Why do some relationships work, and others fail? Why are some couples great at communicating and others not so much?
Four main behaviours act as barriers to communication: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.
Dr John Gottman called them the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. We've put a different spin on them and modernised it. The Four Villains of Communication impact your relationships, marriages and work relationships. These destructive patterns of communication in the way of honest reflection, destroy connection and intimacy and make your relationships bound for disaster.
1. Poison Mary: Mistress of Criticism
Poison Mary is a volatile and memorable character, just like criticism. She uses words as a weapon to attack her victims. She will attack you for any perceived failures and mistakes. Verbal attacks and criticism cut us to the core and put us on the defensive.
Here are some signs of criticism:
- Using ‘always’ and ‘never’ in statements
- Giving feedback intended to harm you, not help you
- Needs are bottled up
- Using ‘you’ statements, pointing away from themselves
Criticism is toxic in any relationship, so it is vital to deal with it effectively.
How to Parley with Poison Mary
Focusing on the positive is the key to escaping attacks from Poison Mary. Criticism jabs at your weaknesses, so embrace them.
Talk about how you feel by using ‘I’ statements. Share what you need without pointing blame. Ask to have your needs met respectfully. Stick to the facts and don't make it a personal attack.
Critical Communication: "You never listen to what I say. You are always on your stupid phone!"
Positive Communication: "I feel like you don't hear me when you look at your phone while I'm talking. I need to feel heard to feel loved. Do you mind making eye contact while I talk about my day?"
2. The Pen: The King of Contempt
The Pen is power-hungry, controlling and thinks he's better than everyone else. He gets angered by anyone who gets in his way. That’s contempt; the feeling that someone is worth less and is below you.
Contempt is a relationship killer and sours your connections. Gottman found that contempt is the highest predictor of divorce.
Signs of contempt include:
- Eye rolling
- Dismissing other's feelings or experiences
- Repeated interruptions
It's easy to spot someone’s contempt for you. It's more challenging to notice when you’re feeling contempt for another.
How to Push Past the Pen
When Bratman battled with the Pen, he was able to overcome his contempt, and so can you. The most effective way to combat contempt for others is gratitude.
It may sound lame but create a habit of appreciation. Express gratitude, respect and appreciation through feedback and praise. Focus on positives and deal with concerns in a constructive way.
Here are some other ways to demonstrate appreciation:
- Sharing interests
- Finding similarities
- Showing affection
3. The Jokestar: Mr Defensiveness
The Jokestar is a master of defensiveness. He knows how to avoid blame by redirecting it elsewhere.
Many people respond to conflict with defensiveness. It's how they learned to survive in communication, but it can be toxic and make you as crazy as the Jokestar.
Some signs of defensiveness are:
- Not taking responsibility
- Blaming others
- Rationalising behaviour
Let's take responsibility for how we act and behave in communication and figure out how to move past the villainy of defensiveness.
How to Joust with the Jokestar
Listen to the perspective of others. Take responsibility for your role and accept blame where deserved. It can be confronting, but accepting responsibility is one of the best ways to resolve conflict.
Defensive: "It's not my fault I was late. My partner didn't do laundry yesterday, and I had to do it this morning."
Non-defensive: "I'm really sorry we didn't have time to stop for coffee. I was late, and I'll make sure this doesn't happen again."
Acknowledging and apologising can help to de-escalate a situation. There may still be tension and conflict, but you will be able to communicate better to deal with it.
4. Capwoman: The Queen of Stonewalling
Capwoman has feline-like skills help her to evade and escape Bratman. Stonewalling is the same thing. Stonewallers might physically leave situations or stop paying attention as if they have shut down. It typically happens when emotions are running high.
There are some warning signs to be wary of before conversations reach this point. These include:
- Rising heartbeat
- Aching head or stomach
- Tensing of muscles
- Quickening of breath or heavy chest breathing
- Feeling overwhelmed
What would you do if someone you cared about completely withdrew from the conversation? What if you shut down and withdrew from the conversation? How would these people feel if you snubbed them?
How to Combat the Capwoman
When the avoiding powers of Catwoman rear up, it's a sign you need a break. If you find yourself stonewalling, or being stonewalled, there is no space for productive communication. Taking a break and allowing time to focus, recollect and self-soothe is vital.
Tell the other person you need a break from the conversation. Use 'I' language. Say something like, "I'm feeling upset, and I need a short break. I'm going to take half an hour alone, and I'll be ready to talk again".
Then, do something calming. You should last at least 20 minutes and come back when you are ready to reengage.
Fight Your Villains for Successful Relationships
Bratman needs to use all of the skills in his arsenal when he takes on these villains. These skills take time and practice to master. You may have to try entirely new ways of communicating. That isn't easy, but it's worth it. All you need is a willingness to have your relationships grow and succeed.
If you or someone you know finds it difficult to communicate in relationships, our Perth location offers relationship counselling. You can easily book an appointment with us online at our booking page or call for a more personal touch.
Let’s be honest, everyone is addicted to something. Coffee. Alcohol. Food. Smoking. Gambling. Work. Sex. Whether it be a behaviour or a substance, humans find it easy to become addicted to.
When you think of someone struggling with ‘sex addiction,’ you might imagine a man having constant sex, but sex addiction doesn’t just look the same for everyone. Sex addiction doesn’t only impact men; it can affect anyone, no matter their gender or sexuality. Men and women can be impacted by sex addiction in unique and different ways.
We use the term ‘sex addiction’ here as we get that this is a term most people would use to define what they are dealing with. We want to discuss sex in positive terms, so we are looking at sex addiction as a person having a strong sexual appetite. It removes the stigma of sex addiction and makes it easier to discuss concerns and work through them in this context.
WHAT IS SEX ADDICTION?
Sex addiction, much like other forms of addiction, is complex. It can impact people who are in relationships or are single. It doesn’t even have to involve actual sexual intercourse. Some sex addicts are not sexually active but find that masturbation or thoughts of sex take up a large part of their life.
A person may not be able to remove thoughts of sex from their mind easily. People addicted to sex may find that sexual thoughts and ideas impacts their mental processes during the day. They find themselves thinking a lot about sex. It can distract them from work, their families and personal relationships.
People dealing with addiction sometimes find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with others, particularly long term. They may turn to porn, affairs, visit sex workers, and engage in 'bad' sexual behaviour to fulfil on their sexual thoughts. Fears of intimacy can distance people from partners and their social circles.
A key takeaway about sex addiction is noting the difference between compulsive sex and sexual desires. Having quirky or unique sexual desires is okay (but we’ll save talking about fetishes and kinks for another day), however obsessing over them or being driven by them could negatively impact the quality of your life.
Remember, though, that sex addiction isn’t inherently wrong, and it certainly does not make you a bad person.
As we’ll discuss later, sex therapy can help to reduce the grip and impact that unwanted sexual thoughts and desires might have on you.
WHERE DOES SEX ADDICTION COME FROM?
Before we can work on dealing with sex addiction, we first want to identify where it comes from. Sex addiction isn’t driven by a desire for sexual enjoyment or fulfilment, however being driven to have sex can be as impactful as sex addiction.
There are different views on where sex addiction comes from and what it really is. Some argue that sex addiction is a coping mechanism, much like other forms of compulsive addictions. Others argue that there is a biological component. Some say it relates to lower self-worth and self-esteem. For some with sex addiction, sex is used to deal with stress, depression, anxiety, or even unresolved trauma.
No matter the origins, unlike drinking, eating and gambling problems, sex addiction is still seen as socially taboo to speak about. People don’t want to talk about it and stigma around sex makes it even more to seek help and to discuss it with others. Sex addiction is something associated with infidelity or engaging with sex workers, which may add to feelings of shame.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF SEX ADDICTION
Experts have found that the normal characteristics of sex addiction remain the same irrespective of gender, sexuality, psychological makeup or life history.
Some of these behaviours include:
THE FIRST STEP IN DEALING WITH SEX ADDICTION IS TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT
Admitting that there is a problem makes it possible for you to address it. By problem we mean that your sex addiction is affecting your quality of life. It’s impacting your relationships, your work, your health or any other area of life that’s important to you.
The most effective way of breaking the cycle is to discover the personal reasons and factors that have contributed to your addiction. Acknowledging the impacts of your situation is a powerful place to start.
This is where Sex Therapy Perth is especially useful. Being able to share with a supportive person who is non-judgmental and open is essential to supporting you to having a great life.
WHY COUNSELLING WORKS
Counsellors and therapists help free you from that little voice in your head, the one that you can’t seem to control or quiet. They work with you to discover yourself in new ways, ways that empower you and give you the freedom you want.
Sex counselling and sex psychology has proven to help people in improving their sex lives. It is used to treat sexual concerns, help people overcome problems around sex, and to normalise their sexual activities and desires. Your counsellor will work with you to discover the background that had your sex addiction develop and will train you in how to implement strategies and practices that support you.
Sex therapy, and counselling in general, works because it gives you the power to deal with what you are dealing with. It puts you back in the driver’s seat in this area of your life. A sex therapist or sexologist does not take a side or tries to force an opinion on you. A counsellor recognises that you have all of the skills and knowledge you need to help yourself, you just don’t have access to that. They work with you to discover for yourself your own healing.
HOW SEX THERAPY WORKS
Sex therapy and counselling is all about allowing you to talk through your experiences, worries or concerns. This helps you come to terms with fears and reduces the grip that unwanted sexual thoughts and behaviours have on you.
Your sex therapist or sexologist will discuss strategies with you that can help address your sex addiction. They can include behavioural and thought exercises that can help reduce performance anxiety and fear of failure and alter unwanted behaviours. They will help you grow skills in that give you control over your sexual behaviours.
WHY YOU COULD BENEFIT FROM SEX THERAPY
Sex addiction can be relatively harmless, but it can also creep into other areas of your life, including work and relationships. It can significantly impact the overall satisfaction you have with sex and your life. This is when talking to a professional counsellor, sex therapist or psychologist really helps.
At Sex Therapy Perth, we understand that it is very normal for people to deal with issues around sex, including sex addiction. We specialise in working with people who have questions or concerns around sex, dating, intimacy, relationships, sex or porn addiction, sexuality, fetishes and kinks, ‘non-traditional’ relationships and infidelity, just to name a few.
Even if you are unsure about trying sex therapy, you may still find a conversation with a therapist, psychologist or sexologist beneficial. It can help you look at your life and if it any parts are being affected by your sex addiction. If you feel that your quality of life and relationships are being affected, then a sex therapist can really help you.
We believe that a healthy sexual outlook is essential to building good relationships and crafting a positive outlook on life. Sex Therapy Perth offers specialised sex therapy and counselling for men and women.
While we are based in Como, in Perth, Western Australia, if you are from elsewhere, you are welcome to seek an online or phone appointment. Find out more at www.sextherapyperth.com.au or if you are ready to make an appointment click here to book
I came across this handy clip from YouTube and I thought it was really great.
It talks about the 5 signs you are seeing a 'BAD' therapist. This video is complements of Kati Morton. Kati is a family and licensed therapist.
Here are the 5 signs she talks about:
1.) You feel like you have to prove things because they act like they don't believe you.
2.) They don't remember anything you have said from previous sessions.
3.) They allow you to text, email, call, etc anytime you need....and they reply quickly.
4.) You just chat like friends, and don't really do any therapeutic work.
5.) They talk about themselves, A LOT! This is YOUR time, not theirs!
To find our more information then please visit Kati's video below, after all, who really wants a 'BAD' therapist.
It’s always so much fun when you start dating: you put yourself out there, you meet new people and you start to feel good about yourself. But sometimes it can be a little awkward and even daunting.
In every dating experience, there are lots of “firsts”. The first conversation about intimacy, the first night spent together and the first time you find out what each of you likes in bed. When it comes to communicating with your significant other about sex, it can put an extra amount of pressure on you.
Sex is a vital part of romance. When we feel insecure about our sex life,it can hold us back from enjoying the time with another person. It’s scary enough to start a conversation about sex and dating problems with someone we really like. It’s even worse when we feel like there is no one we can talk to about it because we are afraid to be judged by our friends and family. We also end up not saying anything to our partner yet the issue does not go away when we choose to stay silent about it.
Talking to a sex counsellor can help you with your dating life. Whether you are new to dating, started seeing another person after coming out of a long-term relationship or someone who has been dating for a while, sex counsellor is here to provide the support you need. They can answer any questions or concerns you have about sex and intimacy in a judgment-free environment. Sex counsellor is the best person to give a professional advice on how you can be happy in your personal relationships and have a fulfilling sexual experience with your partner.
Don’t worry, your privacy will be respected: seeing a professional counsellor means you are working with someone who you can both trust and who is bound by confidentially.