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Mar 10

How Remarriage Affects Children


By Amy Bellows, PhD
When a remarriage occurs with children, it is a safe assumption that there will be some level of difficulty with their adjustment. The intensity of this adjustment period can vary greatly based on the child’s personality, divorce/custody circumstances and also the child’s age.

Here are a few things to consider about their age when you remarry with children:

Preschoolers (Ages 2-5)

Changes at this young age can be simpler for many families due to the fact that they may not remember the previous family structure and they may be more open to new people entering their life. It’s important to understand that the changes for kids this age may cause confusion. Lifelong changes such as divorce and remarriage be difficult to grasp since most young children have a hard time understanding permanent change. They may struggle with the idea that their parents will not be getting back together and they may internalize guilt, such as believing that their parent left because they did something ‘bad’.

Keeping an eye on their behavior and maintaining a sensitivity to their thoughts and feelings will help them to adjust to the new household. You may find yourself repeating the same reassurances many times with preschoolers who have fears of abandonment or guilt. Children at this age can also benefit from giving verbal assurance that they are allowed to love their step-parent and step-siblings.

Elementary School (Ages 6-10)

Just like with preschoolers, many elementary school children will carry thoughts and feelings of guilt over the divorce or creating relationships with their new step-relatives. Repeated verbal reassurance is key to helping them work through these emotions. Behavior changes may be seen such as poor grades or arguments with friends. These changes can signal emotions that they are trying to work through such as sadness over the divorce, coming to terms with the new family structure or guilt. Giving these children choices during a time when they may feel powerless can help them in their adjustment. Age appropriate choices such as hairstyle, clothes or room décor can give them areas of freedom to express themselves.

It’s important to maintain boundaries and rules during these choices – such as following school dress codes and maintaining healthy parent / child boundaries. It’s also important to remember that even if children do not verbally acknowledge the grieving process, they may be dealing with the lost illusion that their parents will someday reunite or from other areas of loss such as a reduced amount of attention from the parent. To help your children cope with these wide range of emotions it’s important to keep lines of communication open and to be understanding of their sense of loss.

Preteens (Ages 11-12)

This is the time period that generally has the highest potential for conflict in step-families. Research has shown that the hardest time period for children to adjust to remarriage is between the ages of 10-14. This is due to all of the changes a child is already working through emotionally and physically. Major adjustments to their home life can cause them to feel that they do not have a safe and consistent place to turn.

Children in the preteen years are starting to pull away in order to gain independence and to identify themselves in a new light. Preteen resentment towards authority figures is a normal occurrence in families, but this resentment can be intensified in stepfamilies. The stepparent will be the easiest target for this resentment because the child is less likely to fear rejection from them and there usually isn’t an underlining layer of unconditional love or a long relationship to lean on.

While children in this age group do need freedom to begin exploring their independence, they also need assurance of support and understanding. Forcing kids this age into situations they are uncomfortable with can cause push back so it is recommended to give them freedom of choice in safe areas. As a stepparent it can initially feel that you should back away at this time to get out of the line of fire, but Psychologist Carl Pickhardt advises the opposite reaction. He suggests that the stepparent/stepchild relationship needs more contact and time alone to grow and enforce the existing relationship. Additional time to communicate and to create positive memories can help to reduce overall conflict.

Teens (Ages 13-18)

With teens starting to understand and becoming more aware of their own sexuality and independence, seeing their parent form a romantic relationships can cause then to feel uncomfortable. Simple acts of affection may conflicts with the views they have held about their parents.

The act of bringing in a new partner and adjusting roles in the home may also result in the teenagers responsibilities or freedoms changing. New rules and adjusted boundaries can cause resentment. The level of discomfort with the roles changes will vary based on the closeness of the relationship they previously had with their parent, changes in parenting strategies and whether or not step-siblings are present. Decisions that teens may have previously been involved in now may change to include only the parent and step-parent. This can cause the child to hold anger towards their step-parent and it may cause resentment over the marriage as a whole.

Some children may choose to spend more time with the non-custodial parent during this time of transition so that they can adjust to the changes in a slower manner. Having flexibility with your teenager while they adjust to their new role and surroundings is important and can help reduce tension. Recent studies have shown that children over the age of 15 are generally not as involved with the step-family due to the lower level of active parenting they require and their likelihood of being more externally focused towards their peers. This can result in the relationship with the step-parent being more distant.

While each age has it’s own potential for conflict, understanding the unique challenges and the strengths of each age can help you to plan for the road ahead.

By Rick Nauert PhD

A new study examined the sexual satisfaction — or dissatisfaction — of heterosexual couples in long-term relationships. Researchers discovered sexually satisfied couples use a variety of methods to keep sexual passion alive.

The study is one of the largest studies to date to scientifically examine what contributes to a satisfying long-term sex life. Researchers discovered foreplay, setting the mood, mixing it up, and expressing love are all factors that satisfied couples said they do regularly.

“Sexual satisfaction and maintenance of passion were higher among people who had sex more frequently, received more oral sex, had more consistent orgasms, incorporated more variety of sexual acts, took the time to set a mood, and practiced effective sexual communication,” said David Frederick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University and lead author of the study.

“Almost half of satisfied and dissatisfied couples read sexual self-help books and magazine articles, but what set sexually satisfied couples apart was that they actually tried some of the ideas.”

To gauge sexual satisfaction over time, couples were asked to rate their sex satisfaction in the first six months together and then rate it for now. Dr. Frederick’s team learned that the overwhelming majority (83 percent) of people reported they were sexually satisfied in the first six months of the relationship.

Only half of people, however, reported currently being satisfied (43 percent of men and 55 percent of women), with the rest feeling neutral (16 percent of men and 18 percent of women), or dissatisfied (41 percent of men and 27 percent of women).

Another set of items addressed whether respondents believed their sexual passion was the same, less, or better now than early in their relationship.

“We looked at common romantic and sexual behaviors that are rarely assessed in the literature but are likely important contributors to sexual satisfaction,” said Dr. Frederick.

“For example, while sexual variety is deemed important for sexual satisfaction, evidence on the effectiveness of specific forms of variety — such as showering together or wearing lingerie, or use of sex toys — is lacking.”

Specifically, the research team found that sexually satisfied men and women engaged in more intimate behaviors, such as cuddling, gentle and deep kissing, and laughing together during sexual activity. Partners also incorporated more acts of sexual variety such as trying new sexual positions or acting out fantasies more frequently. Additional tactics to improve satisfaction included setting a romantic or sexual mood such as lighting candles or playing music, and using communication effectively, such as saying “I love you” during sex or sending a teasing text earlier in the day.

Researchers also found that sexually satisfied men and women gave and received more oral sex, orgasmed more frequently, and had sex more frequently.

Some key findings of the research included:

Satisfied men and women were more likely to report that their last sexual encounter with their partner was “passionate,” “loving and tender,” or “playful”. Nearly half of sexually dissatisfied women (43 percent) said that they were “just going through the motions for my partner’s sake” compared to only 13 percent of sexually dissatisfied men during their last sexual encounter. Few people reported feeling pressured into sex by their partner (two to three percent).
About half of satisfied men (49 percent) and women (45 percent) reported their last sexual encounter lasted more than 30 minutes, compared to only 26 percent of dissatisfied men and 19 percent of dissatisfied women.
Satisfied men and women were more likely than dissatisfied men and women to say they: tried a new sexual position, wore sexy lingerie, took a shower or bath together, talked about or acted out fantasies, gave or had a massage, went on a romantic getaway, tried anal stimulation, made a date night to have sex, or used a sex toy together.
Feeling desired by their partners appears to be more of a problem for men than for women. Only 59 percent of men compared to 42 percent of women reported they felt less desired by their partner now than in the beginning. In contrast, two-thirds of men compared with half of women reported feeling as much desire, or more desire, for their partner now as in the beginning of the relationship.
Most men and women reported feeling the same or more emotional closeness during sex now than in the first six months of their relationship (69 percent of men and 72 percent of women). Less than half of dissatisfied men and women, however, felt this way.
Dr. Janet Lever, a co-author on the study, stated “It was encouraging to learn that more than one-third of couples kept passion alive, even after a decade or two together. That won’t happen on auto pilot; these couples made a conscious effort to ward off routinization of sex.”

The study, called, What Keeps Passion Alive? Sexual Satisfaction is Associated with Sexual Communication, Mood Setting, Sexual Variety, Oral Sex, Orgasm, and Sex Frequency in a National U.S. Study, appears in the The Journal of Sex Research.

Researchers examined more than 38,747 married or cohabiting heterosexual men and women in the U.S. who had been with their partner for at least three years. The average age of the sample was 40 years old for women and 46 years old for men.

Source: Chapman University

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Happy Marriage MythsThere are many myths about what a healthy marriage looks and feels like. When we start seeing these myths as facts, we get into problematic territory. Many myths create unrealistic standards, which when we bring into our homes and apply to our relationship can hinder them. For instance, if you think you should only attend therapy when your problems are dire, you might be waiting way too long.

Below, Lena Aburdene Derhally, MS, LPC, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, shared three myths and the associated facts, along with several practical tips.

Myth: Our problems are too minor for counseling

Many of the couples Derhally sees feel shameful about going to therapy because their friends say that it means they shouldn’t be together or they’re a lost cause. But Derhally is actually a big proponent of attending therapy or a workshop early on in your relationship when issues are still minor. For instance, you might attend premarital counseling.

Most of the unmarried couples she sees find that their issues can be resolved. And when they work through them before getting married, they create a strong foundation and a renewed bond, said Derhally, a certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Washington, D.C.

“[N]o one in life teaches us how to be in a relationship, what contributes to relationship dynamics or conflict, and effective communication skills for couples.” Even couples who have good relationship skills will come in for a maintenance session or to reconnect, she said.

That’s because minor issues can evolve into big problems. “Problems in marriages can arise when we keep things under the surface for a long time because they don’t feel like something egregious or a big deal.” Addressing those feelings and concerns stops them from metastasizing.

What issues do couples typically work through? According to Derhally, these might include anything from resolving conflict in a peaceful way to appreciating each other’s differences (“instead of being triggered by them”).

When is a good time to seek therapy? For instance, seek therapy when you have trouble communicating with your partner, you keep having the same argument without any resolution, or you feel disconnected from your partner, Derhally said.

Myth: Monotony is bad for my relationship

We often hear in the media that monotony is bad for a marriage. We’re told that we must keep things fresh and exciting or our relationship will be doomed.

But while it’s important to spice things up, Derhally said, it’s more important to appreciate our spouse in the everyday. “Routines and predictability also bring a level of safety and stability in times when everything else seems chaotic.” Feeling safe and trusting our spouses are important for a healthy relationship. Plus, it’s simply impossible to sustain excitement in a relationship all the time, she said.

How can you appreciate your partner? “It may sound morbid but I tell people to try to picture your life without this person. What would your life look like and what would you really miss?” Derhally also suggested focusing on your spouse’s positives and on the good your partner brings into your life versus the negative and what your spouse isn’t doing.

Myth: I have to put my spouse first. Always.

Derhally frequently hears people say that a successful marriage involves putting your spouse first and foremost. “While it is true that your partner should be a top priority, to think that your partner will and should always be your number one partner is unrealistic.” She shared this example: You have very young children whose needs have to come first (since they can’t care for themselves). Or you have a sick parent who requires your care and attention.

Instead Derhally suggested thinking about it this way: “Your partner should always be one of your top priorities.” Maybe your spouse is “equal to the needs of the children, and sometimes external factors require your partner to be present for someone else.” The key is for couples to come back to each other and reconnect regularly.

For more, read Derhally’s piece, a response to this viral article about “how American parenting is killing the American marriage.”

“If we accept the reality that relationships can sometimes be boring, sometimes be monotonous [and] that life will throw us curveballs [which won’t] always allow our spouse to put us first…, we can find the beauty in imperfections in our relationships,” Derhally said. Because relationships are messy, and they don’t necessarily follow smooth paths. And we can refocus on the strength of our bond, she said.

Nov 20

5 Hidden Relationship Killers


By Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.
We all know about the obvious things that cause relationships to go downhill, such as cheating, lying or domestic violence. However, often these are only the surface things and are easily seen. Below the surface are the problems less visible but at the same time much more crucial to bad relationships. These are the things that later erupt in cheating or other more prominent problems. Here are a few of them.

1 – Disrespect. Disrespect stays beneath the surface because sometimes it is so subtle that the person who is doing the disrespecting and the person disrespected are both unaware of it. One way of doing this is for one member of the couple to harp on the other’s faults in the guise of trying to help the other improve. The Disrespectful member may have grown up in a family that reinforced his or her criticizing nature and made them believe justified in doing so. The criticized member may have grown up in a family that was also critical, so that this member was reinforced to accept criticism as deserved.

People who are being disrespectful are seldom aware of it, and if they are asked if they respect their partner they quickly reply, “Of course I respect you.” However, even though these roles seem natural, unconscious guilt by one and resentment by the other will build up and may lead to acting out such as cheating, lying or other abusive behavior.

2 – Lack of Empathy. In order for a relationship to truly work, both partners must have empathy for each other. Both must be able to put themselves in the other’s shoes, even in the bleakest of circumstances. Oftentimes couples mistake pity for empathy. They feel sorry that their other half has problems, but they secretly feel that are above such problems. Hence their pity is linked with condescension.

Mother Teresa in India, who spent her life ministering to the needs of all who came to her–banker, beggar or thief—exuded empathy. Most of us can only empathize to a degree. If, for example, one partner doesn’t want to have sex, the other partner can either be mad or be empathic. Empathic understanding about why the partner refuses sex, what they are feeling, and what you may have contributed to the situation will go a long way.

3 – Disinterest. Sometimes couples can gradually become disinterested in each other. This may be due to various things. For instance, their values may be different. One may value money and status, while the other may be passionate about literature and the arts. Or one person might be obsessed with what he or she is doing and be completely disinterested in what the other is up to, leaving the other to roil in hidden or not so hidden resentment. In such cases they will become an alienated couple that may then go into an appeasing mode.

There is nothing that can kill a relationship faster than disinterest. The resentful party may complain, “You’re only interested in yourself,” and the other partner will deny it, saying, “That’s not true, I’m very interested. How can you say that?” This only compounds the difficulty.

4 – Joking. Joking can sometimes be a positive thing that creates closeness, as when couples enjoy the same kinds of humor. However sometimes one or the other uses joking as a way to deflect or disguise a negative attitude toward the other person. For example, one person might say, “Maybe you need to get a life!” and then add, “I’m just joking.” This is not taken by the other as a joke; such relationships where one is jokingly picking on the other can go on for years.

I’ve had people in group therapy who always have a smile on their faces, even when they are expressing anger, as if to say, “I’m angry but don’t take it seriously.” They are afraid to be honest about expressing their anger, so they are in fact being dishonest about it to themselves and the other. When jokes hide unconscious anger, they can become toxic to a relationship.

5 – Pretending. Sometimes couples have gradually stopped loving one another, and when they do it is almost a natural reflex to pretend that love is still there. This often happens to married couples after some years. They still say they love each other and perform acts designed to show their love, such as giving gifts or cooking special meals. They also convince themselves that they still love each other.

The unconscious nature of this shift from true love to pretended love is gradual and subtle, so sometimes it never gets talked about. Instead the pretense continues and the partners may become bored with one another and seek other interests or pastimes to gratify their needs for love. Hence pretending can lay the foundation for later cheating. The cheating or some other outbreak will abruptly make the couple aware that there is a problem in the relationship that prevents them from loving.

Nov 18

By Rick Nauert PhD

An interdisciplinary team has developed a computer algorithm that can predict, with high levels of accuracy, if your relationship with your spouse will improve or deteriorate.

University of Southern California researchers say the software is 79 percent accurate. In fact, the algorithm did a better job of predicting marital success of couples with serious marital issues than descriptions of the therapy sessions provided by relationship experts.

Study results are reported in the journal Proceedings of Interspeech.

Researchers recorded hundreds of conversations from more than 100 couples taken during marriage therapy sessions over two years, and then tracked their marital status for five years. Drs. Shrikanth Narayanan and Panayiotis Georgiou of the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering with doctoral student M.D. Nasir and collaborator Dr. Brian Baucom of University of Utah lead the research effort.

From the data gathered, investigators then developed an algorithm that broke the recordings into acoustic features using speech-processing techniques. These included pitch, intensity, “jitter” and “shimmer” among many; things like tracking warbles in the voice that can indicate moments of high emotion.

“What you say is not the only thing that matters, it’s very important how you say it. Our study confirms that it holds for a couple’s relationship as well,” Nasir said.

Taken together, the vocal acoustic features offered the team’s program a proxy for the subject’s communicative state, and the changes to that state over the course of a single therapy and across therapy sessions.

The innovative research looked at vocal patterns and inflections over time.

That is, the vocal signatures were not analyzed in isolation; rather, the impact of one partner upon the other and the vocal tone was studied over multiple therapy sessions.

“It’s not just about studying your emotions,” Narayanan said. “It’s about studying the impact of what your partner says on your emotions.”

“Looking at one instance of a couple’s behavior limits our observational power,” Georgiou said.

“However, looking at multiple points in time and looking at both the individuals and the dynamics of the dyad can help identify trajectories of the their relationship. Sometimes those are for the best or sometimes they are towards relationship deterioration.”

The power of such methods is to help identify how domain experts can better advise couples towards improved relationships, Georgiou said.

“Psychological practitioners and researchers have long known that the way that partners talk about and discuss problems has important implications for the health of their relationships. However, the lack of efficient and reliable tools for measuring the important elements in those conversations has been a major impediment in their widespread clinical use.

“These findings represent a major step forward in making objective measurement of behavior practical and feasible for couple therapists,” Baucom said.

Once it was fine-tuned, the program was then tested against behavioral analyses made by human experts who studied the couples. Those behavioral codes (positive qualities like “acceptance” or negative qualities like “blame”).

The team found that studying voice directly — rather than the expert-created behavioral codes — offered a more accurate glimpse at a couple’s future.

Researchers now plan to use behavioral signal processing — a framework for computationally understanding human behavior — to improve the prediction of how effective treatments will be.

This will entail the analysis of how language (e.g., spoken words) and nonverbal information (e.g., body language) influence the effectiveness of therapy.

Source: University of Southern California/EurekAlert

Oct 2

Getting Over Relationship Insecurity


“She isn’t attracted to me anymore. She never acts as excited to see me when I come home. Why can’t it just be like it was in the beginning?” My friend has just entered into the first of two common phases of relationship insecurity: rhetorical questioning. The internal investigation continues with, “She takes forever to answer my texts. Doesn’t she miss me when I’m gone? She used to always laugh at my jokes. Do you think she’s interested in someone else?”
Then comes phase two: turning on himself, “It’s because I’m losing my looks. I’m away too often. She doesn’t think I’m fun anymore. I can’t make her happy. There’s something wrong with me. She wants someone better.”
We’ve all most likely been at one or the other ends of this scenario; we’ve either been the worrier or been with the worrier. Chances are, we’ve actually experienced both. Insecurity, as most of us know firsthand, can be toxic to our closest relationships. And while it can bounce back and forth from partner to partner, both the cause of our insecurity and its cure reside in us alone.
Unsurprisingly, studies have found that people with low self-esteem have more relationship insecurities, which can prevent them from experiencing the benefits of a loving relationship. People with low self-esteem not only want their partner to see them in a better light than they see themselves, but in moments of self-doubt, they have trouble even recognizing their partner’s affirmations. Moreover, the very acting out of our insecurities can push our partner away, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because this struggle is so internal and most of the time even independent of circumstances, it’s important to deal with our insecurities without distorting or dragging our partner into them. We can do this by taking two steps 1. Uncovering the real roots of our insecurity and 2. Challenging the inner critic that sabotages our relationship.
1. Where does our insecurity come from?
Nothing awakens distant hurts like a close relationship. Our relationships stir up old feelings from our past more than anything else. Our brains are even flooded with the same neurochemical in both situations.
We all have working models for relationships that were formed in our early attachments to influential caretakers. Whatever our early pattern was shapes our adult relationships, a subject I address in more detail in the blog “How Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Relationship.” Our style of attachment influences which partners we choose and the dynamics that play out in our relationships. A secure attachment pattern helps a person to be more confident and self-possessed. However, when someone has an anxious or preoccupied attachment style, they may be more likely to feel insecure toward their partner.
Knowing our attachment style is beneficial, because it can help us to realize ways we may be recreating a dynamic from our past. It can help us to choose better partners and form healthier relationships, which can actually, in turn, change our attachment style. Finally, it can make us more aware of how our feelings of insecurity may be misplaced, based on something old as opposed to our current situation.
Our insecurities can further stem from a “critical inner voice” that we’ve internalized based on negative programming from our past. If we had a parent who hated themselves, for example, or who directed critical attitudes toward us, we tend to internalize this point of view and carry it with us like a cruel coach inside our heads. This inner critic tends to be very vocal about the things that really matter to us, like our relationships. Take the example of my friend, mentioned above. First the critical inner voice fueled doubts about his girlfriend’s interest in him, then it turned on him. The second he perceived the situation through the filter of his critical inner voice, which told him his girlfriend was pulling away, his mind flooded with terrible thoughts toward himself. One minute, he was just fine. The next minute, he was listening to an inner voice telling him all the ways he couldn’t measure up, that he was being rejected.
Relationships shake us up. They challenge core feelings we have about ourselves and evict us from long-lived-in comfort zones. They tend to turn up the volume of our inner voice and reopen unresolved wounds from our past. If we felt abandoned as a child, the aloof behavior of a romantic partner won’t just feel like a current frustration. It has the potential to send us back into the emotional state of a terrified child, who needed our parent for survival. As hard as it may feel to connect our contemporary reactions with beliefs, attitudes and experiences from our early lives, it is an invaluable tool for getting to know ourselves, and ultimately, for challenging behaviors that don’t serve us or even fit with our real, adult life.
2. How to Deal With Relationship Insecurity
In order to challenge our insecurity, we have to first get to know our critical inner voice. We should try to catch it each and every time is creeps into our minds. Sometimes, it may be easy. We’re getting dressed to go out on a date, and it screeches, “You look awful! You’re so fat. Just cover yourself up. He’ll never be attracted to you.” Other times, it’ll be more sneaky, even soothing sounding, “Just keep to yourself. Don’t invest or show her how you feel, and you won’t get hurt.” This voice can even turn on our partner in ways that make us feel more insecure, “You can’t trust him. He’s probably cheating on you!” Identifying this critical inner voice is the first step to challenging it. Here you can learn specific steps you can take to conquer this inner critic and keep it from infiltrating your love life.
As we start to challenge these negative attitudes toward ourselves, we must also make an effort to take actions that go against the directives of our critical inner voice. In terms of a relationship, that means not acting out based on unwarranted insecurities or acting in any ways we don’t respect. Here are some helpful steps to take:
Maintain your independence. It’s crucial to keep a sense of ourselves separate from our partner. As Dr. Daniel Siegel has said, the goal for a relationship should be to make a fruit salad and not a smoothie. In other words, we shouldn’t forego essential parts of who we are in order to become merged into a couple. Instead, each of us should work to maintain the unique aspects of ourselves that attracted us to each other in the first place, even as we move closer. In this way, each of us can hold strong, knowing that we are a whole person in and of ourselves.
Don’t act out no matter how anxious you are. Of course, this is easier said then done, but we all know our insecurities can precipitate some pretty destructive behavior. Acts of jealousy or possessiveness can hurt our partner, not to mention us. Snooping through their text messages, calling every few minutes to see where they are, getting mad every time they look at another attractive person – these are all acts that we can avoid no matter how anxious it makes us, and in the end, we will feel much stronger and more trusting. Even more importantly, we will be trustworthy.
Because we can only change our half of the dynamic, it’s always valuable to think about if there are any actions we take that push our partner away. If we’re acting in a way we respect, and we still don’t feel like we’re getting what we want, we can make a conscious decision to talk about it with our partner or change the situation, but we never have to feel victimized or allow ourselves to act in ways that we don’t respect.
Don’t seek reassurance. Looking to our partner to reassure us when we feel insecure only leads to more insecurities. Remember, these attitudes come from inside us, and unless we can overcome them within ourselves, it won’t matter how smart, sexy, worthy or attractive our partner tells us we are. No matter what, we must strive to feel okay within ourselves. This means really and fully accepting the love and affection our partner directs toward us. However, it doesn’t mean looking to our partner at every turn for reassurance to prove we are okay, a burden that weighs on our partner and detracts from ourselves.
Stop measuring. It’s important not to constantly evaluate or assess our partner’s every move. We have to accept that our partner is a separate person with a sovereign mind. We won’t always see things the same way or express our love in the same way. This doesn’t mean we should settle for someone who doesn’t offer us what we want in a relationship, but when we do find someone who we value and love, we should try not to enter into a tit-for-tat mentality in which we continuously measure who owes who what and when.
A relationship should be equal in terms of maturity and kindnesses exchanged. If things feel off, we can communicate clearly what we want, but we shouldn’t expect our partner to read our minds or know exactly what to do all the time. As soon as we get into the blame game, it’s a hard cycle from which to break free .
Go all in. We all have anxiety, but we can increase our tolerance for the many ambiguities that every relationship inevitably presents by being true to ourselves. We can invest in a person even when we know they have the power to hurt us. Keeping one foot out the door only keeps the relationship from becoming as close as it can and may even undermine it altogether. When we allow ourselves to be loved and to feel loving, we are bound to also feel anxious, but sticking it out has more rewards than we may imagine. When we take a chance without letting our insecurities dictate our behavior, the best case scenario is that the relationship blossoms, and the worst case is that we grow within ourselves. No time is wasted that taught us something about ourselves or that helped nourish our capacity to love and be vulnerable.

Sep 30

It’s a pretty common consensus that love takes work. Yet, 80 percent of Americans under 30 believe in a soulmate, the idea that there is one perfect person out there just waiting to be found. Even the expression “falling in love” makes it sound like love is out of our hands — that it just happens to us. Achieving long-lasting love isn’t usually easy, even when we meet the right person. However, it’s also not an endlessly laborious undertaking that takes more in struggle than it offers in pleasure. So how do we know when to give up on a relationship, and how do we know when to fight for it?
First, we should accept the reality that relationships, while in and of themselves have the potential to be fairly sweet and simple, are often made terribly complicated. When any two people with two separate minds, two separate pasts and two separate sets of baggage come together, the future will not likely be just one smooth sail into the sunset. Falling in love can be the most joyful experience in a person’s life, yet we tend to underestimate the level of fear, anxiety, sadness and even anger it can stir up, a subject I addressed in my recent blog, “7 Reasons Most People are Afraid of Love.”
In a backwards twist, these fears tend to grow even stronger the closer we get to someone else. Without knowing it, we all have defenses in us, based on hurtful past experiences, that now operate to push love away. So, when it comes to deciding when to call it quits on a relationship we once valued, the first thing we have to ask ourselves is, how much are my own defenses at work? What am I bringing to the table that could be sabotaging closeness?
When approaching the actions you should take before you opt to break up, it’s important to adopt the attitude that the only person you can truly change is yourself. You control 100 percent of your half of the dynamic. You’re not a victim in your relationship; ultimately you can always choose to move on. Playing the blame gamewill only leave you feeling powerless and going in circles. Even if you eventually decide that the relationship is not worth keeping, as long as you’re in it, you can make a practice of being the best person you can be. You can grow your own ability to love, to be open and to be vulnerable — skills that will greatly benefit you in life and in future relationships. These are skills I will elaborate on in my upcoming eCourse, “Creating Your Ideal Relationship.” And what better place to practice these relationship skills than in a relationship? With that in mind, here are five things to try before saying goodbye to your relationship.
1. Reflect on what drew you together.
We don’t always choose partners for the right reasons. Sometimes, we pick people who challenge us, who push us to grow and expand our worlds. Other times, we choose people whose defenses and negative traits fit with ours. If we tend to be passive or indecisive, for example, we may choose someone who’s pushy and domineering. These qualities that first draw us in can become the reasons we wind up falling out.
Unfortunately, that sparkly attraction we feel at the beginning isn’t always a good sign. It could be a draw that’s based on our history — a negative dynamic from our past that we subconsciously seek to perpetuate. If we were invisible in our families, for instance, we may seek a familiar scenario with a partner who doesn’t show a lot of initial interest, who doesn’t make us a priority or show his or her affections. If we had a parent who wanted to “perfect us,” we may find partners who “help us,” but we may later come to resent them for always seeing us as the problem that needs to be fixed or perfected.
While sometimes our partner selection can be off, it isn’t always to blame for a relationship’s downfall. If the attraction and excitement we felt at the beginning starts to fade, it doesn’t necessarily mean we chose the wrong person. That is why it’s so important to consider our early feelings in the relationship. If we were truly in love with someone at one point, it is possible for us to regain those feelings. We should think about what drew us to our partner and the years of shared history, in which we enjoyed activities, affection and intimacy. We can then look for the real reasons things took a turn for the worst and make a change that brings us back to those initial feelings and has a lasting impact.
2. Try breaking your routine.
One of the main reasons a relationship fails is due to the couple having entered into a “Fantasy Bond.” A Fantasy Bond is a term developed by my father, psychologist Robert Firestone, to describe an illusion of connection many couples form at some point in their relationship. A Fantasy Bond differs from real love in that sincere acts of kindness are replaced by routine, and form is favored over substance in the relationship. Couples enter into this scenario without even realizing it, as a means to feel a false sense of security, an illusion of fusion or “oneness.”
A Fantasy Bond has a “deadening” effect on a relationship, as two partners start to control each other and limit each other’s worlds. They become a “we,” while losing a sense of each of their identities as two separate individuals. Real contact and the give and take of loving exchanges are diminished. Partners take each other for granted and lose their attraction to each other. They stop supporting the unique interests and personality traits that light the other person up and make him or her who he or she is. This, in turn, creates a stale environment in the relationship, where both parties feel resentment and a lack of excitement toward each other.
There are many characteristics of a Fantasy Bond that are valuable to explore, however it is important to remember that this type of bond is not a black or white state of being. A Fantasy Bond exists along a continuum. Most couples find themselves somewhere on the spectrum, having entered into a bond to varying degrees. We can start to break free from fantasy by changing our way of relating in our relationship. A friend of mine recently adopted this strategy by deciding to take more initiative in his relationship, rather than passively going along with whatever his partner decided. He did this for himself without expecting anything from his partner. To his surprise, however, this shift in himself yielded a very positive response from his girlfriend, who appreciated him expressing himself and having a definite point of view. She became sweeter and softer in her approach to him and stopped acting as controlling in the relationship.
3. Determine if your past is impacting your present.
Often partners form a caricature of each other. They start to focus their attention on any flaws their partner has, even magnifying them and trivializing their strengths. In essence, they start to distort their partner, sometimes becoming critical of traits they once admired or found amusing. We don’t typically realize it, but our motivation for doing this again sources from our past. On an unconscious level, we often seek to recreate negative dynamics from our history. We may even provoke our partners to treat us as we were treated in our early life. We may also use old, unhealthy coping strategies in our relationships that were adaptive to our life as a child, but which no longer serve us. For example, if a parent intruded on us, we may have become introverted or kept to ourselves but these characteristics may make it hard for us to open up in our adult relationships.
Too often, we run the risk of projecting onto our partner and seeing them through a faulty filter that reflects the reality of our past. We may even provoke our partner to treat us in ways that are familiar from our childhood. To help get a hold of this, we can think about times when our partner was provoked us, then ask ourselves what we did just before that. Were we nagging, complaining, icing them or acting coldly? If we recognize the behaviors we are engaging in to recreate old dynamics, we can start to change our ways of interacting in order to get back to a much cleaner, more authentic way of relating to our partner. We can start to actually engage in loving actions and enjoy each other once again.
4. Recognize your fears of intimacy.
People often react to being loved. This has to do with the fears I talked about earlier that surround getting close to someone. When we get scared, we tend to pull away from our partner. We pick fights, become more critical, even react angrily to compliments or acts of love. More than anything, we start to withhold the traits that our partner once loved about us. We may stop being as affectionate or adventurous. We may resist engaging in activities we mutually enjoyed with our partner.
Acting against being withholding means being willing to be vulnerable. It means engaging in shared activities and putting a stop to patterns that push our partner away. Have we stopped caring about our appearance? Have we started working nonstop, failing to make our partner a priority in our lives? Think about the actions you’ve stopped taking as well as the ones you could start taking to reignite the loving feelings in your partner. When your partner does express love toward you, be accepting. Return the loving look. Don’t deflect his or her compliments. Even though it may feel hard or uncomfortable, try to accept the love directed toward you without saying or doing something that might interrupt your partner’s feelings.
5. Unilaterally disarm.
All relationships have heated moments of tension. As these moments arise more and more, and as we start to see our partner more critically, we may begin to build a case against them. This is fairly easy to do, as no person is perfect, and we can always file their mistakes into certain flaw categories. When we build a case against our partner, we tend to be set off faster, jumping on them the moment they slip up or overreacting to them. In times of stress, fights tend to escalate. We say worse and worse things to each other, things we don’t even mean. This leaves us feeling pretty lousy about ourselves and our relationship.
Instead of focusing on our partner, a highly effective technique to adopt is unilateral disarmament. That means dropping the case, taking a breath and not reacting in a heated way, no matter what our partner does or says. Try to have an open and compassionate attitude toward them and to respond with understanding. Don’t focus on correcting them or telling them what they can do to change. Instead, we should focus on taking full responsibility for our part of the dynamic. We should choose being close over being right. This attitude will often melt your partner’s heart and, regardless, will leave you feeling much better in yourself.
Whatever future your relationship holds, you will be empowered by the fact that you have the ability to change yourself. When you change and are willing to be vulnerable, your partner often softens and responds. As you do this, you should have what Dr. Dan Siegel describes as a COAL attitude toward yourself, in which you are Curious, Open, Accepting and Loving. When you love yourself, you are better equipped to act with integrity in your relationships. You become a person you respect, and you give your relationship its best chance at survival.
Learn more about Dr. Lisa Firestone’s eCourse “Creating Your Ideal Relationship: How to Find and Achieve the Love You Say You Want.”

Sep 11

Benefits of Couples Therapy After Infidelity


Although an affair is one of the most painful betrayals of trust that anyone can experience, it does not always mean the end of a relationship. Frequently, both partners hope to save the relationship and stay together despite the loss of trust and underlying problems that may have contributed to the affair.

Couples therapy can be a valuable tool to help partners work on their relationship and to reestablish trust and intimacy. It can help partners who no longer communicate in positive ways to improve their ability to share both the positive parts of their lives as well as the challenges that they face both in and out of the relationship.

Sometimes those who have been cheated on may feel that their partners are the ones who need therapy. But while an affair may be a failure and a betrayal on the part of only one partner, preserving and strengthening a relationship after an affair is the responsibility of both partners.

It should go without saying that the partners who cheated need to take responsibility for their actions. But those who have been cheated on need to be comfortable allowing their partners to identify the grievances and problems that they believe contributed to the affair. They also need to be willing to jointly address these problems in order to ensure that both partners are happier and more secure in the relationship in the future.

Success Doesn’t Always Mean Staying Together

Sometimes, success from couples therapy after an affair does not have to mean that a couple stays together. Even after therapy, the cheated on partner may come to realize that he cannot fully trust his partner again. Therapy can also help couples to realize that the underlying problems that contributed to the affair are too serious for them to be willing or able to work through.

Couples can also come to these realizations without therapy, of course, but the process of professional counseling can bring about these realizations more quickly and definitively. Counseling can help to ensure that each partner’s grievances and concerns are heard and can help the couple to create clear goals and expectations for moving forward. If the relationship still fails to recover after therapy, then couples can feel more confident calling it quits.

Another benefit that can be taken from counseling even if couples break up is a better understanding of what leads to relationship struggles and infidelity. Individuals can then take greater insight into what it takes to keep relationships going strong, as well as what can lead them to fall apart, into their future romantic partnerships.

Recognizing When Therapy Isn’t Working

Therapy is a productive process for most couples regardless of the ultimate outcome. However, there are times when therapy does not work out, and there are even times when the straying partner may be using therapy as a way to convince her partner that she intends to change when she doesn’t really mean to do so.

One warning sign that your cheating partner is not prepared to take therapy seriously is that you are doing all the legwork to make it happen. You are the one who found the therapist, you are the one who found a time that worked and you are the one who called for the appointment.

Another major warning sign is that your partner is using therapy sessions to lie or manipulate you further. If you start to feel that your partner is twisting the truth and using your sessions to make you feel guilty and to place a great deal of the blame on you, it may be time to cut your losses.

Sep 8

Talking with Children about Infidelity


By Jenna Cyprus
The recent Ashley Madison hack exposed 32 million users for their involvement with the now-famous adultery-inspired dating site. It seems like a relevant time to discuss an issue that’s frequently shoved under the rug or ignored altogether. That issue involves children and marital infidelity. While spouses are obviously greatly affected by romantic affairs, psychologists argue that children may take the brunt of the blow.

If you’ve had an extramarital affair — or your spouse has cheated on you — there are obviously personal issues to sort through. In most cases, though, couples try to keep things under wraps and avoid telling friends and family members. However, what do you do with your own children? Is your affair a secret to them and should you keep it that way? Or should you come clean and tell them what happened?

Impact on Children

Making generalizations about how individual children will respond to an unfaithful relationship between parents is challenging. However, according to a survey of more than 800 children who have once been caught in the crossfire, the following emotions are common:

Loss of trust.
Roughly 75 percent of respondents say they felt betrayed by the parent who cheated. Furthermore, 70.5 percent say their ability to trust others was affected. Around 83 percent of respondents now feel like “people regularly lie.”
Confusion is a long-term effect of parental infidelity. If the infidelity occurs when a child is young, they may grow up to believe marriage is an illusion of love — or a sham. If the parents stay married during an affair, the child may become deeply confused about the meaning of both love and marriage.
Anger is a common emotion for adolescents. This anger typically is displayed toward the betraying parent and may be accompanied by violence or sadness. If not dealt with, this anger can lead to long-term resentment.
Young children often feel shame. If the affair is a secret, they feel the weight of hiding something from the world. If the affair is public, they may feel embarrassed and different.
It’s possible that children are more likely to be unfaithful in their own relationships if they know their parents were, too. While 86.7 percent of respondents say they believe in monogamy — and 96 percent don’t believe cheating is morally right — 44.1 percent say they’ve been unfaithful themselves.
To Tell or Not to Tell?

With so much on the line, many parents are unsure of what to do. On the one hand they want to be as honest as possible with their children, but on the other they don’t want to cause long-term issues such as a lack of trust, confusion, anger, shame, and infidelity. What are you supposed to do?

According to Rick Reynolds, the founder of a website dedicated to helping couples overcome infidelity, much depends on the timing of the situation and how much knowledge children have regarding the affair. “If the infidelity is a current event and the children don’t know about it, then absolutely do not discuss it with them,” says Reynolds. “Children don’t need to be involved in their parents’ marriage.”

If young children suspect something is wrong in the marriage, you should confront the issue with as few details as possible. You may want to say something like, “I didn’t treat your mother (or father) the way I promised her I would, but I’ve apologized and it won’t happen again.”

“If they are under 10, don’t lie,” Reynolds says. That means you must be truthful when asked a direct question. Otherwise, the consequences of lying may be more damaging than exposing the infidelity. However, that still doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything. You should avoid giving details and only discuss basics. “If there was a pattern of behavior, tell them about the pattern, not how many times sexual contact occurred,” Reynolds advises. “Details, such as names, aren’t important.”

In the end, the most important thing you can do is protect your children. While it may be difficult to cooperate with your spouse in the aftermath of an affair, it’s important that both parents coordinate their efforts and take a consistent parenting approach. Nothing is more disastrous than two parents playing a blame game and putting down each other. Not only does this hurt the child’s view of marriage, but it can drudge up additional resentment.

The reality is that you can’t give a perfect response to an imperfect situation. According to psychologist Kate Scharff, “It’s inevitable. At some point your child will stump you with a loaded question to which you have no idea how to respond without lying or revealing the too-painful truth.” It’s okay to tell your child you need time to gather your thoughts. There’s too much on the line to make rash decisions.

Jul 30

Our research shows that to make a relationship last, couples must become better friends, learn to manage conflict, and create ways to support each other’s hopes for the future. Drs. John and Julie Gottman have shown how couples can accomplish this by paying attention to what they call the Sound Relationship House, or the nine components of healthy relationships. Therapists can learn the Gottman Method here, and couples can learn it here and here.

The Gottman Method for Healthy Relationships:
Gottman Method Sound Relationship House

1. Build Love Maps: How well do you know your partner’s inner psychological world, his or her history, worries, stresses, joys, and hopes?

2. Share Fondness and Admiration: The antidote for contempt, this level focuses on the amount of affection and respect within a relationship. (To strengthen fondness and admiration, express appreciation and respect.)

3. Turn Towards: State your needs, be aware of bids for connection and respond to (turn towards) them. The small moments of everyday life are actually the building blocks of relationship.

4. The Positive Perspective: The presence of a positive approach to problem-solving and the success of repair attempts.

5. Manage Conflict: We say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve” conflict, because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Understand that there is a critical difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.

6. Make Life Dreams Come True: Create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her hopes, values, convictions and aspirations.

7. Create Shared Meaning: Understand important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.

8. Trust: this is the state that occurs when a person knows that his or her partner acts and thinks to maximize that person’s best interests and benefits, not just the partner’s own interests and benefits. In other words, this means, “my partner has my back and is there for me.”

9. Commitment: This means believing (and acting on the belief) that your relationship with this person is completely your lifelong journey, for better or for worse (meaning that if it gets worse you will both work to improve it). It implies cherishing your partner’s positive qualities and nurturing gratitude by comparing the partner favorably with real or imagined others, rather than trashing the partner by magnifying negative qualities, and nurturing resentment by comparing unfavorably with real or imagined others.


Combining the knowledge and wisdom of nearly forty years of studies and clinical practice, Gottman Method Couples Therapy helps couples break through barriers to achieve greater understanding, connection and intimacy in their relationships. Through research-based interventions and exercises, it is a structured, goal-oriented, scientifically-based therapy. Intervention strategies are based upon empirical data from Dr. Gottman’s study of more than 3,000 couples. This research shows what actually works to help couples achieve a long-term healthy relationship.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy was developed out of this research to help partners:

Increase respect, affection, and closeness
Break through and resolve conflict when they feel stuck
Generate greater understanding between partners
Keep conflict discussions calm

BY: Martine Foreman
It’s unfortunate, but the world is full of people who feign happiness to keep up appearances. When you walk down the aisle and take a vow before your friends and family to stay with someone for the rest of your life, admitting that things are not working out as planned can be tough. Many would rather pretend than admit they are unhappy or that they feel stuck.

Feeling stuck is a horrible feeling. Imagine trying to find a way out of something only to realize that you simply can’t. The feeling is cumbersome to say the least. Sometimes we feel stuck and that feeling is rooted in a genuine fear for our lives. We feel stuck because we fear what may happen if we walk away. We can also feel stuck because our marriage is just not what we signed up for, but because of our vows, we just grin and bear it.

But sometimes when we feel stuck, it’s not that we need a way out. The issue can be that we need some clarity and a better way to navigate where we are. When that doesn’t happen, we feel like we are stuck in a place we don’t want to be, yet we have to be because we said we would stay there. We said “I do.”

The biggest problem with feeling stuck is that it can often lead to inaction, and that’s how we end up being unhappy. If you find yourself in an unhappy marriage and you don’t know what to do, you have to make a decision to act.

Being married should never feel like a sentence—like you are trapped with no way out. Being married, even when faced with challenges, should feel like a partnership that you learn to navigate—together. Feeling stuck is not something you should ignore. It’s no way to live.

What should you do if you feel stuck and unhappy in your marriage? Well you have to start off by asking yourself a few very important questions.

Why is this marriage different than what I expected?
Am I willing to work on this?
Did I have serious doubts about marrying this person?
What specifically makes me feel stuck?
Is my unhappiness truly about my spouse or is something else going on?
What will my life look like in 5 years if I stay in this marriage?
What will my life look like in 5 years if I end this marriage?
Am I in danger?
Do I have a support system in place?
These questions may be difficult to answer, but answering all of them honestly is critical. You have to know what’s at the root of your feelings before you can act. Acting without clarity usually leads to trouble.

If you are a situation where you feel stuck but you are in danger, please seek help from an organization like the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can call them at 1-800-799-7233.

If you are not in danger, but just feel like your situation is not what you bargained for, don’t settle silently. Take action to determine if you can improve your marriage, or if ending your marriage is the best option for both of you.

Marriages were not designed for anyone to “put up” with them. Marriage should be a partnership that adds value and joy to your life, and the last thing a marriage should make you feel is stuck.

Stay involved, don’t take sides and other tips for handling a break-up in the family

When a family is disrupted by divorce, it’s common for children to experience feelings of anger, frustration and sadness. Some children, though, resort to blame in order to cope with the new family situation, and refuse to speak to one or both parents as a result. “When a child behaves this way, it’s often because they blame you for the divorce,” says Melody Brooke, a family therapist in Richardson, Texas. Parents can combat the blame game by fostering open communication with their children who are coping with divorce.

Stay Involved

Even though your children may be giving you the cold shoulder, it’s important to stay involved in their lives and continue to show them that you care about them. Attend school events, send cards and notes, continue to call even if they won’t speak to you, and include them in all family activities, says Brooke. “The only thing you can do is continue to love and support them and be there for them even when they don’t want you to be,” she says.

Validate Feelings

An angry child needs time and support to work through these feelings. A teen who understands the complexity of relationships may feel betrayed by one or both parents during a divorce. Encourage your child to talk through these feelings with you, a trusted friend or family member or even a professional counselor. Taking the steps necessary to open the lines of communication, even if it isn’t with you, shows that you view her feelings as valid.

Keep in Contact

Every boy and girl needs a mother and a father, so it’s imperative that both parents stay in close contact with children after a divorce, even if they refuse to speak to you. “Do not allow your child not to have contact with one parent,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent.” “It is destructive to the child to have zero contact with a parent.”If the child is resisting contact with one or both parents, Walfish recommends contact with reasonable boundaries or even supervised visits. “Both parents must give permission and enforce contact with both parents,” says Walfish. “The courts decide on custody, so the only time not to allow contact is in the case of child abuse, and in those situations, the court assigns a monitor to supervise visits.”

Resist Taking Sides

When the family split is fueled by negativity and hostility, children often shift the blame to one parent and sometimes try to cease contact. Even if your child doesn’t want to speak to your ex-spouse or even you, resist the urge to fuel the blame game.

“Often, the parent who is not rejected by the child knowingly, or unknowingly, colludes with the child by saying bad things about the rejected parent,” says Walfish. “The child feels an alliance and protectiveness toward the jilted parent.” This behavior only adds fuel to the fire and can disrupt the relationship he or she needs to have with one or both parents.

Mar 25


Fix these things or get ready to say goodbye.

Well-trained marriage therapists have most likely studied the work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman. The Gottmans have done the most extensive research on marriage and what predicts divorce. He discovered four main predictors, which he terms the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and they are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

All relationships have some of these, but if there are more than one present, a marriage therapist may have doubts about the longevity of the relationship.

The Top 10 Reasons People Get Divorced

The 4 Signs That Predict Divorce

1. Attacking the Person, Not the Behavior.

When criticizing, it is done in a way that implies something is wrong with you. It may include attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong. An example might be using generalizations. Saying, “you always…” “you never…” or “you’re the type of person who…” and “why are you so…”

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This often makes the person feel under attack and in return, it provokes defensive reactions. This is a bad pattern as neither person feels heard and both may start to feel bad about themselves in the presence of the other.

It is important to make a specific complaint about a behavior, not attack your partner’s personality. For example, when X happened, I felt Y, and I need Z.

2. Feeling or Expressing Contempt Toward Your Spouse.

Contempt is any statement of nonverbal behavior that puts you on a higher ground than your partner. This could be mocking your partner, calling him/her names, eye rolling, hostile humor, hurtful sarcasm, sneering in disgust, etc.

It involves attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her. This is the most serious of the four.

Couples must work to eliminate such behaviors and build a culture of respect, appreciation, tolerance and kindness in the relationship.

3. Always Being On the Defensive (Even If You Don’t Realize It).

This is an attempt to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter complaint. Another way is to act like a victim or whine. This can look like making excuses (e.g., external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way). Saying things like “It’s not my fault,” “I didn’t …” It can also be cross-complaining, such as meeting your partner’s complaint or criticism with a complaint of your own or ignoring what your partner said.

Other no-nos are yes-butting (start off agreeing but end up disagreeing) or simply repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying.

The best thing to do would be to try to listen from your partner’s perspective. Slow down and realize that you do not have to be perfect. Try your best to have conscious communication: speaking the unarguable truth and listening generously. Also, validate your partner — let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling and that you can see things through their eyes.

4. Stonewalling, Shutting Down or Walking Out.

This is withdrawing from the conversation and essentially the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. The stonewaller might actually physically leave or just completely shut down. Sometimes this is an attempt to calm oneself when overwhelmed, but it is most often unsuccessful.

People who do this may think they are trying to be “neutral,” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness. Stonewalling can look like: stony silence, monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject, removing yourself physically or the “silent treatment.”

The antidote is to learn to identify the signs that you or your partner is starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed and to agree together to take a break and that the conversation will resume when you are both calmer.

4 BIG Mistakes I Made As A Wife (Psst! I’m The Ex-Wife Now)

Now that you know about the “Four Horsemen,” you can definitely do more to mitigate these factors in your relationship. Do you know that you need five times as much positive feeling and interaction as negative? This is the ratio at a minimum!

After an argument, claim responsibility for your part. Ask yourself, “what can I learn from this?” and “what can I do about it?”

Use what Gottman terms “repair attempts” during arguments that help to offset the tension. This may look like humor (used appropriately) or saying something like, “I’m sorry” or “I hear you saying…” or “I understand.”

Don’t push buttons and don’t escalate the argument. Start to recognize that all interactions are really a self-perpetuating cycle that you can exit from. Someone gets triggered, someone reacts, the partner reacts to this, and so on. Slow things down and ask what you are feeling under the surface (e.g., really hurt when you yelled in anger instead) and express that part of yourself.

We can all learn and benefit from the Gottmans’ research and if you still find the Four Horsemen are ruining your relationship, it’s time to seek out a skilled marriage therapist.

This guest article originally appeared on 4 Tell-Tale Signs Marriage Therapists Use To Predict Divorce.


We’re not kids anymore: Apologizing doesn’t make everything right. So stop saying it!

While there’s no way of getting around ever having to you’re sorry, resorting to repetitious apologies in an effort to restore trust and intimacy with your partner can produce unexpected results.

Unfortunately, this guilty approach to relationships often backfires.

10 Signs You’re in a Codependent Relationship

Saying you are sorry is a great way to soften the defensive energy that’s aroused when you’ve hurt someone you love. Saying you’re sorry reduces the defensiveness and that might lead to you explaining and even excusing your misdeeds instead of making amends.

An apology is a great way to let the person you’ve hurt know that you know what you did wrong and that you’re taking steps to correct it.

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But sometimes the words “I am sorry” take us away from love and intimacy.

We are all familiar with people who say “I’m sorry” just so they can gain your trust and get themselves off the hook. It’s infuriating when we trust the words “I’m sorry” and let down our defenses, only to be hurt in the same way once again.

We’ve all been there at least a few times, and believe it or not, much of our confusion probably began long before we had romantic partners.

As children, most of us were admonished to apologize for things we did that displeased the adults in our lives. We might not have felt all that bad about our actions at the time, but when we were confronted with stern attitudes or shaming pronouncements we quickly learned to say we were sorry — even if secretly we believed we had not done anything wrong. The typical result was a forced and half-hearted “I’m sorry” directed toward our “victim” — often a sibling or playmate.

As children, the words “I’m sorry” can feel like a magic wand that miraculously erases all the tension and ill will, providing us with an easy reset on our human interactions. “I’m sorry” allows us to re-engage with the good graces of our parents, family and friends.

We’re Not Kids Anymore
Traffic tickets don’t disappear when we say we’re sorry. And employers have little tolerance for apologies, showing a strong preference for consistent results rather than empty promises.

But our personal relationships often emulate our childhood interactions, and it’s here that we may be inclined to abuse the persuasive power of “I’m sorry.” While I don’t think we should stop apologizing to our partners, there are different ways to do that. Some work better in long run than others.

For instance, many abusive partners resort to “I’m SO Sorry, honey, I promise I will NEVER do it again.” The words sound great and the emotions seem sincere, and yet the abusive partner WILL do it again and again.

Without a solid plan for changing their behavior, no amount of remorse or guilt will provide the transformation they may genuinely desire.

And worse, some abusive partners have no intention of changing; they simply want their partner to stick around so they can repeat their abusive behavior.

Although most of us are not in relationships we consider “abusive,” the pattern of apologizing but never actually changing is one we can all relate to.

Who hasn’t heard the words “I’m sorry, I will never do it again,” only to be subjected to repeat performances of the hurtful behavior from someone you trusted was truly sorry?

And who among us has a perfect track record of never doing it again once we have apologized for something? More often than we would probably like to admit, we provide our partners with repeat performances of the things we intend to stop doing, despite our best intentions. Wishing or resolving to do better next time might feel good in the moment, but by itself rarely leads to positive change.

How To Make Apologies Meaningful
How then can we move toward the change we desire? How can we turn our apologies into something meaningful instead of a mere recitation of “magical” words? We need to take practical steps that support the change we intend. That might involve reading a self-help book, working with a coach or counselor, taking up a new spiritual practice or otherwise obtaining help for realizing positive changes in our actions.

And while we’re working on our behavior, it’s also important to work with the underlying feelings that we experience. The energy of our emotions has a profound impact upon every facet of our lives.

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Take guilt, for instance.

Guilt is a powerful emotion. We can use guilty feelings to motivate us to change and grow in ways that not only improve our connections with others but provide us with a more pleasurable and satisfying life experience. Used this way, guilt can evoke positive change in our lives.

However, guilt can also become a habit. When we stay stuck in our guilt instead of allowing it to move us forward into a positive action, guilt can erode our self-esteem and even punish our partner. How?

Well for one thing guilt is an emotion which can create a sense of separation. It’s contractive rather than expansive. Instead of drawing closer to your partner and enjoying more intimacy, you may experience more isolation as your guilt becomes a barrier between you and your partner.

The end result could be layers of hurt as your partner first suffers the injury that led to your guilt in the first place and then endures your emotional absence while you indulge your feelings of guilt.

Let’s say you have admitted to and apologized for spending a sizable chunk of your mutual savings on a major purchase such as an appliance or automobile. Your partner is understandably upset and no longer trusts you to the same degree that they did before your confession and contriteness.

It seems like a lousy way to reward you for telling the truth. Nevertheless you continue to apologize, hoping that eventually your partner will finally forgive you and life will get back to “normal.” But life doesn’t return to “normal,” and your partner doesn’t forgive you. Instead, you find yourself saying “I’m sorry” about 20 times a day while your partner lobs cheap shots at your integrity.

What’s wrong with this scenario? Here is what is lacking: 1) Taking Responsibility to Change, and 2) Empathizing Instead of Feeling Guilty.

Use Guilt As A Motivator
Trust isn’t rebuilt with apologies. Trust is restored when we become more trustworthy and that is best accomplished when we take steps to change.

In this case, enrolling in a money-management course might go a long way toward creating change as well as inspiring trust.

Empathy is much more valuable to your partner than your guilt. We all want to feel truly heard and deeply understood. When we are the source of our partner’s pain, that could be particularly difficult to provide, but that is when it is needed the most. Giving your partner plenty of time and permission to grieve the loss in trust is a huge gift, especially if you are the source of that loss in trust.

It is far more productive to allow your guilt to move you into taking responsibility for your actions and into validating your partner’s feelings of hurt.

If you take responsibility and empathize with your partner, you can also experience a sense of empowerment and increased self-esteem. The end result could be more intimacy and joyful feelings flowing between you and your partner.

If your apology is heartfelt but doesn’t lead you to this place of joy and intimacy, then there is a good chance you are getting stuck in the guilt. Guilt can motivate positive change, but guilty feelings should not become a way of life!

Guilt can separate us from those we love, essentially causing us to abandon them. What those we hurt need most is our responsible action, our empathy, and our understanding of their pain.

Endless apologies and self-recrimination are an indication that guilt has become entrenched. Rather than leading to growth, it can destroy connection with self and others.

By using your guilt as motivation to take concrete, practical steps toward positive action, you can create a variety of uplifting outcomes for you and for those you love.

In this way, even potentially devastating mistakes can catapult your relationships into more joyful dimensions than ever before. But you have to ride the guilt like a wave until it deposits you upon the warm shores of personal responsibility and growth. When you develop a taste for this process, the sky is the limit!

This guest article originally appeared on Raise Your Hand If You’re Tired Of Saying ‘I’m Sorry.‘

Jan 3

Dealing With A Quick-Tempered Spouse



You should never be fearful in your marriage. Address hot-tempered outbursts from your spouse.

“ It is not acceptable for you to live in an atmosphere of fear. It will ruin your marriage.”
A husband gets angry and yells: his wife cowers. A wife gets angry and yells: her husband leaves.

These are common outcomes when a spouse flies off the handle, especially when the anger is a one-sided outburst, having nothing to do with a fight. It doesn’t matter which spouse is expressing their upset with anger, anger frightens the other.

Dealing with anger is a challenge! It is inevitable in a relationship as close and intimate as a marriage, for in marriage we tend to let our hair down, to be less inhibited than we would be with say, a co-worker or out in public.

Anne’s husband, for example, was fundamentally a good man. He was basically honest, reliable, trustworthy, responsive, responsible, appreciative of other people, and caring. He had none of the hallmarks of an abusive individual. He did, however, have a quick temper. He would flare up at minor annoyances and yell. He got away with it because he attributed his explosions to his passionate nature, and others accepted this characterization. His temper took its toll on Anne, however, as she became “a little mouse of a woman.”

Should you find yourself in a relationship with an otherwise good but quick-tempered person, here are guidelines for how to deal with their angry outbursts.

How to Handle Outbursts

When you first witness an outburst, wait until the two of you are in a calm mood and then ask your spouse in a matter-of-fact, neutral tone what hurt or bothered them to set your spouse off. If, indeed, it’s something that might disturb anybody, let your partner know that you understand that what happened annoyed them, but that their anger is frightening, and that this behavior is not healthy for either of you, and certainly not conducive to the wellbeing of your marriage.

If your spouse can hear you and is willing to accept responsibility for their temper, you can the move on to the next step: develop a “time-out” signal for each other, like the time-out sign used in sports, to cut short any outbursts. Agree with your husband or wife that when you make that sign, everything has to stop, right then. Once you’ve made the time-out sign, calmly let your spouse know that you need to take a break, and that you’re going to take a walk or a bath, or just go into another room—whatever works for you.

If, however, what set your beloved off is not understandable to you, or if he or she does not take responsibility for their anger, it’s imperative to get professional help as soon as possible. Similarly, if your spouse cannot deal appropriately with their outbursts despite both of your best efforts, you should seek help. It is not acceptable for you to live in an atmosphere of fear. It will ruin your marriage.

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a relationship expert, popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, and author of nine best-selling books, including “Your Man is Wonderful” and “Dangerous Relationships.” Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. For more, visit and follow her on Twitter @DrNoelleNelson.

Nov 8

Five Things You Should Not Do After A Heartbreak



Getting through any setback is tough. Yet sometimes the most challenging kind are the ones that involve the heart. After a breakup, we’re likely to struggle with feeling rejected, unloved, not good enough, and, just simply, not wanted. And while recovering from heartbreak isn’t supposed to be easy, we can also make it harder on ourselves than it should be — without even realizing it.

Here are five ways:

Ruminate About The Past. Ruminative thinking has a negative, self punishing quality, and often takes hold without really being cued. It’s as if the thought, “I’m not wanted,” just pops into your head at any given moment — and usually several times a day. And when you entertain this thought — collecting evidence for why this may be true — not only do you end up feeling worse, you also stay stuck in the past. Active, solution focused thinking, on the other hand, asks the question, what do I need to do right now to feel better? Asking this question begins the process of searching for solutions — as oppose to replaying the heartbreak.

Stop Doing What You Love. Being in a relationship with someone involves sharing activities, interests, and lives together. And often, in the process, we can forget ourselves, let go of things that are important to us, and trade the things we love for time with our partners. While this is usually a mutually beneficial process, after breaking up, the challenge is to remember what you — and just you — are passionate about, and get back to it. Because this is the authentic you that was there before the relationship began and these are the things that inspire, fulfill, and drive you — and they can also be the things that pull you through.

Isolate. It’s the easiest thing to do when we feel bed. We stick our heads in the sand, assuming that no one wants to be bothered with our problems, burdened by our sadness, our brought down by us. Yet when we isolate, we are more likely to ruminate about the past, stay stuck in our bad feelings, and return to negative habits. And that bowl of ice cream isn’t going to take the sting out of a broken heart — it might just temporarily distract you, and that’s before it makes you feel worse. After all, isolating — like ice cream — tends to be addictive.

Stop Exploring Other Options. Sometimes we become so involved with a person that when things come to an end we forget that there was life before. And we forget that there are other choices, options, and people that we are perfectly capable of going after. Especially when we invested a tremendous amount of time and energy in cultivating a life with someone, we tend to hang on — afraid of losing the investment — and ignore that we may also be missing the other opportunities right in front of us. And heartbreak is a time to let go of the illusion that is no longer there and immerse yourself in the reality of what is in front of you today — which is not the one who broke your heart.

Listen To Anyone Else’s Relationship Advice. While everyone else may have the best advice for you — it’s just that, their advice. It’s not coming from you, and it probably will not work for you either. While you may be anxious to do anything but feel the way you feel, going through a heartbreak is a time to search inward, ask yourself what you most need, what you most want, and what you need to do for you. The solutions are probably already inside of you — curated through years of life experiences and learning who you really are — and if you take enough time to find them, they will be the right ones for you.

A broken heart may be one of the toughest things we will ever go through — but it is also a moment of definition as you come to terms with what was, and move forward with what is. And while you may not have had choice in having your heart broken, you do have choice in just what you are going to do about it.

Oct 10


17 Questions to Ask Your Partner to Deepen Your Connection Couples who have strong bonds remain interested in each other. They remain curious about each other’s experiences and inner lives, such as their thoughts, feelings, and fears.

As such, a great way to cultivate your connection is to talk about these inner worlds — because good communication goes beyond talk of tasks, errands and kids. (Those topics, of course, also are important. But so is delving into the intimate and often overlooked conversations.)

We asked several relationship experts for their suggestions for meaningful, fun or thought-provoking questions that partners can ask each other. Here’s what they shared…

How was your day today?
It’s such a simple, straightforward question. But in the chaos of daily living, you might forget to ask it. “This allows people to share specifics and stay connected on a day-to-day basis,” said Mudita Rastogi, Ph.D, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Arlington Heights, Ill.

What do you need from me right now?
This is an important question to ask when your partner is having a difficult day, Rastogi said. “It allows the asking partner to tailor their help to what is needed.”

How do I express my anger and conflict?
This is a question that each partner asks themselves, responding out loud while the other partner listens.

According to Beverly Hills clinical psychologist Fran Walfish, PsyD, the number one determining factor for a healthy, lasting relationship is managing conflict effectively. That includes listening without interruption, being willing to discuss issues, tolerating differences and strategizing solutions, she said.

What are you looking forward to today, this week and this month?
“This helps you tune in to what your partner enjoys,” Rastogi said. Plus, it balances out the more serious and potentially negative topics, she said.

Am I being a good spouse to you?
What are three things that I do that you couldn’t live without?
What are the ways you most experience or feel love from me or from what I do?
“It is important to check in regularly to see if what you are doing and saying is positively feeding the relationship,” said Erik R. Benson, MSW, LCSW, a private therapist in the Chicago and North Suburbs area. He suggested asking these three questions.

If you could be a character in any book, which character would you be, and why?
If you could go back in time to your teenage self, what two words would you say?
Benson also shared these two questions, which his wife, who works in the special education field, has asked him to help her get to know him better.

Describe the perfect you day (or if you could do anything you wanted for a day, what would it be?)
This is another question Benson’s wife has asked him. Such information helps her plan activities, dates and gifts, he said.

If I could change one thing about myself I would change _____.
“This gives you a window into something the person feels insecure about,” Walfish said. And it’s an opportunity for partners to be empathic and compassionate with each other, she said.

If I spent a typical day in your shoes, describe what I would experience.
Benson suggested asking the above question. Empathy is key for healthy relationships, and such questions help partners gain a deeper understanding into each other’s experiences.

What would you do in life if money weren’t an issue?
“This helps [couples] connect around long-term wishes, dreams and plans,” Rastogi said.

If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?This is another question that reveals your partner’s fantasies and even their personal character, Walfish said.
What is your greatest fear?
“You can support your partner by not pressuring when approaching the scary territory,” Walfish said. You also can ask how to help your partner become more comfortable, she said. “You want to be your partner’s safe harbor to come to for safety, soothing and healing.”

What would be your last wishes if you were incapacitated and unable to make health care decisions?
No doubt this is a difficult question to bring up. But, as Rastogi said, it’s a critical one.

What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?
This one leaves the conversation on a positive note, Walfish said. “Each one of you gets to think about happy, wonderful influences in your lives.”

Oct 9


6 Absolute Must-Haves for Relationship Compatibility

Romantic relationships can be a lot of fun! The start of a new relationship is nearly always one of the most exciting times, as you each explore one another’s hopes, dreams … and bodies.

But what happens if you want to turn that short-term fling into a longer-term thing? Will those same characteristics you found exciting and different in your romantic partner work long-term?

You don’t have to be 100 percent compatible in order to make a long-term relationship work. But there are a few areas that you’ll find it beneficial to have partner compatibility.

Now don’t get me wrong — you can have a successful relationship and have only a few of the things listed below in common. But you’ll find your relationship will have greater smooth sailing the more of these attributes you share or have close in common. And the less stress your relationship has in its natural state, the more the two of you will work together in harmony to support one another during those greater times of stress that life will inevitably throw at you.

Here are six areas that the greater compatibility you share with your partner, the easier and less stressful your relationship will be.

1. Timeliness & Punctuality
How many relationship arguments have started over, “Why are you always 30 minutes late to everything?” People who aren’t compatible in how punctual they are for appointments, engagements, dates and such will find one person always unhappy with the other person’s timeliness. If you both can’t make anything on time, you’ll be happy together. But if one of you is punctual and the other isn’t, it’s a recipe for constant arguing.

2. Cleanliness & Orderliness
People who are neat and orderly often find it difficult, if not downright challenging, to live with someone who’s a slob. And people who don’t put much time or effort into cleanliness don’t often care that it means something to others. You know how cute you found his cluttered and messy apartment those first few weeks? That wears off fast if you’re someone who likes things to be clean and orderly.

3. Money & Spending
More couples argue about money and finances than anything else (well, except maybe for the next one). This is a much larger issue than most relationships ever consider at the onset. And because it can be awkward to talk about money and finances, most couples also put off such discussions until things start going wrong. If he’s a spender and she’s a saver, that could mean trouble down the road when you’re planning for life’s bigger purchases, such as a house, cars or your children’s future education.

Couples who are on the same page with their money and finances will usually find it easier going than those with wildly divergent spending behaviors.

4. Sex & Intimacy
How many articles have been written about the importance of sex and intimacy in a relationship? It may be hard to gauge how sexually compatible you are at the beginning of a relationship, since sex is usually more of a shared enjoyment then. But as the newness wears off, it’s a good time to gauge whether your sexual needs and desires are truly similar.

Like money, talking about your own personal sexual desires and needs may be challenging. But the sooner you do it and figure out if the two of you are sexually compatible long-term, the quicker you can know whether you share this compatibility. Incompatibility in the bedroom is the second most-common reason for long-term relationship discord.

5. Life Priorities & Tempo
Different people work and live at different tempos in life. Discovering and acknowledging your own personal tempo is an important step to finding someone with a similar and compatible tempo.

Some people are laid-back and let little get to them, while others take every one of life’s challenges to heart. Some people value work, seeing no problem in working 12-hour days, while others value spending time with family and one’s children. Are you the kind of person who’s okay with “being” with your partner while the two of you have your heads down in technology?

If you’re on the same page about what your life’s priorities are, you’ll find you’ll have a lot less arguments about these kinds of issues. Sharing life will be easier as you progress through life at the same tempo.

6. Spirituality & Religion
Many people who come from two different religious backgrounds make their relationship work. However, talk to such couples and you’ll find most of the agree it can sometimes be a challenge — especially if children are involved. If one partner in the couple isn’t going to convert to the other person’s religion and both partners are religious people, you’ll often find trouble brewing.

* * *
The more you and your partner share in these six characteristics, the smoother going your romantic life is going to be (although you don’t need to be 100 percent compatible in all six areas — nobody and no relationship is perfect). Because when your relationship is firing on all cylinders, it helps keep you more resilient and better able to handle whatever else life throws at you.


Couples who have strong bonds remain interested in each other. They remain curious about each other’s experiences and inner lives, such as their thoughts, feelings, and fears.

As such, a great way to cultivate your connection is to talk about these inner worlds — because good communication goes beyond talk of tasks, errands and kids. (Those topics, of course, also are important. But so is delving into the intimate and often overlooked conversations.)

We asked several relationship experts for their suggestions for meaningful, fun or thought-provoking questions that partners can ask each other. Here’s what they shared…

How was your day today?
It’s such a simple, straightforward question. But in the chaos of daily living, you might forget to ask it. “This allows people to share specifics and stay connected on a day-to-day basis,” said Mudita Rastogi, Ph.D, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Arlington Heights, Ill.

What do you need from me right now?
This is an important question to ask when your partner is having a difficult day, Rastogi said. “It allows the asking partner to tailor their help to what is needed.”

How do I express my anger and conflict?
This is a question that each partner asks themselves, responding out loud while the other partner listens.

According to Beverly Hills clinical psychologist Fran Walfish, PsyD, the number one determining factor for a healthy, lasting relationship is managing conflict effectively. That includes listening without interruption, being willing to discuss issues, tolerating differences and strategizing solutions, she said.

What are you looking forward to today, this week and this month?
“This helps you tune in to what your partner enjoys,” Rastogi said. Plus, it balances out the more serious and potentially negative topics, she said.

Am I being a good spouse to you?
What are three things that I do that you couldn’t live without?
What are the ways you most experience or feel love from me or from what I do?
“It is important to check in regularly to see if what you are doing and saying is positively feeding the relationship,” said Erik R. Benson, MSW, LCSW, a private therapist in the Chicago and North Suburbs area. He suggested asking these three questions.

If you could be a character in any book, which character would you be, and why?
If you could go back in time to your teenage self, what two words would you say?
Benson also shared these two questions, which his wife, who works in the special education field, has asked him to help her get to know him better.

Describe the perfect you day (or if you could do anything you wanted for a day, what would it be?)
This is another question Benson’s wife has asked him. Such information helps her plan activities, dates and gifts, he said.

If I could change one thing about myself I would change _____.
“This gives you a window into something the person feels insecure about,” Walfish said. And it’s an opportunity for partners to be empathic and compassionate with each other, she said.

If I spent a typical day in your shoes, describe what I would experience.
Benson suggested asking the above question. Empathy is key for healthy relationships, and such questions help partners gain a deeper understanding into each other’s experiences.

What would you do in life if money weren’t an issue?
“This helps [couples] connect around long-term wishes, dreams and plans,” Rastogi said.

If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?This is another question that reveals your partner’s fantasies and even their personal character, Walfish said.
What is your greatest fear?
“You can support your partner by not pressuring when approaching the scary territory,” Walfish said. You also can ask how to help your partner become more comfortable, she said. “You want to be your partner’s safe harbor to come to for safety, soothing and healing.”

What would be your last wishes if you were incapacitated and unable to make health care decisions?
No doubt this is a difficult question to bring up. But, as Rastogi said, it’s a critical one.

What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?
This one leaves the conversation on a positive note, Walfish said. “Each one of you gets to think about happy, wonderful influences in your lives.”

Sep 10

Happy Wife, Happy Life


By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor

A new study finds that for older adults, the more content the wife is with her marriage, the happier the husband is with his life — no matter how he feels about their relationship.

“I think it comes down to the fact that when a wife is satisfied with the marriage, she tends to do a lot more for her husband, which has a positive effect on his life,” said Dr. Deborah Carr, a professor in the Department of Sociology, School of Arts and Science at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

“Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives.”

Carr partnered with Dr. Vicki Freedman, a research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, on the study, which was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

According to Carr, the new study differs from previous research because it takes into account the feelings of both spouses to determine how these marital appraisals influence the psychological well-being of older adults.

The researchers analyzed data from 394 couples who were part of a national study of income, health, and disability in 2009. At least one of the spouses was 60 or older. On average, couples were married for 39 years.

To assess marital quality, the couples were asked several questions, such as whether their spouse appreciates them, argues with them, understands their feelings, or gets on their nerves. They were also asked to keep detailed diaries about how happy they were in the previous 24 hours doing selected activities like shopping, doing household chores, and watching television.

The couples rated their general life satisfaction high, typically five out of six points — with husbands rating their marriage slightly more positive than their wives, according to the study’s findings.

“For both spouses, being in a better-rated marriage was linked to greater life satisfaction and happiness,” Carr said.

The study also found that while wives became less happy if their spouses became ill, the husbands’ happiness didn’t change if their wives got sick.

“We know that when a partner is sick, it is the wife that often does the caregiving, which can be a stressful experience,” said Carr. “But often when a women gets sick it is not her husband she relies on, but her daughter.”

According to researchers, the findings are important because the quality of a marriage can affect the health and well-being of older individuals as they continue to age.

“The quality of a marriage is important because it provides a buffer against the health-depleting effects of later life stressors and helps couples manage difficult decisions regarding health and medical decision making,” Carr said.

Source: Rutgers University

By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

Poor Cardiovascular Health Linked to Learning, Memory ProblemsIndividuals with poor cardiovascular health are at far greater risk for developing cognitive impairment, particularly learning and memory problems, than those with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health, according to a new study published in the Journal of American Heart Association.

“Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved, intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function,” said lead investigator Evan L. Thacker, Ph.D., an assistant professor and chronic disease epidemiologist at Brigham Young University Department of Health Science, in Provo, Utah.

“This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health.”

Specifically, researchers found that people with the worst cardiovascular health were more likely to have problems with learning, memory, and verbal fluency tests than those with intermediate or better cardiovascular health.

The study included 17,761 people, ages 45 and older, with normal cognitive function and no history of stroke. Four years later, researchers evaluated their cognitive skills.

Researchers used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study to assess cardiovascular health based on The American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7 score. The REGARDS study population is 55 percent women, 42 percent blacks, 58 percent whites, and 56 percent are residents of the “stroke belt” states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Life’s Simple 7 is a system designed to measure seven health behaviors and their risk factors as they pertain to cardiovascular health. These include smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose. Each section can be broken down into poor, intermediate, or ideal.

Researchers found cognitive impairment in 4.6 percent of people with poor cardiovascular health scores; 2.7 percent of those with intermediate health profiles; and 2.6 percent of those in the best cardiovascular health category.

The statistics were consistent after factoring in race, gender, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, or geographic region, although higher cardiovascular health scores were more common in men, people with higher education, higher income, and those with no cardiovascular disease.

The tests for cognitive function measured verbal learning, memory, and fluency. The verbal learning section used a three-trial, ten-item word list. Verbal memory was determined by asking participants to recall the ten-item list after a brief delay filled with non-cognitive questions. Verbal fluency was determined by having participants name as many animals as they could in 60 seconds.

Although the specific factors behind the results are not yet known, Thacker noted that undetected subclinical strokes could not be ruled out.

Source: American Heart Association


Empathic listeners are relationship builders. They have a cultivated ability for being present, empathically connected. How do you cultivate empathy however? It starts with set intentions, at least four of them.

For human beings, empathy may be one of the greatest gifts to give or to receive, and perhaps one of our deepest yearnings. It is a form of love, an aspect of love that is expressed through the act of listening to understand from the eyes and heart of another. This is what makes empathy an essential ability to cultivate and give to others as well as our self.

When someone we love disappoints us in some way, this can automatically trigger painful emotions inside.

And when we are in pain, for example, feeling hurt, angry, or disappointed, often one of our greatest yearnings is for empathy, that is, an understanding love from another human being that affirms, in a moment of need, that we are valued. We want to know that our feelings and life matter. And thus a common human undertaking is to look for evidence that another loves us enough to want to understand us from our own perspective, to want us to have what we want (even when not possible), to want to see us happy and fulfilled, personally as well as in our relationship, and so on.

All of these are natural human yearnings or emotion-drives.

It is when we feel pain inside that we feel most unlovable or undeserving of love, in a sense, most vulnerable. In our culture, most of us think of this vulnerability as a sign of weakness, defect, inferiority, and on on. As a result, we “act” as if we don’t care, are tough, can take the pain and swallow it. Swallowed up pain however shows up unannounced in the form of addictions, mental and physical health issues. The body doesn’t lie.

A loved one who has mastered listening for understanding is an empathic listener. They can hear past the words, past their own intimacy fears and challenges, and they can be present as a holding place for another.

The actions they take when they listen, however, are meaningful to the extent they are guided by certain intentions.

Four Intentions of Empathic Listeners

Consciously or subconsciously, an empathic listener has at least four intentions in mind. And intention to:

1. Understand another person from their own perspective, rather than from the listener’s own projection of feelings, beliefs, experiences, assumptions, etc.

2. Refrain from taking another’s words or actions personally to the point of getting triggered and thus activating defensive strategies. This allows their brain to remain in a growth (learning) state of mind and body, rather than a protective (defensive) one, which makes it difficult if not impossible to listen to another’s communications.

3. See another as a separate person, and thus curious to ask questions and learn about them, their views and experiences of life, rather than view the other as an extension of the listener’s wants and needs and thus judge differences as threatening or inferior.

4. Listen objectively, not as an evaluator or critic, rather as one who wisely recognizes the value of relationship building and understands that the strength of a relationships rest on fostering mutual respect and understanding, which is developed and fostered by regular acts that express love, caring, kindness.

In other words, wittingly or unwittingly, empathic listeners overall intend to listen with compassion and thoughtfulness to others.

How important is empathy, to give and to receive?

Think back to persons who have had the most influence in your life. How would you describe the communication between you? Was it meaningful, fulfilling, perhaps inspiring? Did you feel accepted for the unique being you are, warts and graces?

Chances are that those who influenced you the most were powerful listeners. You were likely drawn less by their accomplishments and status, and more because of how you felt in their presence, perhaps, valued, seen, understood at levels that touched and stirred these already present yearnings or values. Whether they did so instinctively in rare moments or through years of consistent practice, they likely have you the gift of being present and empathically connected at some level.

Ultimately, these yearnings remind us that we need (not just want) our own love and acceptance, something we ideally cultivate in our experiences of connecting to affirming love from another.

It is in the context of relationships that we learn to love others, our self and life; and this is particularly true in the formative years of early childhood. The experience of love cannot be learned on our own, through logic, intellect and books , and certain not computers and other technological advances.

We are wired for love and relationships. Our relational yearnings are emotional needs, just as real as our physical needs for oxygen, food and water.

Human beings need a way to express themselves authentically, but we also need a way to listen more deeply, with our hearts, so that we may build a better understanding of another person or our self, and thus also, our relationships. And that’s where empathy enters a saving grace in our lives and relationships.

Mar 18

Therapy Exercises to Help Couples Connect



3 Therapy Exercises to Help Couples ConnectBecause of daily responsibilities, long to-do lists and stressors big and small, it’s easy to feel disconnected from our partners. It’s also easy to take each other for granted, especially if you’ve been together for a long time.

Your connection with your partner needs cultivating. That’s why we asked relationship experts to share the exercises they assign to couples to help them get closer and nourish a stronger bond. Here are three activities to try.

Intimacy Builder
Mudita Rastogi, Ph.D, a marriage and family therapist in Arlington Heights, Ill., suggested couples turn off their phones and put the kids to bed. Go into a room that isn’t your bedroom, and sit so you’re facing each other and your knees are almost touching, she said. Take a minute or several minutes to look into each other’s eyes.

Consider your own reactions and thoughts. Then share them with your partner, she said.

“This exercise works because it promotes the kind of intimacy that is often lost in the busyness of our day. It is a great way to connect with a partner, and tune into one’s own and his or her inner world.”

Appreciation List
“For five days, write down one thing your partner did for you that you appreciated,” said Christina Steinorth-Powell, MFT, a psychotherapist who specializes in couples counseling in Santa Barbara, Calif. These don’t have to be grand gestures; they can be small, sweet acts.

For instance, Steinorth-Powell’s list would include her husband joining her to walk the dogs. This shows her that he wants to spend time together.

Her husband’s list would include Steinorth-Powell making sweet tea. “He’s told me that he appreciates the fact that I actually took the time to learn how he likes his tea and that I go through the effort to make it for him.”

After the five days, exchange your lists. “It’s very easy to feel taken for granted in relationships and feel that the little things we do for our partner are overlooked.” This exercise helps partners see that their gestures are noticed and appreciated, she said.

Love List
“Many times, we get so caught up in doing the things we think our partners will value that we don’t really know and/or pay attention to the things they really want or desire,” said Steinorth-Powell, also author of the book Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships.

Instead, each of you can write down five things your partner can do or already does to show their love, she said.

“For example, when my husband helps me with housework, or cooks dinner, this shows me he loves me because he’s trying to lighten my load.” For Steinorth-Powell’s husband, running errands or simply sitting together in the mornings and evenings makes the list.

Steinorth-Powell has found that her clients are often surprised at how easy it is to let their partners know they love them. “Most of the time it’s not big, expensive gestures that show love, but day-to-day little things that are simple to do.”

“Intimacy is not easy,” Rastogi said. Any of these exercises can trigger complex reactions. That’s why she suggested seeking counseling, which is especially important if your relationship is in distress.

Feb 12

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

High Marital Expectations Challenge Many RelationshipsNew research suggests that “today’s” Americans are expecting marriage to fulfill a different need from that desired by “yesterday’s” Americans.

Experts believe fulfillment of the new expectations will require large investments of time and energy in the marital relationship — and that, on average, Americans are actually making smaller investments in their marital relationship than in the past.

Those conflicting realities don’t bode well for the majority of marriages, according to Eli Finkel, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the lead author of the study.

Nevertheless, today’s best marriages — those in which the spouses invest enough time and energy in bolstering the marital relationship to help each other achieve what they seek from the marriage — are flourishing even more than the best marriages of yesteryear.

Studying Relationship Trends
In the new study, researchers wanted to know how these divergent trends evolved. Many scholars and social commentators have argued that contemporary Americans are, to their peril, expecting more of their marriage than in the past.

But Finkel, who wrote the article in collaboration with Northwestern graduate students Ming Hui, Kathleen Carswell, and Grace Larson, disagrees.

“The issue isn’t that Americans are expecting more versus less from their marriage, but rather that the nature of what they are expecting has changed,” Finkel said.

“They’re asking less of their marriage regarding basic physiological and safety needs, but they’re asking more of their marriage regarding higher psychological needs like the need for personal growth.”

According to Finkel, these changes over time in what Americans are seeking from their marriage are linked to broader changes in the nation’s economic and cultural circumstances.

In the decades after America’s Declaration of Independence in 1776, the nation primarily consisted of small farming villages in which the household was the unit of economic production and wage labor outside the home was rare.

During that era, the primary functions of marriage revolved around meeting basic needs like food production, shelter, and physical safety.

“In 1800, the idea of marrying for love was ludicrous,” Finkel said.

“That isn’t to say that people didn’t want love from their marriage; it just wasn’t the point of marriage.”

Starting around 1850, the nation began a sharp and sustained transition toward urbanization, and the husband-breadwinner/wife-homemaker model of marriage became increasingly entrenched.

With these changes, and as the nation became wealthier, the primary functions of marriage revolved less around basic needs and more around needs pertaining to love and companionship.

“To be sure,” Finkel observed, “marriage remained an economic institution, but the fundamental reason for getting married and for achieving happiness within the marriage increasingly revolved around love and companionship.”

Starting with the various countercultural revolutions of the 1960s, a third model of marriage emerged.

This third model continued to value love and companionship, but many of the primary functions of marriage now involved helping the spouses engage in a voyage of self-discovery and personal growth.

Relationship Trends Today
“In contemporary marriages,” Finkel said, “Americans look to their marriage to help them ‘find themselves’ and to pursue careers and other activities that facilitate the expression of their core self.”

Finkel believes the historical changes, as having a marriage meet one’s needs for self-discovery and personal growth can yield extremely high-quality marriages.

Yet, he has doubts about whether the majority of American marriages can, at present, meet spouses’ new psychological expectations of their marriage.

According to Finkel, when the primary functions of marriage revolved around shelter and food production, there wasn’t much need for spouses to achieve deep insight into each other’s core psychological essence.

As the primary functions shifted to love and then to self-expression, however, it became increasingly essential for spouses to develop such insight.

“However, developing such insight requires a heavy investment of time and psychological resources in the marriage, not to mention strong relationship skills and interpersonal compatibility,” Finkel said.

Those marriages that are successful in meeting the two spouses’ love and self-expression goals are extremely happy — happier than the best marriages in earlier eras.

Yet, according to Finkel, divorce rates remain high, and average marital satisfaction among intact marriages is declining slightly, because most spouses simply are not putting the amount of time and psychological investment required to help each other’s love and self-expressive needs.

Spouses with children have reallocated much of their time to intensive parenting, and spouses without children have reallocated much of it to longer workdays.

Indeed, Americans are, on average, spending much less time alone with their spouse than they did several decades ago.

As such, there’s an increasing disconnect, on average, between the needs Americans are looking to their marriage to help them achieve and the resources they are investing to make such need fulfillment possible.

The good news is that there are relatively straightforward ways to allow your marriage to breathe. The suffocation model is all about supply and demand.

“You can demand less from your partner, focusing less on resource-intensive self-expressive needs, or supply more time and other resources into the marriage,” Finkel said.

He points to a seemingly simple, but very effective option, a 21-minute writing intervention that he and his colleagues developed that could help preserve marital quality over time, in which, spouses wrote about conflict in their marriage from the perspective of a third party who wants the best for all involved.

“The idea is that you can use limited resources better,” Finkel said.

“In general, if you want your marriage to help you achieve self-expression and personal growth, it’s crucial to invest sufficient time and energy in the marriage.

“If you know that the time and energy aren’t available, then it makes sense to adjust your expectations accordingly to minimize disappointment.”

Finkel’s article, “The Suffocation of Marriage: Climbing Mount Maslow Without Enough Oxygen” will appear in the journal Psychological Inquiry later this year.

Source: Northwestern University

Apparently, some types of cheating are worse than others.

Victoria Milan, a dating site for people seeking affairs, surveyed 5,000 of their members to find out their attitudes about cheating — specifically, how they felt about sexual affairs versus emotional affairs. It turns out, men and women have very different ideas about what’s forgivable and what’s not.

Here’s what they discovered:

72 percent of men said sexual affairs were worse than emotional affairs.
69 percent of women said emotional affairs were worse than sexual affairs.
76 percent of women would forgive their partner for a strictly sexual affair
Only 35 percent of men would forgive their partner for a strictly sexual affair.
80 percent of men said they would forgive an emotional affair.
Only 30 percent of women would forgive an emotional affair.
“Many people are searching for affection, a deeper connection that can lead to real, feelings, not just sex,” said Victoria Milan CEO Sigurd Vedal in a press release. “What kind of cheating is more painful? It totally depends on the individual, and maybe on gender as well.”

A study published last year in the journal Evolutionary Psychology agrees. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that women viewed “forming a deep emotional bond” during infidelity as a much bigger concern than men did.

Feb 1

How to Build Better Boundaries in Your Marriage


Imagine the following scenario: A husband and wife are in a session with their therapist. She says that he’s always angry with her and makes mean comments. When the therapist asks her husband why he’s constantly mad, he replies that it’s because his wife tries to control him.

According to the wife, she tries to exert control because her husband doesn’t give her any time or attention. He says that’s because she’s always nagging him. She says she nags because he won’t do anything she wants.

It’s a prime illustration of not taking responsibility for your own actions, attitudes, thoughts or feelings. And that’s where boundaries come in.

The above example comes from the book Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices that Make or Break Loving Relationships by psychologists Henry Cloud, Ph.D, and John Townsend, Ph.D.

Boundaries Are About You
When you have clear boundaries, you know where you end and your partner begins, according to Cloud and Townsend. You also know that you’re not at the mercy of your spouse’s behavior or their problems.

Boundaries are really about you.

“When you build a fence around your yard, you do not build it to figure out the boundaries of your neighbor’s yard so that you can dictate to him how he is to behave. You build it around your own yard so that you can maintain control of what happens to your own property,” according to the authors.

That’s also how personal boundaries work. You can’t control how your spouse speaks to you. But you can control how you behave when they speak to you in that way. For instance, if they start yelling or calling you names, you can hang up the phone or leave the room.

In other words, you determine what you will and won’t tolerate or be exposed to. And you set consequences. Another example is eating dinner by yourself when your spouse is late, again. Other consequences may be more severe, such as separating.

Boundaries also may include emotional distance, such as: “When you can be kind, we can be close again,” or “When you show you are serious about getting some help, I will feel safe enough to open up to you again.”

Setting Boundaries with Yourself
It’s also important to set boundaries with yourself (i.e., not trying to change your spouse but focusing on changing yourself).

In the book Cloud and Townsend include an example of a husband who was regularly late for dinner with his wife and kids. His wife tried cajoling and nagging him to come home earlier.

But he only got defensive or told her she was overreacting. After a while, she decided to change her attitude and actions: She was going to be less angry about his lateness and more caring; and if he was going to be late, she’d eat dinner with the kids and put his food in the fridge.

She talked to her husband about her plan. He wasn’t happy about eating microwaved dinners, but she said he was welcome to rearrange his schedule to eat when the family did.

After a few days of eating many microwaved meals, he started coming home on time. He said it was because his wife was a whole lot nicer to him, so he wanted to be home – and he really hated reheating his dinner.

The Concept of “You Are not Me”
According to Cloud and Townsend, another key part of boundaries is the idea of “you are not me.” Your spouse isn’t an extension of you, and they’re not here exclusively to meet your needs.

Love breaks down when we don’t see our spouses as people but as “objects of our own needs.” This also means that when your spouse comes to you and reveals how they’re feeling – say about not feeling close to you – you don’t interpret it as an accusation and get defensive. Rather, you empathize.

“To have good boundaries is to be separate enough from the other person that you can allow her to have her own experience without reacting with your own. Such a clear stance of separateness allows you not to react, but to care and empathize.”

This also includes respecting each other’s differences – even when you don’t like them. Cloud and Townsend share the story of a husband who didn’t want to attend the same church as his wife, because he just couldn’t connect to the service. She viewed this as an affront, and believed that if he truly loved her, he would go.

Boundaries are the foundation of healthy relationships. They give partners the opportunity to grow as individuals and as a couple.

Written by Samantha Gluck

Ever wonder how adult ADD and relationships work? It’s easy to fall in love. The brain sends a rush of neurotransmitters responsible for the euphoric feeling associated with falling in love. Those with ADHD have less pleasure-producing chemicals available in their brains, causing them to focus on new love and romance with a laser-like acuity in an attempt to increase the levels of dopamine and other pleasure chemicals. But this initial rush does not last; nor, do they build the foundation required for lasting ADHD relationships.

Adult ADD and Relationships
Building a lasting, satisfying relationship is challenging for everyone, but especially for the adult with ADHD. Consider the difficulties facing adult ADHD relationships:

Learn about ADD and relationships and how adult ADHD affects relationships. Info detailing solutions to problems facing ADHD relationships.People without ADHD can experience a bond and connection with their partner at any time, day or night. For the adult with ADD/ADHD, sporadic connections are the norm. This disconnect in the eyes of the non-ADD adult can foment doubt and suspicion in ADHD relationships.
Frequently, the ADD adult’s irritation with touching and closeness can create a sharp disconnect in the relationship. Sometimes people with ADD experience heightened senses, causing physical contact to feel annoying. This rejection can create a significant wound in a relationship with a non-ADD person.
The poor memory skills exhibited by many suffering from ADHD can cause hurt feelings when they forget a birthday, anniversary, or important meeting.

All couples argue at times, even in the best of relationships. But adults with poorly managed ADHD are quick to anger, often over insignificant matters. This can create an environment of tension and friction in an otherwise good relationship.

Chronic boredom represents another issue that plagues adults with ADD and relationships. People with ADHD become bored more frequently than those without the disorder. This can cause relationship issues when the normal adult feels his or her partner is bored with their company and the activities they participate in together.

The impulsiveness associated with ADD can certainly cause a rift in the ADHD relationship. While some level of spontaneous activity is attractive, adults have responsibilities and goals that do not lend themselves well to the unhealthy levels of impulsive behavior shown by adults with poorly managed ADD.
continue story below

Managing Adult ADD and Relationships
Managing symptoms of adult ADHD by properly taking ADD drugs and by following advice given by a behavioral therapist, an ADHD coach, or adult ADHD support group is the first step toward healing many causes of breakdown in ADHD relationships.

Creating an environment in which an ADHD relationship can thrive requires diligence and commitment. Consider the following strategies:

Keep a notebook with a calendar handy to jot down daily and weekly “to do” lists for the home as well as grocery lists. Keep the calendar updated with important dates and occasions highlighted inside.
Mitigate the clutter in your mind by cleaning up the clutter in your home and personal spaces.
Create a routine for repeating tasks and duties and stick to it.
Ask your partner to request that you repeat back his or her requests and needs to ensure that you were ‘on board’ and listening to the conversation.
Share your feelings honestly. If you feel heightened sensitivity to touch and sound at the moment, tell your partner in advance so he or she will not feel hurt by a rejection.
Budget your money by sitting down with your partner at a designated day and time each week. Plan expenses, entertainment expenditures, and menus for the entire week ahead. This relieves you of dealing with this burden on a daily basis.
Finally, relationships are hard. They are hard for everyone. Do not allow ADD to adversely affect your relationships. Take steps now toward a fulfilling life.

Dec 11

Most of these ideas are simple. All of them are worth it.

1. They take extra time to feel each other.
Quick hug. Auto-peck on the cheek. Out the door!

This may seem normal, but happy couples take time to feel each other’s body a lot more than that.

Real hugs. Kissing in which you actually feel the impression of lips give the extra ounce of connection that bonds two people together.

The experts at HelpGuide remind us of this with their number one relationship tip: Connect. Connecting physically boosts oxytocin, the hormone that governs human bonding.

According to at least one survey reported by the Guardian, couples were happiest when they slept in the nude together.

Surprised woman2. Happy couples surprise each other.
The human need for variety will KILL your long-term relationship if it isn’t satisfied. How do you keep things interesting with someone you’ve known for years?

Surprise them! No, don’t buy yourself a new car to surprise your spouse. The best surprises are ones that involve you being thoughtful. Fortunately, the little things count. For example:

• Saying I love you out of the blue.
• Surprise gifts and inexpensive outings.
• Doing the other’s chores around the house.
• Volunteering a massage.

It’s the little things! Each one adds a spice to recipe in your relationship. If you neglect this one, the surprise you get one day might not be pleasant.

3. When things go wrong, they look at themselves first (mostly).
Healthy couples are great at holding each other accountable. This is possible for one important reason: Each person also holds SELF accountable first. Try holding an equal partner accountable consistently while never taking responsibility for yourself.

This sad strategy only leads to mutual resentment and defensiveness.

If you want the right to hold someone else accountable, then be willing to expect the same of yourself. The respect you deserve comes from this place of personal maturity.

4. Happy couples learn to communicate with “easy” sophistication (it is shockingly easy).
A whole new level of sophisticated communication skills is NOT DIFFICULT to learn and apply. For example, in NLP we know that a majority of communication happens through three of the five senses. We communicate in pictures, sounds and feelings.

Most people have a preference for one of these modes of communication. Love is a form of communication. Therefore, it is best sent in the way your partner prefers to receive it. So simple!

If you mismatch your partner’s love style, she won’t feel loved. You’ll end up intending to give love, but creating something ELSE.

Visual lovers like visual evidence of love (things they can see): gifts, dressing up nice and going out, a clean kitchen, seeing you do something for them.

Auditory lovers like to hear kind, loving expressions (and in a kind, loving tone).

Feeling oriented lovers like to touch: Hugs, closeness, holding hands, kissing, etc…

Communicating love outside your partner’s modality may not even count (for your partner). If you are a visual lover, for example, a hug doesn’t mean as much as seeing evidence. In fact, you may feel smothered by constant clinging.

Let your partner see, hear or feel you. If you don’t know your partner’s preference, ask!

5. Happy couples are friends first.
Good marriage is friendship BEFORE it is family. Why? Because, on average, people enjoy friends more than family.

The evidence for this is pretty impressive. A survey done via the Mappiness App collected more than 3 million responses in its real time happiness survey. Results clearly showed that participants were far happier when in the company of friends than with family. Friends even made people happier than spouses and didn’t even compare to “other family.”

Among families of origin, people are often used to contradicting each other, being annoyed, rolling their eyes, bickering, sneaking around and feeling oppressed. It’s the truth. Families are often cauldrons of misery.

Your primary relationship or marriage does not have to be like this if you are friends first. Good friends are less likely to treat each other with disrespect. If you are friends, you are more likely to respect boundaries.

The fatal mistake so many couples make is diving into a young relationship too deeply, too quickly. When you do this, you bypass the opportunity to form a friendship and instantly create another family member.

For more on the essential stages of romantic relationships, click here.

6. Gently, gently.
Gentleness can transform your relationship. In fact, the Gottman Institute, a leader in marriage research, claims that being gentle is the number one factor in determining the success of your relationship.

Are you gentle with your spouse? If not, rest assured you are adding to the hurt and resentment. Hurt and resentment do not simply vanish without reconciliation. One day, resentment will rear its ugly head.

Interestingly, many of us confuse gentleness with indulgence. We think that if we are kind, we have to put up with rudeness, mistreatment, laziness, etc…

Not. True.

You can be gentle and STILL REQUIRE respect, hold people accountable and deliver consequences. In fact, being gentle is a far more effective way of demanding respect.

Are you committed to happiness or unhappiness?
The brazen truth is that your subconscious mind is not as committed to your happiness as you are. It may be harboring reasons – known as psychological attachments – for clinging to familiar misery.

To implement the principles above, you may need to discover and root out your tendencies toward self-sabotage. This removes the subconscious tendency to accept what is painfully familiar.

If you like this article, then like my Facebook Page to keep up with all my writing.

Mike Bundrant is author of the e-book, Your Achiiles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage.

Nov 20

quote of the day..


A marriage succeeds when each of us realizes that our spouse’s needs are at least as important as our own….

Oct 26

Can Cheating Make Us Feel Good?


A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that behaving in unethical ways creates positive feelings in many people, especially if they know or believe that their behavior is not harming anyone. These results are in sharp contrast to previous theories of moral behavior, which assume that all unethical behaviors cause most people to experience negative affect (to feel shameful, guilty, and otherwise bad about themselves and what they’ve done).

The researchers, led by Nicole Ruedy at the University of Washington, conducted six trials examining multiple aspects of “victimless” unethical behavior and its emotional effects. They found that although people predict they will feel bad after engaging in unethical behavior, they often do not, and, in fact, many actually experience an increase in feelings of excitement and arousal. The authors have labeled this increase in positive affect the “cheater’s high.”

I am happy to report that this rather significant piece of research makes perfect sense to me as a clinician who has worked with, quite literally, thousands of men and women who’ve been “forced” into treatment by an “angry and resentful” partner (who has often just learned of the identified patient’s ongoing pattern sexual infidelity). The minimizations, rationalizations and outright denials of reality I see in these “cheating” men and women are often astounding. And nearly always part of this justification is the fact that they have convinced themselves they are not hurting anyone, which is a key element in the cheater’s high described above.

That said, the “cheater’s high” study did not focus on relationship infidelity or even things like outright stealing. Instead, researchers looked at unethical behavior engaged in while solving math, logic and word problems. In one experiment, participants answered math and logic problems on computers in two groups. In group one, when participants completed an answer, they were automatically moved to the next question. In the second group, participants could click a button on the screen to see the correct answer before giving their own, but they were asked to disregard the correct answer button and solve the problems without that crutch. Researchers could see who used the correct answer button (who cheated), and they found that 68 percent of the people who had that option took it. Thus we see that about two-thirds of people will cheat, as long as there is no perceived victim.

In another experiment, the researchers paired a true study participant with an actor pretending to be a study participant. The actual participants were told they would be paid for each puzzle they solved within a certain time limit, with their work being graded by the other participant (the actor). So while the real participants solved puzzles, the fake participants graded the results. For half of the real participants, the actor/grader inflated the puzzle-solver’s score, thereby increasing that person’s financial payout. For the other half, the actor/grader scored the test accurately. None of the participants in the cheating duos reported the lie. Afterward, those who gained from the actor/grader telling a lie reported feeling better (having a higher positive affect) than those who did not. In other words, they felt good about getting away with something.

All told, the six trials in the study provide a strong challenge to the long-held assumption that in most people, unethical behavior automatically triggers negative affect. Here, research shows that even though most people expect to experience negative affect, unscrupulous behavior may in fact trigger positive feelings, especially if the person’s “crime” is thought (by the person) to be victimless. This last portion is the groundbreaking part. As the authors write in their study:

Very little prior work has examined the consequences of voluntary unethical behavior without obvious harm or a salient victim. This is an important omission not only because these types of unethical behavior are common … but also because the affective consequences of these acts may be very different [and] may actually evoke positive affect … The idea that unethical behavior can trigger positive affect is consistent with many anecdotal accounts of dishonesty, theft, and fraud. These accounts include wealthy individuals who delight in shoplifting affordable goods, joy-riders who steal cars for the thrill and fraudsters who revel in their misdeeds.

So is it reasonable to officially extend these findings to infidelity? As of now, probably not. In reality, much more research is needed on the topic. Anecdotally speaking, however, I can tell you that this cheater’s high is very much a part of serial sexual infidelity for a lot of people. Men and women who engage in such behavior very often think: What she (or he) doesn’t know can’t possibly hurt her (or him). Thus, in addition to the actual sexual experience, they get to experience the cheater’s high brought on by getting away with their “victimless” unethical behavior.

Potential Causes of the Cheater’s High

As Ruedy and her colleagues note, there are three primary ways in which people derive psychological benefits from victimless unethical behaviors. They are, in short:

Such behaviors may provide financial, social or other gains such as better grades, raises at work, the satisfaction of “doing better” than someone else, etc. These windfalls are, generally speaking, triggers for positive affect.
Such behaviors may lead to a greater sense of autonomy and influence. Circumventing rules that limit others gives cheaters an expanded range of options and an increased sense of control over their life outcomes, thereby increasing positive affect.
Such behaviors often involve the challenge of breaking rules and overcoming systems that are designed to constrain that behavior. The mental gymnastics involved in this can make life more interesting and enjoyable, leading to an increase in positive affect.
All of these are very much in play when it comes to relationship infidelity. First, the “windfall” of infidelity is having more (and perhaps more exciting) sex. Second, circumventing vows of monogamy and other societal rules attached to long-term relationships gives cheaters a greater sense of control over their sexual lives, and often that feeling of control extends to other areas of life. Third, and I see this in many of my clients, there is a definite sense of enjoyment/accomplishment in facing and meeting the challenges of secretive philandering.

What the researchers fail to consider is the pleasurable neurochemical rush human beings get from certain behaviors. It is this experience of pleasure that drives much of human activity. This, of course, is most apparent in adolescents, who act more impulsively, fail to consider long-term consequences, and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than adults or younger children. Simply put, teens have higher rates of accidents, drug and alcohol use, suicide, unsafe sexual behaviors and criminal behavior. And functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of the brain tell us very clearly that this is neurobiological in nature. Essentially, different parts of the brain mature at different rates, with the nucleus accumbens, better known as the brain’s “pleasure center,” maturing quickly, and the striatum, which controls rational thought and decision-making, maturing slowly. In essence, the human brain is designed to encourage irresponsible behavior in adolescents (understanding that a period of time in which risky, impulsive, perhaps even unethical behaviors are more attractive than safe, responsible behaviors results in learning and emotional growth). The problem is that for some people, the striatum never quite catches up to the nucleus accumbens, meaning the neurochemical rush of “fun” behaviors continues to outweigh the joys of meeting obligations, keeping promises and behaving ethically. And “getting away with it” most likely enhances the usual dopaminergic rush.

The Cheater’s High and Sexual Infidelity

One aspect of the cheater’s high that definitely needs to be researched further is whether it serves as a motivating factor in future decision-making. In other words: Does getting away with unethical behavior and feeling good about oneself afterward motivate a person to repeat his or her unethical behavior? The same basic question worded differently and from my usual therapeutic perspective reads: Does cheating on your significant other without getting caught and then feeling good about yourself make you want to cheat again? If so, that would certainly explain, at least in part, a lot of the behavior my clients have engaged in.

That said, as every good clinician knows, the full spectrum of reasons people do the things they do is never simple. Motivations for engaging in sexual infidelity are even more complex because the innate and very complicated drive for sexual congress is thrown into the mix. Most often, the assistance of an extremely skilled clinician is needed if a cheater is ever going to parse through the many layers of feeling, perception, and experience that drive his or her extracurricular sexual activity.

Ultimately, of course, a person’s reasons (both conscious and unconscious) for cheating are less important than their current and future behavior. It is possible, even for those addicted to intensity-based patterns of behavior (gambling, porn, sex, spending, etc.), to change their conduct without ever developing a deep understanding of that behavior’s root causes. In fact, the initial approach taken when treating any form of addiction is to change the behavior first, and then, once sobriety is solidly established, attempt to deal with the emotional and psychological underpinnings of the problem. Of course, if a person is still enjoying the cheating, and if that person still feels that his or her behavior is not hurting anyone, then getting that person to willingly enter treatment and do the necessary work of recovery is well-nigh impossible. Still, the more we know about what motivates good people to do bad things, the better off we’ll be, and the cheater’s high discussed herein may well be a significant step in that direction.

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health. A licensed UCLA MSW graduate and personal trainee of Dr. Patrick Carnes, Mr. Weiss is author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, and co-author with Dr. Jennifer Schneider of both Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age and the upcoming 2013 release, Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Sex, Intimacy and Relationships, along with numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters.

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