Interview With Klara Brown - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 18, 2014

Interview With Klara Brown

1. In your experience, how many couples come to you to seek help in their relationship due to communication problems?

90-95% of the couples come to me with communication problems.

2. Can you point out some major differences between the way men and women communicate that may be contributing to these relationship problems?

In Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy we are not concerned about the differences between the communication styles of men and women. When there is an argument about any problem, we see it as a negative interaction that is created by both partners.

Adult attachment relationships are believed to have the same survival function as the mother-child bond, since ideally these attachments can provide the same love, comfort, support, and protection throughout the lifespan. However, due to our relationship histories, and the negative interaction cycles we get into with our partners, many of us have difficulties with trust and expressing emotion to those who mean the most to us.

When couples argue about such issues as jealousy, sex, or money the origins of these arguments are usually some form of protest from one partner about not feeling connected, not trusting, or not feeling safe or secure with the other partner. When those we are attached to are not available or not responding to our needs to feel close, we feel distressed. We may become anxious or fearful, numb or distant.

These behaviors can become habitual or rigid modes of reacting to our partners can develop. Furthermore, these toxic behavior patterns seem to take on a life of their own as they cycle into repetitive interactions that cause much pain, injury, and despair. We focus on these patterns and work on changing these negative interaction cycles in a non-judgmental environment.

3. What you are saying is the different communication styles that men and women have is not the root cause of the problem but rather a more surface level problem. So when women complain their partners don’t listen or men complain she is always nagging, there is something else going on than a mere lack of communication or difference in communication.

You talked about emotionally focused couples therapy. How do you then get to the root of the problem? Take’s take a very common complaint we get from a number of women readers and subscribers. The husband promises to clean the garage during the weekend and doesn’t do it and the wife reminds him gently the next time and he promises to do it, again never happens. The wife becomes frustrated and nags while the husband says ‘What’s the big deal, I will get to it’ and the arguments start.

What is the root cause of this problem and as a therapist, how do you advise your clients to overcome this problem?

I would be curious to know what is the wife’s negative perception about herself or her husband regarding this problem. For example, when my husband doesn’t do what I am asking to do, I feel he doesn’t care about me, I am overwhelmed with house work, I am so alone in this marriage. Understanding the underlying emotions during our communication and being able to communicate about it with our partner would deescalate the conflict.

Frustration or anger makes him more defensive and less responsive. Sharing primary emotions and asking for comfort and care helps couple to connect. The problem has less negative impact on them. The root of the problem is the inability to turn to partner for comfort and care during disconnection.

4. Can you further explain what you mean by turning to the partner for comfort and care during disconnection and how it is done?

Securely attached couple can reach for each other with their primary emotions (sadness, fear, shame etc.) This allows for reassurance, comfort, and feelings. Partners are often driven to shut down or act out rather than reach for their partner because they have a history that tell them this will be painful and dangerous in some way. It is fear of being vulnerable and sharing that drives the inability to correct the negative rigid pattern in their relationship.

I have a couples client where the wife has no attraction to her husband. This has been going on for 4 years. She nags. She is frustrated with her husband not doing the right things or the right way. Meanwhile he feels more and more inadequate in the relationship. “He can’t do anything right.”

After a few sessions, she recognized that because she is not able to turn to her husband and share her loneliness in this marriage, she reacts to her husband with anger and blame.  Her behavior is re-framed  as being in so much pain because she cannot connect to her husband.

When the husband is getting a heartfelt sense of what happens underneath the wife’s reactivity (loneliness and fear), then this begets understanding and compassion which deescalate the conflict.

5. How do childhood experiences affect our relationships? You talked about people having problems in expressing their vulnerabilities to their partners. I was wondering if the root of some of these problems trace back to our childhood experiences and how our parents treated us.

Adult attachment relationships are believed to have the same survival functions as the mother-child bond, since ideally these attachments can provide the same love, comfort, support, and protection. Our childhood attachment styles (secure, insecure) are likely to be the same in our adult relationship. When I work with couples I help them to develop a secure, emotionally bonded relationship.

6. Let’s talk about conflict. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship but experts say that the key is to fight fair. Can you share your thoughts on what constitutes a “fair fight”?

Couples can set rules that define their fighting game. Avoid criticizing, name calling, no blaming each other, no yelling, no physical force, no bringing back the past, take turns listening/speaking. Personally, I don’t teach couples how to fight. I teach them to repair their argument as quickly as they can.

7. Some couples get into the habit of having the same fight over and over again. Do you have any best practices in regards to better handling the repetitive fights?

When couples fight their angry outburst is always fueled by fear covering old scars. They get stuck in a fight-to-win-mode. They blame each other to be the bad guy. I would be curious and look at what did you use to win the fight or prove your innocence. How did you accuse your partner? When you felt cornered what are your usual comebacks?

Also, what happened after the fight? How did you feel about yourself and your partner, and the connection between you? Are you able to talk about what happened and comfort each other? If you didn’t, how did you deal with the loss of safety between you?

What would happen if you say to your partner -let’s stop and acknowledge that we got stuck in this attack-attack mode. Let’s talk about what happened without it being anyone’s fault.

8. What would be your single most important advise to women who are just looking to get married?

My advice is to know yourself and know what is important to you in marriage.

About Klara Brown

Klara Brown

Klara Brown is a Hungarian born, U.S. educated Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) specializing in Marriage and Family Counseling. Her primary emphasis is to guide couples to develop their emotional and sexual intimacy. She has 12 years of experience at various mental health agencies. Currently she maintains a private practice in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, minutes from downtown Denver.

To know more about her, visit her website, www.klarabrown.com.




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