Are Relationship Problems Leaving You Exhausted And Overwhelmed?

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Do you feel alone, neglected and undervalued in your relationship? Is frequent fighting or bickering with your spouse significantly increasing your stress levels and making it difficult to concentrate in other areas of your life? It may be that you feel like you aren’t getting the emotional support you need from your partner. Maybe you have trouble remembering the last time your relationship felt peaceful and loving, or perhaps your sex life is leaving you dissatisfied or unfulfilled. Does it seem that your partner is overly harsh and critical? When your feelings are hurt or things grow tense, do you find yourself reacting by shutting down or lashing out, even when you don’t mean to? Do you wish you could develop the tools to resolve conflict and live peacefully with your spouse?

Chronic marriage or relationship problems can leave you feeling isolated and lonely, even when you’re spending time with your partner. Lack of connection with your partner might leave you feeling unhappy and invisible. Infidelity, suspected or actual, might be contributing to obsessive thoughts about your partner’s activities. Maybe you and your spouse frequently fight about seemingly insignificant issues or erupt into arguments without warning, and you feel as though you are stuck in a constant state of crisis. You might even feel unsafe if these conflicts tend to become violent. If you’re navigating a divorce, the process might make it hard to concentrate on other aspects of life, such as work or loved ones. Overall, you might simply wish that you and your partner could resolve issues with positive conversations, rather than arguments, when things get tough.

Conflict Is a Normal Part of Romantic Partnerships

If you’re having trouble with your partner or spouse, you’re not alone. Conflict is a normal part of every relationship, and it’s common for couples to struggle with things like communication, trust, or financial issues. However, it’s when this conflict gets out of balance with positive interactions that problems begin. According to John Gottman’s groundbreaking marriage research, the ratio for positive versus negative interactions for a happy couple is about 7:1, while the average ratio for unhappy couples is 1:1. So, if you’re experiencing frequent conflict, it’s no wonder you’re feeling unsatisfied with your relationship.

Relationship problems come from a variety of sources. A lack of intimacy, or a decrease in emotional or physical connection, can lead to anger and resentment. Infidelity often causes tension at home, or provokes intense confrontations that can be difficult to resolve. Additionally, career stress can also interfere with the balance between work and family life. Some problems might be so severe that you’re considering separation or divorce.  

Again, every couple weathers some kind of difficulty, and avoiding all conflict is impossible. However, if it seems as though you and your partner have lost the balance between relationship fulfillment and conflict, it is likely time to make a positive change in your shared dynamic. If you’re struggling to feel love and respect from your partner, couples counseling can help you become a master of processing and repairing hurt feelings during conflicts.

Couples Counseling Can Teach You Effective Conflict Resolution Skills

Although this may feel like a contradiction, it’s important to know that it’s not a problem to have a problem in a relationship; the problem only appears when you and your partner don’t know how to effectively resolve the difficulties you face. For example, while an argument can be painful no matter what, it is only a problem if you and your partner lack the skills to efficiently manage it. An experienced marriage and family therapist can offer you a calm, nonjudgmental space to gently work through a current crisis or conflict and help you learn how to regulate your emotions, practice effective conflict resolution tactics and define a plan to improve your relationship for the long-term.

My psychotherapeutic approach uses scientifically validated research to foster a supportive environment and help clients develop healthier habits. I’ll aim to normalize the problems you’re facing and ensure you feel comfortable and safe as you address potentially painful issues. The presence of a third party can help contain destructive influences, making it easier to define goals to resolve issues in a constructive way. I’ll help you develop a broader perspective to understand where your partner is coming from, and teach you both how to effectively listen and communicate. I’ll also equip you and your partner with exercises and tools that you can use outside of our sessions to prevent, resolve or contain conflict without damaging the stability of your relationship. For example, I’ll help you recognize the typical four emotions, such as defensiveness, contempt, criticism and stonewalling, that damage constructive conversations, while also helping you soothe heightened reactions and steer toward common ground.

My highly individualized approach is based on 12 years of clinical practice and has been praised by the faculty of the Adler School of Professional Psychology as a combination of “science-based approaches” and “a unique humanistic style of intervening.” Clients have called me “incredibly empathetic,” while also saying I “genuinely care for [my] client’s well-being.”

Overall, my couples counseling sessions can help you become your relationship’s expert and establish more joy, both in your relationship and your daily life.

You might still have questions or concerns about couples therapy…

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I am a highly educated person and I am used to solving problems on my own. How can a therapist provide concrete solutions, if I wasn’t able to do it on my own?

It’s normal to struggle to see the sun behind the clouds, and it’s normal to try searching for solutions before asking for professional help.  However, a supportive, highly experienced professional can help you regain hope in a variety of ways. I will answer your questions, offer a treatment plan, and provide clear tools and techniques beyond your well-established personal style of relating. Often, my clients report an immediate decrease in conflict and crisis within an initial 5-7 sessions. My extensive therapy experience makes me uniquely positioned to suggest help and support by understanding your couple’s dynamic, including its strengths and the roots of the conflict. Since 2005, I have been using my skills in marriage and family therapy to help couples create stronger bonds. My experience includes working as a Co-Chair for the SFCP Clinical Psychotherapy Forum held at Stanford’s School of Medicine, and as a research assistant studying conflict resolution in the Stanford Psychology Department’s Emotions Lab. Overall, I’m confident my rigorous training in relationship therapy and knowledge of current psychotherapy research will help me support your relationship conflict resolution.

I’m afraid to express intimate information or issues to another person.

It’s normal to be unsure or uncomfortable about the prospect of relaying personal information to a new person. That’s why the first goal of my couples counseling sessions is to make my clients feel relaxed, comfortable and safe. My primary task is getting to know you by asking what’s brought you to therapy, learning about your current life circumstances, providing understanding and developing rapport. I’ll also ensure that we’re a good match so that you receive the best service possible.

I don’t think there’s a cure for depression or anxiety related to relationship problems.  

It’s easy to feel hopeless if you’ve been dealing with relationship stress and anxiety for a long time. That said, it’s important to realize that feeling lost is a part of embarking on a journey and that feeling hopeless is the preliminary stage before finding a solution. Medical research shows that cures for depression and anxiety are possible, and psychotherapy has been proven to be effective in replacing unproductive thought patterns or interpersonal routines with stable, healthy habits. Overall, my 12 years of professional experience have taught me that, with a little help, perseverance, and investment of time and energy, building a strong relationship is a possibility for everyone.

Make a step to resolve your conflicts and create a more loving connection to your partner by calling me today at (650) 266-8212 for a professional 10-minute free consultation!

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  • "I have known Mrs. Makarova since September 2008 and I have had many opportunities to observe her psychodynamically and psychoanalytically-oriented clinical work. Mrs. Makarova's intellectual curiosity and ability to process complex issues make working with her very gratifying. It is my pleasure to recommend Mrs. Makarova to physicians on Peninsula and South Bay most strongly and without any reservations.”
    — Adjunct Clinical Faculty Member at Stanford School of Medicine, 2011
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    — Postdoctoral fellow, Stanford University, 2009.
  • "Mrs. Makarova is unique in her ability to attend to people; their feelings, their longings and their experiences. She is a true professional and an open-hearted individual. Over the years she has had great success counseling high conflict couples and families. I truly believe that working with her will tilt the scales away from divorce and toward ongoing loving exchanges. For many years I have referred many of my students and their family members to Mrs. Makarova and always got stellar feedback. She combines science-based approaches, having trained in relational patterns at Stanford University, with a unique humanistic style of intervening. As a psychodynamic therapist Mrs. Makarova helps couples see beyond their entrenched relational dynamics and encourages new, functional ways of interchange. I am convinced that Mrs. Makarova's strategic and warm approach is an ideal choice for couples and families in the Peninsula, Bay Area."
    — Alberto Varona, Psy.D. Core Faculty, Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology Program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, 2012.