5 for Friday: Relationship Issues

This week’s 5 for Friday is all about working out couples issues. There are a lot of great books on the list this week. Whether it is improving communication, increasing warmth, or overcoming past hurt, these books are an invaluable resource to couples.

  1. Feel stuck in the same communication patterns with your partner? This may be helpful http://bit.ly/HFJv29#relationships #communication
  2. Based on Gottman’s research, these are the 4 horsemen of the marital apocalypse. http://bit.ly/HI7td8@GottmanInst #relationships
  3. Want to increase warmth in your relationship? Learn to speak your partner’s love language http://bit.ly/6FP66v@DrGaryChapman #relationships
  4. Don’t expect your partner to “just know” what you are thinking and feeling. http://bit.ly/HWGkSR#relationships#communication
  5. This is a great book for all couples looking to improve their relationship. http://amzn.to/4D8PjZ@GottmanInst#relationships #communication


Check back next week for links on managing depression. Have a great holiday weekend from the Bergen Counseling Center!

The Bergen Counseling Center is Moving


The Bergen Counseling Center is moving locations from 208 S. LaSalle to 25 E. Washington, Suite: 1206 as of 1/1/2014. The office move was made to increase convenience to our clients and provide increased hours for appointment times.

We are excited to make this move to better serve our clients in the Loop. 25 E. Washington is conveniently located 1 block from Madison/Wabash el station servicing the Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, and Purple Lines.Red and Blue Line transportation can be accessed from State and Washington cross streets.

Garage parking 1 block north at 20 E. Randolph. Pedestrian access via underground pedway to the Red Line, Macy’s and 50 different buildings in the loop. New appointment slots are open, so please feel free to fill out the online contact form, email jbergen@bergencounselingcenter.com, or call (773)512-4992. We look forward to seeing you at our new location in 2014.

Jeremy Bergen, MS, LCPC
Bergen Counseling Center

The Work of Love

chicago_couples_counseling1[1]Relationship issues are one of the primary reasons people seek out counseling. Romantic relationships are at the top of the list. Your relationship with a romantic partner can be one of the most satisfying relationships you have in life, but this relationship is likely the most complex. The reality of romantic love relationships is they are hard work! It can be a wonderful, euphoric feeling when you first fall in love with someone, but relationships involve more emotions than just love and happiness. You may at various times feel anger, sadness, disconnection, hurt, and frustration because having such an intimate connection with another person who thinks, feels, and sees the world differently than you can be challenging to navigate.

We all know that these relationships are not easy, just look at the high rate of divorce and the depiction of these relationships in movies and novels that center around heartbreak and conflict. So what does this “hard work” involve and how do we nurture this relationship so that it is more satisfying than dissatisfying? In my training and experience in helping couples improve their relationships, I have found two essential aspects of the relationship must be a focus. First, a couple must become proficient at communicating negative emotions they feel toward one another. Dr. John Gottman has done extensive research in looking at what keeps couples together and what drives them apart. He has found that it is not the number of arguments or what the couple is arguing about that leads to divorce, but rather the way the couple argues. Couples that do not stay together tend to criticize one another, be intentionally mean, be defensive, and/or withdraw from one another. Learning healthy, respectful ways of expressing your negative emotions to your partner is key to a healthy, lasting relationship.

The second area that is involved in the “work” of a relationship is nurturing the love between you and your partner so that security and connectedness are at the foundation of the relationship. A helpful way of exploring how to create more love and connection in your relationship is by identifying and understanding you and your partner’s primary love language. Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of the the “Love Languages” concept. He identified that we all have different ways we both receive and show love. He describes five categories of love languages: quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, and receiving gifts. If a couple is not speaking each other’s love language then they likely feel disconnected, unloved, and dissatisfied in the relationship. Communicating negative emotions in a healthy way and exploring and expressing your partner’s love language can be difficult to do on your own. Many couples benefit from working with a professional counselor.

To schedule an appointment for couples counseling, email Dr. Rebecca Bergen or fill out the contact request form on our homepage.

To learn more about communicating negative emotions effectively and expressing love languages visit these websites:



When to Unplug: Restoring Work-Life Balance

Does it feel like you never actually leave work? Do you find yourself checking work emails when you should be relaxing? Do you have difficulty falling asleep because you are thinking about your “to-do” list for work? We live and work in an increasingly interconnected world that can make it hard to define where our work ends and where our personal life begins. Our smartphones are synced with work email accounts. Work is now an ever-present factor in most of our lives. If we let it, work can interfere with our relationships, increase stress, and decrease life enjoyment. When our work life and personal life are out of balance, it can actually make us less productive when we are at work and less relaxed when we are at home.

Here are some consequences of losing your work life balance:

Exhaustion. When we are working too hard, everything becomes more difficult to accomplish. This becomes problematic when our fatigue causes us to not engage in activities that we enjoy such as spending time with friends and family, going to the gym, or engaging in hobbies.

Difficulty Concentrating. This is often a byproduct of exhaustion. It becomes difficult to concentrate and be productive at work and difficult to be “mentally present” in our relationships with others.

Increase or decrease in sleep. This usually takes shape in three forms. 1. Difficulty falling and staying asleep. 2. Going to bed early coupled with difficulty getting up in the morning. 3. Difficulty falling and staying asleep during the week and then wanting to sleep all weekend.

Relationship difficulties. When we stay late at work on a consistent basis, it damages our relationships with friends and family because we simply are not physically present. The second, and perhaps more difficult to recognize, is when we are at home, but our mind is still at work. In this case, it is hard to genuinely engage with friends and loved ones and may give others the impression that we are apathetic or “not listening”

Tips on taking control back and restore work-life balance.

Re-examine your “to-do” list. It can often feel like everything on your to-do list is a necessity and needs to be done ASAP. However, in reality this is most often not the case. Separating your daily to-do list into need to-do, want to-do, and back-burner may provide perspective and allow you to phyically and emotionally disengage from work.

Self-Care. We often shrug off self-care by saying we are too tired or simply don’t have time to do the things we enjoy. What is self-care? Self-care is anything that you find fulfillment and enjoy doing. Whether it is something physical like going to the gym or eating healthy, a hobby, or engaging socially, it is important to set aside time for doing things we enjoy. When you think about engaging in self-care activities, you may often times tell yourself that you are simply “too tired to do anything.” In reality, engaging in these activities actually gives us energy and increases happiness so it is important to make time for them in daily life. If you have difficulty setting aside time for self-care activities, consider a more structured approach such as signing up for a class related to a hobby that you enjoy.

Increase your support system. When we feel stressed out, it is easy to withdraw from social activities or spending time with family because we are (again) “too tired.” This natural inclination is the exact opposite of what we should do. Spending time with people that care about us makes us feel stronger. Usually, feeling “too tired” only lasts until we are actually spending time with people that we enjoy being around.

Unplug. We cannot always unplug from work, so we have to take advantage of times that we can. If you feel that you over-check your work email, ask yourself, “Do I really need to check it now or am I checking it based on my own anxiety?” Give yourself permission to turn off your work cellphone during dinner with your partner or during “family time.”

Set boundaries. This includes when you physically leave the office and also regarding tasks at work. This can be difficult to accomplish for those trying to advance in their careers. We may feel implicitly or explicitly that we have to say “yes” to everything requested of us at work to “get ahead”. This can feed into the cycle of feeling taken advantage of at work and subsequently feeling resentment toward our employers. It is OK to respectfully say no to tasks that you feel you do not need to take on. Being the person in your office that always says yes may not always be beneficial to your career.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of ways to increase work-life balance. Work stress may lead to more serious issues of anxiety and depression, and it is important to get professional help when life becomes unmanageable.

Fostering a healthy work-life balance is an ongoing process that takes consistent effort. Both work and personal life are important elements of life, but remember, when one gets too much attention, it is usually at the cost of the other.

How to Improve Communication in Relationships

improve communication relationships

Tips, Tricks, and Rules to Improve Relationship Communication

Listen generously. Reflect back what the person said accurately. Hear the person’s feeling. Tune in to what the other person wants and feel what’s underneath it. Listen with your third ear.

Speak unarguably. That means speaking in statements of fact that can’t be argued. For example, you may say to your partner: “I feel bad when you leave for work without saying good-bye.” You’re saying that you feed bad (a fact) when your partner does not say good-bye (also a fact), and that cannot be argued. This way of speaking places no blame and allows a conversation to happen without argument.

Focus on appreciation. It’s recommended a 5-1 ratio of appreciation to complaint. Focus on positive aspects of your partner and your relationship.

Turn your complaints into requests. For example, ask your partner: “If I make dinner, will you clean up?” Be committed to making clear agreements.

Shift from blame to wonder. Ask yourself how you might be contributing to a communication problem. Shift from your critical mind to your creative mind and, in turn, causes you to shift from being right to having a healthier relationship. Would you rather be right, or happy?

Ask for what you want. Most people don’t ask for what they want because they think they can’t get it. But the opposite is typically true. Most people are surprised to learn/to find out that they can get what they want simply by asking.

Show your partner what you want to receive. “In other words,”give your partner what you would like your partner to give you.”

Learn to negotiate. Relationships are give and take. For example — “Honey, I will cook dinner, if you will do the dishes afterward.”

Learn to modify what you want. “Ask yourself if what you want is really something you have to have.”

4 Rules for effective communication in conflict

  1. No Name Calling! While calling your partner a name may vent your frustration, it does nothing to communicate what you are actually thinking and feeling and immediately puts your partner on the defensive. This includes statements such as “You’re acting like a…”
  2. Don’t make “always” and “never” statements. These are ineffective because no one always or never does or says something. These statements immediately make your partner feel as they have to defend previous actions or statements and the argument usually shifts from the actual topic to whether or not someone always or never says or does something.
  3. Use “I” statements instead of “You” statements. In arguments, “you” statements tend to be attack oriented which shifts your partners likelihood to defending themselves instead of listening to what you are trying to say.
  4. Take a “time out” if you feel yourself getting too upset. Taking a time out from a heated argument can be an effective strategy to think about what you want to say before you say it. It is always easier to take some time and say something you really mean than blurt out something you will regret because you didn’t take the time to think about it. If you take a timeout in an argument, it is your responsibility to tell your partner when you will resume the discussion and it is also your responsibility to re-initiate the discussion. e.g. “I am going into the bedroom to cool off, I’ll come out in 15 minutes so we can talk this over.”