone through infidelity in their relationship and both people still want to be in the relationship and make it work, there’s hope for working through that.

[00:29:50] That’s what you’re doing.

[00:29:52] Mike: Oh yeah. The, the, the paradox little thing is, um, and you know, I think I, I read a lot of. Like newspaper or web articles about the opposite thing. But what I’ve seen in couples who’ve come in for couples. Counseling is COVID is actually help them, um, heal their relationship because they can work on it in isolation, everybody isolated they’re in the same bubble.

[00:30:26] Yeah. And, uh, There’s not as much of a threat of the affair involved partner going out of the, the marriage or the relationship. And so it’s given them this protective bubble and, you know, that’s really part of what’s needed. Is that feeling that you’re in a bubble with the other person that the affair involved partner is willing to give up?

[00:30:57] That relationship and come back.

[00:31:00] Lilly: That makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s good to hear that there’s been some bright side of this pandemic and distancing time for people. Um, have you seen any other themes coming up for couples over the last year, maybe outside of, um, couples dealing with infidelity issues, but, um, themes of.

[00:31:22] You know, what’s been coming up for couples as they’ve gone through the stress of. You know, the pandemic and everything that’s gone on over the last year, but also that little bubble and kind of spending a lot of time together, having less access to friends and like social interactions, what have been some themes that have come up for couples.

[00:31:46] And do you have any, advice for people that maybe are experiencing these themes, but haven’t reached out to a therapist yet?

[00:31:53]Mike: I want to be very cautious. I want people to know that you don’t have to go into therapy. Like I, this is my business, but I don’t, I also don’t believe that this is the only way you heal your relationship. Sure. Yeah. I think that if your relationship is. Getting to a point where you feel lonely in your relationship, and then when you reach out, it’s not met with something that feels like it’s bringing you closer.

[00:32:25] I think that’s when you need to, uh, consider seeking outside help. Sure. Because it means that your dance steps are increasingly not drawing you closer to where you want to be. You’re getting further and further apart, um, or your, your toes are getting further and further injured. Right. So I think that’s, that’s kind of the most important, um, and the sense of loneliness can be from a lot of different things.

[00:32:59] If you guys are getting into fights, if people are getting into fights, because you’re just irritating each other, there can be a sense that the other person isn’t considering you, if she or he was really, um, caring about me, um, they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t keep doing that. Right. It’s like the sponges.

[00:33:29] And so that, that can, um, uh, inflict a feeling of loneliness or, you know, just, um, the, the depression that people feel in COVID can, can dampen the way they interact with the other person. Then they don’t feel like they’re present for that. So it’s not. But those aren’t relationship, ending things going and telling your partner, this is not working for me.

[00:34:03] That’s the repair part. And that’s the thing that, you know, people, people, if people tell me like, Oh yeah, I’m getting more irritated at my partner. It’s like, okay. Um, what did they tell you when you told them how irritating, you know, leaving their socks, um, you know, on the living room floor, Is to them.

[00:34:24] That’s what I do, um, in, in my marriage. So, uh, that’s what I’m curious about. Like, how is it that you guys approached this problem together and, you know, for people who don’t have that mechanism or that mechanism, isn’t very strong and it hasn’t had practice, um, you know, if it’s, if it’s, it can tend to.

[00:34:51] Diminish the relationship over time. And so, having some coaching, having some help around that is super valuable.

[00:34:59] Lilly: Yeah. Yeah. You mean around communicating your needs or like communicating when something is irritating you instead of just like stuffing it down and

[00:35:09] Mike: yeah. It’s, it’s it’s it’s yeah, you can call it communication.

[00:35:13] I call it, um, you know, repair. Right. It’s like, how are you going to repair that, um, that injury, right? Cause it feels like they, you know, you’ve, you’ve talked to them 15 times and you know, it’s like, they don’t really care. Sure. And so communicating that to the other person is, um, is part of that repair.

[00:35:39] And so if, if you’re unsuccessful in that. You know, if you do imagine, just imagine that happening, um, over many different, you know, subject matter over decades and imagine if that’s what you want to endure or if you want to kind of correct it now. So it’s harder. It’s not impossible, but it is harder. You have to put in a lot more energy once the.

[00:36:10]paths are already well-woman

[00:36:13] Lilly: makes sense. Okay. So you talked a little bit about when someone feels lonely in their relationship and they reach out to their partner and they’re just not feeling like they’re getting, it’s not getting better. They’re just feeling more and more lonely. Um, And you talked about that being the point.

[00:36:37] Of knowing you need some support from a therapist. Right. So what does that look like when someone say there’s someone in a partnership who is feeling that and is thinking, I don’t know, I want to explore, you know, couples therapy, but first of all, I haven’t talked about it with my partner. So let’s start there.

[00:37:00] What advice do you have for someone that maybe is nervous to talk to their partner about it and bring it up?

[00:37:05]Mike: Yeah. I mean,  I think we all react better when another person talks about what they want to give to us. So I would just say like, well,  how can you think about it as.

[00:37:18] Giving to the other person, right? Not in like the, it has the least impact. If you say, you know what, you’re really screwing up and I need to hire a person, how you, how you’ve been screwing up that tends to not sit well with most people in most circumstances, it’s a, it’s a criticism. So if it feels like.

[00:37:47] For instance, you don’t understand where they’re coming from and you can say, I feel like I’m not hearing you. I feel like I don’t, I don’t understand where you’re coming from and it’s creating a lot of distress and I don’t want that. So I need help. So that I can understand you more. Right. And that’s giving.

[00:38:11] Right. And, and so the other person, um, sees it as a, as a little package, a little gift that you’re like, can we, can we do this thing so that I can give you this little gift instead of yeah. Instead of like, can we do this thing? So then you can give me a gift.

[00:38:31] Lilly: We do this thing where we talk about all of your flaws.

[00:38:34] That’s right. That’s not a good way to bring it up. That’s what you’re

[00:38:37] Mike: saying. You know, and if people do that, if people come in with that, um, we can start there, but we’ll, we’ll get down to the bottom of, um, what’s really hurting because when somebody says, when somebody is critical, when somebody wants to find the flaws in their partner, That already indicates that they’re hurt, that there’s been an argument there and they’re being defensive and attack or attacking.

[00:39:05] And so there’s already been some pain. And so we can start with that. And what I’m going to try to understand is where’s that pain for you. It looks like you’re really hurt. Tell me, tell me what’s been hurting so much and, and then. Then your partner can see something other than anger and if it’s hurt or if it’s fear, I’m just so scared.

[00:39:33] We’re not being intimate. And we haven’t been in the last two months and I’m just so scared. I feel so lonely. And I’m worried that this is kind of our future ward. We’re just going to keep growing apart. That is a way bigger impact has a way bigger impact then. Criticizing a person because they’re not being included.

[00:39:57] Lilly: Yeah, that makes sense. So when a couple is talking about going to therapy together, what is the first step? You mentioned that a lot of therapists offer a free, you know, discovery call where you can kind of get to know each other, feel it out a little bit. Um, do you want to talk about that? Like how do you find a good therapist as a couple?

[00:40:19] And then what does that look like? How often do you meet, you know, what, how long does it take? Just kind of demystify some of the logistics of it. Sure.

[00:40:28] Mike: So, you know, people kind of see, I don’t like to think of couples therapy is something that you do for the rest of your life. Like I, that’s not. For me, good couples therapy.

[00:40:42] So what I’m looking for as a couples, counselor are very specific things that happen in the relationship that tell me, um, significant changes are starting to be made in the system. And I’ll tell you the biggest milestone that I see is. Can you ask for what you need without triggering a one or both of them, because oftentimes in these arguments, one person says something, it triggers the other person, the other person reacts now, and they can avoid, or they can come back and argue.

[00:41:17] Um, and then that triggers the other person into amping it up. And then that triggers the other person. When you can ask for something and the other person, um, responds in a way that it doesn’t feel like a fight. that tells me that, Oh, you’re starting to be able to handle this on your own. You’re you’re starting to be able to lean into more vulnerable things and instead of leaning on anger.

[00:41:46] So, um, that’s a very specific change event. And that’s what I look for when I start thinking, okay, well now let’s start focusing the more on kind of strengthening that skill that they’ve managed to take out into the world. so, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s very specific. It’s not a, it’s not a, well, just doing this until you feel better because remember some people love to avoid.

[00:42:20] And so if they’re avoiding more, that may make them feel better, but it’s not going to help their relationship. Right. So, so, uh, let’s see. What were the other things you asked me

[00:42:30] Lilly: about interview a therapist? How do you find one that is a good fit? How do you know if you’re brand new to this? What makes a good therapist?

[00:42:38] What makes a good therapist for me? For us as a couple? Yup.

[00:42:42] Mike: Yup. So, um, first of all, Like I said before, take advantage of these consults to talk to the therapist. Uh, try to understand if you’re feeling heard. Um, this is kind of the first test to see if they’re the right coach for you. Right. Um, you want them to take you to the relationship Olympics, not state finals, right?

[00:43:06] So look for somebody that you feel confident in, so I, I really want people to think about couples therapy, not as.  Individual therapy with an extra person that’s really important because individual therapy, somebody can vent all they want in couples therapy. If two people are venting all they want, it’s going to create, uh, a lot of damage and you don’t need a third person to do that.

[00:43:37] That’s called fighting and you’re quite successful. Right. So you don’t need to pay anybody to do that. That’s free. That couple’s counselor needs to be very interventional. So whatever modality they use, whatever kind of, um, philosophy of treatment they use. They need to be interventional.

[00:43:58] They need to, intervene when things are escalating so that the two people aren’t damaging each other. Um, and that’s, that’s the primary thing that I, I, um, try to tell people, communicate to people about couples counseling. That’s different than individual counseling. A lot of people have had kind of.

[00:44:22] Experienced in individual counseling, but that’s a major, major difference.

[00:44:26] Lilly: Okay. Good to point out. All right. So if someone’s listening to this and they feel like they want to connect with you, what is the best way for them to do that?

[00:44:36] Mike: Well, My business name is heartfelt counseling. I website is heartfelt counseling,

[00:44:44] So you can go on there. And then there’s a lot of blog content. So if you want to DIY stuff, I love DIY. I love like people trying to work on it, you know, by themselves. That’s because that’s what you’re going to have to do.

[00:45:02]And so go there, read stuff, watch some videos and, um, and then like, you’ll get kind of an idea of how I think that way. And, um, and then contact me if, if you, uh, are considering and. What I’ll do is I’ll invite you to,  the free 30 minutes video call, because right now in COVID it’s all just video.

[00:45:29] Okay. Makes

[00:45:31] Lilly: sense. Great. Cool. Anything else you want our listeners to know?

[00:45:36]Mike: Yeah. I think that when you’re in the depths of loneliness, it can feel really hopeless. And, um, I think that, you know, if things have gotten really bad, you can reach out and that can be re you going reach out for therapy. And that can be your first step of collaboration with your. Partner or spouse and all that’s you guys working as a team for your relationship, right?

[00:46:12] So I want you to consider that there, there can be some hope there. Um, and you know, I want people to reach out to their partners because there are 8 billion people on the planet. There there’s not a reason for you to be lonely in the relationship you’ve chosen.

[00:46:33] Lilly: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing and thanks for being on the show.

[00:46:38] Mike: Thank you.

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