Therapist Confessions: Top 5 Problems Couples Share On The Couch

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Therapy session
Relationship therapist Sherry Amatenstein reveals what problems she hears over and over.

Love Tip: Couples may watch their spouse's lips move but the words often land like lyrics to a long-recorded-to-memory soundtrack—verbal wallpaper. Here's a terrific exercise to help partners reboot their listening and comprehension skills: Take turns talking. When in listening mode, pay attention as if you are going to be graded on the answer. Repeat the gist of what your mate said. When your mate finally says, "Yes, that's right!" it is your turn to talk, be listened to and correct false assumptions until you feel truly heard. MyDaily: Flirting With Danger: 3 Reasons Why Women Cheat More Than Men

Once Don understood that Kate felt her father never really loved her, he didn't take her need to hear those words as an accusation that he wasn't loving enough toward her. And once Kate truly saw that her spouse had been raised by parents who took emotional displays as a sign of weakness, she realized the high cost to her mate of being verbally effusive.

3. "My walls have walls"
Even when they're naked (for some, especially when they're naked), many patients report still feeling garbed in in a clunky, painful, albeit invisible suit of armor.

*Tara P., 39 and living with her fiancé, admitted, "Whenever I'm in a relationship, I put the guy through a series of 'tests' to prove his loyalty to me. If Dan doesn't remember I had an important business meeting today it proves he doesn't really love me. If Dan does remember it only means he made a point to ask me how it went because he was afraid I'd have a fit if he didn't. With a test this rigged, a losing score is inevitable for both parties.

Love Tip: During therapy, once layer upon layer of defenses is slowly, carefully peeled back, what is typically left is a child petrified of being abandoned. That is the scary place you go to when you make yourself vulnerable to another person. Thus the emotional "cover-up."

True, it's wise to protect yourself with people until they prove worthy of your trust. But, once someone has proved over and over and over he is on your side, before putting him through yet another exam, take a breath and ask yourself, 'In this situation is there a valid reason for mistrust, or is my inner child running the show?'

4. "Even when I'm in a good relationship, I'm afraid I'll mess it all up."
Patient after patient has sat across from me and confessed that while she has fairly good self-esteem and believes herself capable of love, there is a secret fear of ultimately doing something to "mess things up."

For instance *Sharon M., a 42-year-old single mother confessed, "In my work life I'm Pollyanna. I'm secure things will work out the way I want ...Yet, perhaps because I followed in my parents' footsteps and had a messy divorce, I feel romantically jinxed." She added with a semi-laugh, "Of course with that kind of belief I create a self-fulfilling prophecy."

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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