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Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center Inc.

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Methods For Changing Your Relationships

People are social creatures by nature. They are born into families and being a member of a family is their natural state. Most people live and work with other people and are, in varying ways, dependent upon them for their livelihood and their life. Other people are, in turn, dependent on them. People depend on one another to meet the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safety needs. They need access to the paycheck that pays the rent and buys the food, they need protection from common enemies, and they also need assurances that they will be cared for should they fall ill. They depend on each other to meet sexual and reproductive needs. They also need to belong to groups of other people (e.g., their family of origin, the family they build with a spouse, a tribe, a culture, a work group, a religion, a nation) in order to define themselves as people; to form healthy identities. Such belonging needs become primary to most people as soon as their more basic a...More

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

How do dating relationships change over time?

  • Relationships develop over time as partners share experiences with one another.
  • Partners initial idealization of each other and mutual good behavior tends to give way to a more balanced and accurate view of each other as they learn each others strengths and weaknesses and come to understand whether each other is trustworthy and responsible.
  • While no relationship is perfect, some relationships are revealed to be dangerous or unhealthy to remain in and others come to be seen as unworkable.
  • Unworkable, dangerous or unhealthy relationships can generally be identified by paying attention to one's emotions which will become persistently upset with regard to the relationship.
  • Certain behaviors or demands one might encounter are also excellent signs it is time to get out of a relationship.
  • Successful dating often gives way to the formation of long term relationships.
  • At the risk of over-generalizing, dating relationships are more often urgent, intense and passionate whereas long term relationships are more often sedate, comfortable and familiar.
  • Long term relationships come with a raft of responsibilities and mutual dependencies that dating relationships, which are more temporary and carefree, avoid.

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How can I improve communication in my intimate relationship?

  • Trust and affection are the glue that hold couples together.
  • Healthy partners communicate these positive feelings towards each other via words and gestures in a cyclical manner that breeds more positive communication.
  • Chronically conflicted couples lose trust between the partners, affection suffers and communication between partners takes on a more negative, defensive and demanding tone.
  • Therapists teach conflicted couples communication skills designed to help them interrupt their negative communications and replace them with more positive (or at least neutral) ones.
  • "I" statements communicate feelings rather than accusations, elicits a helpful, supportive response rather than a defensive one, and helps to defuse potential fights and arguments.
  • Focal, Not Global Criticism - in troubled relationsihps, criticisms tend to turn from specific complaints (e.g., "you forgot to bring milk") to general (sometimes over-general) conclusions which may be exaggerated (e.g., "you don't care about me at all"). Therapists may encourage clients to stick to the indisputable facts and to not draw conclusions from these facts which might be mistaken.
  • Traffic Control; Active Listening and Repeating - therapists act as traffic cops and teach active listening skills to counter partner's obsessive defensive arguing. The therapist will set up and enforce times when each partner can speak and the other partner is asked to listen.
  • Interpretation - while teaching couples ground rules and procedures for how to communicate effectively, therapists may also help couples to better understand each other by offering the couple their outsider's informed opinion as to why each partner has chosen to act as they have.

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How can a marriage remain healthy and what problems can lead to divorce?

  • Over time, two partners must find a way to keep their friendship alive, their life goals and expectations in sync, their emotions and passions transparent and communicated, their commitments intact and their boundaries, both as a united couple and as separate individuals, unbroken. Commitment, flexibility, compromise, consciousness and more than a little luck are required for these things to happen.
  • In order to best understand how a marriage can come apart, it is helpful first to understand some of the ways that healthy marriages are structured, and how they function.
  • More often, people contemplating divorce endure a period of ambivalence during which the pros and cons of staying or leaving the relationship are debated.
  • Partners in abusive relationships have varying reasons for remaining in them.

How can I move on after a divorce?

  • You can feel like the loneliest person in the world when you are contemplating divorce. It's therefore important to keep divorce in perspective so that it doesn't crush you.
  • The end of the divorce process generally involves learning from the past, taking a forward-looking, present-centered stance, adapting to one's changed circumstances, and doing what one can to reinvent and reconstitute one's life.
  • Divorce offers people the opportunity to reflect on and learn from the mistakes they have made in order to reduce the chances that they will make those same mistakes again.
  • Either alone (via journaling), or with the assistance of a trusted friend, family member or therapist, talk or write out the history of the marriage, from beginning to end.
  • Work to identify and describe the big points of conflict where compromise proved difficult or impossible and try to figure out where your personality and values clashed with those of your spouse and where they were in harmony.
  • Knowing this information will help you to figure out what qualities you will want in a future relationship and what qualities you will want to avoid.
  • The new chapter in life can only start when divorcees reach a point where they are ready to 'turn the page' and explore what their new life can become.
  • Being able to move on with life is easiest to accomplish when one is hopeful, positive, and looking toward the future, rather than being stuck focusing on and thinking about the past.
  • Some people, places and things will cause one to remember the past marriage and keep things focused on the past. It can be a good idea to put such things away so that they don't automatically trigger old memories. When that isn't possible or they can't be avoided, work to create new memories around those people, places and things.
  • Exploring interests, old and new, pulls your attention into the present, creates opportunities for creativity, meaningful social interaction and new relationships, and promotes personal growth.

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