The science behind healing relationships

Here’s some things that couples seeking help should know

Dr. Ellie Bolgar is a Family and Couples Therapist and Family Mediator based in Langley.

Do you and your partner find yourselves exhausted after working all day, maybe transporting kids around, with little energy left to connect as adults?

Or are you empty nesters or have no children, yet still find the busy pace of life frequently leaves you tired and more inclined to watch TV on the couch than to spend time on your relationship, addressing some of those little issues that can turn into big ones?

If the occasional date night or weekend getaway isn’t giving you enough connection time and you’ve reached a point where you’re seeking counselling help together, you may want to consider a few things.

“Often couples come to therapy too late to be helped,” says Dr. Ellie Bolgar, a Family and Couples Therapist and Family Mediator based in Langley. “It depends what stage the relationship is at in terms of the ability to repair. It may be breaking down significantly and the people are detaching from each other.”

She points to studies of marital therapy that found only 50 per cent of couples significantly improved following treatment.

There is hope for struggling couples

Learning to look at situations in a different light, listen more actively, and think and act differently toward their partner may help renew intimacy and trust in the short term, Dr. Bolgar says. But for counselling to achieve a more lasting impact, the individuals need to be willing to dig deeper into their own past and help determine why they react in specific ways when triggered by their partner.

“Research shows that our thinking, or rational brain is simply out-matched and hijacked by our emotional brain when memories of early experiences are triggered,” she says. “When our partner says or does something that suggests abandonment or rejection, our emotional brain scrambles blindly, frantically to the rescue.”

You can, however, learn how to contain your reactions in committed love relationships, Dr. Bolgar adds. “I help my clients to use their rational brains to fully acknowledge and sooth their emotional brain, so they can shift from the defensive, isolating state that controls rage and fear to the connecting, healing and nurturing part.”

Communication a key part of the equation

If each of you are willing to discover your true emotional needs, be vulnerable with your partner and learn their emotional needs, a fulfilling relationship is possible, she says.

“Investing time into getting to know each other in the relationship, and being able to understand how the other person communicates is critical. My main focus is to help create a trusting relationship where people feel comfortable to open up.”

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If you’d like to find out more about couples therapy, visit drbolgar.com, call 604-371-0198 or email info@drbolgar.com.

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