Archive of ‘Relationships’ category

Rebuilding Trust in Relationships

Trust forms the foundation of healthy relationships. Whether through infidelity or other forms of unmet expectations, a betrayal of trust can place an otherwise healthy relationship in jeopardy. The rebuilding of trust after a betrayal can be a daunting task, but couples who are committed to the process of healing may benefit from a renewed sense of connection when the effort has been put forth.

Increasing Understanding and Empathy

Both partners will undoubtedly have their own perspectives on the events surrounding the breach of trust. It’s important to first make sure the relevant details and facts are made clear to each partner. The offending partner should allow space for the betrayed partner to ask questions and also be able to listen to the concerns and feelings expressed by the betrayed partner. Once both sides have a clearer picture of the situation, it is then possible to begin the process of apologizing. A sincere apology from the offending partner should include the facts of the situation, convey a sense of understanding of the other partner’s perspective, and a willingness to take meaningful steps toward rebuilding trust. For the betrayed, it’s important to commit to actively listening, accept repair attempts, and consider if any of their own behavior has caused distress in the relationship prior to the offense.


Both partners must see value in the relationship before there can be motivation for embarking on the difficult journey of rebuilding trust. Commitment is formed when partners examine their emotional attachment to each other, show a desire to persist, and can envision long term goals for the relationship. Partners can show this commitment to each other by openly asking for what they need in the relationship, have consistent and honest communication, and express their feelings openly without fear of judgment. It may also be necessary to revisit the rules or boundaries of the relationship – what is acceptable or not acceptable behavior? What are each partner’s needs? Setting such boundaries can help to provide a sense of safety and control in an otherwise chaotic period in the relationship.

Making Time and Space for Emotions

It’s important to recognize that both partners may feel very strong emotions during this time. Sadness, anger, fear, frustration can manifest throughout the process of healing. Rather than try to hide or contain such feelings, both partners should allow the other space to express them in a healthy manner while also validating these feelings. During these difficult times, the other party can consider this an opportunity to show empathy by acknowledging these feelings and letting their partner know that it’s okay to feel a certain way or if they share that feeling.  

Reigniting the Connection

When both partners have established their commitment to each other, it can help to envision the relationship moving forward as a completely new and separate one. Use this time of heightened awareness to define common future goals in both the short and long term. Try new activities or reflect on any particularly joyous memories from the past in order to ignite a new spark. Focusing on the future and making new positive memories brings new hope to the relationship and strengthens the foundation of trust.

In Summary

Rebuilding trust after a breach is possible but requires hard work from both parties. With patience, time, and effort, couples may overcome such obstacles and ultimately find a strengthened connection with one another. While it is certainly possible for some couples to rebuild on their own, others may find that attending a couples counseling session with a therapist as a neutral third party can help them navigate the rough waters at every stage of the process so that each partner may make the best decision for themselves. If both partners are not yet ready to take the step toward commitment, individual therapy is a great option for gaining insight into what may be the best path forward.

Cultivating Connection with Bids for Connection

In relationships, both verbal and nonverbal communication play a role in how well you connect with and feel seen by your partner. What you say, how you say it, and how your body language supports your words all matter. When couples are in conflict, things like tone, responses, and eye contact can help them move through their conflict or add fuel to the fire and make them feel more disconnected.

Bids for Connection

One way to support healthy dialogue and build connection is to be attuned to your partner’s “bids for connection.” This term was coined by Dr. John and Julie Gottman, leading researchers in the field of love and relationships. A bid is “an invitation to connect” (Gottman & Gottman, p. 3); it is an attempt for positive connection from you or your partner. This can be verbal or nonverbal and come in the form of feelings, observations, opinions, invitations, physical gestures, or questions.

Responding to Bids

How bids are made is just as important as how they are received. When a partner initiates a moment of connection, the other partner can respond in one of three ways (Gottman & Gottman, p. 5). Let’s use an example to illustrate the differences. If your partner says, “I was thinking we should try that new restaurant in our neighborhood this weekend.” You could respond by;

Turning Toward – “Oh yes, I know which one you are talking about; sounds good.”

This involves being present and responding to your partner. It does not mean you have to agree, but you show interest and help your partner feel seen.

Turning Away – “. . . <silence>.”

No response is given; when you turn away, you completely ignore or miss the bid. This is like ghosting the bid.

Turning Against – “Why would we do that? That’s a terrible idea.”

When we turn against, we reject a bid, shutting down the conversation and likely causing anger.

When you turn toward the bid, you accumulate moments of connectivity. Whenever you turn away or against it, a withdrawal is made from your love bank. Turning toward helps nurture your relationship and offset those times when you are in conflict. Many couples feel challenged by the lack of time to focus on their relationship. They have competing priorities and endless to-do lists, and the thought of spending time on the relationship feels daunting. Meaningful connection can come in small moments, and opportunities present themselves several times throughout the day. Consider a kiss goodbye, quick text or phone call during lunch, greeting your partner with a hug, using eye contact, sharing a laugh, etc.

Reflecting on Connection

According to Gottman’s research, how well couples recognize and respond to bids can determine the health and longevity of relationships. Couples who report happy and satisfying relationships turn toward each other 86% of the time (The Gottman Institute). The key to cultivating connection is bringing awareness to these moments of connection. As you go into this week, think about the interactions with your partner and reflect or write down what you notice.

When was the last time you tried to make a bid for a connection? What did you do? How was it received?

When was the last time your partner tried to make a bid? How did you respond?


Gottman, J., & Schwartz Gottman, J. (2022). The Love Prescription. Random House USA. 

Written By: Janet Mize, LMFT

We Parent How We Were Parented

Something that I’m consistently made aware of as a child and adolescent therapist and working with their parents is that we parent how we were parented. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a “bad” kid, OR a “bad” parent.

Being a parent is the hardest job in the world. As a parent you are the leader of the household, and you carry a LOT of responsibility. Your children look to you to provide shelter, nutrition, safety, and love.

While being a parent and having the massive responsibility that comes along with it, you are also inevitably triggered by your child’s behavior. For example, when your child has a meltdown and begins to throw items around the house, you are triggered. When your child is having big emotions and they begin to hit, bite, scratch, kick, etc., you are triggered. When your child tells you that you are a “lousy parent”, you are triggered. When your child asks you where a loved one is who is no longer a part of your lives, you are triggered. When your child pushes their sibling around and refuses to share, you are triggered.

How do you handle those situations? The most likely answer is that you yell and punish the child. Why? Because you are trying your best to teach them what is appropriate and what is not. Also, because you are triggered and losing patience (understandably so). And finally, because this is probably how your parents parented you.

When we feel triggered, we act on high emotions rather than trying to understand the child’s behavior and what they need in that moment. What is natural to us is to parent our children the way that our parents parented us. This is what we know. However, sometimes there are things that can be adjusted.

Avoiding Shame

Something that I see a lot, not only in my practice but also with the general public, is that parents tend to use shame as a way of disciplining their children. What does this look like? This can be phrases such as, “how could you let this happen?!”, “you know better”, “why is this so hard for you?!”, “you are so difficult”. It can look like the parent yelling at the child and wagging a finger in their face, or the parent walking away from the child without any conversation about repair.

Shame is the most distressing emotion we can feel as humans. Shame tells us that we’re not good enough. Shaming a child into appropriate behavior will cause the child to feel unheard, unimportant, and that their feelings don’t matter. This leads to a bigger disconnect between you and your child, which then causes more difficult behavior.

What can help YOU have more patience and understanding towards your child during high stress moments is trying to separate the behavior from the child. If the child is behaving inappropriately, they are trying to COMMUNICATE their needs. Children don’t always know how to ask or tell us what they need, so instead they communicate through their behavior. It is our job as caregivers to TEACH them how to communicate appropriately. Kids are always learning. Their brains are under construction all the time. So, if we try to separate the behavior from the child, we can find more patience within ourselves to be able to teach them right from wrong.

Attention vs Connection

When a child acts out, people often say, “oh, they’re just doing that for attention”. The word attention has a negative connotation with it. When we think of attention, we think that it is for selfish reasons. However, the child is not misbehaving for attention; they are misbehaving for connection. When your child has a meltdown, they aren’t doing this for attention or to make you mad. They are doing it because they need connection, and they have a need that they are trying to get met.

How to Connect

So, you may be wondering how can you not yell, punish, shame, and lose your patience…

First, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Take care of yourself so you can be there for your child. Pause for a moment and think about you can effectively communicate with your child.

Second, listen to your child. Get down on their level, use a soft tone of voice, and make eye contact.

Third, reflect to them their feelings. This looks like saying, “I can see that you’re feeling really mad right now”, or “You’re feeling sad”, “that upset you”. Simply reflect what emotion they are feeling. It’s OK if you say the wrong emotion, the child will correct you.

Fourth, validate the child’s feeling and experience. This looks like saying, “I understand”, “I hear you”, “I see you”, “If that happened to me, I’d be mad too”. This helps the child feel understood by you.

Fifth, set the limit. This looks like saying, “AND it’s not ok to yell at me like that”, “AND it’s not okay to hit others”, “AND it’s not ok to steal your sister’s toys”. Using the word “and” helps to connect the limit to the feeling. When we use the word “but”, we invalidate the other person’s emotions and experience, and we want to do the opposite.

Sixth, offer an alternative. This looks like saying, “Next time you need me, tap me on the shoulder like this” and show them, “You can hit this pillow instead” and show them, “What else can you play with until your sister is done playing with that toy?” and pick out a toy if needed. It is important not to inhibit their attempt to express themselves. Find an alternative that you are okay with.

Seventh, sit with them. This isn’t always possible. But, if you can sit with them, continue to talk to them and breathe deeply you will help your child regulate their emotions. If you are calm, your child will become calm as well. This is also known as co-regulation.

Additional phrases that you can use here are…

“It looks like your feelings are in control of your body.”

“I’m here for you.”

“How can I help you?”

“Mom is going to finish dinner, I will be in the kitchen if you need me.”

“I love you.”

“I want to help you. Can you show me how I can help?”

“It’s ok to have big feelings”

“You are having a hard day. I have hard days too.”

Lastly, I want to acknowledge that managing difficult behavior with your child is not easy. I know that during times of high stress it isn’t always possible to stay calm. That’s ok! Parents are humans who make mistakes just like kids. If you are a parent reading this, I encourage you to give yourself grace and be patient with yourself! The best thing you can do after you lose your temper is to apologize to your child and accept responsibility for whatever mistake was made. You are NOT a bad parent! You are doing the best that you can.

Below is an infographic that help outline the steps in managing difficult behavior. Feel free to save, print, and share!

managing your child's difficult behavior


Axline, V. M. (1981). Play Therapy: The Groundbreaking Book That Has Become a Vital Tool in the Growth and Development of Children. Penguin Random House.

Landreth, G. L. (2002). Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship. Brunner-Routledge.

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