Relationship Vitality Inventory Results - Dangerously Disconnected!

You and your partner are dangerously disconnected. Resentment and contempt have likely become routine, the result of unhealed hurts that have been accumulating for awhile now. Perhaps you argue bitterly with no way to de-escalate or repair. Or perhaps, in an effort to shield yourself from the emotional intensity, you opt to shut down or withdraw. You most likely no longer view your partner as a source of comfort, and he or she has instead become a major source of distress. In your body, you may feel a tightening when your partner walks into the room, or relief when they leave. You may be physiologically overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety on the one hand, or feelings of shutdown, frequent “zoning out,” or numbness. You likely no longer experience your relationship as a source of safety, and your interactions with your partner might even cross the line into abuse. It’s time to devote some serious attention to the health of the relationship as well as that of the individuals within it. 

How To Use This Quiz Report

In the next 10 slides, I explain why each question reflects an important aspect of your relationship. I also provide curated resources and point out signs it’s time to get professional help. You can go through each slide one by one, or skip around to the questions that feel particularly pertinent to you. You can also jump down to learn more about me and my work or book a free phone consult to inquire about working with me personally. Finally, I welcome you to contact me with any feedback or questions. I’ll help in any way I can. Enjoy!

1) When one of us is in a bad mood...

  • Spending time together is soothing for both of us
  • We stay out of each other’s ways
  • It tends to put the other in a sour mood as well
  • It often escalates until one of us feels attacked or abandoned

This question assesses you and your partner’s ability to co-regulate — that is, to keep one another’s emotional and physiological states within optimum range. I also call co-regulating “mutual soothing,” and it is one of the single most important relationship skills you can learn. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed or out of control, you know just how important it is to co-regulate. The challenge with co-regulating is that negative emotional states in our partners tend to trigger negative emotional states in us. This can produce an endless cycle of distress, if we let it. If one partner’s sour mood tends to poison the well for both of you, you may benefit from reading The Gift of Co-regulating and From Correcting to Protecting. And if the concept of being a caretaker of your partner’s nervous system feels foreign to you, it may be time to get help!

2) When things begin to get heated between my partner and me...

  • We try several times to de-escalate; if that isn’t possible, we take a break
  • We get where we’re going, and may exchange choice words, but we repair easily afterwards
  • We exchange harsh words that require considerable damage control afterwards
  • The wheels come off and we both end up feeling hurt and invalidated; these hurts feel like they are accumulating

All relationships follow a natural flow of harmony, disharmony, and repair. This question assesses how good you are at recognizing and interrupting negative cycles that maintain disharmony. It also gives you an idea of how easily you repair hurtful interactions.  If pumping the brakes is a challenge for you, you might benefit from reading Terry Real’s 10 Commandments of Time Outs.  If you’d like a step-by-step guide to having a repair conversation, check out my Relationship Repair Cheatsheet. Repeatedly failing to repair is a chief source of resentment. If you feel resentment, disgust, or contempt, building up, it’s time to get help.

3) When it comes to physical touch...

  • We touch each other frequently, both sexually and non-sexually; in either case it feels safe, comforting, and/or exciting
  • We touch, usually when initiating sex; touch is appreciated but happens less often than one or both would like
  • We don’t touch much at all
  • Touch in my relationship sometimes feels off-putting or even unsafe

This question assesses the quality of physical intimacy in your relationship. Research shows that healthy partners frequently touch without the expectation of sex. This kind of touch deepens the bond, increases trust, soothes us physiologically, and actually sets the stage for more passion. Touching frequently in the absence of conflict also helps partners co-regulate or soothe one another when stressed. The options for increasing non-sexual touch are limitless, but you can find a few suggestions in this PsychologyToday article Shifting Gears. If you’re in a situation where touch is undesired or unsafe, it’s time to get professional help. 

4) When I think about my partner throughout the day...

  • It is generally positive; I feel a spark of joy when my partner crosses my mind
  • My thoughts about my partner are neutral or slightly positive, but typically revolve around “business”
  • My thoughts about my partner are generally negative; I tend to dwell on things they’ve done to upset me
  • I don’t think much about my partner when they aren’t around

This question gives you an idea of how positively you view your partner and your relationship. Research shows that partners in ailing relationships often exhibit a pattern of “Negative Sentiment Override.” Negative Sentiment Override is the tendency to view neutral or even positive experiences through a negative lens. In short, partners with this pattern don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt — the opposite of Rose-Colored Glasses! The good news is that you can deliberately work towards Positive Sentiment Override. Learn more in this article from The Gottman Institute, 3 Ways To Keep Your Relationship In The Positive Perspective. If a negative haze has set in on your relationship, it’s time to get help rebuilding fondness and admiration for one another. 

5) When I share something exciting with my partner...

  • They reciprocate and seem genuinely excited with me
  •  They respond with support, if not a little confusion
  • The response is neutral at best
  • They are likely to ignore me, belittle me, or make me feel stupid
  • I don’t share much of myself with my partner

This question shows how well your partner responds to your Bids for Connection. Research shows that partners in healthy relationships continually turn towards one another. The failed bid is the functional unit of disconnection in a relationship. If your partner repeatedly turns away (“Not now, honey”), or worse, against (“Dammit, can’t you see I’m busy!”), you’re heading for a dire situation. Bids can take many forms and are sometimes so subtle you might miss them! With practice, though, we can learn to hone our eyes to recognize the potential in these little moments — which, in a relationship, are actually the BIG moments! Read more about bids in this article from The Gottman Institute, Turn Towards Instead of Away. You may also benefit from learning about emotional responsiveness is in this article, A.R.E You There? Please understand how serious bids are for the health of your relationship! If you or your partner is in the habit of turning away or against, or you’ve given up on making bids altogether, it’s time to get some help.

6) When it comes to alone time...

  • We take space rather easily and separateness reinforces and enhances togetherness
  • One of us wants much more personal distance than the other and it becomes a struggle
  • We seem to use blow-ups as the main vehicle for creating separation between us
  •  I generally prefer to be away from my partner at this point

Balancing the need for unity with the need for autonomy is an essential relationship skill. Early in dating, unity reigns supreme, but conflict often arises later around differences in partner’s preferences for space. These preferences are linked to early learning around how safe or dangerous it is to be close or apart. Unfortunately, rather than taking ownership of our own discomfort, we tend to blame the other: “You’re smothering me!” or “You’re inconsiderate for going on that trip without me!” Arguments become the main vehicle for creating distance, but the time spent alone is consumptive, not restorative. Fortunately, it is possible to successfully navigate this relationship passage.  We learn to see that, just as breathing consists of an in-breath and an out-breath, a harmonious relationship exists in the rhythm of approach and retreat, closeness and distance, unity and autonomy, being and doing. Learn more in this PsychCentral article on togetherness and separateness.  I also recommend this 1 minute video by Katie Hendricks, The Dance Between Autonomy and Unity. If you or your partner struggle with feeling abandoned or absorbed, it’s time to get help resolving these feelings so you can enjoy the dance.

7) Upon reuniting at the end of the day, my partner and I typically...

  • Have a meaningful way to reconnect that feels comforting for both of us
  • Briefly exchange pleasantries before retreating to separate corners of the house
  • Immediately dump on one other about what did and did not get done
  • I do not look forward to reuniting

This question gives you an idea of how well you and your partner use rituals to strengthen security in your relationship. The term “ritual” may sound overblown, but it merely refers to a reliable interaction that has shared meaning for both of you.  Rituals often develop naturally, but you may need to be more deliberate as life gets more complex. A good ritual will promote safety, comfort, and physiological soothing. Over time, rituals will deepen the bond between partners. Some quick tips for rituals include: developing a “welcome home routine;” hugging for 30 seconds to relax; and having a “stress reducing conversation.” For more suggestions, check out 7 Daily Rituals Couples Use To Cultivate Lasting Love. Research shows that emotional distance is a bigger relationship killer than conflict. If you and your partner lack reliable ways to connect on a daily basis, reach out for professional help to get back on track.

8) My view of my partner...

  • Continues to deepen and become more nuanced as time goes on
  • Is fairly positive, but I feel like I know all there is to know
  • Is declining as time goes on
  • I don’t have much respect, fondness, and/or admiration for my partner at this point

This question gives you an idea of how your view of your partner has evolved as you’ve learned more about them. We tend to hold our partners in high esteem early on — we have the powerful neurochemicals of infatuation to thank for that! But while we may experience a deep level of soul recognition the moment we meet, we cannot possibly know everything. We exist in a state of loving without knowing.

As the relationship progresses, we often find that the things that first attracted us now annoy us! We begin to see our partners, warts and all, we move into a state of knowing without loving. The great refrain of this phase is: “I didn’t sign up for this!” Mature love, however, is a knowing love. (Remember that intimacy really means into-me-see!) The refrain of this final stage of love is “to know me is to love me.” To learn more about stages of relationship, check out I Don’t Love My Spouse Anymore: The 3 Relationship Stages. And if you’re having trouble accepting certain aspects of your partner, get help!

9) When I express fear, sadness, or disappointment...

  • My partner is generally comforting, even if they are the “source” of my distress
  • My partner is comforting but only if the distress is from a source outside the relationship
  •  They listen, but it doesn’t feel like they really “get it”
  • My partner meets these feelings with blame, criticism, defensiveness, dismissiveness, or withdrawal and we begin to spiral
  • I don’t feel safe expressing these tender parts of myself; I’d rather show these parts of myself to someone else

A healthy committed relationship is a safe haven from the world, providing comfort through the vicissitudes of life. But while partners must take care to insulate one another from outside forces, they must also become masters of responding to one another during distress that comes from within the relationship. Research shows that there are two pivotal moments where a relationship either moves towards deepening and healing, or further into disconnection and alienation: 1) One partner realizes safe emotional communication has been lost and voices it; 2) The other partner turns towards them to respond and soothe the distress. If your relationship is no longer a safe harbor, or worse, a source of active distress, it may be time to get help. For more on cultivating safety and security in your relationship, check out 10 Tips For A Strong Vibrant Relationship by Dr. Sue Johnson.

10) In general, my relationship leaves me feeling...

  •  Infused with energy, vitality, and aliveness
  • Generally better off than being alone
  • Stifled or constrained; worried or anxious
  • Confused and out of control

At their finest, relationships can be about giving and receiving the maximum amount of positive energy. Unharmonious relationships are characterized by energetic blocks created by broken agreements, unexpressed thoughts or feelings, and projections from the past. We may divert our positive energy, putting it instead into needing to be right, or to establishing ourselves as the victim in every argument. Energy can also be released explosively in an addictive dance of contempt and blame, creating intimidation, fear, and chaos. Thinking in terms of energy may sound woo-woo, but trust me that there is plenty of science to back it up! Besides, is there anything more fundamental to survival than the protection of energy?

 We can decide consciously that a relationship will be about exchanging positive energy, rather than about burning it in power struggles, mutual suffering, and replaying old hurts. And we can open up other channels so that positive energy flows into the relationship through us. Some quick tips include: Learning to feel and express feelings; Removing barriers to speaking and hearing the truth; Giving and receiving touch; Working on personal growth; Establishing firm intentions; and Healing through Movement. For a quick primer on relationships and energy, I love this short 1 minute video by Katie Hendricks, Unleashing Co-Creative Energy. If your relationship is an energy sink rather than an energy spring, get help getting your reactor back online.

Thank You and Hello!

Thank you for taking the time to take my quiz. My name is Hayden Lindsey, and I am a relationship therapist based in Austin, TX. My goal was to give you a unique, insightful, and informative look at your relationship. I hope you discovered at least one helpful thing to take home with you. Feel free to bookmark this page and revisit the resources!

If your score was lower than you might have liked it to be, don’t fret; I believe great relationships are built brick by brick, and I believe anyone can learn the tools needed to cultivate the intimacy they desire. What I have shared with you today is just a fraction of what I’ve learned over the last 15 years of studying relationships. I am happy to help you any way I can.

I love connecting and hearing the stories of real people. If you have any feedback about the quiz, or want to share anything you found particularly helpful, please feel free to reach out. You can also read more about me and my work below. Finally, if you think you might be interested in working with me as an individual or a couple, visit my scheduling page to set up a free phone consult. If I can’t help you, I’ll work with you to find someone who can.

I believe life is a spiritual journey that is given meaning through relationships. I am passionate about helping people reconnect with themselves, their bodies, their hearts, and their loved ones. When you choose to do your own healing to grow in love, you become a Relational Hero. This is how we change the world — one relationship at a time.

With kindness and compassion,

Hayden

Hello! I’m Hayden.

Have you ever felt that love is just too darn hard? I’ve certainly been there, and it’s no fun. In fact, it’s downright miserable!

As a relationship therapist, I’ve discovered that most of us simply don’t learn how to cultivate great connections. On the contrary, a lot of what we are taught sets us up for pain and frustration. As if that weren’t enough, we internalize our “failures.” Lacking means to tend to the heart of our relationships, we don’t just feel unloved, we feel unloveable. This, I believe, is one of the great tragedies of our time.

 After nearly a decade and a half of studying relationships, I am more convinced than ever that it doesn’t have to be this way. You absolutely CAN get the love you want , and it may be easier than you think. There are a thousand ways to shut love out, but only a few secrets to letting more love in. All you have to do is learn them and how to use them properly.

If you’re ready to stop the pattern of tension and heartbreak, I am here to help. Together, we will uncover the hidden reasons you’re lacking closeness in your life, and unlock your innate capacity for joy and love. I know you have it in you. I’m ready when you are!

Hayden Lindsey, M.S., Licensed Professional Counselor
AUSTIN, TX

I am trained in a variety of modalities that I integrate to create the best treatment plan for you and/or your relationship. These include Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Relational Life Therapy (RLT), Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT), and Gottman Couples Counseling. I also draw on somatic psychology, spiritual psychology, attachment research, polyvagal theory, trauma theory, multiculturalism, depth psychology, feminist psychology, and gender studies..

My Approach

 I view the work of therapy as equal parts recovery and discoveryI believe that no matter how withdrawn or isolated we might become, the spontaneous movement in all of us remains one towards connection and growth. As a result, I rely heavily on my clients’ hard-earned wisdom to guide our process.

At the same time, I also recognize the need we have to move beyond our current capacities, to expand our behavioral repertoires, and to “do” relationships differently. In support of this, I carefully balance nurture, guidance, and loving confrontation with a unique sense of humor and a deep appreciation for our shared humanness.

Although I cherish the therapeutic relationship, my greatest joy lies in empowering my clients to create moments of healing with important others in their everyday lives. Our sessions lay the groundwork, but the true transformation occurs when you are able to co-create different experiences with the ones you love.

What You’ll Get…

A professional who views you first and foremost as a human being, not a case or diagnosis

My personal commitment to understanding you on your terms

A collaborative effort to name problems rather than my one-sided attempt to label them

A gentle, resource-oriented approach to intense emotions

Nurture, guidance, and loving firmness as needed

Laughter! Because therapy can be fun, too

What You Won’t Get…

Diagnosed, labeled, judged, or otherwise pathologized

An emphasis on past history at the expense of the present moment

Pressure to "release emotions"

Focus on defecits or dysfunction

My theories on why you are the way you are

What makes my approach different?

I support survivors.

Many systems of therapy are based on a medical model of disease. In contrast, I understand humans to be highly adaptive creatures that learn to survive in their environment. Rather than labeling unwanted thoughts and behaviors as pathological, I see them as reflections of a survival style that has outlived its usefulness.

I emphasize solutions, not problems.

Many therapies focus on problems that can take years to fully explore. My focus is on supporting your strengths, resiliency, and resources to quickly start freeing you from self-imposed limitations. This doesn’t mean that we avoid problems, just that we don’t get stuck in them.

I honor relatedness.

Most therapies treat the individual as the fundamental unit of analysis.  I understand that we are relational beings, and that we do best when we live in authentic connectedness with others. I teach several “technologies of intimacy” to replace the distorted visions of closeness most of us absorb growing up.

I support nervous system healing.

Most talk therapies are all “in the head” and ignore the pivotal role the nervous system plays in the formation of identity. I recognize that the nervous system follows a predictable pattern of development that can be disrupted by early stress and trauma. My approach is body-inclusive and promotes the nervous system re-regulation that is necessary for healthy self-image and relationships.

I want to see you, not "figure you out."

Many therapies focus on the past in order to figure out “why you are the way you are.” I am more interested in helping you clarify how your personal and relational history affects your life and relationships in the here-and-now. I maintain a dual awareness of then and now that is anchored in the present moment.
Whether you are seeing me individually or with your partner, my goal is to assist you in bringing the best and most beautiful parts of you to the fore. Doing so might mean getting our hands dirty! (Think panning for gold.) I don’t mind getting down in the muck of life with you because I know all of your experiences, properly held, can be transformed into something of value. Things like grief and loss, missteps and failure, even trauma and abuse can be spun into wisdom, clarity, compassion, purpose, and love. 

Premarital Counseling

Thinking of tying the knot? I help couples solve practical problems while creating a unique vision for married life.

Infidelity Counseling

Was your trust broken by a betrayal or affair? I help individuals and couples weather some of their toughest storms.

Sexual Intimacy Counseling

Whether you have a specific issue with a partner or just want to explore  sexual concerns with a trusted professional,  I can help.

Trauma, Grief, & Loss

When loving together, losing together is inevitable.  I help couples hold fast in the aftermath of life’s greatest challenges.