As seen in Today's Parent 

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Anu Sharma-Niwa,
M.A., R.Psych.
Registered Psychologist 

Phone: (403) 990-4159
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Entries in relationships (2)


What's in Your Glue?

It is no big secret that falling in love is and exhilarating experience filled with all sorts of wonderful bits and pieces of joy and loveliness.  Staying in love, however, can be where the work is.  As stressors increase, so can the hostility, irritability, arguments, emotional disconnect, and exhaustion levels.  Not surprisingly, this most often results in a dramatic decrease in passion, sex, romance and fun.  

So what tends to keep couples together?

I like to use the analogy of glue and how it has a way of keeping people stuck together…for the good and the bad!  

Negative Glue:

  •  Social Pressure
  •  Financial Pressures
  •  Children
  •  Fears (of divorce, abandonment, failure, etc.)
  •  Moral Factors
  •  Concern for your partner’s welfare
  •  Poorer lifestyle if alone 
  •  Codependency

Positive Glue:

  •  A collaborative couple identity (“we-ness” as opposed to a “I” or “me” focus)
  •  Inner passion and happiness that is not dependent upon your partner
  •  Priority of the relationship
  •  Feeling happy about your choice of partner
  •  Healthy giving and sacrifice (reciprocity)
  •  Respect, appreciation, admiration, fondness, and love
  •  The partnership is a lifetime plan with shared meaning

Research by John Gottman indicates that the balance between negativity and positivity appears to be the key dynamic in what amounts the emotional ecology of every marriage…kind of like there is a thermostat that is operating in healthy marriages that regulates this balance.  He goes on to state that the “magic ratio” that keeps this thermostat in balance is 5:1…as long as there is 5 times as much positive feeling and interaction between partners as there is negative, the relationship is likely to be stable over time.  

Counselling can be very helpful in providing you and your partner with the right tools to communicate more effectively, understand one another better, strengthen sources of intimacy, and bring that positivity back into your relationship…and YES (!!) that can include romance, passion and great sex! 

So, after you assess the ingredients of your glue, consider evaluating its effectiveness.  Is it really working for you, your partner and family? Or is it time to launch the new glue product that is heavy on the positive side?


Cleaning up the Fight

Ever wonder why it feels like the same fight keeps coming up, like a broken record? Do arguments get so heated that you say and do things you regret? Do you feel so angry that you feel like you might explode? Do you feel like you don’t know how you can stand to be in the same room with your partner, let alone in a committed long term relationship?

There will inevitably be times when feelings get hurt or mishaps occur in relationships. It is possible to use some concrete tools to ensure proper resolution occurs after an argument or regrettable incident so that you and your partner can dialogue collaboratively, rather than face off like injured adversaries. Trying to heal from an upsetting fight by returning hurt for hurt, blaming, criticizing, humiliating, name-calling, or resenting each other only creates more emotional upset, hurt and disconnect.  One of the most damaging things one can say in an argument is to use the “D-word”....to threaten DIVORCE in a “one-upping” fashion could actually increase the likelihood of divorce.  

The dialogue for processing what happened during the fight is critical in preventing it from coming up again.  To process is to be able to talk about what happened without getting back into the fight.  Figuring out what happened is the first step.  You know what you did and felt, but that is only half the story.  To figure out the full picture, you also need to hear your partner’s perspective.  Both are necessary to complete the puzzle.  The Gottman Model of Couples Therapy stresses that there is no absolute “reality” in a disagreement but rather, there are always two “subjective realities”….each person is right but trying to understand each other’s reality instead of arguing for your own reality is critical.   You also need to trust and accept what your partner is describing to be true.  Listen to learn and gain understanding.  

Perhaps one of the most important pieces to also consider is how to apologize effectively.  A full apology is so much more than the simple words “I’m sorry”.  An apology is actually a very involved and powerful phenomenon.   There are essentially six steps to making a full and effective apology:  

  1.  Express regret.
  2. Accept responsibility
  3. Clarify non-intentionality
  4. Explain the circumstances
  5. Repair damages and prevent reoccurrences
  6. Learn for the future.  


Full closure occurs when you have figured out how to prevent a repeat of the problem. In order to achieve this, it is important to:

  1.  Talk about and accept what each of you were feeling
  2. Discuss and validate each subjective reality.
  3. Admit your own role in the fight.
  4. Identify triggers for each of you that escalate the fight.
  5. Understand the triggers.
  6. Figure out how to make it better next time.

Counselling can help equip you with the right tools to clean up fights or regrettable incidents effectively, and repair any wounds to your relationship.