Category: Jeff Bennion LMFT

The Bachelor

By Jeff Bennion, ALMFT

The Bacheloris one of the most popular reality TV shows out there. It is tremendously popular, especially among women because it plays into many of their fantasies about love, desire and relationships: to be romanced, to be object of attention and desire, to be seen as beautiful, to be pursued by a handsome and successful man, to have a beautiful wedding. Recently, there was a great deal of outrage when the latest bachelor, Arie Ludendyk, unceremoniously dumped the woman he gave the rose to on the show’s finale, Becca Kufrin, and instead got engaged to the runner up, Lauren Burnham. There was so much anger, one state representative proposed legislation proposing to bar Mr. Ludendyk from entering his home state of Minnesota.

When I heard the news, however, I wasn’t surprised. I’m frankly surprised that any of these relationships last, because this is about the worst possible way to enter into a marriage (or any long term, committed relationship). Putting twenty people together and having someone choose which of these is the best doesn’t build a foundation for a stable and mutually trusting relationship, in fact it encourages the opposite, as it encourages the Bachelor to always be on the lookout for someone better than the woman he is currently with. (Reverse the genders, if you would like, with the equally harmful Bachelorette show.) When a relationship is built on that foundation, how can that idea suddenly be turned off? Why, after the beautiful couple say “I do” should that constant lookout for someone undefinably better suddenly and magically get turned off? And how often do people watching the show decide that they “deserve” to have a relationship like the one depicted on this show, and become discontented  when they compare their relationship to the slickly and expensively produced ones portrayed on this TV show?

We hear about Darwin’s natural selection and think that species ruthlessly compete until all of them go extinct except one. In capitalism, we think that companies ruthlessly compete until one becomes overwhelmingly dominant. The Bachelor takes this idea to the dating world. The problem is, in each of these situations (biology, business, and relationships) that idea is wrong. Species do all they can to avoidp directly competing with each other. They try to find unique niches where they are best adapted to thrive, and they leave other niches where other species can attempt to do the same. Businesses will try to change their offerings in contrast to their competition in order to provide a feature that is uniquely compelling to a certain segment of the market. And in relationships, people don’t all line up on a stage and hope they get picked. At least not if they hope to be happy in a relationship. Successfully partnered people have determined their unique abilities and gifts and then found someone who appreciates their unique and individualized value as a person.

Relationships cannot be determined, and much less formed, through multiple choice. Each relationship is a yes or no, true or false question. If no, move on to the next one, with valuable lessons learned about yourself. If yes, then go deeper and take it to the next level of intimacy risking ever-deeper growth, self-examination and self-disclosure. In that process, you build something beautiful together.

There is an anonymous quote titled “The Marriage Box” that reads,

Most people get married believing a myth that marriage is beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for; Companionship, intimacy, friendship, etc… The truth is, that marriage at the start is an empty box, you must put something in before you can take anything out. There is no love in marriage, love is in people, and people put love in marriage. There is no romance in marriage, you have to infuse it into your marriage. A couple must learn the art, and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising, of keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty.

That’s why, when I watch the Bachelor, I see twenty-one beautifully wrapped yet empty boxes. Nothing on that program shows people how to put anything of long term value into their marriage (relationship) boxes. By that omission, it tells a very dangerous lie that it’s the appeal of the box that matters the most, not what you put in it. I cannot think of a more damaging idea to bring into a long term relationship and hope that it can last.

Call today to schedule and appointment with Jeff at 801.272.3420

Marriage Mythbusters: Mindreading

By Jeff Bennion, LMFT

Very often, what we think we should have gets in the way of what we do have. Couples will come into my office complaining about what they don’t have, and it blinds them to what they have and what they can have. Marriage can be a wonderful experience, leading to growth and happiness for each partner as well as their children, but it is often made more difficult by unrealistic and even harmful myths that are propagated by society and the media. Much of our time in therapy is spent “busting” these marriage myths.

Just like the popular TV Show “Mythbusters” that takes a look at various widely believed stories and puts them to the test, in this series of blog posts I thought we’d examine some popular but unhealthy marriage myths, and replace them with a more helpful and realistic idea.

One that I hear frequently in session is when the sentence starts with, “He/she should know that I…”  It is wonderful to have someone who gets us, and the popular idea of the “soulmate” is someone who knows you so well, he or she can read your mind. The first one up on the docket is the idea that your spouse, your “soulmate” should know what you’re thinking and feeling at every moment.

Soul Mates

If you have this belief, it is important to ask yourself where you got this idea, and how it may be harming your relationship, and preventing you from truly enjoying the person you are with. While it might be nice to have someone so in tune with our every thought, a more valuable skill in a partner is someone who will listen to you supportively and help you to express yourself.

In reality, more important than knowing what someone else is helping your spouse know that his or her feelings are safe and welcome, and one of the best ways to help your partner with that is to ask open questions. Open questions are questions that invite the person to reflect, to do deeper, and they also express that the questioner is really interested in what the person is thinking or feeling.

Here are some examples of open questions that would be good to ask, and some examples of some questions NOT to ask. Bad questions are ones that are accusatory, and aren’t really about getting an answer.

Open questions Closed questions
  • You seem a little down today. I’d like to hear more about what you might be feeling.
  • Why are you always so grumpy?
  • Tell about some of your favorite experiences you’ve had eating dinner.
  • Why can’t you ever get it through your head that I hate Italian food?
  • How can I better support you in your career?
  • When are you going to get around to finally applying for that promotion?
  • Is there some kind of physical expression of affection that might help you feel loved in this moment?
  • Why won’t you have sex with me more often?

Of course, sincerity counts too. If the open questions are just a way to manipulate your partner into doing something you already want

Letting go of our unrealistic  and unhealthy idea of our spouse as a mind reader, and replacing that idea with a willingness to be open and communicate can lead to a big improvement. No one is perfect, but with love and support, it can really make life better. As someone once said, “everyone comes with baggage. Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.

veryone-comes-with-baggage-find-someone-who-loves-you-enough-to-help-you-unpack

Call today to schedule and appointment with Jeff at 801.272.3420

How to Become a Savvy Therapy Customer

Therapy Tips and SuggestionsBy Jeff Bennion, ALMFT

People come to us therapists with all kinds of problems, and it’s our privilege to help them with those difficulties. We are trained with skills to help clients with these problems, but we are still human beings and that means we aren’t perfect. Sometimes out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, clients may not always get the most out of the therapy.

Several lines of research have demonstrated that the most helpful thing in therapy is a strong relationship with your therapist. That doesn’t mean you’ll always like what he or she says, or that therapy will always be a pleasant experience. But it does mean that you need to trust each other and have genuine respect and affection for each other.

We work for you

When that isn’t there, therapy is not going to be very beneficial.  If after a few sessions, you find you just aren’t jelling with your therapist, it is perfectly appropriate to request a referral to another therapist or seek one yourself. We work for you, and if we aren’t able to be effective with you, we do not expect you to continue seeing us. In fact, it is not ethical for us to continue treatment if we don’t believe we are being effective, but sometimes that is easier for you to tell than for us.

You can change the plan

As therapists, we develop a customized treatment plan for you based on your individual circumstances and what you have asked us to help you with. However, sometimes things will come up during the week that may change that. If we are proceeding with our pre-existing plan, but you have something that you think is more urgent or important, please feel free to interrupt and let us know what is going on so that we can make sure you get the most benefit from the session.

You can say no

Sometimes you might be uncomfortable or uncertain about certain things we might try in session. We use empirically validated treatment models and techniques as we work with you, but sometimes they aren’t always a good fit. You can always stop and ask why we are doing something, or tell us to try something different. There is always a different way, and we always want to know if something makes you uncomfortable. Our training does not always make us aware of all your possible triggers or negative experiences.

Summing up

As therapists, we love what we do, and we love helping people resolve their problems and live happier lives. The therapeutic relationship is very important, and hopefully this blog post has given you some ideas about how to make the best of that relationship with your therapist.

A therapeutic relationship is most important
Feel free to interrupt
Ask us questions
You can always say no

Jeff Bennion, ALMFT

Call today to schedule and appointment with Jeff at 801.272.3420