Therapy That Works...

Trauma and Romantic Relationships In "Fifty Shades of Grey" - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 23, 2015

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing and Chris Gearing discuss how trauma affects romantic relationships in the new hit movie "Fifty Shades of Grey" - click here.

Marriage & Divorce – How Stonewalling Can Wreck Your Marriage - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discusses how withdrawing from marital conflict can unintentionally wreck your marriage - click here.

The attack and defend model of marital conflict can lead to a sense of helplessness and emotional fatigue.

For example, if one partner remains committed to working through the problem while the other partner withdraws, the marriage may become damaged over time. Dr. John Gottman observed that stonewalling, or complete withdrawal from a conversation, is often the end point of a negative conflict cycle that includes criticism, contempt, and defensiveness.

Unfortunately, women are much more likely to criticize their partner and men exhibit around 85% of stonewalling behavior. When men shut down in the middle of a heated argument, they are often doing so because they are emotionally overloaded or feeling an extreme sense of helplessness. They often decide to take a break to calm down before responding.

Withdrawing during conflict is particularly difficult and potentially hurtful to women.

Oftentimes, the withdrawal is experienced as abandoning and disrespectful. Exclusion from a conversation is an Achilles heel for women and they often experience it as an intentional disconnection of the emotional bond.

However, women who stonewall are more likely to consider divorce.

So if she stops talking to you, you may want to watch your back. There may be something seriously wrong in the relationship.


The Work of Dr. John Gottman

Marriage & Divorce - How You Fight Day To Day - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how normal everyday disagreements may actually be healthy for your marriage - click here.

For years, we’ve heard that marriages succeed or fail based on if you fight with your spouse.

However, new research has found that how you fight may have a more direct impact on whether you stay married or not.

Years ago, marriage expert Dr. John Gottman discovered that consistently high levels of negative communication could predict who separated and who stayed together. Conversations regularly featuring Dr. Gottman’s Four Horsemen of Marriage criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling from a partner tended to erode even the best of bonds.

If one partner routinely fired on the other or regularly defended themselves against repeated emotional assaults, they would eventually just give up. They simply couldn’t continue on with the day-to-day negativity. The bottom line is that with routine negative communication, good feelings tend to evaporate and are replaced by resentment and hostility.


The Work of Dr. John Gottman

Marriage & Divorce – How Life Before the Wedding Can Impact Your Marriage - By Chris Gearing

Monday, October 06, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how factors from before your wedding may shape and change your future marriage - click here.

Most of us think that when we walk down the aisle, it’s the first step in a brand new life.

However, new research from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia has found a link between premarital behavior and marital satisfaction from ages 18 through 34. Here are some interesting facts from the study:

The Grass Is Always Greener

If you have had a high number of romantic partners and relationships over the years, you may have higher expectations of your current marriage. We can end up unfairly comparing our spouse to previous romantic partners, which can lead to high levels of marital dissatisfaction and even outright conflict. Another side effect of a long relationship history is that we can become pros at breaking up. Repeatedly walking away from dating relationships instead of trying to work things out can be a rehearsal for a future marital break up.

Sliding Versus Deciding

The researchers observed that some couples tended to slide into major, life altering decisions such as getting married or having a child together. They make major decisions based on shallow criteria such as the length of the relationship or their or their partner’s age rather than on the strength and long term viability of the relationship. Those of us who intentionally enter romantic relationships and proactively nurture and grow the romantic bond tend to do better in marriage.

It Takes A Village

Weddings are the ultimate ritual of connection and commitment. According to this study, having a large wedding is linked to having a sturdier marriage. The psychologists were careful to point out that how much money was spent on the ceremony was not important. Instead, they argued that having a strong community and social network that supports each of you and your union is a wonderful foundation for a happy and successful marriage.


Galena Rhoades & Scott Stanley, “Bigger Weddings, fewer partners, less ‘sliding’ linked to better marriages.” The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, Science Daily, 19 August 2014.

Facebook Fridays – Curtis (06/20/14) - By Chris Gearing

Friday, June 20, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia answer Curtis from Facebook's question about long distance relationships - click here.

Curtis from Facebook writes in:

“My girlfriend and I just went long distance after being together for a year. Our relationship is strong, [and] we are best friends as well as a couple. She left 2 days ago and I can’t see her again until Christmas time. Any advice on how to make it work?”

Well Curtis – first, congratulations on finding such a wonderful partner and I sincerely hope that things work out for both of you. Here are some a few tips to keep in mind:

Built On Friendship

Many people forget that a deep and abiding friendship is one of the cornerstones to love. Romance thrives when you genuinely enjoy your partner and have fun when you interact either on the phone or face-to-face. Consider this to be one of your most important strategies to survive and even thrive during the physical separation. There are a million ways to keep your friendship alive when you are away from one another by playing through words and activities. Playing games together online like “Words With Friends,” video chatting through Skype, posting on each others’ Facebook walls, or sharing pictures on Instagram or Tumblr are all great ways to stay connected.

Building Trust

Most people don’t realize that trust is built one interaction at a time. We reinforce trust through staying faithful to one another, but we also show our trustworthiness when we interact with sincere and total focus. Whenever you interact with her, be emotionally present and give her all of your attention. Women find undiluted focus intoxicating. Also, make sure you remain committed to timely answers to texts, emails, or any social media interaction. Even if you’re just explaining that you’re busy right now, she’ll appreciate your attentiveness and care.

Radical Acceptance

Being away from the one you love can be difficult, particularly for long stretches of time. If you find that your stress or anxiety is growing, use a distress tolerance technique called “radical acceptance.” Dr. Marsha Linehan, the inventor of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, invented this technique. Radical acceptance asks you to separate what you can control and what you cannot control. Focusing your attention and efforts on what you can control will calm you down and makes you more confident. Remember that radical acceptance does not ask you to enjoy what is happening. It simply asks you to focus on controllable factors and let go of what is out of your control. Once you can do this, you can focus on what you can do to keep your relationship vibrant and healthy.

Express Yourself Verbally

While actions are very important, there is no substitute for the power of words, particularly for women. Send a poem that you wrote or borrowed from a famous poet that tells her how much you love her or that you were simply thinking of her. Send a loving phase along with a favorite picture of both of you or even a Pinterest board to plan your next vacation. And most important of all, when you talk to her, tell her that you love her and you miss her.


The Work of Dr. John Gottman

Men's Issues - Grumpy Husbands & Pessimistic Thinking - By Chris Gearing

Monday, May 05, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how pessimistic thinking can lead to grumpy husbands - txt to link goes here.

Many wives are perplexed with husbands that are regularly grumpy. They often don’t know how to help their grumpy partners pull out of their negative thinking, and that feeling of helplessness often leads to grumpy wives. Here are some reasons why your man may be so negative:

From Childhood

Most grumpy people don’t intend to be negative. Pessimistic thinking often originates in the thinking habits that many of us develop in childhood. When we used them as children to explain events in our lives to ourselves, they made a lot of sense. As we have become adults, we are still using old explanations for new events. It’s kind of like if you wore the same pair of shoes from your childhood as an adult. The old pessimistic thinking continues to frame events in our lives in a negative, gloomy way.

Hopelessness Cycle

Unfortunately, pessimistic thinking is often reinforced with regularity. When you’re always expecting a bad outcome, you’re going to be right a lot of the time. We stop challenging our negative thoughts and begin to lose hope for our lives. The cycle takes hold and you’re pessimistic thinking begins to downsize your life.

Accepting The Worst

Negative minds tend to give up and just accept the inevitability of a lousy outcome. On a fundamental level, they are convinced that they are ineffective and are helpless to change their lives for the better. They stop trying and settle for what life gives them.

For more information on what you can do to help someone with pessimistic thinking or clinical depression, watch my series on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy on my blog or on our Facebook page.

Grumpy Husband Syndrome - By Chris Gearing

Friday, April 11, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on KTXD 47 discussing the new trend of "Grumpy Husband Syndrome" - click here.

Marriage – Dr. Gottman’s Distance and Isolation Cascade - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe Dr. John Gottman's research on how marriages can fail and the signs of the distance and isolation cascade - click here.

When partners break up, it is very common to experience a process of physical and emotional separation. Emotional separation is often completed before either partner realizes what has happened, and they struggle to recognize that the relationship is in critical condition. Dr. John Gottman’s landmark research fully described the steps that lead to the end of relationships.


Once anger and frustration become too overwhelming, the emotional centers of the brain heighten the experience of already intense emotions. Resentment builds and magnifies every disappointment, and the relationship becomes a constant powder keg. Negative emotions frame every interaction as each partner gathers evidence that the other partner has failed them and always will.

Problems Seen As Too Severe

Rather than talking things through, the partner becomes so hostile to their partner’s opinion that they avoid interacting in any meaningful way. They begin to see the situation as helpless and hopeless and it defines how they see their partner. Most importantly, they no longer see their partner as a reliable person. That belief fundamentally rearranges the emotional relationship.

Work Problems Out Alone

People tend to separate emotionally first and physically last. Estranged partners no longer look to one another as a resource and an ally. Problems are no longer shared, opinions are no longer asked for, and the mundane details of their lives are the only topics they feel safe to share. Over time, the opinions of others outside the relationship are sought out, valued, and remembered as their partner is quickly discarded to the same status as a roommate.

Parallel Lives

Unhappy spouses are very effective at arranging their lives on parallel tracks. They change their schedules to avoid seeing each other—eating fewer meals together, attending fewer school events, or regularly working late or on the weekends. They carefully distribute their time elsewhere with social and business obligations that keep them far away from spending time with their partner.

Crushing Loneliness

Perhaps the most difficult part of the cascade is the deep loneliness that haunts many unhappily married people. There is a constant grief for the marriage that once was and the loss of hope for the marriage that could have been.


"What Makes Love Last?" by Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver

Marriage and Divorce - Dr. John Gottman's Four Horsemen for Marriage - By Chris Gearing

Friday, November 22, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the four horsemen for marriage from marriage expert Dr. John Gottman's research - click here.

There are always signs when a marriage is headed to divorce.

Dr. John Gottman, one of the world’s leading marriage experts, has identified four negative communication habits that usually mean the end is near. His decades of marital research and therapy have found that although defeating the four horsemen won’t entirely solve your marital problems, they are a big step towards repairing your marriage and living happily ever after.

1.) Criticism

The first horseman is Criticism. Criticism is not only expressing your unhappiness about a situation but using it to emotionally assault your partner. A temporary frustration becomes a lifelong character flaw; a minor miscommunication becomes an intentional attack. Instead of using neutral language and focusing on what needs to be done, comments focus on how one partner is at fault and use negative language to describe what is wrong with them.

2.) Contempt

The second horseman is Contempt. As you probably suspect, contempt uses heavy doses of sarcasm, name-calling, and character assassination. You may hear phrases such as “Can’t you do anything right?” or “Do you have some kind of mental problem?” Contempt frames every event as either a failure or par for the course – there are no true victories and the other partner can never win. It fundamentally changes the playing field of the marriage since it elevates one partner over the other instead of keeping you and your partner allied and equal in the marriage.

3.) Defensiveness

The third horseman is Defensiveness. Defensiveness is usually a response to the last two horsemen, criticism and contempt, and often is a last ditch effort to end the verbal attacks. Dr. Gottman finds that defensiveness can include righteous indignation, launching counterattacks, whining, or acting like an innocent victim. However, research has found that defensiveness doesn’t necessarily end the conflict and it can even escalate the tension.

4.) Stonewalling

This often leads to the fourth and final horseman, Stonewalling. Most couples think that stonewalling is caused by indifference or anger, but it is often cause by overwhelming emotions. When one partner is flooded with emotions and cannot process everything they are feeling, they short circuit and often stop actively listening and participating. They become completely blank in an effort to calm down and regain control. The other partner can only see the lack of responsiveness and they often give up hope about resolving the situation.

Dr. Gottman’s four horsemen are very serious marital issues. If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from these signs of marital conflict, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.


"What Makes Love Last?" by Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver

Their Cheating Heart - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on explain the different reasons men and women have for having affairs - click here.

Most people think that those who cheat on their spouse are terrible people, but the answer is usually much more complex. Affairs begin for different reasons depending on the person and their circumstances. New research has just clarified how the genders are different when it comes to sex outside the marriage.

One out of four married men have had an affair at some point in the marriage, where as only one out of nine married women cheated on their husbands. In fact, most men stray very early into the marriage – usually within the first two to five years. It’s usually not for emotional or psychological reasons – in fact, most cheating men said that they cheated because they had an opportunity and they took it! Wives who cheat often are not meeting their emotional needs at home and look for love and fulfillment outside the marriage.

If your or your spouse engage in an affair, make sure to seek the help of a licensed psychologist who can help you mend your marriage and repair your relationship with your spouse.


Men’s Health, March 2012

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