Warning signals in a relationship and how to work on your relationship 2 (3)

Rule 6

How to move forward when you have reached a dead end in a conflict:

1. First try to find the root to why you think the way you do. May be you you are anxious to spend money because you come from a family where this was an issue.

2. Now, write down and explanation to you why you think the way you do without critisizing each other.

3. Try to think if there is a part of the conflict where you can give in without stepping on your own needs too much?

I have noticed from the experience with my patients that giving in somewhere (not on things that are extremely important to you), can lead to the breaking of a vicoius circle. I think that when your partner gives in even only to be nice to you, there is a big chance that you feel so validated and filled with love feeling towards your partner that suddenly you are not so sure any more that everything has to be your way. May be, at this point you can meet your partner somewhere in the middle by telling him/her that you can do some things his/her way. If you reach this point, you are in a good circle where there is easier to compromize.

Now back to Gottman´s rules.


Rule 7 consists of building mutual values. Read the following and find something that suits your relationship:

1. Do something together on a regular basis without your children.

2. Grab every opportunity to celebrated each other´s success.

3. Find strategies to support each other when one of you has a hard time.

4. Celebrate the family´s birthdays in a nice way.

5. Gather family and friends for dinner at your house.

6. Create a nice atmosphere around your romantic moments.

Cognitive Behavior Psychologist Monica Emanell


Warning signals in a relationship and how to work on your relationship 2 (2)

Warning signals in a relationship and how to make your relationship work

Rule 4

Try to make your decisions together with your partner.

Gottman talks about two types of conflicts between couples. One type is about thing that are more concrete and the other type of conflict is about the fact that you have different values and that type of conflict is more commoon for example; one of you wants children and the other one doesn´t, one of you wants sex more often, you want to raise your children in different ways etc.

One important thing to remember here is how important validation is, actually I think it´s extremely important. When you validate someone you “meet the person where she or his is emotionally”. If for example your child or partner is sad, you validate by for example asking questions, hugging the other person, sum up what the other person has said and ask if that is how he/she feels etc. Only after your dear one has calmed down you can try to give advice, but start with little advice and see if it is ok and then you can come up with more. When you are very sad or anxious about something, it´s common to think out of the angle of your emotion. So if your partner for example has failed on an exam and has thoughts like ” I will never finish college”, a good way of giving support is to remind your partner of all the times he/she has succeeded.

Now I will go back to Gottman´s rules.

Rule 5

Solve the problems that are possible to solve.

What you should think about when you have conflicts is:

1. Try to bring up the topic in a friendly way.

2. Be observant if your partner wants to make peace and accept it.

3. Try to calm down each other.

4. Try to compromize ( I often repeat to my patients that mostly you don´t live with a copy of yourself, so in other words your partner doesn´t always think and feel in the same way as you do, aso instead of trying to force your partner to accept your way of thinking, try to go half the way, your relationship will become much healthier if you are aware of this).

5. Be more acceptnig to your partne´s flaws instead of demanding perfection.

To be continued…

Cognitive Behavior Psychologist Monica Emanell


Warning signals in a relationship and how to work on your relationship 2

Warning signals in a relationship and how to work on your relationship

I will now write about Gottman´s seven great rules to make a relationship work. I often advice my patients to try some of the exercizes and I think they often work out well.

Rule 1

See to that you have a good grip of your love maps. This means that if you have a good grip of what your partner likes and thinks of different things, like dreams in life, the name of friends, favourite music, films, ambitions in life etc. you are better fit as a couple to handle changes in life, like when you get children etc.

Another good exercize I like is that you go thorugh your own life like; what are you proud of?, did your parents tell you that they were proud of you when you were a child?, did your parents show they loved you when you were a child?, how do you and your partner communicate that you are proud of each other?,

Have you had difficulties in your childhood? How did you handle them as a grown up? How did your parents communicate feelings when you grew up (anger, sadness, fear, love etc.)?

Another great exercize that you can try is to think about what you would like to be written on your grave stone when you are dead. The goal with this is to get some distance to destuctive behaviors. For example you don´t want to be remembered for running through life without having time to breathe with a goal to be perfect, right? The goal is to find what you do that you would like to change in order to feel better in life.

Rule 2

The second rule consists of the level of respect you have for each other. If you have an issue around respect for each other try to:

1. Remind yourself of the good things about your partner. Write down some features you like in your partner and write about a specific episode when you noticed that.

2. Write about your happy moments in the past.

3. Write down every day for seven weeks about something that you like in your partner and then write down a specific situation where this be seen.

Rule 3

The third rule consists of that you and your partner should make sure that you spend time together, that is that you do fun activities together.

– Write down a few activities that you would like to do together with your partner and schedule time when you will do things together.

To be continued…

Cognitive Behavior Psychologist Monica Emanell


The brain, attraction and addiction in a relationship

The brain, attraction and addiction in a relationship

I have written some things that you can think about if you have destructive patterns in a relationship and how you can work on that. Now I would like to describe what happens in the brain when you get attracted to someone. You can read more about this in John B. Arden´s great book about the brain,”Rewire your brain”.

– At first when you see someone you are attracted to the frontal part of your brain (the thinking, logical part) tells you to pay attention since the person you look at is attractive.

– These thoughts trigger your brain to discharge dopamine (that is associated with feelings of pleasure) which makes you attend to the person you find attractive.

– The attending behavior makes your brain release more dopamine and tells hippocampus (where a big part of the memory is), to remember the attractive person.

– Now the nucleus accumbus (the pleaasure and addiction center) is activated with dopamine, and when you are separated too long from the person you are attracted to, you experience withdrawal symptoms and you long for being with the person again.

– Another pleasure center (the septal region), is activated when dopamine has triggered the experience of excitement. The septal region makes you generalize a positive feeling to other experiences. So, if you are in love and spend time with your partner, you will easily perceive other people as nice and you will tend to see things from a positive angle.

– Now, if you have experienced these feelings for a while, you and your partner will develop a tolerance for dopamine and in order to get the same feelings again you will have to create new exciting situations in order to stimulate the dopamine.

The brain helps you with two hormones,; oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel good and that rises when you have physical contact with someone you feel close to, and vasopressin, a hormone that makes you feel good and that rises when you recognize someone you feel close to.

Since being in love stimulates the same center as that is activated with drugs, gambling or other things that can be addictive, it is possible to “get addicted” to the falling in love part of the relationship. When my patients have a problems with relationships, this is one of the things I check since it can be a reason why you have not been able to get a long term relationship even though you want that. May be you want a long term relationship but every time you have a partner you get impulses to withdraw after a while. May be you have a pattern of rushing into a new relationship thinking “this time, I am sure, it´s the right person I have found”, only to discover after a few weeks or months, that you experinece disappointment,boredom and and impulse to leave your partner and move on with your life.

If you have this problem try the following:

– Try to think of new exciting things that you can do with your partner; find a new place for a weekend together or find some other new activity.

– Analyze if you have talked about yourself to your partner, I mean about things that are sensitive to you. If you only talk about superficial things, there will be no bonding.

– Spend time and be close to your partner often in order to stimulate oxytocin and vasopressin which will give you positive feelings and trigger attachment.

– Make an effort to reach out to your partner since making an effort triggers the left frontal lobe (the positive part of the brain) which helps you to move the relationship forward.

– You should also analyze if your attachment patterns (I will talk more about this).

The attachment styles that people have are:

-Secure attachment (you have had warm parents that have given you lots of love and guidance).

-Avoidant attachent (during your childhood, you have been reinforced to handle your feelings by yourself with little or no support from your parents.

– Ambivalent attachment (during your childhood you have got attention in an inconsistent, unpredictable way so you never knew what to expect).

– disorganized attachment (you have had an abusive, impulsive and depressed primary caretaker, usually the mother).

Cognitive behavior Psychologist Monica Emanell


Warning signals in a relationship and how to work on your relationship

Warning signals in a marriage and how to work on the relationship

When you meet someone you get interested in and start a relationship with that person, you often make an effort to please your partner in the beginning. If you continue seeing your partner, you often move in together after a while and often you choose to have children. What often happens is that you are tired from doing all the different things you have to do on a daily basis (take care of your child, cook food, do the cleaning and laundry etc.) So in other words what happens is that the time spent with your partner consists of talking about tiring and boring things and if you don´t have time or if you don´t in some way make time to do some fun things with your partner (as you did in the beginning when you made an effort to please your partner), there is a risk that you fall into a vicious circle where the iriitation between you and your partner grows. I think that when you create good moments and good memories with your partner, you get a bigger patience with the things that irritate you in your partner.

John Gottman has written a great book about relationships (the seven principles for making marriages work), where he identifies warning signals that a relationship is going in a bad direction and then he writes about what you can do to change that direction.

Here are the warning signals he has identified:

1. Your partner or you start the conversation by attacking in a critisizing way.

2. The conversation is dominated by criticism, sarcasm, defense behavior and ignoration.

Gottman says that the worst of these four is the sarcasm. Often, when you get critisized and sarcasm, you start to defend yourself which is like accusing your partner back and there you are in a vicious circle that often leads to the fact that one of you will start ignoring the other by silence and after that you get more and more distanced from each other.

3. The partner who chooses to ignore is actually overwhelmed by his/her partner´s anger. Often the silent partner wants to talk, but without the emotional storms.

4. The body reacts in a stressful relationship. The pulse can go to 100 beats a minute (it´s normally 76 for a man in his thirties and 82 for a woman), your blood pressure goes up, the body pumps out adrenalin and gets ready for a flight or fight response.

Biologically, men get more emotionally overwhelmed by marital conflicts which is why it´s often the man who tries to avoid difficult subjects.

5. Gottman has found that some couples who have all the dysfunctional strategies, mentioned above, can survive their difficulties if they have a good way of making peace after a conflict.

6. Another  thing that Gottman has found  contributes to the vicious circle is that when you are in a bad relationship, you tend to remember your past moments together as negative, or you don´t remember them at all.

7. If you don´t break the bad path you are on, the marriage either ends or you start living parallell lives while living under the same roof.

The good news is that Gottman also gives advice about how to stop the negative loop and if you and your partner are motivated, start to work on your relationship.

Cognitive Behavior Psychologist Monica Emanell


Strategies to get healthier relationships 2

I will here continue to give suggestions of what I tell my patients to think about when they try to get healthier relationships.

6. If you have negative feelings towards a partner, (a partner you felt attracted to at first) even if that person behaves well, analyze why.

If you feel annoyed at everything your partner says (even if he/she behaves well), one reason can be that your partner doesn´t set good limits and lets his/her needs get run over. That can lead to the fact that you take your partner for granted and the more he/she tries to please you, the more faults you find in him/her.  If you recognize yourself in this, try not to “take the chance” to be rude because if you lose respect for your partner, the relationship will not be good neither for you nor for your partner.

Also be aware if the oppsite happens, that is you try to please your partner with the described consequences.

7. I think that another reason for suddenly losing interest can be that, in the beginning of the relationship, when you were afraid of being abandoned by your partner, you adapted yourself after you partner´s needs, pushing aside your own needs. This behavior an sometimes lead to, that after a while, when you feel more secure, your anger comes up in the form of “feeling not attracted and annoyed” at everything your partner does. If you recognize yourself in this, try to analyze the situation, stop letting your needs be run over and then wait, your anger will fade away when your own psyche doesn´t feel disrepsected anymore.

8. If you notice that your partner is getting clingy and it annoys you, try to help him/her (and in the long run yourself) by giving him/her structure. As I have said before, the psyche loves structure and control, so if you tell your partner when you can meet or talk, you are giving his/her psyche a sense of security that he/she will not get abandoned, which will reduce the need for clingyness.

If you feel insecure in the relationship because your partner says”I like you, but I don´t know when I will be ready for a relationship, I think it will be soon”, “I want children, but I don´t know when”, “I like you, but I don´t know when I am ready to move in together” etc., you will probably feel bad. It´s easier to get a “no” than the diffuse “yes and no” because when you switch between hope and despair it gets draining for the psyche. If you are in this situation, try to set at time limit for yourself, how much time you think it´s reasonbale to let your partner decide what he/she wants. Your psyche can endure the uncertainty, but it wants to know for how long it will have to endure it in order to feel better.

9. If you feel you really can´t get the energy to start setting limits in order to take care of your feelings out of fear of getting abandoned, try to tell yourself that the alternative is that your self esteem will become lower and lower with the consequence that the person who does not behave well will lose respect and continue his/her bad behavior. The lack of respect heightens the actual risk of getting abandoned so in other words you have nothing to lose when you start demanding respect for your feelings.

Cognitive behaviour Psychologist Monica Emanell


Strategies to get healthier relationships

Strategies to get healthier relationships

If you have noticed that you  have  a destructive pattern when it comes to relationships, here are a few things that you can think about. Some of the suggestions will be more helpful for people with an abandonment schema, but some suggestions can be good anyways. I teach them to my patients.

1. Sit down and think about if you can see a pattern ín your past relationships. Think about what usually attracts you to a man/woman. A possibility is for example that you get attracted to the fact that the person you get attracted to is good at taking initiatives and at giving you compliments. May be you have had some other men/women to choose among but you didn´t because you perceived them as weak or boring compared to the carismatic partners you have chosen.

This was just an example, you can sit down and analyze your patterns.

2. If you see some kind of pattern try to analyze what happened with the relationship later. What kind of traits did you find in your partner that proved to be bad for you? Do you see some kind of pattern here?

3. Is there a a possibility that “the good parts” of your partner that you saw from the beginning made you suppress other traits that you noticed, but chose not to pay attention to? Was your partner for example good at keeping his/her word when you decided something?, was he/she interested in what you had to say about different things and did she/he remember that later?, did he/she have enough time for you or did you come after work, tennis or friends?

4. If you notice things that you should have paid attention to, it is very important information for you next relationship. This is  the first step, the next step is to act on what you have learned when you meet a partner and this is easier said than done. So, be prepared that you will get impulses to choose destructive behaviors again and if you have an abandonment schema you will probably feel very drawn to destructive behaviors so it is also important to put energy on the fact that it will be hard to resist.

If you have a abandonment schema, it is also important to see what you do once you have a healthy relationship. May be you have a hard time being by yourself even if your partner behaves well. In that case, you should analyze things in life that you do, or have done that have been good for you and then do them more often in order to become more independent. You can also try to take a class and  that way look for behaviors that make you feel good and competent.

5. If you meet a good person and suddenly start feeling bored, it might be because this person is available for you and then you start seeing details that you find annoying. If, this is the case, don´t leave the person immediately. Try first to analyze the situation.

To be continued…

Coginitve behaviour Psycholgist Monica Emanell


What should I think about in order to have a healthy relationship?



 Warning signals if you have an abandonment schema

Jeffrey Young has identified several warning signals that you can be aware of if you have and abandonment schema and if you have met a potential partner:

1. Your partner is married and he/she can´t commit to you.

2. Your partner can´t be with you on a regular basis because of work, he/she lives abroad etc.

3. Your partner is emotionally unstable; he/she is depressed, drinks too much etc.

4. Your partner isn´t interested in a stable relationship, he/she wants several partners at the same time or he/she wants to be free and see you anyway.

5. Your partner shows lots of  interest in you sometimes and neglects you at other times.

A central part of the what´s described above is that you don+t get straight answers. It´s all diffuse and you go between feeling happy in your relationship to feeling lonely and hurt. This hopping back and forth is devastating emotionally. It´s very draining and destuctive.

Some of my patients with an abandonment schema often desribe that when they reach a point that they have had enough, their partner becomes extremely attentive and present and they get drawn back. If you recognize yourself in this try not to act on impulse but once you have gone through the roller coaster several times (having become pushed away and pulled back), try to sit down and make a plan. Let´s say that you are in a position right now where you feel angry and hurt. Count on, even if you don´t feel that right  now, that it´s a matter of time before you´ll get attention again and make a plan on a detail basis on how you´ll resist it.

My suggestions:

1. Try not to talk to your partner for a while. If you feel strong it´s common to think “it´s ok if I talk to him/her for a few minutes, there is no chance that I´ll fall back”. Do not fall into that trap. If you talk or meet your partner in most cases it´s a matter of time before you start all over again.

2. If you meet your partner anyway (because you are at the same job for example), don´t say anything a

Why do I always end up wth bad relationships?

  • Why do I always end up with bad relationships?

I will now give an example of what can happen in a relationship when you have an abandonment schema:

You have seen a gorgeous person on your evening and there has been an instant attraction from both sides (10 on a scale fron 1-10). You start a passionate relationship and you can´t think about anything else. A big problem though that you try not to think about is that your partner is married and  she/he is only available in an unpredictable way. You can get a call anytime and a suggestion about where to meet and this makes it hard for you plan your life. But since you feel madly in love you cancel other things that you have planned when your partner calls and after a while you start making less plans with people so that you can be available whenever your partner calls. You feel helplessly in love and even though  you might know somewhere in the back of your head that this isn´t good for you, you feel helpless and you can also get angry at people who try to tell you that this person isn´t good for your needs and that he/she will probably not leave his/her  wife/husband.

If you continue to keep on like this for a while you´ll probably feel anxiety, anger, despair most of the time and the longer this keeps on going while you´re hoping for your partner to divorce, the the worse you´ll feel. If you have an abandonment schema you´ll  probalby have a hard time pulling back from a relationship like this. Feeling that you partner is available sometimes but never knowing when is probably a situation something that you in some way are used to from your childhood. You feel great sometimes but if you analyze how often it will probably be around 5-10 percent of the time. The rest of the time will be filled with negative feelings. You feel like you don´t know if you´ll be abandoned or not but you think that if you endure some more time you´ll finally be together with your partner.

In the end (if your partner doesn´t live his/her h usband/wife, there is a risk that you´ll continue like this until you feel so that you are so overfilled with anxiety so that you can hardly function. When you are out from a relationship like described above it is not unusual to think “relationships are not for me and I´m better off alone”. This can go on until you feel you are strong again and then it´s not unusual to repeat the whole procedure with someone else.

This was an example of how the abandonment schema can put you in a viscious circle, there are more ways to react in a relationship out of having this schema. If you recognize yourself in what I have described above, the good news is that there is a way to get out of the vicious circle. I will write more about that soon.

To be continued…

Why do I get attracted to people who are not good for me?

Sometimes, all of us can meet someone we fall in love with and after a while we realize that this person isn´t good for us. The reasons might be for example that the person isn´t totally available beause he/she is married (with a person, work, or some other addiction), live abroad, change moods often etc. The point is that the person in unavailbale and give us a feeling that we are on the verge on being left. We move between feeling hope and happiness to feeling grief and hopelessness. Since the psyche hates feeling out of control this situation is extremely draining. Now, if  we  comes from a background where we have had parents with whom we have formed a secure attachment (I will talk more abou attachment later), we probably won´t put up with this situation for too long, simply because we have learned to take care of our needs and be nice to ourselves.

But if we have had a background where we have felt some kind of abandonment (a parent died, the primary caretaker (often the mother), was hospitalized often, the parent had some kind of addiction and changed moods often or simply had big mood swings that were unpredictable , the parent divorced or had big fights, etc.), in some cases  we form an abandonmnet schema which makes us either choose relationships that are destructive for us or we take the roll as being the “leavers” in relationships and we are haunted by the feeling that we will always be lonely.

If wyou find ourselves in a destructive relationship once, it might be a coincidence, but if you look back and realize that there is a pattern, yu might check if you have a abandnoment schema. A schema means your unconscious innermost thoughts you have about yourself. If those thoughts are (I will be abandoned and I will always be lonely), you often create a self fulfilling prophesy. Remember that I have earlier sais that the psyche acts on what feels least painful at the moment and those stategies often form a vicious circle which can leads to a selffulfilling prophesy.

Jeffrey Young, the founder of Schema focused therapy ( it is like cognitive behavior therapy with more focus on the background and how the destructive patterns that affect our lives here and now) were formed, have found different schemas that we form depending on our background and our temeperament. He describes them with Janet Klosko in their fantastic book “Reinventing your life”, which I warmly recommend you to read. I think it is one of the best psychology books that have been written.

Young means that the abandnoment schema is preverbal (you got it it before you could talk, which psychologically means that you had even less control over the situation) and that is the reason why this is one of the schemas that leads to paralyzing anxiety. To understand what kind of anxiety you can think of how a child react in a crowd when it loses sight of its parents.

To be continued….