What I discovered was that ‘the thing we often think we are fighting about in a relationship, isn’t actually the thing that really matters. The details in a fight never really matter at least not in the way we think they do.
We had the privilege to interview relationship coach and marriage therapist Silvy Khoucasian exclusively for Bridesonamission Magazine. In this interview she will give you lots of information and practical tips to improve your marriage. Also tips for newlyweds! Visit her website and book a individual or couple session and read the interview to find out more.
Tell us about yourself and your work
Hello! My name is Silvy Khoucasian and I work as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern and a Relationship Coach. I specialize in working with couples and individuals who want to communicate healthy boundaries and feel deeply loved in their relationships. I have been literally obsessed with understanding how to create healthy and loving relationships for as long as I can remember.
I moved to the US from Syria when I was 4 years old with my parents and older sister. We experienced a difficult adjustment period learning a radically new culture until we finally began to settle into a brand new life in the US. Our struggles allowed us to grow closer as a family and create healthy and loving experiences together.
It also made me realize at a young age what core things were most important in creating safety in all types of relationships. I’m grateful to share what I have learned with you now.
What did you discover about relationships being an experienced couple therapist and coach?
Ahhhh yes. The BIG question. What I discovered was that ‘the thing we often think we are fighting about in a relationship’ isn’t actually the thing that really matters. The details in a fight never really matter (at least not in the way we think they do).
We aren’t really fighting about money, or sex, or our discomfort about our partner having friends of the opposite sex. Not really. We are fighting because our perceptions aren’t being embraced with lovein the present moment. Neither partner really needs anything other than tenderness and care in the NOW.
When our nervous system is triggered, we are in high alert mode. Our brain isn’t able to access the logical part that helps us solve problems. So we can’t even really HEAR anything our partner is saying anyway.
Why is this important information for us to know?
Because the focus needs to be on creating safety above everything else before moving deeper into a difficult conversation. What couples tend to do is try to solve the problem. Who isn’t guilty of that? So what I help couples focus on in my practice is being able to take the attention off the specific perceived problem for a short bit of time and simply focus on calming/soothing each-other down.
When partners feel cared for deeply in that way, they are able to work through the ‘problem’ in a much more collaborative way. They become more influenceable towards one another. Both partner’s need to feel seen and cared.
How do we do this?
That’s where Attachment Theory comes in. Attachment Theory is the framework I use with my clients to help them better understand themselves and their partner on a NERVOUS SYSTEM level. John Bowlby developed this framework based on the Ainsworth study. The study assessed emotional interactions (the bond) that a child has with their primary parent (usually the mother but not always). The specific attachment bond recreated in childhood extends over into adulthood and becomes re-created in our intimate relationships.
Such important information!
*Here are the 3 ATTACHMENT STYLES*
Secure Attachment: Someone who has a secure attachment experienced a consistently safe childhood experience most of the time with at least one primary parent. They are able to flow pretty easily in intimate relationships and feel safe and close to their partner emotionally most of the time.
Avoidant Attachment: This is someone who generally spent a lot of time alone as a child.
They tend to feel an underlying sense of aloneness as an adult. They get more uncomfortable when they become closer to their partner. They tend to need a lot more alone time and comfort and soothe themselvesrather than turn to their partner for comfort.
Anxious Attachment: This is someone who is triggered quite easilyin intimate relationship and needs a lot of reassurance from their partner to feel safe. Their nervous system feels very sensitive to small things that may threaten safety of their relationship.
The beautiful thing about learning your attachment style (and NOT judging yourself) is that you can so clearly see what you NEED mostin an intimate relationship. You can be honest and open from the beginning about what feels most soothing for you. It gives your partner a more direct understanding of your needs rather trying to guess what they are! It also helps YOU know what to focus on in your PARTNER to help THEM feel safe. You can identify with any of the 3 attachment styles and still create a secure-functioning relationship.
In fact, even having a close friendship or mentor you feel safe with consistently helps you develop a more secure mindset.
What practical tools would you give to Newlyweds?
Practical tools! My favorite. Here are 6 practical tools to soothe one another and manage conflict quickly.
1-Explore which attachment style resonates most with you – and then explore and learn your partner’s.
2-Identify your biggest CORE TRIGGERS and write them down.
3-Identify your partner’s biggest CORE TRIGGERS and write them down.
We all have enduring vulnerabilities– meaning that certain sensitivities MAY NEVER fully go away. Being able to embrace that will help set you up for success rather than trying to force yourself or your partner to ‘get over’ something that’s deeply wired in the nervous system.
4-Create sensitive language when discussing your both of your vulnerabilities.
For example, if your partner has a fear of abandonment, you know that transitions and time apart is more difficult for them.
You can create a loving ritual before you leave each other or have a phrase that you can remember ahead of timeso you can access it if they become triggered.
“I love you, I’m going to miss you, I wish you were going to be with me. You are my priority even if I am physically away from you.”
These are examples that work really well.
You can create specific one that feel most soothing for both of you.
5-Write the soothing messages down somewhere that you can easily access.
(*Your phone notepad works great).
If you don’t know what messages comfort their triggers – ASK THEM.
Don’t wait until the next upset happens.
Get to know what would comfort them when you both are in a calm state.
Let’s say your partner has a sensitivity around having friends of the opposite sex.
Know that even that is OKAY!
Giving them loving messages can help counteract the negative thoughts that may be taking place in their brain.
Don’t underestimate the power of soothing words.
The KEY is getting to REPAIR QUICKLY.
You don’t want your partner to stay flooded too long.
If your partner is more anxious, reassuring wordsare very helpful.
They need more immediate reassurance so their nervous system does not escalate. (HAVE THEM READY!)
If your partner is more avoidant– letting them know they are free and not trapped may help them not feel so overwhelmed.
Sometimes too much eye contact is even too invasive for someone who has not really relied on someone else for comfort.
It may take longer to let someone in.
Keep giving them loving messages.
6-Lastly give this process some time.
There is a learning curve here especially if you have never done anything like this before. You are literally learning a new language.
How can women create healthier emotional boundaries in their marriage?
Such an important question. Let’s first define what a boundary really is. It is an experience that feels deeply beneficial and necessary for our sense of well being. It is our container that is aligned with our deepest self respect and integrity. When we have a physical cut, our brains can logically easily understand not to pick and probe at it. I want you to think of emotional boundariesin the same way for a moment. When you have a specific sensitivity - it is your highest and most sacred honor to tend to that. We often don’t even recognize our boundaries until they are violated.
If something feels deeply uncomfortableto your sense of safety and affects your well being/peace of mind, your boundary is probably being violated. Sometimes we confuse a ‘WALL’ that we can put up with. The way to know the difference.
When a boundary is respected, there is more closeness and intimacy. When it is a WALL confused as a boundary, you will still feel distance and a lack of closeness between you and the other person.
If you are confused, I would invite you to let your partner know that.
“I’m not sure if this is a boundary for me or not right in this moment. Something feels off for me but I’m not sure yet what it is.”
Ask them to give you some time to process what is happening that triggering for you.
Take some time to do some self-reflection.
My personal favorite ways to process thought and feelings are meditating and journaling.
Meditation helps you go deeper into yourself and relaxes your nervous system.
Journaling helps get out all the clutter so you can access express yourself from a loving place.
Sometimes we may realize that we CAN give our partner what they are asking for but with our own specific requests to make us feel safe.
~SOME COMMON SCENARIOS~
OPPOSITE SEX FRIENDSHIPS
Someone may experience their boundaries violated when their partner has certain friends of the opposite sex. You may realize that you can learn to embrace your discomfort as long as certain requests are respected.
“I would love your support in feeling more comfortable with some of your friends. I trust you and don’t want you to feel this is every about you. This is my sensitivity. I may need reassurance from you to feel that they are energetically being respectful towards us and our relationship. Do you think you would be willing to do that for me?”
Another example: Some people make threats when they feel triggered in a relationship that can really affect their partner’s sense of security.
“When we fight, I don’t want you to make any threats to leave our relationship. It feels very uncomfortable for me. It makes me feel very sad and unsafe. I know you’re probably just feeling scared in that moment you do that. Is there anything I can do for you to feel safer so you don’t feel like you need to say things like that?”
It’s crucial we have boundaries and it’s equally crucial we communicate them in a way where our partner does not feel criticized or shamed. These examples show honoring our own boundaries but also being caring about our partnerand their own sensitivities at the same time.
Where can readers find you online?
Readers can follow me on my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/silvykhoucasian/
I write relationship blogs and also do LIVE SESSIONS where I offer lots of practical communication tools. You can watch my free video series on the 5 LOVE LANGUAGES on my website: www.silvykhoucasian.com so you don’t waste your timegiving your partner something in a love language that doesn’t actually reach their heart.
It has been a pleasure getting all this insight your way!
You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org book a consultation for individual or couples session.
(*I offer phone and skype sessions if you do not live in the Los Angeles area).