Category: Communication

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What makes a relationship healthy?

Relationships are hard. They take time, commitment, and consistent work. But when you think about it, anything that we truly care about takes time, commitment, and dedication.

So why would we think relationships would be any different? With what we see on the movie screen, watch in television sitcoms, and read in romance novels; romantic love comes easy, there is no fighting, just blissful, passionate love that sweeps you off your feet. That’s unrealistic.

Back to reality; Great relationships take time, commitment, and dedication.

What do I mean by time?

Time together is essential. Not just time spent text messaging, surfing the web, or spacing in front of the television – spend quality time together. Quality time is creating novel and fun memories.

According to Helen Fischer, novelty pumps dopamine in the brain and fun infuses positive energy. When freshness is generated as a couple, intense feelings of romantic love is fostered.


Touch is also crucial while spending quality time together. Holding hands, cuddling, walking arm in arm are all ways to increase oxytocin levels in the brain. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone that new mothers exude to their infant and that couples release when affectionate.


Sex is another way to spend valuable time together. Sex is great for the body, the mind, and the relationship. Pleasant exploratory, sensual stimulation, and orgasm evokes the release of dopamine and oxytocin. The relationship gets a double whammy of deep attachment and a sense of romantic love.

Talking and Listening

Talking about feelings about yourself and sharing your emotions such as joy, peace, anger, and sadness to your partner brings you closer together. Listening with an open heart, open mind and attuning to your partners’ perspective also creates intimacy.

There are several methods to communicate effectively. One is called the imago dialogue. This process emphasizes one person being the sender (talking person) and the other being the receiver (listening person). The sender speaks using “I” statements and talks in small, digestible pieces.

The receiver then mirrors what the sender has spoken. Mirrors means that what you see in the senders’ facial expression, body language, and words are repeated back. The sender then checks in with the receiver to make sure they heard and felt is accurate. If not, then you repeat the step.

Once you have reached a point where the sender has fully grasped what the receiver has said, then the receiver asks, “Is there more?” or “Tell me more.”

The final step is empathy. It is important to imagine how the other person feels and to accurately convey that to the sender. If not, repeat the process.

Finally you can switch. The person who was the sender is now the receiver and vice versa.

What do I mean by commitment?

Commitment means you value the relationship and make it priority. While committing to the relationship, you also commit to zero negativity according to Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. Zero negativity is threefold.

Be Aware

First, shift your point of view when you notice yourself falling into the trap of criticisms, blames, defenses, demands, or angry outbursts.   Instead of focusing on the other, see your role in the source of your agony.

Personal Responsibility

Take responsibility of your part. Rather than pointing your finger, facilitate change on your part.

Mindfulness and Gratitude

Use your brain to your advantage. Our brains are built for deception. Use mindfulness and gratitude practices to train your brain to focus on the positive and shift your vision to love and attraction. An example may be that your partner doesn’t clean their morning dishes, choose to appreciate the cup of tea they prepared for you instead of the dishes left in the sink.

What do I mean by dedication?

Dedication is having a feeling of strong support and loyalty to the relationship. You are dedicated to the process and journey together. You set guidelines and commit to those rules.

Relationships are difficult but with time, commitment, and dedication to your couple contract you are on your way to a healthy relationship. If the relationship is more work than fun or you become someone you don’t like, then the relationship is unhealthy and may need some guidance.

If you know someone who would benefit from learning more about creating a healthy relationship, please pass along the information.

I am a Licensed Psychotherapist and Mind/Body Performance Coach. I enjoy helping people whether it is for pain management, performance anxiety, and the loss of a loved one or fine-tuning relationships. Relationships include the relationship with you, spirituality/God, family, coworkers, friends and partners. I provide individual, couple, and group coaching and counseling.

April Wright, M.A., LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist MFC96155


No defending when communicating as a couple

Listening Essentials for Healthy Communication

Talking effectively about feelings is an exercise that will strengthen trust and intimacy in a relationship. While talking is important, listening is just as crucial. Talking about and listening to certain events and issues must be presented in a comfortable environment that is committed to certain communication rules and understandings.

The role of the talker is to describe what emotions you are feeling; such as frustrated, angry, hurt, fearful, etc. Attach the emotion to a person, event, and how this affects how you feel about the relationship and about how you feel about yourself. An example is, “I feel hurt when you don’t listen. It makes me feel like you don’t care about my thoughts, opinions, or about me. It makes me feel like I’m invisible, I don’t’ matter, and I’m small.”

Next, explore what this might remind you of from earlier times in your life or previous relationships. For instance, “It reminds me when my father yelled at me as a child and continued to ask me to explain myself. I grew so scared while he yelled that I couldn’t think; my mind went blank. He continued to yell and I continued to retreat.”

Subsequently, explain what you need to help make you feel comfortable. This enables your partner to understand, empathize, and attune to your needs. With continued support from your partner, a loving connection and safe reliance grow.

The role of the listener is to put your feelings and perceptions aside, be fully present, engaged, and attentive. The listener is curious, asks questions, provides reflective statements and acknowledges your spouse’s perception of the event or issue. Another role of the listener is to ensure the four taboos of communication are avoided. They include:

  1. Criticism
  2. Demanding
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Angry outburst

I discussed rule number one, criticism and rule number two, no demands. Criticism and making a demand is a self-interested act that is demeaning and leads to a hostile environment causing distance, distrust, and defensiveness. The third rule is to avoid defensiveness.

What is Defensiveness?

Defensiveness is a reaction to justify your behavior and serves to protect. It is a function to make yourself feel better and make your partner wrong. Defensiveness usually results in blaming, criticizing, or counterattacking. The defense protects against pain, shame, guilt and fear.

The solution is to share your feelings about your inner world that was triggered during the event. Express how it makes you feel about yourself, the relationship, and what sensitive area from your past was ignited. At this point, it is the responsibility of the listener to keep in line with your role and put your feelings and perception aside. With practice, the process will become easier and your relationship will strengthen.

If your communication is falling into the trap of criticism, domination, defensiveness, and uncontrolled anger, call me at (424) 258-5416, email me at, or complete the contact form below and let’s begin a course of action so that you may build trust and intimacy again.

Healthy, happy couple - April Wright Therapy

The Four Taboos of Communication – Rule #2 — No Demanding

Research has come a long way since the 1960’s when the book The Mirages of Marriage by Don Jackson and William Lederer expressed that distressed marriages lacked a contract based on rewards and positive feelings.  It was suggested that partners negotiate a contract based out of self-interest to arrive at the best deal. Therapy approaches also recommended couples to designate a day of thoughtful exchanges.

Couples therapists now recommend couples work together with mutual trust and with shared meaning and purpose. Psychologists suggest partners act nice to each other not out of self-interest but out of mutual interest.  Furthermore, professionals advise spouses to express emotions in a committed safe haven of trust, curiosity, and validation.

The ingredients for not only loving but being in love with your partner resides with good conflict-resolution skills and daily emotional connection where calmly talking, listening, cuddling and saying, “I love you” and meaning it occurs.  Cuddling is important because it secretes oxytocin, the chemical that creates bonding and a great sex life.

The components to creating a healthy, happy relationship may sound overwhelming. It’s really quite simple.  It starts with some basic communication rules.  The guidelines include staying away from the four taboos of communication.

  1.    Criticism
  2.    Demanding
  3.    Defensiveness
  4.    Angry outburst

I discussed the menaces of criticism and how it leads to a hostile environment causing distance, distrust, and defensiveness.  The second communication pitfall to avoid is making a demand.

What is a demand?

A demand is a forceful request based on self-interest.  The act of a demand is being domineering, controlling, and forceful.  Similar to criticism, demanding something of your spouse is not constructive and does not have the mutual interest of the relationship in mind.

Demanding actions of your significant other commonly results in a passive-aggressive partner.  Passive-aggressive behavior is a defense mechanism to punish you for your demands.  Relationships that resort to demanding and retorting passive-aggressive behavior turn into a vicious cycle of retaliation, intense anger, and distance.

The solution is to pause before speaking when a demand enters your mind.  You may ask for a time-out and express that you can reconvene in an hour or whatever particular timeframe you need to speak calmly and express what triggered the demand.   Give yourself plenty of nurturing time to think and assess what soft spot was hit that brought forth this demand.

When you are ready, ask respectfully to your partner when is a good time to talk.  When a time is set, make sure the setting is comfortable with no distractions.  Share your perception and feelings of the event and what feelings about yourself and the relationship come forward.  The more you express your inner world in a committed safe haven of curiosity, understanding, and empathy, the closer you become.

If your communication is falling into traps of demands and passive-aggressiveness, call me at (424) 258-5416 or email me at and let’s begin a course of action so that you may build trust and understanding again.

Criticism destroys communication between couples

The Four Communication Pitfalls in a Relationship

Communication is the key to unlocking a growing, adaptable relationship with trust, closeness, and intimacy. When communication goes array, at least one of the four taboos of interaction has taken place. The relationship becomes stuck in a rut and trust and affection is broken. He runs away and avoids conflict and she latches on with more force and power. The relationship is headed into a cat and mouse chase with possible separation, disconnection, and affair(s).

The four dangers in interaction include:

  1. Criticism
  2. Demanding
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Angry outburst

Couples counseling can clearly define the four communication pitfalls and the relationship can become close and intimate again. This article will explain the menaces of criticism and will be followed with three other editorials describing demanding, defensiveness, and vented anger.

What is criticism?

Criticism is unconsciously belittling another. It is assessing, blaming, and disapproving of your partner. Without awareness, you feel superior and your spouse feels condemned.

Sure, criticism can be rationalized as helpful advice or constructive feedback. No matter how you look at it, criticism is the perception of trying to improve another based on your agenda to change and need to be right.

Whatever the rational, criticism is analyzing and disapproving of your partner. This act leads to a hostile environment causing distance, distrust, and defensiveness. The relationship is on a downward spiral into the pitfalls of condemnation.

Criticism is enmeshment. In other words, you are in an entangled mess with your spouse. Criticism is difficult to give up because retracting your position can feel like you have to swallow a portion of yourself, which can feel all consuming, dominating, and threatening.

The solution is differentiation. Couples counseling can help untangle an enmeshed relationship. During the process, helpful skills are taught to couples. You learn how to describe what you are feeling, explain your feelings about the event and how that affects how you feel about the relationship and about yourself.

If your communication is falling into the trap of criticism, call me at (424) 528-5416 or email me at and let’s begin a course of action so that you may build trust and understanding again.

The Same Old Thinking Creates The Same Old Results - April Wright Therapy

9 Tips To Change Your Negative Self Talk

One of the worst defeaters in life is all in your head. It’s the nagging, judgmental chatterbox telling you, “You’re stupid.” “You’re lazy.” “No one cares about you or what you have to say.” “You’re never going to amount to anything.”

Any of that sound familiar? I know I’ve heard a few of those quietly hindering me from moving forward.

It took two failures of the licensing exam before I finally decided to stop the destructive voice. I decisively took the time to examine my thoughts and make sure I would pass my final test.

I explored my history and determined where the belief originated. I discovered it was a combination of several key influencers in my childhood. The one that sticks out the most is my 9th-grade French teacher.

One afternoon at the end of class she stopped me to ask, “Do you have a learning disability?” I was horrified that she asked such a question. I was getting a “C” in her class, and I guess that wasn’t good enough for her. The underlying message that “I’m not smart enough” and, “I am not a good test taker” stood with me even into my forties.

Here are nine powerful tips to tame your inner critic sooner rather than later.

  1. Examine your behavior. Look at events where you aren’t getting the results you desire. Are you not taking risks or holding yourself back? Your performance is an excellent opportunity to listen to your internal monologue.
  2. Write down your negative chatter; i.e. “I don’t matter.” “I will never succeed.” “I’m horrible at math, relationships, blah, blah, blah.” Fill in your personal record.
    Name it to tame it.
  3. Name your inner critic. Call it your gremlin, saboteur, or negatizer. Choose a name that resonates with you.
  4. Create a dialogue with your inner critic. Talk back to your gremlin with compassion. Try using a saying such as, “Oh, there’s that silly voice again.” Or, “I know you don’t want me to fail, but if I don’t try, I’ll never have the chance to succeed.” “Getting a “D” on one math exam doesn’t mean I am horrible at math. “One exam is not an overall indicator of my competency in arithmetic.” Make your dialogue personal and memorable.
  5. Use humor to dim the background noise. “Whazzzup little demon” “You back to break me down again?“ Well, my super powers can blow you out of here and you where you belong.” Use something silly and humorous to bring light to the subject.
  6. Externalize the voice. It’s not you. The message is an unkind saying passed to you. Give it back. Tell it to go away. “Shut the $@!) up.” Find your personal avenue to discard of the mind trash.
  7. Conjure up an image. Show compassion to your negative voice and thoughtfully put it where it belongs. Visualize a chest where you store all your damaging thoughts. Lock it behind a closed door. Create your unique visualization where it is safely stored and locked away.
  8. Replace the negative with a positive dialogue and back it up with past accomplishments. For example, “I am intelligent. I have passed and aced many exams in the past. There is no reason why I can’t do it again.”
  9. Create a step-by-step visualization of yourself succeeding and accomplishing your desired task. Make sure to go through the whole process from beginning to end. Here is an example as you prepare for a computer exam:
    a.  Imagine yourself walking into the test taking facility
    b.  Envision sitting down with both feet flat on the floor as you ground yourself and familiarize yourself in front of the computer
    c.  Picture yourself taking several deep breaths and give yourself positive affirmations
    d.  See yourself answering each question correctly and confidently until to reach the end
    e.  Conceive an image of you finishing knowing you did your best, you worked hard, prepared, and knew the material.
    f. Lastly, leave the computer room confident that you passed.

Tame Your Inner Gremlin - April Wright TherapyAs with any event that is new or where high expectations persist, there is pressure to succeed. You don’t have to let your negative internal dialogue hold you back. You can create positive, affirming self-talk that has your best interest in mind. Go for it. I know you can do it!

“I believe that every person is born with talent.” ~ Maya Angelou

For individual therapy, couples counseling, or sex therapy, please contact me at 424.258.5416 or


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