Your Couples Specialist:
Marital Counseling: 7 Myths Couples Should Know
Research tells us couples often prolong -- sometimes for years -- getting professional help for their...
Intimacy in Marriage Declined? What Couples Should Know
If you're feeling confused and frustrated about a decline in intimacy...
Cheating in Marriage: Can We Trust Again?
When any type of cheating occurs in a relationship, there are two levels of pain: The...
Parental Conflict Affects Children
It's not unusual for couples to say that one of the reasons they seek counseling is...

With the holidays just behind us, we can think perhaps more clearly about the gifts our partner truly appreciates. The most important one, couples tell me, doesn't cost anything and can have enduring impact.

One complaint couples often have early in the counseling process is that their partner no longer seems to give them attention that they long for. Here's what they say:

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Often, when couples don't feel that counseling was helpful, they stop going. But, then they don't try again with another therapist.

What sparked this blog post is a client I'm working with who is seeking help coping with her divorce. There are two young children, so for me it's all quite sad. They had sought counseling several years ago, but felt the therapist was not helpful and that they made no progress. They stopped going, but their problems continued. Now, he feels there has been too much pain and is filing for divorce. He doesn't feel counseling can help because he believes, as I sometimes hear, that there is too much to heal.

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I hear this concern frequently from couples as they struggle to discuss and try to resolve important issues. Often it goes something like this:

A disagreement occurs; it may then become intense. One of you seeks answers, maybe gets more upset than the other. As the volume increases, your partner seems to become more emotionally distant -- or even leaves the room. This increases your concern about not being able to connect and your may frustration grow. And, your partner then shuts down even more.

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Remember the days when your love was new, and you could spend hours talking, looking into each other's eyes and experiencing the intense feelings of caring and desire for your partner?

In those early days, you were forming an important attachment. Your partner was becoming the most important person in your adult life. Just as you bonded with your parents when you were an infant and young child, the attachment you form with your mate is powerful, compelling and seems as important as breathing.

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When couples are caught in the negative cycle of repeated arguing, it's not uncommon for one partner to express very strong emotions.

Anger and emotional outbursts actually are an effort to regain closeness and are often fueled by a fear or anxiety of losing the partner. Yet, these strong emotions actually push your partner further away, often causing him or her to withdraw or "shut down."

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