6 Week Relationship Challenge - Week 5: Why is This SO HARD?!

Revisiting our conversation from last week, and the weeks before (Challenge Weeks 1, 2 and 3) you can see how relationships get so muddled and just plain difficult! But whyyyy??

We all want love, right? And we all start relationships feeling passion, desire and anticipation for the next date, right? So why can’t we just keep that going?! It’s maddening!!! When something so fun, so exciting, so lovely gets lost and turns into something so distant, so routine and so cold over time….that’s HARD!

This week we’re taking a journey to the small, intimate moments that can build up over time to become the reliable, safe relationship foundation that we all seek. Those moments that feel special and rewarding when we’ve chosen to bear our truth, no matter if our voice is shaky. And we’re met by our partner with acceptance and love. This warmth shatters the fear and loneliness that otherwise begins to creep in to build  vast canyons of distance and disconnection.

When working with couples I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve heard, “What’s the big deal? It’s not like I’m cheating on you!” Or maybe worse, “Sometimes I just wish he would hit me, so then I had a good reason to leave.” In these heartbreaking tales we’re so overwhelmed, so desperate to get back to the love we once knew. Lost, without a map.

My response to these couples is this:

“This is HARD. It’s been hard for a long time. So hard, that you sometimes even wish you had a way out that was right in front of you. Which is why you’ve come to counseling. And if you're both willing, I can help you find another way.”

This way I’m talking about isn’t easy at first either. It’s not a direct map to the treasure. But a slow and steady path toward repairing and healing. A safe time and place to revisit old wounds that continually cloud your present connection. There is no A+B=C formula, but there is a map of sorts.

And often there aren't glaring relationship traumas such as abuse or violence….but instead what I call “a death by a thousand cuts.” Tiny, microscopic betrayals that leave us feeling alone and isolated in our hearts.

So we start small, we get practice trying out something that doesn’t feel quite so hard. And then we get really good at it. We gain momentum, and start to see something new emerge. The warmth returns, and the wounds repair. Your love surfaces again and in a deeper, more meaningful way. The words you’ve been saying for years can suddenly make sense in the eyes of your lover. And you feel an intimacy and longing for them you’ve feared was gone forever. You feel wanted, needed, loved. And all that HARD work, all the sudden was worth it.

Stacy Griffin, MEd, LPC-S



6 Week Relationship Challenge - Week 4: Love Is NOT All We Need

With so many quotes and quips thrown out as well-intended but awful advice it’s no wonder we get so lost, so much deeper, and so much heavier in our hearts. We start to look at every angle and explore where we must’ve gone wrong. We even ask, “What is wrong with me?” After all, he’s a good guy, comes home every night, and makes us a decent living. He really loves me! Why isn’t that enough?!

And the answer can be found in the literature. We are more and more growing into a party of two. For better or for worse, we are turning toward our partner for more than ever. Our grandparents, and even our parent’s generations had so much more in the way of communal support. They lived in close proximity to very dear friends and family. Need a cup of sugar? Granny’s bound to have one down the road. Need a hug and someone to talk to? Uncle Ben looks to be taking his lunch break right around the corner. We used to have regular access to support and social gatherings (read: Sunday dinner….EVERY SUNDAY) where we sought emotional closeness and connection. In today’s age, we just don’t have that anymore.

If we peel this back a bit more you might say, “But I take my kids to soccer and chat with the other parents!” Or you might hear message, “Okay, so you’re saying I’ve got to go out and join that book club, make more friends, or visit your parents more often?” But what I’m really calling you to do is examine how much of our emotional weight falls onto the relationship. To be honest about that heavy load we bring home every night. Don’t lighten it, don’t add to it. Just take a look.

Really evaluate how often we turn to our significant other, and share our concerns. We vent again about how unfairly our boss treated us in the weekly meeting. Or we complained that they just aren’t pitching in and helping with laundry!! What’s more is we’re also expecting our partners to still actively plan surprises and fun-filled date nights. We hope for collaboration and commitment when it comes to sitting down and getting the budget under control. We long for the kitchen to be clean when we walk in from a hard day at the office. We need to know that we can break down because it’s all piling up right before our very eyes. Love, folks, IS NOT all we need.

We need to know, ARE you there for me? ARE you able to hear me despite the millions of other things on your to-do list? ARE you able to understand my need for solitude, but then my desire to come back to you for connection? ARE you thinking of me?

Sue Johnson’s work on couples and connection highlights this huge question. She explains further in her book Hold Me Tight that partners need to know the three components to this question.

A – Are you Accessible? Can I reach you?

Accessibility means staying open and available to one another, even when it’s hard. It’s that moment where you each struggle to understand and made sense of your feelings so they aren’t so overwhelming and devastating. When the barrier to hearing one another shifts from being catastrophic to simply uncomfortable.

R – Are you Responsive? Can I rely on you to respond to me, when I’m expressing to you my feelings?

Responsiveness is tuning in and showing that their emotions have an impact on you. It means hearing their pleas to seek comfort in your presence, and listening intently when they need you. It’s offering a gentle touch to help them calm down.

E – Are you Engaged? Do I know you care for me, and want to help me through?

Emotional engagement mans the cultivating and sharing the very special kind of attention that we give only to a loved one. We linger in our gaze, we offer to hold and touch them. In other words, you’re emotionally present.

You can see, we don’t just need to love and be loved. We need much more. We’re hardwired to feel close, connected, bonded. I urge you to continue your reflections this week by answering these questions about yourself. Pushing your emotional comfort zone and exploring how you can answer YES when asking yourself, ARE you bringing your full self into your relationship?

Stacy Griffin, MEd LPC-S

6 Week Relationship Challenge - Week 3: We Can't Communicate!

We left off last week exploring some very deep, personal, probably difficult questions about you. We probed into some of the deepest darkest emotional corners of our soul to take a peek behind the curtain of who you are as a person and a partner. We dipped our toes into the pool of vulnerability, which is probably the most foreign of territories.

And I continually ask myself, why is that?? Why are we SOOOOOO uncomfortable in dealing with our feelings and emotions? If we are hard-wired to need emotional security and connection with others, so why do we struggle so desperately to do so?

After all, we’ve been raised in a family, we’ve built life-long friendships, we’ve gone to school for most of our lives. We are a smart, equipped, capable community of human beings right? My short answer: sort of.

I’m saddened by the lack of attention and conversation about communication and connection. We spend a lot (and I mean A LOT) of time, money, energy, blood, sweat and tears attaining an education. But how many of those hours and assignments were designed to address how you’re doing? What you’re feeling? How you’re dealing with the loss of your beloved dog? Or how badly you fret over being able to pay next month’s mortgage since you took that risk to start your own business? Or when you found out your daughter was diagnosed with Autism? My bet is not many. We aren’t shown how to share these worries, struggles and tears with our closest loved ones. One step further, we’re often not taught how to receive and comfort our loved ones when they chance the risk to share. We feel vulnerable all over again. Uncomfortable.

From within we struggle to feel. We fight to acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly. If we don’t even admit its presence, how ON EARTH are we going to be able to create communication within our relationships? It seems totally insurmountable.

Let’s zoom out even further. Think about how very few opportunities we have in our lives to NOT answer the question, “How are you?” with, “Good, how are you?” Not many. And these are random people who we don’t even feel risky. Cashiers, neighbors, our children’s principal, or pastor. Our counselor. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve started off an appointment by asking how things have been going this week. I bet you can guess the answer! “Pretty good.” Then as we progress, our relationship provides the safety and comfort for the more honest experience to surface. Which is typically that things are not so fine. Sometimes not even close.

We’re just not good with not being fine. We’re not schooled and expert in how to notice when something is off, let alone what to do about it. We can’t communicate!

In our relationships this creates an all-too-easy path toward becoming so emotionally overwhelmed and frustrated that we lash out in anger. We demand that our partner tune in and respond. Or we choose the road of suppressing our needs beyond belief to the point we can fool ourselves into thinking we don’t feel because we’ve grown so numb. Sometimes we even do both. What a lonely, lonely dance.

To take the risk and talk about your feeling of loneliness is so drastically different than lashing out about something on the surface. About how the dishwasher was loaded wrong…..again. Or completely shutting down the idea of sex tonight because she drove to the Mexican restaurant when you had clearly mentioned trying out the new Thai place, oh I don’t know, only FOUR times earlier in the week. We can’t communicate!

This process of softening is the key to closer connection. Bringing about a warm and gentle way of being toward ourselves, and toward our partner allows the harsh world to become something that we face together “out there.” We begin to protect our own hearts and our relationships from the struggles we face, rather than placing the blame on one another. So while bills, deadlines and obligations will continue to flood our inbox. Soft, tender moments can begin to flood our hearts. And that makes for a much more sound place to tackle the hard stuff.

Stacy Griffin, MEd, LPC-S


6 Week Relationship Challenge - Week 2: You Don't Make Me Happy Anymore

6 Week Relationship Challenge
Week 2: You Don't Make Me Happy Anymore

Last week we took a long, hard look at just how often and how likely it is you’re looking at your partner to change. Waiting for them to just stop the nagging, or snuggle up to you like they used to. And instead shifted to exploring what you can do to pitch in around the house (probably like you used to) and what just might make you more open to being snuggled yourself! You’ve taken the first glance into the mirror to see just how far you’ve gotten off track in being the best partner you can be. Today will be no different.

That’s right, we’re STILL not going to put your partner under the microscope. We’re simply gonna roll up our sleeves and get a little bit deeper into our relationship rescue.

To begin the shift within your relationship, you will need to cultivate honesty. I don’t just mean coming home every night and avoiding affairs. Sure, those are HUGE components to building and maintaining trust; but the scope of honesty spans much deeper. To be honest in your relationship you must learn to be honest with yourself. About your feelings, your needs, and how you can start taking responsibility for coming to the relationship with them. When you feel slighted or rejected, that means you tune into these feelings rather than shrugging them off. Or pointing a finger and wondering aloud, “You just don’t make me happy anymore.”

And this, folks, is where a couples therapist can lend a hand. Because we’re not all designed to be eloquent, flexible, emotional gymnasts. We weren’t always supported to reflect and assert ourselves growing up. So we do the best we can and sometimes that means you unload and unpack your “baggage” at your partner’s front doorstep. And when they don’t appreciate this gesture (ha!), you simply roll your eyes, walk away and mumble, “You don’t make me happy anymore.”

This is a pivotal moment. You’re staring down a moment of truth: In this split second, you have a choice. To start owning your happiness and begin to take charge of exploring your needs. To stop outsourcing your wellbeing to your partner by instead asking yourself some really important questions.

“What am I struggling with right now in my life?”

“Why does this leave me wanting to lash out, to the point of questioning my marriage?”

“What does make me happy and how have I lost sight of that?”

“How have I neglected my own happiness, maybe even in good faith to keep the peace?”

“And are my contributions working for me anymore?”

“How do I push my feelings and needs unfairly onto my partner?”

“When am I making it their job to keep me happy and in charge of my feelings and wellbeing?”

Woah. Deep breath. These questions can bring about a mountain of emotion that years of neglect and minimizing have shrouded. Just remember that you don’t (and won’t!) have all of the answers right now. Bit by bit you’ll start to reclaim important pieces of your wellbeing that have been shrugged off over the years. And just as it took years to get here, let’s not be hasty. Be patient and kind to yourself along the way.

Honesty comes in all shapes and sizes. These microscopic questions can create a monumental shift in your relationship dynamic and connection. Because when we stop blaming and start owning, we stand a much better chance at happiness.


Stacy Griffin, MEd, LPC-S

6 Week Relationship Challenge - Week 1: The Formula for Love

6 Week Relationship Challenge
Week 1: The Formula for Love

For many of the couples I work with, this isn’t their first therapy rodeo. Which can easily mean they’re already fighting with the gloves off or have started wondering if it’s just time to throw in the towel. Hope has started to dwindle.

“We’ve tried this before, why would this be any different?” is the question posed to me. My response is this….

There isn’t a magic pill. I’m not your magic pill. There isn’t a single therapist or single thing I can say that will *poof* your relationship back to the way it used to be. You’re stuck. It suckssssss and you want answers. So you come to therapy looking for some. But I promise you this, if you’re looking for a therapist to save your marriage, you’d be better off sighting Sasquatch.

But don’t let this snuff out that last flicker of hope. Let it be your wakeup call. Let is stir up this primal yearning from within that wants so dearly to let go of the anger, hurt and setbacks. The part of you that longs to charge forward toward reflection, change and growth. And THAT, my friends, is what I can offer. We’re talking about a personal journey toward finding yourself that will be the solid approach and platform that can serve as a foundation for growth and success within your relationship.

Let’s recap. While I said I’m not giving you any answers, if you scratch just below the surface you will see a formula starting to take shape. It looks something like this.

Cultivating Self-Awareness

+ Understanding the Importance of My Needs

+ Embracing My Emotions

+ Communicating With My Partner


= Emotional Intelligent, Loving, Committed Individual


It is only THEN that we can begin look further into a relationship, which looks a little like this:

Emotional Intelligent, Loving, Committed Individual

+ Emotional Intelligent, Loving, Committed Individual


= One Highly Satisfying Relationship!

So whether you’re single and ready to mingle or currently committed in a relationship, you’ll see that the journey begins with you. And while it’s tempting to point a finger and claim, “You just don’t make me happy anymore,” maybe you can start to identify what you can do to begin finding some of that within yourself.

Stacy Griffin, MEd, LPC-S

6 Week Relationship Challenge - Introduction: Awful places to seek relationship advice

6 Week Relationship Challenge
Introduction: Awful places to seek relationship advice

As a relationship therapist, I have been helping couples to sift through loads of bad relationship advice for a long time. I work to unpack the relationship myths that are passed down from generation to generation for no other reason that we’ve heard our parents say it. Or we heard it on TV. Or “it worked for my coworker.” I’m calling this well-intentioned advice out. Once and for all. So we can stop hurting each other, and start new ways of building strong relationships that create that leave room for our imperfections and quirks. Because, we’ve ALL gottem!

The reason we struggle to oh-so-successfully implement that well intended advice our bestie gave us over cocktails last week is because IT’S BAD ADVICE! It’s awful, it’s outdated, and it just doesn’t work.

“Women are such nags, give her some space, she’ll get over it.”

“Never go to bed angry!”

“Just ignore her.”

“Forget it. Guys will be guys.”

“Take her to dinner Friday, then she’ll let you catch the game Saturday.”

“Put on your heels and show him what he’s missing.”

But you try anyway. Because it’s all you have right now. It’s worth a shot, right?

I welcome you to try something new. Something that takes guts, and courage. Maybe even a bit of blood, sweat and tears. Hear me out. It’ll be worth it I promise.

Over the next six weeks, I’m going to walk you through some of the most common relationship myths and misconceptions that I hear in couples therapy. And shed light on the antiquated advice and suggestions that don’t really touch the heart of the issue and instead serve as a “quick fix.” We take this advice only to leave more disappointed, compromised and hurt than when we started. By breaking down the bigger dynamics, we’re going to dig to the root of the issue.

Relationships are painful and hard. They’re exhausting and effortful. But they’re also full of bliss, and warmth, and can feel like the greatest drug on earth. Love.

So join us, as we sort through what dead weight your relationship can stand to lose and can grown in our Relationship Tune-up! And stop listening to that bad advice already!

Stacy Griffin, MEd, LPC-S

Relationship Advice by Stacy Griffin