Couples Counseling in San Diego

You Deserve To Be Loved

Couples Therapy in San Diego


So you’re here to learn about couples counseling in San Diego? Well, you’re in the right place. As a couples therapist in Mission Valley, San Diego, I am here to give you the scoop on relationships. 

Relationship 101- Attachment and the Complexities of Love

Relationships can be complex and painful when discord or unresolved issues are present. They are complex because they have many layers and there’s always so much history. Every relationship is different and every partner has varying needs and alternative ways in which they communicate those needs. As humans, we long for our loved one to be in our corner- we long to feel like we matter- and we want to feel safe and secure. This is because we are creatures of attachment- we are wired for closeness and connection- and this too, makes our relationships complex in nature.

Troubled relationships can be painful because we don’t repair often enough (either because we don’t know how to or because we have a difficult time accessing the tools we need to do so). When things start to feel rocky, it can become even more difficult to effectively convey our (attachment) needs and longings. The problem is, when needs go unmet in a relationship, it can be painful for everyone involved. We also get busy, we fall into the same patterns, and we don’t always know how to stay connected when differences arise. As a San Diego couples therapist, I see this all too often.

The Reason for Reactivity

Fights can become exhausting, and overtime, they can create distance and disconnection in the relationship. It’s all too easy to become reactive during a fight rather than vulnerable. When we fail to respond in a way that is soft, we are often sending a message that we don’t actually want to send. In other words, we may come off as stubborn, inflexible, annoyed, or angry, when in reality, on the inside, we are often experiencing hurt, fear, pain, shame, or deep sadness. These raw emotions can leave us feeling like we don’t matter in our partner’s eyes. It’s also easy to believe that we just don’t know how to get it right with our loved one.

When our partner perceives us as angry, it’s easy for them to also become reactive. Reactivity is vulnerability’s mortal enemy! The reactivity only fuels negative thoughts, hot emotions, and maladaptive behaviors. Reactivity can cause us to become hostile and in return, this can lead to a partner withdrawing. Further, when reactivity is present there is NO WAY that one will ever be able to communicate their needs and longings in a way that is effective- in a way that their partner can actually hear them.  Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, and it feels miserable.

You may think, “OK, so I’ll just be polite and less reactive during an argument and my needs will then be met.” Problem is, we all know how to be polite. During a fight with our loved one (aka, our attachment figure), the amygdala in our brain gets triggered and sends us into fight/flight/freeze mode. In these moments, it is so hard to slow down and communicate what is happening on the inside (in a soft way). It can be difficult to make the implicit, explicit, and we are often left feeling alone.

Couples counseling in San Diego can help you and your partner to slow down. It can help you to understand your needs and the needs of your partner so that you are both able to “show up” for each other in times of distress. You can be teammates and partners once again! And we can send that reactivity packing.

Remember, vulnerability breeds vulnerability. And vulnerability builds closeness and intimacy. So what’s the true meaning of intimacy? “Into me, you see.”

What happens when we don’t feel connected in our relationship?

When we don’t feel connected, emotionally safe, or secure in our relationships, we often have a difficult time resolving even the simplest of issues. As mentioned before, this can leave us feeling isolated, scared, angry, hurt, or even hopeless. These emotions can lead to more serious issues such as depression, anxiety, substance use, or other mental health conditions. It is a painful thing to feel as if the person you are closest to, the person that was once the source of your happiness, is now the source of your sadness.

If you suffer from feelings of hopelessness or pain as a result of conflict in your relationship, or if you feel as if you go ‘round and ‘round with your partner, know that there is hope– know that your loved one can become the source of your healing once again. 

Emotional dependency is not immature or pathological; it is our greatest strength.
— Sue Johnson
San Diego Couples Therapist

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)- An evidence-based approach that works

Using Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), I have a map to the territory of distress in your relationship. I have a goal of the shaping of a secure bond between you and your partner. I don’t believe in teaching “communication skills.” Rather, my objective is to help you get “unstuck” by changing the negative reaction patterns of anger/blame or defensiveness/withdrawal that you and your partner get into. Once we are able to break-down negative interaction patterns and create a healthy and more whole bond, communication will naturally be enhanced.

Why Couples Counseling in San Diego?

During the course of treatment, we will change the dreadful dance that you get into with your loved one. We will move you to a place where it is easier for you to turn to your partner to express your needs and longings in a way that they will be able to hear you and empathically respond. After all, we all deserve a partner who is responsive, accessible, and emotionally engaged. At the end of our time together, it is my hope that you will be able to feel appreciated, cherished, and happy in your relationship. 

Some symptoms of relational distress you may be experiencing include, but are not limited to:

  • Anger

  • Annoyance

  • Anxiety

  • Chronic illness

  • Confusion

  • Contempt

  • Criticism

  • Depression

  • Difficulty focusing

  • Emotional pain

  • Excessive worry

  • Fatigue

  • Family or marital discord

  • Fear of losing the relationship

  • Frustration

  • Insomnia

  • Irritability

  • Loss of trust in primary relationship

  • Loneliness

  • Panic

  • Poor communication

  • Resentment

  • Sadness

  • Stress

  • Substance use

Signs indicating you could benefit from Couples counseling in San Diego / Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT): 

  • You feel burned-out or numb in your primary relationship

  • There is a lack of connection and distance in your important relationship

  • No matter how hard to you try to get your loved one to understand you, you are left feeling unheard and completely misunderstood

  • You often feel a deep sense of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness

  • You feel frustrated, annoyed, or angry when you engage with your partner

  • Communication seems off- you both seem to be hitting a wall

  • You are confused and have no idea how to please your spouse

  • There are many moments where you feel lonely or ignored by your significant other

  • It is easy to get flooded and overwhelmed when you and your partner fight

  • Pleasing your partner seems like a daunting and impossible task

  • You often encounter contempt, criticism, stonewalling, or sarcasm from your partner

  • You aren't feeling appreciated or valued in your relationship

  • You don't feel accepted or truly loved by your partner

  • There seem to be frequent fights or disagreements

  • You are afraid that your loved one may leave the relationship

  • Feeling safe and secure with your partner, seems to be a thing of the past

  • You and your significant other seem to get caught in the same cycles, with no resolution

  • It is difficult to restore the relationship and repair after a disagreement

  • There are many "hot-topics" between you and your significant other; topics that seem to go unresolved

  • You feel "on-edge" or irritable when your partner is near

  • Being at home with your spouse is no longer comfortable or calm

  • Passion and intimacy are on the decline or are non-existent

  • You feel as if your needs are put on the back-burner

  • You or your spouse have experienced a recent loss (e.g. loss of a job, loss of a child, loss of a parent, miscarriage, loss of a pet, loss of a home)

  • You or your partner have been dealing with transition, change, or a recent stressor (e.g. career change, move, fertility issues, the blending of families)

  • You are in a constant state of worry or fear that things will not work in the relationship

  • There has been a breach of trust or infidelity in the relationship (e.g. affairs, emotional affair, sex addiction, substance use, etc.)

  • Your partner doesn't seem to be emotionally present or engaged in important relational moments

How to take action

If you are in a place where you are searching for answers and ways to improve your relationship– I can help. I have helped many couples work through and heal from the toughest of betrayals and injuries. Together, we can build that “safe haven” that you have been longing for. This is important, because a safer relationship helps us to shape new definitions of self as both competent and resilient. It helps to protect against future relationship pains and it works as an antidote to loneliness.

Reach out to learn more about couples therapy services offered in Mission Valley, San Diego.

And now, I want to help you and your loved one find happiness

The first step is simple.

Click on the link below and request a discovery call with me today and let’s do this together- one step at a time.

Two porcupines huddle together on a cold winter’s night– closeness is necessary for survival, but in getting close, each risks getting hurt. Love is the kiss of the porcupines.
— Adapted from Sue Johnson