June 21, 2021
Welcome back to our newest blog series, 'Relationships Matter.' This week's expert? The lovely Dana Galante. Get ready to hear about the good, the bad, and why Dana is passionate about relationship health!
My name is Dana Galante and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am the founder of Collaborative Marriage and Family Therapy.
I knew I wanted to work with relationships from the get-go. As soon as I read the description of the masters degree program for Marriage and Family Therapy I was hooked: “psychotherapy to treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems”. My first few years as an MFT, I worked with adolescents, young children and whole families, which was never dull. But I realized I could help the adult partners connect in ways that created the change we were looking for in the child. After 20 years, I'm still fascinated by the relationship cycle that exists within couples.
It’s rewarding to say that the work I do is based upon the one thing that I care about the most - human connection. More selfishly, the reward is the daily reminder to practice what I preach. My clients allow me to witness their suffering as we work on getting to a better place. In order to do this well, I need to pay attention to my own instinct to avoid or protect myself from pain. Being a therapist reminds me that I too must pay attention to my most vulnerable parts - to accept those parts and allow myself to be seen.
Most couples who are together long enough will experience a loss of the initial romantic phase ("we complete each other!") and realize there is another side to their partner ("we are so different!"). It's at this point that we find out that our partner handles their pain differently than we do. For example: If I tend to withdraw, seek space and quiet when I’m frustrated and hurt - I will likely partner up with someone who tends to need more interaction and a good argument when they’re hurt. It’s a classic “opposites attract” phenomenon that is challenging for all of us to navigate.
My parents, who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year, are my relationship role models. To people that know them, they seem like the epitome of an ideal long term marriage - and they are. Maybe because I am in this field, they have generously let me in on the secret that even a healthy marriage that lasts is susceptible to the “opposites attract” dance of getting frustrated, disconnected, resentful, and then eventually reconnecting.
Reaching out or “turning toward” each other in times of pain (ie. anger/hurt/rejection/self doubt) is the most beneficial action in a relationship. For examples of this, I like to use John Gottman's Repair Checklist. And the most toxic behavioral pattern is avoidance - I believe it was Sue Johnson (a prominent couples researcher) who said “Avoidance is kryptonite”. Avoidance makes it impossible to see new ways forward. We all love to hide and it’s a tragedy not to be seen.
My favorite piece of advice for couples is often met with a skeptical look. What annoys you about your partner can actually help you learn more about yourself. Whatever it is about them that annoys you the most, is likely a part of yourself that is itching to grow. As a generic example - let's say I get annoyed at my partner for kicking their feet up after dinner instead of pitching in immediately with the chores. I may choose to see this as thoughtless or careless and issue a complaint. But, a more powerful response would be if I acknowledge my envy at my partners ability to chill and my longing to be more carefree and at ease. Instead of spending energy trying to reduce his ability to chill - I can ask for what I need to increase mine.
Thanks to Dana for her insight + expertise! You can find her on her website here. Looking for more help + advice regarding relationships, money, finances, and so much more? Sign up for our brand new premarital workshop and look out for more ways to connect with pros like Dana, when we launch our marketplace later this year.
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