Category Archives: Relationships

Psychotherapy for Successful Women

A Note to Successful Women

Therapy for Professional Women in San Francisco…you’re great at your job

Does this describe you? You are an intelligent woman, and you are fortunate to be in a career that you love–or, at least, like well enough. You are successful in your work, which might be in one of the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or business. You enjoy status and respect and you are well rewarded financially. At work, you feel comfortable and confident. People look to you because of your knowledge and experience, and you are often called upon to share your wisdom and to mentor colleagues. From the outside, it all looks great. When you are at work, it looks great to you, too. Work is a rewarding and comfortable place. When it comes to work, you are feeling pretty lucky.

…But Maybe Not So Great at Your Relationships

But when you leave work, something else happens. You might be in a relationship, but it isn’t working very well. You are often in conflict with your spouse or partner, but you aren’t always sure why. You just don’t seem to understand each other. Maybe you are dating and finding it hard to connect with others. Or maybe you have given up on the whole relationship thing because it never seems to work out for you and it feels a lot easier to be single. You are frequently accused of being emotionally distant and, not so deep down, you wonder if this might be true.

You’re a Problem Solver

One of the ways you have been successful in your work has been to be a great problem solver. So when your partner is having a problem, you naturally want to help by brainstorming and finding a way to fix the problem. After all, people are always interested in solving problems, right?

But It Feels Like Some Problems Don’t Always Want to be Solved

The trouble is that we are all wired differently. For you, the path from problem to solution is a straight line. No point in wasting time going in circles. But for your partner, the path from problem to solution may not be so obvious. It is even possible that finding a solution is not the goal for your partner. To you, that may seem like a waste of time, but to your partner, it feels as organic as breathing. Just as solving problems feels natural and intuitive to you, feeling heard and processing feelings feels natural and intuitive to your partner.

Tips for Dealing with This

Relationships are complicated things that can have lives of their own. One of the keys to making your relationship successful is to spend some time learning to understand your partner, even if it might sometimes seem like they are speaking in a foreign language. If you decided to live in France, you are definitely the kind of person who would not only learn French, but seek to be fluent. You would reason that you might be able to get by speaking English if you were a tourist, but you would never be comfortable with the limitations that would place on you. How would you make friends, or find a job, or tell your landlord that the pipes are leaking? You would want to learn as much as you could about the language, even if it felt awkward to you and even if you sometimes failed at it. You would take pride in your successes and resolve to do better when you were unsuccessful. Even when things were frustrating, you would stick with it. That is just who you are. Why would dealing with your relationship be any different?

In my work as a psychotherapist, I have found that what makes women great at their work can often lead to frustration and feeling unsuccessful in their relationships.

When we seek a mate, we are often driven by unconscious motivations, as unromantic as this may sound. One of those unconscious motivations can be qualities in the other person that you wish you had more of yourself. This is the well-known maxim “opposites attract.” So if you are an introvert, you will likely end up with an extrovert. If you are driven by your intellect, your partner is probably driven by her emotions. In some secret way, usually unknown even to ourselves, we do this because we think we will land somewhere in the middle—she will be influenced by our introversion and you will be influenced by her extroversion and the two of you will live happily ever after somewhere in the middle—but the more likely outcome is that what drew you to this person to begin with, often becomes what repels you and leads to difficulties when the honeymoon stage is over.

This often results in frustration, anger, and disappointment, but it doesn’t have to. Couples can learn to listen to each other, to understand each other, and to find that elusive middle ground. One place to start is to listen—really listen—to what your partner is telling you both in her words and in her actions. Try to stay as present as you can, make eye contact, and imagine what she might be experiencing. What may feel like an attempt to push you away may actually be a bid for more connection. If you listen hard enough, you might be able to hear something you have never heard before.

Questions about psychotherapy or about my approach to psychotherapy? Please view my website at www.marlacass.com or contact me at 415-218-2442 (phone link works from smartphones only) or at info@marlacass.com/

The Buck Stops Here: More Thoughts about Money and Relationships

The Buck Stops Here: More Thoughts About Money and Relationships

You have decided that the way you and your partner are handing finances is not working for you. Or perhaps you would like to take a step forward with respect to combining finances. Now what?

When Things Aren’t Working the Way They Should…

If the way you and your partner handle finances is not working because you are concerned about how s/he is spending money or for another reason that makes you want to take a step back, you might want to first, consider whether it is even  possible to talk with your partner about his or her spending habits. If the answer to this question is Yes, it can be helpful to think about what you might want to say and to pick a time when other stressors are most likely to be absent. This is not a good conversation to have after a difficult day at work or while you are preparing dinner for your in-laws.

During the conversation, try to stay away from anger and frustration. When we become angry and frustrated, the parts of our brain that are logical and reasonable turn off. The conversation can quickly disintegrate into an argument where no one feels heard or understood. Instead, consider turning your concerns into a collaborative effort to find a solution. Rather than telling your partner how angry you are about how s/he spends money, you might want to ask how you might work together to agree about how the two of you spend money.

If it doesn’t seem possible to talk to your partner about money, you might want to take a deeper look at yourself and/or your relationship. Is there something about you that might be getting in the way? How was money handled in your family? How was conflict handled in your family? Do you have concerns about the relationship or your commitment to your partner that makes it difficult to talk about sensitive issues? Therapy is one way to create a space where difficult topics can be discussed. A competent therapist can help the two of you look at the problem and find ways to talk about it in without resorting to the same old arguments and patterns.

When Things Are Working Well…

On the other hand, you might be looking for ways to create more financial connection with your partner, hopefully because your relationship feels solid and is moving forward. Connecting financially has a number of potential pitfalls. It may create an unanticipated legal bond between the two of you, e.g., if you purchase a house together and both of your names are on the mortgage, failure to pay the mortgage can ruin the credit of both parties. Putting money in a joint bank account can create financial vulnerability if someone gets mad and withdraws the funds. Opening up a credit card together can also be risky if your partner doesn’t recognize the consequences of running up credit card balances. Many forms of financial connection will also create a situation that ties the parties together for a time period that may be greater than initially intended. For example, if you buy a house together, yes, you can sell it if things don’t work out with your partner, but it may take months before you receive your share and the financial pieces can be picked up. Destroyed credit can take years to repair.

Before moving forward with creating more financial connection, it might be wise to evaluate both the solidity of the relationship and how responsible your partner is with money. For that matter, it might be wise to evaluate your own level of responsibility with money. What do you already know about your partner’s relationship to money? What about your own relationship to money? How solid is your relationship with your partner? Is your relationship able to withstand any potential disagreements about money? Like having a child to save the marriage, creating shared financial responsibilities is not a good way to save your relationship. It can make your relationship stronger, but only if your relationship was already strong.

Making Talking About Money Fun! (Yes, it is possible…)

Talking about money with your partner does not have to be drudgery. Do it on a regular basis and try to make it fun. Pick up a pizza before going over the receipts. Reward yourselves with a movie or a walk. Congratulate each other on a job well done. Look at it as a way of spending time with your partner, growing together, and learning more about her or him. The process can be enlightening and the rewards are priceless.

Questions about psychotherapy or about my approach to psychotherapy? Please contact me at 415-218-2442 (phone link works from smartphones only) or at info@marlacass.com.

Thinking about Money in Your Relationship

Thinking about Money in Your Relationship

When it comes to the subject of money and finances, people are often far more comfortable talking about their sex lives than about their financial lives. Talking about how to deal with money in your relationship can feel awkward, unnecessary, and like something you would rather avoid. Unfortunately, disagreeing about money is one of the primary reasons for discord in relationships.

As a Therapist Who Works With Couples, This is What I Think About…And You Should Think About This, Too

When I work with couples, or, for that matter, with anyone who is in committed relationship, I am always wondering about how money is being handled. How did the couple come up with whatever system they are using? Is money kept separate or is everything combined? Something in the middle? What does this say, if anything, about how the members of the couple view the relationship? Is the current situation working for everyone involved? Why or why not?

Combining Funds Is Not For Everyone

Before we consider this issue further, it is important to recognize that there may be many excellent reasons for finances to remain separate. For example, there may be business reasons, children from a prior relationships, debt, or concerns about credit scores. Each situation is unique and you may want to consult with an attorney or tax accountant for advice. This article assumes that there are no legal or accounting reasons to choose a particular approach to handling money.

If each person keeps his or her finances separate, does this say something about the commitment to the relationship? Does it imply a lack of trust in the other person or that the relationship will last over the long haul? Will it provide a convenient exit strategy that could make ending the relationship easier? On a day-to-day basis, how does having separate finances make things easier or harder? How would you handle finances if one person lost his or her job or became ill? If you currently have children or decide to have children, how would you handle who pays for what expenses as they relate to your children? How did you decide this?

Some Ideas for Sharing Money

Separate funds can also bring up numerous logistical challenges. A couple could decide that each person contributes a percentage of his or her income to a joint account; or perhaps the percentages vary depending on the income level(s). Sometimes, each person contributes a set dollar amount each month. Maybe payment of expenses is alternated, or one partner pays the bills while the other partner pays the rent. Often, the partner earning more money may pay more of the expenses. Navigating these questions requires honesty and solid communication skills.

What about couples that have decided to combine their finances? For some people, this can seem like an easier road, however, it can bring up numerous concerns. Combining finances can be a way to try to keep a relationship glued together by creating a financial bond in the absence of an emotional bond. Joint finances can also bring up difficult questions: what if I don’t like the ways my partner spends money? What if s/he spends too much money? Do I need to ask my partner before I buy anything? What are the limits in terms of how much money I can spend without consulting with my partner? Will it feel comfortable to combine our finances if I make more/less than my partner? If I make more/less than my partner, am I keeping a mental accounting about how much I contribute or how much s/he contributes to our household? What feelings does this bring up? How will you handle money that you had before the partnership? What happens if the relationship ends?

The list of issues that can arise when we talk about money is endless. In my next article about money, I will talk more about these issues and consider some ways to talk about money with your partner.

Questions about psychotherapy or about my approach to psychotherapy? Please contact me at 415-218-2442 (phone link works from smartphones only) or at info@marlacass.com.