Three Ways Emotional Suppression Hurts You

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Could suppressing negative emotions actually harm relationships more than help them? Holding back, reducing, or inhibiting ongoing emotions is known in the research world as “emotional suppression.” And we’ve all experienced emotional suppression. If you have ever hidden a worry to avoid worrying someone else or suppressed negative emotions that could lead someone to judge or dislike you, then you have experienced emotional suppression. Emotional suppression is especially common in close relationships. Unfortunately, this common occurrence can interfere with the development of intimate relationships relationships in the following ways:

It can decrease intimacy.

Emotional expression (the opposite of suppression) has been shown to be an essential part of developing closeness and intimacy, and unexpressive partners have often been found to seem disinterested, uncaring, and distant. It’s harder to be authentic.

Who wants to feel fake in a relationship? Individuals who suppress emotions also tend to feel less authentic or true to themselves. Research has suggested that feeling “fake” in relationships leads to more distance between partners and less relationship satisfaction. It decreases marital quality for newlyweds.

In addition to the research that suggests that emotional ... Read more »

Feeling Happy with Being Angry

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As I work to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I have about 8-10 weekly therapy sessions with clients. I see a wide variety of presenting problems and people with no one case being the same as another. However, some themes start sticking out the more individuals I work with. One particular theme that I have heard and worked hard to fight against is the idea, “I cannot or should not feel angry.”

Every one of us has eight primary emotions. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger are the five identified in Disney Pixar’s Inside Out, but we also experience interest (sometimes called anticipation), surprise, and shame. Every person is born with these emotions wired into their brain. That wiring causes our bodies to react in certain ways and to awaken certain urges when the emotion arises. This is nature. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way many of us learned that only seven of these emotions are safe to feel, while one needs to be squashed and eliminated.

On the one hand, it’s not hard to see why anger is ... Read more »

How to Have a Terrible Breakup

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Every relationship you get into in life appears to be unique. Even if you have a certain type of person you always seem to date, one boyfriend or girlfriend is rarely exactly the same as the other. The same can be said for the breakup. At the close of one particular romantic relationship during my undergrad, I was shocked to find myself devastated not by the breakup that had just happened, but instead by a relationship that had ended 6 months before. The older relationship seemed significant enough for me to mourn twice, while the newer one I shrugged off with ease. This left me with a lot of questions, the most important two being: Has this happened to anyone else? and Am I simply a terrible person?

It turns out, there are different ways to manage (and perceive) a breakup. Some lead to devastating mourning periods mixed with pain that lasts for years, while others make the pain a little easier to take.

How to Have a Terrible Breakup.

“I am unloveable”

There are usually a few reasons behind a ... Read more »

3 Secrets for Living a Happy Life

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Almost anyone would tell you that happiness is a crucial part of life, but unfortunately, it’s a concept that is hard to accurately study and measure. Luckily, researchers at Harvard have been trying to tackle that challenge, by exploring data in the Harvard Study of Adult Development for the past 75 years. Last year, Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, the director of the study, discussed three crucial findings to the secret of happiness in a new TED talk.

Waldinger begins his presentation by asking, “If you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and your energy?” Although many common goals are to obtain money or fame, according to the study – the longest ever study on human development to date, it is good relationships that keep us happier and healthier.

Overall, the study found three big lessons about relationships.  

Connections are healing, while loneliness is toxic.

People who are connected to family, friends, and their communities lead longer and more healthy lives. In contrast, people who are more isolated than they want to ... Read more »

5 Foundations of Morality

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The majority of us could probably name at least one or two things that you would immediately recognize as hurting a relationship.  And many of us would probably name most of the same things: once you are married, you aren’t supposed to have sex with anyone but your spouse, don’t abuse your partner, and don’t start dating someone else until you have actually ended another relationship.

But have you ever done something that you didn’t think would be a problem, or maybe even thought it would help the relationship, and your partner reacted like you had done one of the worst things possible?

When it comes to how we behave in a relationship, we may find that there are no clear social rules about what is or is not acceptable.  In one relationship, giving someone of the opposite sex a ride to school or work would be just fine, but in another your partner may turn into a jealous monster who wrecks your car and threatens the other person.  This lack of rules can often make relationships confusing and unpredictable.

According to ... Read more »

Time to Take Off the Mask

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When it comes to looking for jobs, many of us are familiar with the importance of power.  When applying for a job, who has the power?  The employer.  They are the ones who decide whether or not they will look at our application, if they will interview us, and ultimately if they want to hire us. For those of us applying, we can only hope that something about our application stands out.

Because of this, we may often feel the need to hide who we really are on our application.  Maybe we try to anticipate what the employer is looking for and word our answers to questions accordingly. Maybe we try to put a positive spin on previous jobs to match the job we are applying for.

In relationships, we may experience something similar.  If we think our partner has all the power for making decisions in our relationship, is it possible we pretend to be something we’re not because we want our partner to choose us?  If so, will this help or hurt our relationship?

Clifton Oyamot of San Jose State, ... Read more »

What You’re Still Missing About Empathy

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Today’s post is inspired by Dr. Brene Brown’s work on empathy.  Empathy, as she states in the video above, is feeling with people.   Sympathy, on the other hand, is feeling sorry for people.  Empathy connects.  Sympathy disconnects.  Empathy says, “I know what that feels like, or at least I’m glad you told me what it feels like because I want you to know you’re not alone.  I’m here.”, whereas sympathy says, “Wow, that sounds terrible, sorry you have to deal with that!” (and then slowly backs away to the comfortable sphere where it doesn’t have to feel your pain with you).


Okay, so empathy is great and wonderful, but why do we care?  Because empathy requires vulnerability, and vulnerability is what connects us most to each other in this world.  We all have a need to feel connected, loved, and accepted because we’re human beings–we’re wired that way.  We’re starving for connection, and we live in a world where it’s harder and harder to connect because we’re busy hiding behind our screens.


So why does empathy require vulnerability?  After all, how hard is it to be there with ... Read more »

Why “Inside Out” is Not Just For Kids and Parents

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Inside Out Emotions

**This post will have spoilers from the movie, Inside Out, so don’t read ahead if you don’t want the ending to be ruined for you.**

There are lots of articles circulating the internet right now about how psychologists and child therapists have all been thrilled with Inside Out’s message to kids and parents.  It’s teaching kids that “big girls DO cry”, and teaching parents that their kids aren’t “giving them a hard time, they’re having a hard time”.  We at RELATE echo these messages heartily and are also exhilarated that such a mainstream, successful movie could tackle these themes so flawlessly, while staying scientifically accurate, to boot!  We have yet to come across an article, however, that highlights the crucial relationship messages Inside Out offers to adults as well, so we wanted to add our voice to the throngs of people praising Inside Out’s success.


When Riley comes back to her parents at the end of the movie after running away and finally allows sadness to take the controls and tells her parents that she’s lonely and misses her ... Read more »

What You Don’t Understand About Your “Emotionally Unavailable” Partner

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Disengaged Partner

I was at a conference this weekend where it was once again reiterated to me how impactful our attachment in our early relationships is on our current relationships.  When we talk about “attachment”, we usually mean how safe and connected we feel to our partner (or friend, or parent, etc.).  What the research has shown over the years is that our attachment style is mostly dictated by our relationship we had with our parents when we were little, but it can change as we have new relationship experiences throughout our life.  There are a few main attachment styles that I want to unpack today because I think they’re often misunderstood and this misunderstanding can cause major problems in relationships.


Secure Attachment

When you meet someone with a secure attachment style, they probably grew up with a steady flow of comfort, validation, empathy, and love from their parents and family.  These are the people who aren’t too anxious, but aren’t scared of relationships either.


Insecure Anxious Attachment

When someone has an insecure attachment style, they either exhibit avoidant or anxious behaviors to cope with this ... Read more »

How Being “Mad” is Hurting Your Relationship

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Have you ever been mad at someone and thought, “Why am I so mad at them?  They didn’t do it on purpose!” ?  When you’re mad about something, it’s easier to shut off your brain and just brood than really think about the above question.  Unfortunately, when you do this, it leaves you clueless as to why exactly you’re upset.  Before you come back with the retort, “I’m just mad because I’m mad!”, hear us out.  Anger is what we call a secondary emotion.  It’s the top of the iceberg of emotions.  This means there are primary emotions beneath it.  Because primary emotions leave us feeling more vulnerable, they quickly get covered up with some form of anger, causing us to react poorly when we feel wronged in our relationships.


For example, a wife might be mad at her husband for forgetting his phone one day because she couldn’t get ahold of him.  But a closer examination of what’s going on with her could reveal a fear of something bad happening and not being able to find him. Or maybe she’s ... Read more »