Author Archives: FireSpike

New LGBT Research Explores Gender Expression & PDA-related Vigilance

Does Having a Feminine LGBT Partner Change PDA Experiences?

LGBT couples therapy for Florida residents.

When you reach for your partner’s hand in public, what is the first thing that crosses your mind, if anything? While for many couples, public displays of affection (PDAs) are so innocuous that they may feel more instinctual than deliberate, such experiences can be more complex for individuals in same-sex relationships.

Indeed, same-sex PDAs can have serious consequences, ranging from discrimination to violence. Such was the case in the story of Melania Geymonat and Christine (Chris) Hannigan who were attacked on a London city bus in 2019 by a group of teenage boys. Melania and Chris were returning home after a date and had been casually affectionate with each other while riding the bus when the teenagers began making crude hand gestures representing sexual acts and asking the women to “kiss for them.” The interaction culminated in the women being physically assaulted and robbed.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

Offering online LGBT couples therapy for residents of Oregon, Washington and Florida.

After the Argument: How to Begin Again with Gottman Couples Therapy

Gottman Couples Therapy Tools for Making Up Instead of Breaking Up

The Gottman Therapy Method for couples.

“Okay, but what happens after the fight?” I ask.

The various couples on my screen shift uncomfortably and exchange guilty looks. Nobody answers. You’d think I’m a principal asking a classroom of third graders who let the class hamster out of the cage and fed it my lunch? Today’s topic, making up instead of breaking up, is part of several classes on communication and fighting fair. Over the last several weeks the couples in my online program have learned how to understand each others’ perspective, identify destructive arguing styles (including the Four Horsemen) and apply the antidotes, use a detailed time-out, process the underlying causes of their disagreements, use a mindful apology, and go through a deep forgiveness ritual. But now we’ve hit a big snag. After the fight, after the processing, after the forgiveness…these folks don’t know how to begin again.

Look, we all know we are going to disagree. Whether it’s a gentle argument over a parking space on your second date or a flooded, twelve-round verbal boxing match that leaves you emotionally reeling, fights happen.

Continue reading at The Gottman Institute.

Contact me to learn how The Gottman Method can help with your couples therapy.

4 Gottman Institute Tips to Build Everyday Trust in Relationships

Be a Partner Who is Reliable and Accountable with Gottman Institute Therapy Tips

When you think of trust in relationships, you likely think of rebuilding after an incident where trust was challenged and/or lost. Some common reasons trust becomes an issue in relationships are dishonesty, unreliability, and betrayal.

Let’s focus on building a foundation of trust from the start of the relationship. To prevent the pitfalls of the issues listed above, here are four practical, concrete ways to establish trust and maintain it.

Continue reading at The Gottman Institute.

If you are looking for couples therapy, make an online appointment.

Destigmatizing Premarital Counseling

Online Marriage Counseling Can Get Your Lifetime of Love Off to a Good Start

I remember the buzz of excitement and anticipation leading up to our wedding. Choosing a location. Sampling dishes from a local farm-to-table catering company. Asking our loved ones to play music, sew table runners, and brew cider. We made a pact to focus on our relationship first and to take breaks if wedding planning ever became too stressful. Things were going pretty well, so when my parents proposed the idea of premarital counseling, we felt taken aback, slightly offended, and closed off to the idea.

I imagine we were not the only engaged couple who thought about premarital counseling. For many decades, the dominant narrative in our culture was that premarital counseling was something you needed to do if you wanted to get married in the Catholic Church or if you had obvious relationship issues.

As a bride-to-be and a Marriage and Family Therapist in training, I was aware of these different influences on my opinion and chose to purposefully set them aside. Although we didn’t have serious issues or religious reasons, we decided to give premarital counseling a shot. After all, if I was going to work as a couples therapist and wanted to break down any stigmas around relational health, I better be willing to do some work of my own.

Continue reading at The Gottman Institute.

Contact me for more information on online marriage counseling in Oregon, Washington & Florida residents.

4 Reasons Why Being Silly Is So Good for Couples

New Research on Playfulness Shows How it Can Build a Better Relationship

LGBT couples therapy research on playfulness in relationships.

How much time do you and your partner actually spend doing things just for fun? Although your pandemic and post-pandemic life can seem to squeeze the levity out of your relationship, do you still find ways to share moments of laughter? Can you even remember the last occasion when you forgot about your daily stress and goofed off with your partner? How about a recent time when you were just plain silly for no other reason than to bring some lightheartedness back into your relationship?

The quality of playfulness is one that is relatively understudied in psychology as an attribute of adult personality or relationships. Yet, the well-known psychologist Erik Erikson gave initiative, or the ability to engage in imaginative play, a central place in his lifespan model of personality. Emerging in the preschool years, initiative allows the child to explore new activities just for fun. As the individual develops, imagination retains its role in personality, theoretically allowing adults to take a creative approach to life.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

For more information on how I can help you with LGBT couples therapy, contact me today.

Setting a Daily Gottman Method Love Aspiration

Couples Love Aspirations Using the Gottman Method

Gottman Therapy love aspirations for couples.

I’d say the road to relationship misery is paved with good intentions, too. Tell me if this sounds familiar. You intend to be more romantic, caring, sexy, or fun—you really do!—but then you forget. Why? Is it because you are a thoughtless oaf with the romantic aptitude of a sponge? Is it because you care about your work more than your mate? Is it because you are just too darn tired? No. It’s because you are a human with truly good intentions, but intentions are never enough.

You may ask, “Okay Cheryl, how can I make my partner feel more important and loved?” By making an effort to DO something that makes them feel special each and every day. If you are like me, you need some help turning what you think you should do or would like to do for your partner into relationship results. And I have the perfect tool for you: set daily love aspirations.

Continue reading at The Gottman Institute.

Contact me for more information on how the Gottman method can help with your couples therapy.

Report: Women May Get More Depressed as Romantic Relationships Progress

Women’s self-esteem suffers more than men’s as romantic relationships progress

study finds women more depressed as relationship progresses

For people in romantic relationships, how do their feelings about themselves and their lives change over time? If their romantic relationship is a marriage, do they really live happily ever after? What if they are just dating or cohabiting? Suppose the partnership is a new one, formed after a previous one ended—do coupled people do better at relationships over time, after they’ve had some previous romantic relationship experience? Women are supposed to be the romantic relationship specialists, according to our stereotypes. Compared to men, they supposedly feel more and more satisfied with their lives as their relationships progress, and they supposedly enjoy greater boosts to their self-esteem, too. But do they really?

All of those questions and more were addressed in “Subjective well-being across partnerships,” a report published in the June 2021 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology. Matthew D. Johnson of the University of Alberta and two colleagues from Germany, Franz J. Neyer and Christine Finn, analyzed data from a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of Germans. For this investigation, the social scientists focused on 554 people who were in two romantic partnerships over the course of the study.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

Make a telehealth appointment if you live in Washington and are looking for therapy help.

Relationship Tips Using the Gottman Couples Therapy Method

4 Tips You Need to Know in Your First Year of a Relationship

Gottman method couples therapy tips.

This June 2021, my partner and I celebrate our 16th anniversary together.

That’s no small feat today. The even wilder part about our relationship is that we met on social media. We didn’t meet on Tinder. There was no “swiping right” in 2005. We didn’t meet on Facebook or even MySpace.

I met my partner when internet dating was brand new. We met on a site called “Friendster.” It was one of the first social media sites with profiles and photos, but not much else.

Here’s how it happened for me. A guy named Alapaki messaged me. He had gorgeous photos and a cool job (as a symphony percussionist). I was a music major in undergrad, so we had that in common.

I took a chance and here we are, still together, 16 years later. We’ve really learned a thing or two about relationships—mainly what it takes to make it past the tumultuous first year.

Here I’m sharing four tips we had to learn (the hard way) in the first year of our relationship so that you might not have to.

Continue reading at The Gottman Institute.

If you are looking for someone to help you through your relationship, contact me to schedule a telehealth appointment.

Telehealth Therapy for Understanding the Fantasy to Get Your Relationship Back on Track

Understand the Effect of Fear on Your Relationship With Telehealth Therapy

How telehealth therapy can help with fear in your relationship

Many of us are in the process of recovering from the last year of living under the threat of Covid-19; we are vaccinated, pulling off our masks, and moving in to hug the people we have missed. We are venturing out into the world, whether that means visiting friends’ homes, dining in restaurants, or shopping in stores. Now that some of our fear is lifting and our focus is not solely on our survival and the safety of others, we are going about getting our lives back into balance.

This means looking at the ways that our relationship might have been knocked off-kilter during the pandemic and getting it on track again. It is an unfortunate reality that when we are operating in survival mode, we stop paying attention to other aspects of our life. Chief among these is our personal relationships. It is very likely that, with our hardly noticing it, the undercurrent of tension/alarm during the pandemic has had an impact on the way we relate to our partner. Prolonged stress has that kind of effect.

Fear has been a dominant emotion for all of us over the past year. It has affected every one of us, regardless of whether you are unaware, partially aware, or fully aware of having felt it. Fear is an appropriate reaction to danger. We need to feel it; it keeps us safe. But it can also make us self-protective and distrustful. Then we shut down emotionally, which causes us to stop being vulnerable and available to others, especially our partner. Fear can also leave us feeling overwhelmed and powerless. This may make us desperate to be helped or saved by someone else, and during the pandemic, often the only person to turn to for this would have been — you guessed it — our partner. So, we have conflicting reactions: We want to push away our partner, while at the same time, we feel an intense need for them. We often resolve this dilemma by forming a fantasy bond in our relationship. This is a largely unconscious, defensive strategy that we originally developed in early childhood to deal with pain and frustration.

The fantasy bond offers an illusion of being merged with and connected to another person. When we become fearful and self-protective, we withdraw from the emotional give-and-take of interpersonal exchanges to a fantasy of love. When we become anxious and alarmed, we forfeit our independence to maintain this imagination of being one with our partner. However, the fantasy bond eventually takes a toll as it replaces the actual love and intimacy between two people.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

Make an online telehealth appointment for residents of Washington, Oregon and Florida.

3 Gottman Method Ways to Make a Better Bid for Couples Connection

Tips to Understand Dr. John Gottman’s Couples Bids

Dr. John Gottman calls bids the “fundamental unit of emotional connection.” They are the gestures between a couple that signal a need for attention. Bids can be verbal or nonverbal and include asking for anything from physical affection to help with a project.

Gottman Therapy Method for understanding couples bids

How to make a bid
The person who sends the bid desires to connect. Some bids are overt and obvious to the receiver. For example, if Sam tells Charlie, “Do you have a second? I need to run something by you,” that’s a clear bid. When Charlie initiates sex by winking and lightly massaging Sam’s thigh, that’s a very clear bid.

The more they both turn towards each other and respond to those bids, the more likely they are to send bids in the future. It’s a cyclical pattern that, when done correctly, makes the relationship happy and healthy.

Fuzzy bidding
Unfortunately, not all bids are created equal, and often the receiver will miss them by no fault of their own. If a bid is difficult to decipher, it may not elicit the response you want, because your partner does not understand what you’re asking for. Dr. John Gottman calls it “fuzzy bidding.”

There are ways to make a better bid for connection. Here are three tips that will clear up the fuzziness and get you and your partner to understand each other.

Continue reading at The Gottman Institute.

If you are interested in learning more about the Gottman Method-contact me for more info on couples therapy in Washington, Oregon and Florida.