Jo Nicholl is a Relationship Coach and Psychotherapist who has been working with individuals and couples for the past 25 years and helping them create a happy marriage or relationship they are searching for.
Here are a few excerpts from her interview with Marriage.com, where she sheds light on her ‘Love Maps Podcast’ series and provides valuable inputs on how therapy helps people in learning conflict resolution and couple’s communication skills to attain the love life they want and also create a happy marriage.
- Marriage.com: What was the idea behind the Love Maps podcast series?
Jo: The idea behind Love Maps podcast is to offer relationship skills and psychological insights for people who are interested in how to have the love life they long for.
I know through many years of working with couples and individuals that people are not taught how to be in a relationship, and what we want from a relationship is often very different from what our parents wanted or expected.
None of us are taught what it takes to maintain a healthy relationship and to stay in love. In each episode of Love Maps, I talk to other therapists and people who are keenly exploring the world of relationships to give the listener invaluable insights and tools for free.
- Marriage.com: According to you, the purpose of therapy is NOT TO SOLVE problems BUT DISSOLVE them. How do you ensure that?
Jo: Dissolving problems is the process of unraveling, with the client, their negative patterns of communication, their narrative about what the problems are, and where and why the problems arose.
- Marriage.com: In your experience of over 25 years as a Relationship Coach and Psychotherapist, what are the common relationship problems you’ve observed that are a result of psychological issues?
Jo: Fear of feeling vulnerable
Fear of conflict
- Marriage.com: It’s a common piece of advice that an individual or couple needs to break negative patterns for a relationship to thrive, and we also read about the ways to do it. But how does one identify that such a pattern exists?
Jo: By observing how a couple handles conflict and differences; and what survival strategies do they use to defend against feelings of vulnerability, e.g., do they shout; sulk; withdraw; shut down.
Ask about how they feel about their sex life.
- Marriage.com: What are the most important things to discuss before marriage to set the right foundation for a happy relationship?
Jo: What marriage means and what did they learn growing up about what it means
What having children means
The importance of family and feelings around their own family of origin
The importance of relationship maintenance and what that will look like
How they feel about monogamy
How comfortable and communicative they feel around their sexuality
- Marriage.com: How much of a role does a person’s past play in their interactions with their spouse?
Jo: A huge role: “Show me how you were loved, and I will show you how you love.”
The thumbprint of our childhood is all over the way we react and respond in our intimate relationships.
The attachment style between a child and it’s primary carer is replicated in adult relationships and in our choice of partner.
We will, unconsciously, be looking to replicate the way we were loved in our childhood in adulthood.
On this audio explore with Psychotherapist Penny Marr how our past affects the way we love and how we can break old negative patterns.
- Marriage.com Would this lockdown situation be the ultimate deal-breaker for many couples? There is so much going on emotionally; how can couples cope with it?
Jo: Yes, the lockdown is the ultimate deal-breaker for some couples who may have used distancing as a way of maintaining the relationship and not facing their fear of intimacy and issues within the relationship, e.g., through working long hours, travel, socializing.
Couples can cope by scheduling and structure. Schedules are known to support the regulation of the nervous system and therefore, will reduce anxiety.
Finding ways to create physical boundaries (workspace and ‘home’ space) and, if possible, a time for the relationship if that feels unthreatening.
- Marriage.com: We are told that we shouldn’t try to change the person we love and yet married couples have to evolve a lot to develop better understanding, communication, and what not! Isn’t that ironic? What are your thoughts about this?
Jo: If we want the relationship to evolve, we have to ask ourselves how, why, and then what can I do?
Becoming self-aware, taking responsibility for our own behavior, reactions, and ultimately our needs, is a step towards bringing our partner to a place where they can see it is in their self-interest to shift their behavior.
If one partner steps out of/recognize negative patterns of communication, it can have an extraordinary effect on the relationship.
If we show our intention to take responsibility through self-awareness and compassion for ourselves, then our partner may feel safer and more inspired to shift too.
In this podcast, learn why we are not having the sex we want and how to get it through better communication.
- Marriage.com: What has been the toughest relationship problem that you’ve had to help a couple dissolve so far?
Jo: Co-dependency, where emotional abuse is used to control fear.
- Marriage.com: What should a couple expect and absolutely not expect from a counseling session?
Jo: A couple should expect:
- To be listened to
- To better understand what the issues are
- A safe space
A couple should not expect:
- To be fixed
- To be judged
- Marriage.com: What are the common misconceptions couples have about the idea of a happy marriage?
- That a happy marriage does not require regular, scheduled attention.
- That sex happens organically
- That child will bring the couple together
- Not fighting is a good sign
- Marriage.com: What are the simplest ways to have a happy marriage or save a marriage?
Jo: To have a happy marriage or save a marriage
- Schedule time for the relationship
- Schedule time to listen to each other
- Accepting/embracing differences
- Taking responsibility for our feelings and reactions
- Consciously talking and responding to each other in a way that reflects the fact that the person you are addressing is the person you want to be with for a long time.
- Treating each other with the respect that a lot of people reserve only for important clients/work colleagues.
- Before you react, take 3 breaths, and then you are more likely to respond from a more regulated, adult part of your brain.
Detailing easy and effective ways, Jo shows why couples fail to create a happy marriage and how they can find the love they want. Jo also highlights some helpful, happy marriage tips which can prove beneficial for any individual or couple who is in need of guidance.