13 - Couples Therapy And the Coronavirus with Certified Relationship Therapist Mary Kay Cacharo
From Perko media. Hi this is part. Three of our corona psychology edition of Medicine. We're still practicing. I'm Bill Curtis. I'm alone disinfected studio. I'll be zoom connecting with my co host and guests and advice is necessary for all of us whether or not a politician tells us that for the sake of restarting the economy. It's safe to reinject ourselves into crowds offices and restaurants. It makes sense that until a vaccine is available. Many of us are going to be physically distant an home together for months to come. So we're focusing this addition on investing in our relationships during a pandemic by the way if you'd like to stay around after the show and participate in an exercise for you and your significant other. It's worth it and we'll remind you at the end my doctor Buddy and Co host is on the line. He's put in fourteen hour days in the front lines of this pandemic battle running the ICU. For Providence Medical Center. He's quadruple board. Certified in Internal Medicine. Pulmonary Disease Critical Care and neuro critical care. Doctor Steven Tailback. How you holding up Dr so far so good good to see you at least remotely. Anything uplifting happened this week. Steve Actually what we're noticing at least in our local community in Burbank. It seems like we have a little plateau in terms of the number of Cova kids that are coming in so we don't want to rush to any conclusions yet but it certainly was a calmer of more peaceful week than what we've seen in the past and I think that means that our social distancing is actually working. I'll know more next week because one week does not really a trend make but we're very encouraged. It was only six weeks ago or eight weeks ago when we had fifteen cases in the US. Do we really want to all go back into crowds to quote a doctor. Pfau chief he said as soon as you start seeing that plateau and you see the flattening of the curve. That's the time when you really WanNa work on your distancing because absolutely if we just relax our stance as soon as the curve flattens. We're GONNA be right back in the mess that we were in. When this whole thing's first began so we really need to pay attention to our own health? Our own families and our own lives make our own good decision and be careful. So let's bring in our special guests. Mary Kay could Shero. She's the certified Imago relationship therapist. She's been working with couples and families for over twenty five years. She utilizes encounter centered couples therapy for communication conflict resolution anxiety and depression. Her expertise is needed. More than ever these days. Welcome Mary Kay are you doing? Okay thank you bill. Thank you for inviting me onto the show You know it's not a merry go round. It's a roller coaster. And just like all the people I'm working with their good days and there are days that are more challenging than others so it would seem that there are different types of couples that we've got listening today. We've got new couples where they're together all the time for the first time and it's all good and we've got old couples. They're together now more than there used to being together and we've got the loving sexually active but together now all day and all night and all day all night and all day and all night. We've got couples that were already stressed. Pre pandemic in pre safer at home. Then we've got couples with kids and we've got couples that were kind of getting ready for divorces but they're together all the time and then we've got couples that are running out of things to talk about. So let's let's address the different couples for just a minute so the couples that are running out of things to talk about. Let's start there Mary. Kay How do we manage that kind of situation? Well first of all. It's clear that when we talk about couples we're talking about two people. There are couples. Who are trying to homeschool their children and to to to them and clean the house and Cook and all of this without the help of secretaries nannies and housekeepers and teachers so there's an awful lot of stress there also people who are unemployed who really have too much time on their hands and they really are feeling bored and lethargic and they're beginning to ruminate and worry and and sink into a bit of depression some seeing high anxiety in the couples that I'm working with and I'm also seeing some- slipping into some lethargy and depression for mothers and you know so much of what is going to happen. Between two people is contingent upon. What's happening in each of those individuals so depending on how strong the couple is like what you were saying if a couple already has some cracks bill and seeing those cracks widen a one of the things we know is that the divorce rates in the Asian countries. That are a little bit ahead of us in this journey had higher divorce rates. When I think about that I think it's really to the point of what you said. Which is that. These are probably couples where there was already Some discontent couples. That weren't getting along who don't communicate well and certainly being locked down together. Intensifies all fat. This is also maybe a life death experience so people suddenly start reassessing. What's important is that that kind of motivator or is it just a stress reaction that you're seeing. I think that when we are under existential threat as we are now that it accelerates our decision making kind of like when I have a couple. I'm working within. Somebody's diagnosed with cancer. You know suddenly it's the stakes are higher. People start to think if this is all I've got left. Is this the way I wanNA spend it now? In my world we see in the intensive care unit. How families as well as practitioners that this kind of stress tends to bring out the best as well as the worst in various individuals. Have you seen the same? With respect to the couple's absolutely I've been getting a lot of requests to help people to let go of the marriage in a very conscious way a less stressful way and conversely I've seen a lot of couples really grow closer because they're depending on each other their reprioritising. What's actually important? They're spending time with their children. Maybe for the first time or maybe for the first time in a long time. They're really hyper focused on family and that improves the relationship. Have you seen challenged couples because of the situation get together? I absolutely have. I've seen couples really let go of some of their petty differences in the face of this more important life threatening situation. You know when you talk about the fact that suddenly we have this existential threat that we're facing when you think about our lives things that seem to be so important day in and day out and you're saying that people now are sort of redefining. What's really important? What can you do in your couples therapy that can help people continue to focus on? What's important once? This pandemic is over. My fear is we're going to just go right back to our same superficial lives focusing on those things that are really important and yet I somehow think has terrible as this is that it's an opportunity globally for us to start learning and focusing on really what's important as human beings. Initially I think we experience this is acute stress. This was new. It was different. It was frightening. It required a lot of transitioning and now people are starting to say things like well. This isn't a sprint anymore. It's a marathon. Yeah this is going to last longer than we initially anticipated. And it's going to require and new normal. Do you find that. The external stress that's placed on us in some couples is bringing them together and other couples has exactly the opposite effect. It ends up being kind of transference sort of thing where you end up putting stress into the relationship. Where the actual stresses outside. Absolutely because I find that a lot of people aren't very fluent in there are articulation of. What's actually going on emotionally for them? This is not created in pandemic. Our adaptation to stress happens in our childhood but then we carry it into our adulthood. And most of the time we can manage and have a mature cortex. That's called our adult brain. The toddler brain is the reactive part of the brain where all in toddler brain more or less right now because the threat is so unusual. It's so different than anything we've experienced before so we're having to adjust and the thing that I am hopeful about back to what you had asked Steve about you know. Is it possible that we're going to actually use this? As an opportunity to change is that I think if couples manage the stress right now together they can begin to heal some of the dysfunctional adapt patterns that they have and they can really get through this stronger. Give us a little window into your technique. A couple comes to you. For the first time they're having lots of anxiety stress and interpersonal conflict. Because of it. What do you do under these unique circumstances where there's a pandemic and you're talking to them on Zoom Thank? God we have this technology because I'm not sure what would be happening if we didn't it's a good question Steve and I I did actually have a brand new couple yesterday. They came in really like a lot of couples Do to to marriage counseling really ready to let me know what is wrong with the other person you know. That's typically the way couples. Come to counseling you know. Let me talk first so I can tell you with actually the problem. It's him or it's her and I actually went to be judge and jury and tell the other person how guilty they are well exactly so in the beginning there's a little bit of education that goes on Usually couples are quite shocked. When I say look I don't see your relationship is a problem to be solved and I certainly don't see it as my job to solve that problem. I think you're on a journey. It's a beautiful long complicated journey and it looks to me like you don't have the right tools to go on that journey very effectively so what I can do is join you on your journey for a period of time. I can be like your guide and the jungle. I can help you learn some different tools to be together in a loving way and the most important thing is to help couples to be able to talk about difficult things to talk about big emotions and stay connected because most of us don't know how to do that. So let's take a look at this journey this. Let's say four months Cova Journey. How do you go about talking specifically about that? Four month journey to help people get through it where I start with. Couples is where I would start specifically right now With all this tension and stress that we were describing which is that I collect their wildest dreams for the relationship and it really throws them off because they don't go to couples therapy thinking that someone's going to ask them to set the highest intention for their relationship. But I always start there because I want to know who these people are in the essence of their beings. I WANNA know who they are without the fight that they're currently engaged in. But what a great thing to do I did. They get married you know. It says that expectation. Lets them know what the real expectations are. What their what their goals are that. They both have talked about early on. Maybe when they first met and have forgotten absolutely they they say things like in my wildest dream we love each other. We treat each other with respect. We listen deeply. We accept our differences. We support each other. We Have Fun. We have laughter. We make love. You know they say these kinds of things that and you will see the anger and disappointment that they started the session with just begin to melt. The smiles come. You'll see the little hand slip over to take the others. There's a there's a going back to our essence and why we're fighting for this marriage to begin. West that really is very disarming like couples will at the end of the first session. Go out we didn't expect to talk about that. You know it is also said to them. I don't care about your fight. Your fight is not who you are your fight. Is the survival suit. You're pulling on because you don't know what else to do as a couple. Has Each person recognize fear and stress in the other rather than feel that the anger is directed at them? How do they realize that? It's this situation. And then what did they do about that? Let me tell you a little bit about the process that does help people number one start. Taking responsibility for themselves and number two allows them to really hear each other as humans. We have a way of listening just long enough to hear what triggers. Us and then. We'll either interrupt. Or if were very civilized will just start thinking about our response and we'll wait our turn but we're not listening anymore and you can't listen unless you're fully present. It is also teaching people. Mindfulness you know how to be fully present with their partner stimulates something about the science of connection. This is neurobiology. When any two people sit across from each other and gaze into each other's eyes at an eighteen inch distance the reactive parts of their brains calmed down so by having them sit close and gaze into one another's eyes and an eighteen inch distance the biology the neurobiology of connection begins to occur. Then we also know that that close they can touch they can hold hands skin to skin contact releases oxytocin. Which is a bonding hormone? So now you have them gazing you have them touching and you teach them how to breathe so that they can relax their bodies and let the cortisol those stress hormones go away so that they can feel safe in their connection with one another and you can get couples. That are really having challenges. Let have gotten to the point of answer. Go through that exercise couples at their core. Want the same thing I mean. We're all human. Were wired biologically for connection so these are actual. Physical tools is psychological tool that you can give them the right each other's throats. They're not going to go into this exercise. Whether that's going to take a deep breath and become mindful. I I also teach couples to take a timeout because sometimes we will get reactive with our partner and anything we're going to say next is not going to be helpful when that happens. And you know you can see consciously that you're in that dynamic like here we go again. We've already had this argument fifty five times to just call a timeout. To just say. Oh we're in our toddler brain right. Now let's take time out. Let's Go for twenty minutes. The neuroscience tells us it takes twenty minutes for the CORTEX to come back on lines. You can actually talk in here and listen and be saying with each other and let's take that time out and when we come back let's apply better tools to our communications so that we don't just get in another argument and my job is to teach them those better tools as far as taking a time out. Let's take a quick time out and we'll be right back in a moment of your time. A new podcast from Kirk commedia currently twenty one years old and today like magic tended from her fingertips down to the era of yourself. Because the world needs you and every do gutter. That asked about me was ready to spit on my drinks. Seniors were facing feel like your purpose in your worth is really being piano. She buys walkie-talkies wonders to whom she should give the second humans. We never did. We never will just find rock. Climbing is that you can only focus right now and so are American life begins. We may need to stay apart but let's create together available on all podcast platforms. Submit your piece that Kirk. Oh Dot com slash a moment of your time. We're back with relationship therapist. Mary Kay Kutschera and of course Dr Steven Tae back. What can a couple do sort of as a unit to improve their situation with covet nineteen and being locked down together? It's very important to find ways to meditate to do yoga to do those practices breath. Work those things that we know scientifically increase our capacity to be resilient in the face of stress. Let's face it. We just have a lot more stress right now than we would have. Normally I think that a lot of couples are really struggling right now because this situation is experienced trauma what. I'm finding a lot of people. Is that this. This virus is really Reminding or recapitulating those traumas that people have experienced earlier in life and what's trauma? Trauma is when we are helpless and immobile against a threat and so the exact cow owner action to that is mobility. People have to move right now. They have to go for those walks. They have to go on bike rides. They have to plug in some sort of APP on their computer where they can lift weights or do yoga or something. Mobility is so so important so exercise actually affects your psychological wellbeing and your relationships one hundred percent and there are a number of videos available online. That show you how to do couples yoga which is something. I always have a psychologist come in and teach at my weekend couples retreats when we're able to do them in person because couples yoga is a way for individuals to do yoga while physically depending on their partner. So there's a lot of leaning into each other supporting each other's wait if you can just put on an APP to do some couples. Yoga you get both the physical benefit of the exercise itself but you also the psychological and relational component of doing it together. Can we talk about a specific situation here? The dinner table after a few months of isolation. You're going to run out of stuff to talk about how to help couples figure out how to get through that where it doesn't seem like a a time to feel guilty about your lack of creativity or ability to come up with something interesting to talk about as couples talk at dinner is pretty centered on. What did we do today? What did you do? What did you have for lunch then? Of course those topics are going to dry up because we're together all day. There's nothing new. There's nothing I can inject that I did today. That my partner didn't witness because he was you know at the desk across the room so there isn't that much new and different to talk about but it's only a perfect opportunity to go to deeper topics and one book that some of my couples are working out of right. Now is by Dr John Godman. Who's the leading researcher on? What MAKES MARRIAGES SUCCEED AND FAIL? For the last thirty years. He's got a book called eight dates. There's eight chapters and each chapter has a very long series of questions about one topic so for example. I think chapter one is about trust. And there's a lot of really deep probing questions to get to know your partner and their feelings and ideas around trust and then each chapter is different exploration that you and your partner can do so. I think it's an opportunity to find deeper conversations. Let's say that you're someone who's lost your job in this environment if you're really endanger because you've lost your job and they're not allowed to jobs around. How do you deal with this problem when you have a couple in front of you? Where one of them is used to being the provider and the other one might still have his or her job. But there's definitely a money issue in. It's starting to divide them. So I might say to you my spouse. Who's lost their job. I appreciate that you are out of work right now but you are really pitching in around the house and helping me with the things that need to be done. And that you've taken on the very dangerous task of going to the grocery store for us and you're taking responsibility for the children's homeschooling because a person who feels bad about having lost their usual job might need to hear that you notice the stuff that they're taking on instead. Is that often? What you find is that they might be worried about money and they might have lost their job and that they would just pitch in and help or do you find that very often. They go into a shell and feel bad all the time or even less than usual. Well you know. It's interesting because one of the questions that I asked has been. How do you know when symptoms are starting to occur that are really beyond what you would expect in a pandemic? When are those symptoms getting a serious enough that you might actually recommend people to pick up a phone and and connect with the therapist or call a hotline and I? I think that your question goes to that issue bill. Which is that. If someone is not able to pivot or transition if they're really sinking into some sort of lethargy or depression and they're unable to pitch in and other ways because they feel so depressed about money or about their job. I think that would be a really good time to reach out for some professional help. Let's talk about a different type of couple for just a minute. I would be willing to bet that there were couples that met a couple three months ago on bumble and they were starting to get interested in each other all of a sudden now They're quite separated. What would be some of your Suggestions to them if they were excited about a relationship to try to keep this alive and going in a positive place and who knows when exactly they're going to get together. Well what an opportunity for them because they really do have an opportunity to get to know one another in communicating about important things without all the fuzziness of that sexual attraction which actually pulls us away from truly getting to know someone. I mean how many times times we been totally sexually attracted to someone in the beginning. We really established the relationship based on that sexual attraction then those hormones and chemicals where off we look across the space and suddenly were with this person that we're completely incompatible with. We don't want the same things. We're hardly even in the same ballpark. That man wasn't a great those for six months. When we were having a lot of sex so I think this is a great opportunity for couples to really get to know each other without all that physical connection right now. We are wired for connection. We cannot socially distance. What we can do is physically distance. That's a distinction. If we could call this physical distancing but social connection that creates different field doesn't it? It's a little less punitive what we're going through right now. So there are lots of ways to be socially connected. I mean I'm having a dinner party tonight. We've got four couples coming onto these little squares on zoom. Will we get to hug? No but we'll get to look into each other's eyes and we'll get to laugh and we'll get to talk. And so that's social connection with physical distancing so there's still a lot people can do to connect what are some good ways for you to tell your spouse that you need space without giving them the impression that what you really need a space from them. You might need space from them. You know you you might. I think healthy relationships have a lot of connection but they also have a lot of individuation which means I can. I can be who I am and I can feel respected and honored for who I am separate from you. These couples that are glommed on to each other are not any healthier than the ones who have no connection at all. Actually I think really good. Dialogue is one that negotiates the need for connection and the need for space when we're not in a a viral situation. It happens more naturally like if I need space I will make time to go have lunch with a friend and that creates space between me and my partner and then I come back and then we can talk about that. It gives us something to talk about at dinner. Would you talk about your with your friend but right now it's harder you have to like literally address those issues because I can't jump in the car and go have lunch with a friend? I have to say to my partner if I need space. You know I'm feeling a little overwhelmed here. I need to go upstairs and read a book or I need to go on a walk by myself with the dog or I need us to lay down on the SOFA and cuddle. It's both right so we're gonNA take a quick break and come right back in thirty seconds and go grab your significant other. We're about to have a bit of an exercise together. Well we take a little breath. I WanNa tell you about a good friend of my name Kimberly James. She's CEO of Beach House treatment programs. Her website is beach house. Treatment Dot Com and her phone number is three window nine. Seven seven four zero one eight so if you're struggling with addiction trauma or depression or for that matter. You know someone who needs help. The Rolls Royce of Treatment Centers Beach House treatment programs in Malibu California Beach House treatment dot com three went nine seven seven four one eight. Hi We're back Mary. Kay Hello Okay. So this first exercises one we use when we need to be present and grounded and it has to do with being mindful. In the way that we're mindful is when we pay attention with our full awareness to our senses so the first thing I want you to do is to find five things that you can see so look around your room and to yourself just name five things in the room and now go to your hearing. Listen for four things that you can hear. Now feel three things physically touch three things used your sense of touch and touched three different things. Notice the texture the temperature and notice two. Things can smell in your environment and notice what you can taste right now. This is a way you can always bring yourself into the present moment. It's called the five four three two one though anytime. You're feeling any anxiety tightening in your chest. A little increase in the rate of breath. This is a way you can presence and ground. It's very calm it and now close your eyes and take some deep breaths and if you're with a partner think of one thing that you're grateful for about that partner if you're by yourself just think of one thing that you're grateful for today in your world putting yourself fully in the feeling of appreciation and gratitude. The miracle really that something could be so positive could make you feel so good so special in the face of so much stress these days. And when you have that thing ask yourself. Why am I grateful for that? I'm grateful for that because and then ask yourself. What is the emotion that that brings you? It makes me feel and if you're with a partner now open your eyes and find the eyes of your partner. And if you're not with the partner imagine another human being just bring their vision into your mind and either tell out loud or think about saying what it is that you're grateful for. I'm grateful for this. I'm grateful because what does it mean to me. And how does it make me feel? What is that rock bottom emotion? That comes up when you think about what you're grateful for could be happiness joy feeling of love. Sometimes it's just I feel lucky. I feel blessed. Whatever that is for you so either tell your partner what it is right now or take a moment to write it down could be a good start to your gratitude journal or if your partner is actually sheltering in a different home you can text them right now. I just became aware that I'm grateful about this in you. I want you to know that you cannot possibly be grateful enough. There is no way to overdo being grateful to your partner. There's just no way in the world to Overdo that the research says we need five positive thoughts and interactions to undo even one negative one so can't afford much negativity and you need a lot of gratitude to come to set point so. I hope that you'll do this daily. I you can start with the present thing and the grounding just to get right in your own body and then close your eyes and develop a sense of gratitude and appreciation because when you really think about it there is that there is still an ability for us to look for the silver lining in a very stressful time that we're all living collectively through and so. I hope this will help you. On Your Day to day path as you tried to get through not only surviving covet nineteen but really thriving Mary. Kay thank you for attacking this subject which I know is more complicated than we can cover in this amount of time and if someone wants to get a hold of you and have a conversation more specifically about issues that they're going through right now where can they find you. Well I have a very robust website. Www dot m. k. concerto dot com. Mary Kay Concerto and Dr Steven Tailback. Thank you so much for joining us today. I did WANNA take a moment out first of all. Thank our producer and editor. Mike Thomas who Is On the other end of this call. And he's recording everything and we really appreciate him and by the way are co producer in this show Jane Albrecht. She put this together and she introduced us to Mary. Kay could share. Oh and I thank you very much Jane for doing that and I hope all of you can find a way to make this time become productive for your relationships and think just for a minute stress or no stress. I love this person that I'm sharing this house with that. I'm confined to and so I'm going to invest in that relationship. Have a good night. Everybody if you like what you hear please tell your friends and let us know how we're doing by leaving a comment. It really helps. If you give us a five star rating and we really appreciate it you can also subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts. Stitcher or wherever you. Listen to your favorite podcast. This episode was produced and edited by Mike. Thomas Audio Engineering. By Michael Kennedy and the theme music was composed and performed by. Celeste and Eric Dick. Thanks for Listening Room Turku media media for your mind.