Monday, December 31, 2007

Tip of the Week, December 31, 2007

This is the time for resolutions. As you think about ways to improve your relationships, consider some of these possibilities:

Resolve to spend 20 minutes a day … every day … with each other just talking about your life and your day.

Resolve to visit your children’s rooms, go into their space, for 10 minutes every day and ask about their music, their friends, subjects of interest to them as people, not to you as a parent.

Those going through divorce or death of a spouse:
Resolve to build your friendship network with people of the same sex rather than rushing to find a new partner.

Practice random acts of kindness.

Please add others that you have made for the new year.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Infidelity: The Hurting Spouse, What Can I Do?

It is common for both spouses to feel a great deal of anxiety and depression, sometimes even suicidal thoughts, after the affair has been uncovered or revealed. The crisis of infidelity shakes even the strongest people and the reactions are like any traumatic event. The hurting spouse moves through feelings of despair, despondence, fear, anger and rage. The initial responses may range from the desire to do anything to save the marriage with a desperate pursuit of their spouse to insistence that their spouse immediately leave the house and plans to file for divorce. The stronger the trust, the greater the surprise and that generally leads to the most intense reactions.

The spouse who has had the affair generally feels a great deal of guilt and remorse, although that may not be what comes out of his or her mouth. Initially the response may be defensive ones that blame the marriage as the reason for the affair. This person, if there has been an emotional connection with the affaire, also may feel some ambivalence about ending that relationship and hurting the other person. There generally is no desire to talk about the specifics of the affair, both to protect their spouse as well as to protect themselves.

Most couples that experience an affair … and both decide that they want to save the marriage, can recover. Many even say that their marriage is stronger and better than it ever was; however, healing from infidelity can take a very long time (one to two years) and a lot of open communication, damage repair and eventual forgiveness. If there has been more than one affair, the reasons for the infidelity are often more complicated and recovery can be more complicated, but not impossible.

The first thing that the couple needs to do is to acknowledge that there has been this crisis, that it is a very painful time and that they must find a way to calm down and make decisions deliberately and in their own best interests, not as a reaction to the traumatic event. This is one of the times where guidance from a competent therapist who has skill and knowledge with recovery from infidelity is a valuable resource. This is one of the areas that John and Sally have worked with extensively and would be glad to help you and spouse as you focus on this problem … and your marriage.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Family Meetings

Family meetings provide a great opportunity for busy families to stay connected, learn about what is going on in each other’s lives and teach communication and problem-solving skills. Here are some general guidelines for how to hold the meetings in ways that make sense for families.

1. Make certain to hold the meetings to less than 1 hour. Find ways to make them fun. Begin with a funny family story or ask if anyone wants to tell a joke. Serve hot chocolate and cookies or some kind of interesting snack.
2. Rotate the leadership of the meetings. Let the parents be in charge of the first few meetings and then share with all of the children who are old enough to handle it.
3. Appoint someone to be the secretary to record all of the important family decisions. The parents can begin with this duty, but after the first few meetings, any of the children who can write can rotate this responsibility.
4. Let everyone decide on the best day and time to hold the meeting … a time that fits best with everyone’s schedule. Try to hold to this time as much as possible recognizing that, with families and scheduling, there is always a need for some flexibility.
5. Begin the meeting on a positive tone and try hard to keep it that way throughout the meeting. Start with a question such as “What is one good thing that happened to you this week?” and go around the room giving everyone a time to share in the discussion. The parents should offer lots of positive comments about each child’s experience, again modeling that we are going to be kind and supportive of everyone.
6. The next “go around” might be about schedules for the week. Who needs rides where? Who has events, big projects due at school, what nights are parents going to be out, etc.?
7. The final go around can be about problem-solving. Who has dilemmas that need to be discussed? This can include problems about household chores, disagreements with each other, etc.? This is the time to talk about problems in constructive and positive ways. The parents should find ways to keep the discussion positive, focusing more on what each wants from the other rather than what is wrong with each other.
8. Finally, the secretary should make sure that he/she has recorded any family plans or decisions that have been made. Decide on the best place to post the family decision record.
9. Make the commitment to meet again and schedule the time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tip of the Week, December 24, 2007

Acceptance is a key in healthy relationships. If your partner’s behavior is not harmful to you or to others, it can be very helpful to stop trying to change him or her or let that behavior annoy or irritate you; instead, find ways to focus on the things about your partner that you do like and appreciate. When the behavior appears, acknowledge your disappointment but then think of one or two things about your partner that are attractive, loving or interesting.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Family Distance During the Holidays

We have been hearing from lots of clients … and friends … about struggles that they are having as they have become emotionally distant from family. The distance has arisen from conflict or misunderstandings and involves parents separated from their children and grandchildren, siblings who will not attend holiday gatherings if other family members are there and recently separated spouses who are terribly sad that they will not be with in-laws and extended family this year.

This is so disappointing and sad for many involved … especially those who have access to feelings other than anger and self-righteousness. One of the most important things to do is to acknowledge that this would be hard for you … for anyone in your situation. Allow yourself some time to grieve and feel sad, and then also to put aside, as best you can, those normal feelings and engage yourself with others who care for you. Try not to pursue the ones that you are missing, while also looking for ways to keep the door open to mend the rupture. Find ways to be useful, caring and loving to others at this holiday time as a way of taking some of the focus off of your own sadness.

Are there ideas that you can share with us … and others, about how to care for yourself during this difficult time?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holidays provide times for connection with multiple generations

Holidays provide times for connection with multiple generations. Grandparents have the opportunity to share some of the family history with their grandchildren. This is a wonderful time to get out family holiday photos, play games that parents and grandparents played as children, for grandparents to share stories of their Christmases “long ago” and to make traditional holiday treats. Some families have food that they only prepare at holiday times … egg nog, a special cookie or coffee cake, or an ethnic dish from the oldest generation’s heritage. Use this time to enrich family connection, even if you do not see as much of each other through the year as you would like.

Consider finding ways to include family members that live away and will not be home for the holidays. Send old photos in ornaments, wrap up an old childhood memento, journal in a grandparent’s book. Creatively think about ways to stay connected with each other.

The Richardsons pass the same holiday cards back and forth to each other every year, adding a short note about their lives. It has become a record of family events for 23 years now. Elaine and her sister have one silver holiday ball that they pass back and forth every year. This ball is the kind in which you put some small gift. Each tries to find something different and unique … and it is a nice tradition to show that they care about each other.

George and Jill send their grandchildren photos taken over the year of them all together. Their mother helps them to keep them in a book so that they have a record of history with their grandparents.

Have you found ideas to stay connected with your family that you can share with us here?

Monday, December 17, 2007

After Parents Die Relationships With Siblings Change ... And So Do Holidays

Many adults are often surprised at how their relationship with siblings changes after parents die. Family traditions stop or change and many siblings find that they feel less connection to their brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. Parents are often the glue that hold family traditions, communication and the memories of childhood together and when they are gone, so often go the opportunities for gathering. You can never “go home” for holidays.

Add to this the fact that there are so often disappointments, hurts and misunderstandings as family members divide up the parents’ estate and it is no wonder that the family that once was, changes into something very different. The recognition of this often brings about a new phase of grieving for adults and can come as quite a surprise for many.

Many adults are surprised by how hard it is to lose a parent and some even report feeling like an orphan. Finding a way through new relationships with their extended family, often trying to let go of some of the childhood roles and feelings and developing new adult relationships and rituals requires patience, persistence, forgiveness, love and a desire to continue with the family’s legacy.

Changes In The Holidays

So … how can you accept the changes, maintain some of the old rituals and develop new ones? One of the first questions to ponder is … Are you the only one interested? Sometimes that is the case, especially after a few years and both parents have been gone for a while, and children and grandchildren have grown and moved away.

Some people do not desire to continue with old patterns and are glad to interrupt the connection with sisters and brothers with whom they had a great deal of conflict or generally poor relationship or for whom the visits home provided more stress than happiness.

Some families maintain close ties and find the connection very comforting. Traditions carry on in many of the same ways and the family finds ways to honor their parents even after they are gone. One family that I know makes sure to have some of the same foods that their mother made, making sure to have her red velvet cake and a special country ham shipped in from their mother’s home town, even if they celebrate the holiday a few days before or after the actual date of the holiday. They continue to vacation together in some of the same places and the group just grows to incorporate the new members.

Other families, ones who are not as emotionally connected or live out of town and no longer have a “home base’, find that it is more difficult to stay connected and may only have occasional phone or email contacts … and irregular family reunions. Many express a feeling of loss and sadness at the changes and are often disappointed not to be able to share their family traditions with their own children.

However your family’s pattern develops, it is important to be prepared for changes, anticipate feelings of loss … and possibly even some relief. Have conversations with those in your family that want to be connected and talk with them about how to plan family connection and tradition with the new generation at the head.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tip of the week, Week of December 17, 2007

In this time of holidays there is often a high level of stress, sometimes bringing excitement and sometimes disappointment. Find time to slow down and pay attention to the good things in your life right now. Try to think about which things are important to be doing, spending time, money and energy on … and which ones are you doing to impress or please another. This time in your life, and in the lives of your relationships, will never come again.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Parenting Toddlers

What a wonderful age … they are interested and interesting. While dependent upon you, they also are beginning to look outward and explore a little of their own territory. So lovely to see their delight with new things.

They also can be moody and stubborn, give hugs and kisses one minute and then explode in a temper tantrum the next.

Check out some of the really good sites on the net that share developmental milestones and parenting techniques.

This is the age when parenting differences can begin to emerge. It is very important for you and your spouse to make sure to talk ideas and differences over to come to an understanding about how each other thinks … and determine approaches that you can accept. Rearing children is a perpetual issue for many couples … and it is far more important for people to get along than to win a point.

Some worry about their ability to be a good parent, particularly if they did not receive good parenting when they were children. One of the most important things is to be able to manage your own feelings when with your children so that you can find ways to be with them that are not reactive (other than when loving) and more pro-active about handling problems with their lives.

Please share your ideas, comments and questions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How Can I Tell if My Spouse Is Cheating?

There are no clear-cut signs … other than finding your partner with a paramour … that are fool-proof; however, when there are changes in your partner and the marriage there are often some indicators that infidelity may be an issue. Some of these indicators are:

The obvious indicators include: late hours, a change in routine, secretive phone calls and e-mails, much more attention to grooming, dieting and exercise, a rush to the shower immediately after coming home, the smell of perfume or cologne, more mentioning of an opposite sex co-worker or no mention of one that was mentioned before.

A feeling of distance with your spouse. Where you once may have talked about what was going on in each other’s lives, you find that your partner is less available to do that. You have more difficulty in every day communication … reaching your partner by cell phone or at the office.

A change in attitude. Your partner may once have been friendly and now seems more abrupt or disrespectful and may even appear to pick fights with you.

A definite moodiness about your partner
, times of seeming to be very happy coupled with times of seeming depressed, sad or unhappy.

A change in frequency of sexual relations, either a definite lack of sexual involvement or significantly more and an interest in trying new or different things in the bedroom

Your intuition or “gut” tells you that something is wrong.

Others close to you two may also mention that there seems to be a difference with your spouse.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How Do You Develop The Courage To Date?

Men are often stuck with the initial bid to date … and choosing someone to ask out. They also generally have to develop the courage to ask the question and handle any “no” or rejection which can take a lot of courage. Women also have to find ways to * make themselves available for dating, not hiding out in comfortable surroundings and with friends of the same sex.

There are lots of things that people do to sabotage meeting and forming a relationship that could lead to something close or intimate … and it takes courage (among other things) to put yourself in a situation where something may develop.

Do you hide behind weight?
Do you hide behind the idea that you do not need a relationship? (No one needs a relationship but it is human nature to want one.)
Do you hide behind the idea that you are simply too busy or too committed to your career to meet and nurture a relationship?
Is meeting someone special something that you keep putting off until the next goal is reached in your life? Your children are grown? You own your own home? You have received a promotion?
Are you such an introvert that it is too much of an effort to do what it takes to meet someone to date?

It is not easy to open yourself up to the possibility, find the right “pool” of people and explore the friendships that could lead into intimacy. And yet, if you do not take chances, nothing will just come your way and appear on your doorstep.

Consider some of these things as a way of beginning to develop the courage to date.

* Find things that you like to do … and would enjoy talking about or doing with another person. Join a hiking club, book group, take a class in art, music or wine appreciation.
* Develop friendships of the same sex. Involve yourself in activities with them that take you into social environments where you can practice conversational skills with people of both sexes.
* Show up at your local coffee shop a few times a week to just have coffee and smile at a few other people. Notice the results.
* Embark on a program to improve your health. Do not set unrealistic goals of losing 100 pounds. Rather, think about feeling healthier with your own skin because you are eating right (start small … one meal, one snack and build from there), exercise (again start small … walk one block, walk in place during one television commercial and build from there), grooming yourself well, dressing in attractive clothing and styling your hair in a way that fits with your personality.
* Write a list, every day, of three things about yourself that are interesting or attractive.
* Interview others about their positive experiences with dating.
* Look at some of the on-line dating sites to see some of the others out there. Do not rule out this form of meeting others. Many very nice people have met their partners or significant others there. Even if you are not ready to date, think about just canvassing the dating scene.
* Practice talking with others using small talk about mutual interests or actually talking with someone else about their favorite subject … themselves.
* Ask someone of the same sex to do something with you. Give yourself some practice with invitations … and also with handling “no”.
* Visualize yourself on a date. Hear yourself talking, listening and having fun. Continue practicing in your head several times a week until it begins to seem even slightly fun to you.

These are just some ideas for how to begin to get yourself ready to think about meeting someone to date. Please visit our blog and share some of your ideas and experiences.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Stages of Marriage

Relationships change over time. Many of these are typical or predictable. At times it helps for couples to know what to expect as their relationships move through time. These stages are not all experienced in a straight-line fashion, rather they tend to flow and cycle back. Below are some brief descriptions of these different stages.

Stage 1: The ”Honeymoon” Phase
This is the earliest and most exhilarating and exciting stage of a relationship. Individuals see each other in very positive ways and are not yet aware of any problems. At this time, couples look for sameness in each other with interests and values. Any challenges to the relationship are viewed as positives as couples look for ways to surmount them together.

Stage 2: Disenchantment and Disappointment Set In
The first cycle of this stage generally begins about 3 months into a relationship. Couples begin to experience the changes in each other or the clearer view of the other with disappointment and sadness. Couples that successfully move through this stage, find ways to talk about the differences with open, respectful communication. Together they determine if healthy change can happen or if the relationship would be in a better space if it ended.

Stage 3: Struggles for Control
This stage emerges as half of each couple considers their own individual needs and, at times, those needs compete. Needs can center around desire for connection and nurturance or a say in how decisions are made on both small and large issues ranging from finances to the color of the living room walls. Couples must learn how to disagree respectfully and to compromise effectively in order to move past this stage. Some couples stay here for a very long time.

Stage 4: Is the Grass Greener?
One or the other may be interested in leaving the relationship to discover other relationships or to fulfill personal dreams.

Stage 5: Returning to Cooperation and Connection
At this stage, couples turn back to each other and to the marriage. They are able to negotiate differences more easily and see nurturing the relationship and their partner as a priority.

Stage 6: Acceptance and Peace
True intimacy and mutuality emerge at this phase as both members in the couple recognize that they can be separate or be together without losing their identity and see the relationship as mutually fulfilling.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

25 Tips for Romance

1. Recreate your first date. Try to remember where you went, what you did, what you wore, what you ate, what you talked about. Re-create as closely as you can.
2. Put candy kisses in your sweetheart’s pockets, car, at the kitchen table, and leave a picture with a heart next to them.
3. Surprise is a wonderful way to bring back romance. Think of something that your partner really wants or would like to do … and get it or plan it.
4. Find something playful to do … swing on a swing set, play miniature golf, have a pillow fight, bring home the ingredients for “some mores” …
5. Leave love notes in unexpected places.
6. Have dinner alone and with candlelight using the best china and silver.
7. Come up with 25 reasons why you love your partner and write them out in a card or out them on small slips of paper in a box for him to open.
8. Look clearly into your partner’s eyes for a few seconds and, while holding that gaze, tell her how much you love her.
9. Find pet names for each other that express endearment and caring.
10. Give her flowers on each of your children’s birthdays.
11. Reminisce about how you fell in love. What were the first signals to you that this was a different relationship? When did you first notice that you were in love and when did you first say it out loud? What were some of the earliest things about your partner that you noticed and led to the feelings of love?
12. Listen to songs that were popular when you fell in love? Choose a song that is “your” song.
13. Celebrate the anniversary of your first date … every month.
14. Write in a journal on a regular basis with highlights of your life together. Read it together on your anniversary.
15. Watch a romantic old movie together like .. Casablanca, Marty, An Affair to Remember or Doctor Zhivago.
16. Take a bubble bath together.
17. Pack a picnic a find a spot where there are no other people around.
18. If you have young children and cannot get away easily, plan a special time after they are in bed. Light candles, put on music, fix something interesting to eat and drink. Think of two or three items of conversation that might reveal more to you about your partner like “What was your favorite thing to do as a child? Tell me all of the reasons you liked it.” or “What is your biggest dream, realistic or not?”
19. Talk about a couple, real or on the screen, that you really like and think of their relationship as very romantic. Talk about all of the reasons that make you think that. Is there anything that they do/have done that you could do?
20. Tell your partner 5 things that you love and appreciate about him. Give him all of the reasons that make you say that. Share one example of a time when she/he showed that quality.
21. Read love poems together.
22. Go on a date and pretend to just meet. You might even think of a different persona to pretend to be. Try out some “schmaltzy” pick-up lines with each other.
23. Volunteer a back rub or massage.
24. Make random phone calls, texts or e-mails with the only goal of saying “I love you”.
25. For men … offer to help with the housework or the children. Research shows that men who help with housework and child care describe better sex lives.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Reignite Feelings of Passion and Romance

Most couples that have been together for some time, know that excitement and passion can wane. Some of the biggest contributors are fatigue, lack of time, loss of “newness” and falling into routines that do not engender excitement. Of course, it is also common to hear about a lack of interest in couples with a lot of unresolved conflict. Distance, hurt and anger in the relationship also contribute to a loss of feelings of connectedness and respect.

Many men, as well as many women, report that they need intimacy outside of the bedroom before being at all interested in intimacy inside the bedroom.

Here are some thoughts to remember when you and your partner are looking for ways to fire up the relationship.

· It is very important to tend to the needs of the relationship, to learn healthy communication and conflict resolutions skills.
· Are old wounds so deep or does the behavior continue in hurtful ways? If so, you need to pay special care and possibly talk things over with a professional therapist.
· Are the wounds old and has the behavior changed? If so, are these past injustices or hurts ones that you must just find ways to let go of them and forgive your partner?
· While it is not always the case, sometimes it is good to just reconnect with intimacy and let that be the lubrication for reconnecting in other ways.
· Make sure to find ways to let your partner know that he or she is very important to you and that you want to reconnect because he or she truly is the one that you love and want to be with.
· Offer to help your spouse with housework and childcare. One research study showed a clear positive connection between increased sexual frequency and men who helped with housework.
· Make sure to find time during each day to connect with your spouse and to protect sacred time with her/him on a regular basis.
· Talk out loud with your partner about what you like, find interesting and attractive about each other.
· Since the brain is the largest sexual organ, find time during the day to think, for just a few moments, about romance with your partner.

These are some beginning ideas. We will share more with other topics and would welcome your comments on our blog.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

And Baby Makes Three

Moving from a couple of two to a family of three brings on many challenges, among them are lessened opportunities for intimacy or individual pursuits, lack of sleep, financial stress and more housework. Young couples, who generally are very excited to expand their family, may also feel overwhelmed, irritable or depressed because of the many changes brought about by a new family member. Add this to a time when many are building careers that require a lot of time, attention and stress and it is easy to see how couples can grow apart because of the lack of nurturing for the marriage or a struggle to find ways to negotiate the typical and expected differences that arise during this time in a couple‘s life. This is the beginning of one of the highest times for divorces, as couples focus more on children and career and less on their relationship.

As spouses enter this time, it is good to establish plans for regular communication and problem-solving. If stuck places arise, it might also be good to get a consultation with an objective person … financial adviser, parenting coach or marriage counselor, to help negotiate the differences.

Find ways to nurture each other and the relationship through regular dates each week, checking in about what is going on in each other’s life while apart and finding opportunities for play as a family, as a couple and some time for each parent. Hard to do while balancing children and careers and yet, these must also become priorities.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tip of the Week, December 3, 2007

The way that you think about your relationships and your life affects the way that you feel about yourself, your life and others. When you are able to think positively about life, you will feel better. Try an experiment for today. Choose one relationship that is troublesome to you … and find a way to look for a positive in that situation or that person.

If your boss is difficult, think of one thing about her/him that is positive such as “He does have a good smile” or “She did say that she likes the way that I handle customers.” If that is not possible, think of a positive thing about the situation such as “I am only at this job 40 hours a week and have many other things in my life that are fulfilling such as my spouse, children, home, etc. … and I can put this all in perspective.”

One woman recently told me that she was surprised by how much better she felt after she changed one habit. She no longer spent time with co-workers who were unhappy with the job and constantly complaining. Instead, she tried to only talk with others about neutral or positive things about the job … or about her life. Her job and the problems did not change but they were no longer so overwhelming for her and she no longer found herself thinking so much about them.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What Can You Expect, Realistically, With the Merging of Two Families?

When two people fall in love, they naturally want their families to blend right away and immediately get along with each other. This is very unrealistic and sets the stage for disappointment, hurt and anger by all involved.

Some of the other ideas that are common ideas and also unrealistic expectations are:
· Children will accept the new stepparent with open arms, courtesy and pleasure.
· The stepmother will be able to be kind, gentle and loving enough that the children will quickly fall in love with her.
· The stepfather will be able to immediately handle discipline problems with the children so that they will accept authority and rules.
· The children will really like each other and enjoy having a larger family.
· There will not be any problems with choosing common rules for children in this new unit.
· The new stepparents will really like and, even come to love, their stepchildren.
· This new loving family can “overcome” the influence of the other family.

What should you expect in a stepfamily?
· It generally takes one or two years for stepfamilies to say that they are finally okay.
· Stepchildren will only accept discipline (teaching) from someone that they respect and have a relationship with.
· Patience, a good sense of humor and lots of loving communication will be required because it takes a long time for people to even feel comfortable with each other.
· Stepparents and stepchildren may only get to the place of learning to get along. The relationship may never get deeper than that; and for some families, that can be seen as success.
· Stress and struggle are the norm.
· Natural parents from “the other” family cannot be criticized in front of the children without causing problems in your family relationship.
· The adults must be the grown-ups and demonstrate lots of flexibility, humor, patience and understanding.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Are you feeling distance and loneliness from your partner?

One of the surprises for couples is that they have to work at their marriage and the connection that they have to their spouse. In today’s busy society with many distractions … from work and family to recreation and commitments with community, church, friendships, computers, etc. it is very easy to forget … or feel like there is not enough time to nurture the marriage. It is too easy to grow apart and feel distant from each other, and lonely for each other.

This is one of the main reasons that the divorce rate is so high in marriages where there are young children … careers and childcare overtake couple time and the marriage suffers as the adults do not nurture each other and their relationship. When couples grow distant from each other, they each often turn their time and attention, have their needs filled by, other people or other things. The territory then becomes fertile ground for affairs to develop.

John Gottman (Marital Therapy: A Research-Based Approach, John Gottman, PhD) noted that, in follow-up research, those marriages that were able to sustain changes made in counseling, are also ones who had the “Magic 5” hours of connection each week. This includes having 6 second kisses when you begin and end the day and telling each other 1 interesting thing that happened during the day. Finding 40 minutes each day to talk about what happened during the day (catching up with each other’s lives), finding 5 minutes a day … every day … to kiss, hold and touch each other, 5 minutes a day just to talk about what they like, appreciate and admire about each other and one 2-hour date each week.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What Makes It So Hard To Remain Faithful To Your Spouse?

The causes of infidelity are complicated and can happen in good marriages as well as struggling ones.

Many affairs develop in marriages where couples have drifted apart because they have avoided conflict and resolving problems, are fearful of intimacy or have just not tended to the necessary feeding that a marital relationship requires. They can also occur when one person is depressed, unhappy in the marriage or within a social group where affairs are condoned. Affairs may happen at transition times in marriages, sometimes called “mid-life crises,” which are often opportunities for individuals to take stock of their life and evaluate what is “missing” and then look to others to fill that space.

In healthy marriages, it can take someone by surprise when feelings for another person develop, generally with a co-worker, neighbor or a friend that someone sees regularly and with whom a friendship develops into more as stories, experiences and life events are shared.

Multiple affairs generally indicate some personal problems with the person having affairs. Some are addicted to love, sex or self-affirmation. Often there is a family history of affairs often by the same sex parent and it is a “tradition“ accepted within the family. With some, there is a feeling of entitlement with little regard for the spouse’s feelings.

Emotional affairs may not involve a sexual relationship (intercourse); however they do involve secrecy from the spouse and sharing of intimate details in each other’s lives and can be as destructive, often even more so, than sexual affairs. Women are more likely to have emotional affairs, men are more likely to have sexual affairs.

Internet affairs are becoming more and more common. With today’s technology and easy access to others with similar interests or problems … as well as the opportunity to see “what is out there” in the single world, people can become emotionally open to another in ways that distance them from their spouse and the marriage.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ideas About Dating

Are you ready to begin dating … either for the first time or after divorce or the death of your spouse? How do you begin? What do you look for in a dating partner? Here are some ideas to ponder.

1. Think about some couples that you know who have healthy relationships. Observe them and talk with them about what they are doing in their relationship that makes it so good.
Ask them about how they decided that they found the “right” person.
Ask them how they handle disagreements.
Look for signs of nurturing and affection.
2. Think about dating as a sport or social activity. Enjoy opportunities to meet others of the opposite sex rather than looking for a marriage partner.
3. Look at yourself to determine what kind of a person you are and what qualities you want in someone with whom you might spend lots of time.
4. Always make yourself available by being friendly, making eye contact, saying hello.
5. Do not go to bed with or get exclusive with anyone for at least a month. You need time to really get to know someone. Going slowly is much better.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holidays: His Family, Her Family

When couples come together and begin their new family, they often struggle with how to develop their own traditions while fitting in with the traditions for the family of each. Many couples report that they are exhausted when they try to fit in all of the many traditions from both families. This is often compounded when there is tension within the family or between the new spouse and the in-laws.

Carol and Ed really struggled with this for many years. Carol was angry about the treatment that Ed received from his parents while he was growing up and she did not understand at all how he could continue to even have a relationship with them. Ed felt that Carol was too hard on his family and thought that she should put up with the way his parents continued to treat him … and Carol and their children. Ed said that was just “their way” and Carol should find ways to overlook it for the few days that they spent with his family … the grandparents of his children.

Here are some suggestions for Ed and Carol, and for other couples who face this same dilemma.
Be sure to establish rituals that are only for your family.
Find ways to incorporate extended family in some ways. Having extended families involved helps children … and their families … have a sense of family history and connectedness.
Be very kind to yourselves and make sure that there is some time for rest and recovery. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, not “survived”.
If one adult in the family wants to maintain a connection to his or her own family, it is important to try to support it, even if you do not like or understand your spouse’s family. Be sure to talk and plan for this time in order to make it easiest for all involved. Open, honest and respectful communication between both spouses can help to ease the pain. Maybe the communication can also include the in-laws, maybe it cannot. Talk with each other about how, or even if, to involve them in the conversation.

Ed and Carol made the decision to travel to Ed’s home town for 2 days over the holidays. Ed agreed that the family could stay at a nearby hotel and Carol agreed to find ways to be with her in-laws for the afternoon and an evening meal. The couple talked a long time about what were tolerable treatment by Ed’s parents and what needed to be dealt with directly. Both agreed that they would try to stay near each other and Ed would be the one who would take the stand if his parents were disrespectful to Carol or the children.

Both agreed that this was a “work in progress”. There would most likely be things that would happen or be said that they would view differently. They agreed to find a private and calm time to talk about them. Both Ed and Carol agreed that they each felt that protecting their marriage and their family was the most important thing and Carol understood that her husband also wanted a relationship with his parents and for his children to become familiar with this part of their heritage.

What experience do you have with these situations? What are your biggest struggles? What have you found that works?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tip of the Week, November 26, 2007

Holiday Presents
Holiday shopping is in full force. Many face the dilemma of what to buy. Often people think about what they want the other person to have, and not what they think that the other person would want. I have heard of many gift disasters … from pets to camping equipment to living room furniture. The giver bought what they wanted to have themselves rather than really thinking about the needs or desires of the recipient.

The recipient of the gift often feels hurt and disappointed because they believe that their wishes were not heard or were discounted and that the giver thought more about themselves than the recipient. The best gifts come from really listening to your loved one, thinking about them and their interests.

It is perfectly okay to ask someone for suggestions. Gifts do not need to be surprises. It is also okay to ask for suggestions from another who might know what they would like to have. The thoughtfulness is the most important aspect of the gift … and sending the message that the recipient is very important … and that you have heard them, thought long and hard about them … and picked the present because of what you think would really please them.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Repair Damage When You Are Having A Disagreement

When couples have a disagreement, it can be very costly to the relationship. Those in healthy relationships will have a lot of good will and positive sentiments about their partner and so, will find lots of ways to compromise, respect differences and let go of the argument soon after it is over.

John Gottman has noted the frequency of repair attempts during a disagreement in couples with healthy relationships. They generally interact as if getting along is more important than winning a point, so you hear lots of comments like: “I hope that when I say this, it does not hurt your feelings” or “I love you and do not want our differences to cause problems.” or “Let me see if I understand your point.” There is also a lot of humor, loving and playful touch, sometimes distraction, if tension mounts. The distraction might be something like a joke, a short story about a child or friend, an offer for coffee, anything to break the tension before returning to the subject on the table.

Bill and Sarah were excellent with disagreements. Her humor was wonderful and she could easily crack a joke whenever things got tense between she and Bill. The good thing about her humor; however, is that she never got ugly or disrespectful and Bill, who also had a good sense of humor was able to enjoy her wit. Bill’s contributions to supporting the discussion when things were tense was to gently say to her things like, “Sarah, I do not think that you are really hearing me.” … Or “You may not have meant to say that in an ugly way, however, that is not how I heard it. Can you say it differently?” While they did continue to have differences, and sometimes hurt each other or made each other mad, they had a good relationship … and the commitment to find ways to get past their disagreements quickly. They also had an idea about each other and their relationship that promoted their belief that no argument was worth serious damage to the marriage. If you would ask them about the disagreement a few days later, often they could not even recall much about it … and would say things like … “no big deal”.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Step-families come together when two people marry or commit and one of both of them have children from another relationship. Some call these “blended families”; however, that is often inaccurate as some families never truly “blend”, they just learn ways to get along with each other respectfully.

These families come together because the adults fall in love with each other, but it is not a choice for the other family members which, in itself, may cause dilemmas. The adults who fall in love expect others to embrace this new unit lovingly and may be discouraged, frustrated, even angry when that does not happen. Children, if their other parent is still alive, may continue to harbor wishes that their parents will get back together and this new marriage may cause another round of feelings of grief and loss. Parents and other family members of the new relationship may still have a connection to former spouses, may disapprove of their child’s choices and changes and may have difficulty in welcoming the new member into the family.

In step-families there are also “insider” and “outsider” positions. Finding ways to navigate this new terrain requires skill, patience, kindness and grit. Step-families often have questions about time as a nuclear family vs. time with the step-family, how to handle issues of authority and discipline and how to handle differences with the “other” family.

Do you have comments to share with us ... and with other readers of this blog?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Re-kindling Romance and Passion

Rarely is there a marriage where passion and romance endure over the years. More frequently it is a burning ember that needs constant attention … and it is quite easy for the fire to go out. This dilemma affects young couples who have been together for a short while, as well as older couples who find themselves becoming more like roommates than sweethearts.

While more women than men seem to protest that fatigue or an intimate connection with their spouse outside of the bedroom leaves them with little interest in love-making, it is surprising how many men also acknowledge a waning interest in connection and love-making. Romance and passion start outside of the bedroom, both with connection and caring behaviors as well as with positive thinking, the body’s largest and most important sexual organ.

John Gottman’s research reports that men who help with housework and child care, report a higher rate of sexual activity. Women often feel more passionate and connected when their men talk with them and show non-sexual touch like hugging standing up, kissing and hand-holding. Men often feel more connected when they share activities with their women and when they make love.

Rekindling romance and passion often have to be made from conscious decisions to do something different and making the relationship a priority. It may require couples to subtract time from other activities in order to add this in. It also may require a conscious decision to change thinking and to remain focused on what is wanted and desired rather than what is absent or fading away.

What dilemmas, ideas or suggestions do you have?

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Stalemate Story

A friend, Susan, recently told me a story about herself and her husband, Tom. She said that Tom got up early every morning and plugged in the coffee pot. After his shower, he would pour a cup for himself and then come back to the bedroom to finish dressing as Susan was getting out of bed. Susan was hurt … and angry that Tom never poured a cup for her and brought it back with him. Tom thought that Susan was just being lazy … after all, she could easily walk the few steps to the kitchen and pour her own coffee. Both thought that the other one was really being ridiculous about this … and it was amazing how angry each became when they talked about this subject. Sometimes it ruined a whole day for them.

One night, Tom and Susan were walking together around the neighborhood and Susan brought up their constant fight about morning coffee. She started out by saying that she did not want to start a fight; rather she just wanted Tom to know how she was feeling about the morning coffee. She told him that that small act of bringing her coffee would mean so much more to her than the coffee. She knew, of course, that it would be easy for her to get it for herself, however, his simple act of bringing it to her was something that said to her that she was special to him … special enough to think about her and do something kind because he loved her. Tom said that now he never forgets to pour Susan a cup of coffee when he pours his own.

Stalemates in Conflict

Sometimes couples get stuck around a specific issue and neither one is willing to budge. Even trying all of the “fighting fair” suggestions seems to lead nowhere. The stalemate may be around a big issue such as whether or not to have children, making a big purchase, where to live. It may also be about a smaller issue that seems to go round and round with little change such as who takes out the garbage or does the dishes. Each person feels misunderstood, disappointed and even angry. The fighting escalates and often turns in to criticism, nagging, defensiveness and may become hurtful.

Some suggestions:
1. Find a time to talk when you are both calm.
2. Try to have the discussion in a different place, like at a restaurant or outside on the deck.
3. Reach for compromise. If there is anything that you can offer that might feel like a compromise for your spouse, be sure to offer it.
4. Think about what the “must haves” parts of the issue are for you … and what are the things that less important.
5. Get a clear understanding from your partner about what her side is all about. Find out why this position is so important. What does it mean to him in his life? Be sure to get the full picture. Listen to your spouse and try to let her know that you really do understand why this position is so important to her. Tell yourself that you want to really understand the other side completely … and make sure that your partner feels that you really do understand (even if you do not agree) before sharing your ideas. It is often from a truly deep understanding that people are able to move closer to each other.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving Week, Week of November 19, 2007

This week of Thanksgiving, take the time to sincerely and truly thank those in your life. Be specific about what you are giving thanks for … and , if possible, give them an example of how that characteristic operates in your lives together.

Some examples are:
“I am so thankful that you are my friend. You are always there for me. Last month, when I was feeling overwhelmed, you appeared with a pot of soup and said that you did it … just because.”

“I am so thankful that you are my spouse. Your sense of humor and playfulness really brings joy to my life. I especially like the silly notes that you leave on my bathroom mirror. You just bring a smile to my lips .. even early in the morning!”

“I am so thankful that you are my child. Your hugs and kisses make me feel loved … and I will never get tired of them.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The revelation of infidelity can be one of the most painful things that happen in a marriage.
Once the secret has been uncovered, couples face tumultuous emotions and a series of high intensity exchanges and crises. Many marriages do, however, recover from the revelation of an affair. In fact, one recent study revealed that 70% of couples who said that they wanted to find a way to save their marriage, reported that they had succeeded and had a healty marriage.

Often both partners express the opinion, months, sometimes years down the road that, in some crazy way, the affair was a “gift” for the marriage as they have become stronger and recovered or developed the skills required for true intimacy.

The erosion of trust because of the secrecy involved in the affair is often one of the hardest parts as couples experience a breach of faith and recovering that trust can often take years of hard work by both members of the couple before they finally can say that their marriage has healed and the trust has been rebuilt.

Statistics of infidelity are hard to get since this is also about secrecy. One source reported that 15% of wives and 25% of husbands had been unfaithful in their marriage. Another source reports much higher statistics, stating that 30-60% of adults in the United States will be unfaithful at some point in their marriage. Infidelity happens in troubled marriages and it also happens in healthy marriages and can grow as people become friends and later develop more connection and closeness with co-workers or friends in their social network.

We hope to address issues of infidelity in later blogs, such as:
The Causes
The Signs Of Infidelity
Sexual Affairs and Emotional Affairs
Couples Can Recover
What The Cheating Spouse Can Do
How To Let Go Of Some Of The Anger
Affair-Proofing Your Marriage
Reading Resources

Please share you thoughts, ideas, questions and concerns by commenting on this blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Grandparents and Grandchildren

Today’s grandparents tend to act younger, often are still working and have developed active life styles that include travel, volunteer, sport and social activities. Their contact with grandchildren is often very different than that of previous generations. Today’s society is also much more mobile than in the past so that extended families often live some distance from each other. Nevertheless, grandparents can be very important people in a child’s life.

One way for grandparents to make an important contribution in a child’s life is to develop rituals of contact that allow the relationship to develop. These rituals may be weekly, monthly or even annually. One family has a “train night” where the children come every year and put up the grandfather’s childhood train. There are specific activities that surround this train night … it always happens at Christmas, there is always hot chocolate and popcorn while reading “The Polar Express” … spending the night and a morning walk to the candy shop.

Another grandparent invites all of the granddaughters for a tea party every year. Each is allowed to bring one friend. They play dress-up and gather for tea and cookies and some “high society” conversation.


Children love to hear stories about times when their parents were young … what they liked as children, how their parents met, how the grandparents met, what the grandparents life was like as a child. Children also like to hear stories about themselves and memories that grandparents have about them. A nice way to reminisce is to watch … and make … videos and photographs together.

One-On-One Time

All children like a time that is just their own special time, whether it is a night when that child is allowed to sleepover at the grandparents’ home or have a special outing or just a visit, it can be very special. Just listening to their conversation helps them to feel special and appreciated.
One woman told me that she grew up in a very neglectful home. What gave her self-confidence and the ability to believe in herself was her grandmother. She especially remembers a beauty kit that her grandmother bought for her when she was 10. The grandmother told the child that she was lovely inside and out … and this was to help her find ways to feel even better about how she looked.

Please visit our blog and add some of your ideas about how to be involved

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Discerning Questions to Ask As Romantic Relationships Deepen

Making healthy choices in relationships are important. People often have “blind spots” that preclude them from really getting to know another person. These blind spots may have developed in growing up years, come from prior rejections in relationships or poor feelings about yourself … as well as other ways that they find their way to one’s choice about whom to date and/or marry. We have developed some questions to use as a beginning guide on your journey toward healthy coupling. Do not be afraid to ask the hard questions if you want to insure that you have a person in whom to invest time and emotional energy.

Questions to ask (with variations) within the first few meetings:
1. Are you happy with your life? If not, what are you doing about it?
2. Are you happy with your job? If not, what are you doing about it?
3. Are you financially responsible? (Do you live within your means?)
4. Do you meet at least six out of my top ten desires in a relationship partner?
5. How do you get along with your family?
6. What is your relationship with alcohol and drugs?
7. What are your priorities in life? What ideas, values, relationships, activities, things are most important to you?

Questions to ask as you get more acquainted with this person:
1. What do you use for protection from pregnancy/sexually-transmitted diseases?
2. What has been your history of relationships?
3. Were all of the breakups the other person’s fault? Are you able to be reflective and accept some responsibility for the end of prior relationships?
4. How do you handle disagreements?
5. How do you decide when you want to date someone exclusively? What does that mean to you?

Questions to ask if the relationship begins to get serious:
1. What does commitment mean to you?
2. What was your parent’s marriage like?
3. What do you think about getting married (again)? What would be the good things about it and what are your worries/fears?
4. What are your ideas about the role of each spouse?
5. If children, what are your ideas about parenting/step-parenting?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Family Business Relationships

How Effective Are You In Family Business Relationships?

Questions about yourself:
1. When disagreeing with a family member, I am generally able to remain calm.
True False

2. I can generally hear complaints in an “opportunity to learn” light.
True False

3. Whenever I have a complaint or concern, I can generally bring it up in a way that invites discussion rather than defensiveness.
True False

4. My family business members would generally describe me as being a good collaborator.
True False

5. My belief is that in our family business, if we pull together, all things are possible. I look for and try to enhance those efforts in my partners and with our employees.
True False

6. I look for the positive intentions even when perplexed by behaviors.
True False

7. I can take responsibility for bringing an issue to the table.
True False

8. I believe that I model respect for others within the business, even when disagreeing with an idea or issue.
True False

9. My family members and co-workers would describe me as someone who has clear direction achieved through collaboration.
True False

10. I am basically an optimistic person; I see possibilities and potential more readily than roadblocks or problems.
True False

11. I am able to talk directly with the person with whom I disagree rather than to others.
True False

Questions about the family business relationships:

12. We have established methods for resolving conflict.
True False

13. We have a structure for decision-making.
True False

14. We have regularly scheduled times for meeting to plan goals for both near and far.
True False

15. We let each other know in many ways that we care about our family relationship.
True False

16. Our family business can best be described as “relationship first” rather than “business first”.
True False

17. In our business, roles and job descriptions are clearly defined.
True False

18. We are able to openly discuss problems and areas of disagreement.
True False

19. We each feel a sense of accountability to each other.
True False

20. We are all aware of and discuss how family, business and ownership intermingle and that each is affected by and affects the other.
True False

The more questions that you have answered with “true” indicate the better prepared you are to be a part of a healthy family business relationship.

If you answered “true” to 15 or more questions, then you can feel good about your relationship EQ and congratulate yourself and your family on their many strengths and resources.

Answering “true” to 10 – 14 questions would indicate that you and your family clearly have some strengths on which to build. You might consider such things as holding a family retreat to discuss a means to strengthen other skills, read together one or more of the many books that have been written that share information and exercises about how to develop these skills, meet with others in family business fields to learn what they did that worked or invite an outside consultant to work with your family.

If you were not able to answer “yes” to even 10 of these questions, consider talking with your family about the possibility of inviting someone in to help strengthen and develop these essential skills for a healthy and successful family business.

Tip of the Week

Week of November 12, 2008
Remember when … Look at a picture, watch a video, remember a happier time together. Revisit all of the good memories and talk about what happened then … what each of you did to help make that a special time. Dissect what you did and what you most appreciated about your partner and what he or she did that made that a special time. As you notice softer, kinder and better feelings slowly come. Talk about how to keep them alive in the present.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Therapy, Reading or Workshops?

Therapy, Reading or Workshops?

Research shows that most couples wait 6-7 years after a problem begins to ask for help. Therapy works best for couples who are so “stuck” that they cannot get out of patterns on their own.
Therapy is also useful for couples in a crisis such as the discovery of infidelity and need a “calmer presence” with the skill and knowledge to help them negotiate the scary and tricky times.

Reading is great for enriching a relationship. Reading also can be helpful for couples who are just beginning to recognize that there is a problem and they want to make things better. This can even be helpful if one person is slightly more motivated than the other to take the leadership in making it happen.

There are several good books for couples to help them develop skills and knowledge to improve their marriage.

John Gottman, PhD, a researcher from the University of Seattle in Washington, has written several books that have useful exercises along with some easily understood explanations for the purpose of each exercise. Couples can read and go through the exercises together as a way of enhancing their relationship.

Some of the books to look for are:
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (John Gottman and Nan Sliver, 2004)
Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America’s Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies For Strengthening Your Relationship. (John Gottman, Julie Schwartz Gottman and Joan Declaire, 2007)
The Relationship Cure: A Five Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family and Friendships. (John Gottman, 2002)

Another book that is helpful if only one person wants to work on the marriage is:
Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7 - Step Program for Saving Your Marriage. (Michele Weiner-Davis, 2001).

Other books will be listed on our recommended reading list.

Workshops and weekend retreats are excellent ways to build skills and knowledge for making marriages work. These provide opportunities for couples who are experiencing typical couple communication problems or want to enhance their relationship. These workshops are often offered through churches. Some are given in interesting and exotic places by national presenters. Whatever your budget, there should be an option available.

We also have experience conducting weekend workshops for couples. Contact us if you would like to explore the possibility of our presenting a workshop on healthy couple relationships for your group.

Retrovaille is also another option for couples who are experiencing significant problems in their marriage and would like to try this possibility. These retreats were started in the Catholic church, however other denominations are now sponsoring them. Retrovaille retreats are led by other couples who have experienced difficulties such as infidelity, alcoholism and other serious issues, and found their way back to a satisfying relationship.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Guidelines for Divorcing Parents

Guidelines for Divorcing Parents

1. Children need assurance that both parents love them and that they will not be abandoned or deserted by either parent.
2. Small children, in particular, may feel that some action or secret wish of theirs has caused the trouble. Allay those fears with your loving words.
3. Children need to feel love and respect from both parents. Refrain from criticizing the other parent. Cooperate, if only for the sake of the children.
4. Children want to be loyal to both parents. Choosing between parents is frightening and difficult. Find ways to let your child know that you want and support his/her relationship with the other parent.
5. Resist the urge to pump your child with questions about the other parent.
6. Children need predictable family routines. Try to maintain those familiar routines as much as possible.
7. Develop some special and different routines or rituals for the new family unit.
8. Children need to mourn the loss of the family unit that is no longer together. Do not hide your tears from them all of the time. They need to realize that it is natural to be very sad and to grieve the loss of the family and the hopes and dreams for the future together.
9. Children, even of adult age, need to express and deal with a variety of emotional reactions: sadness, denial, anger, guilt and disappointment, which were brought about by the divorce process. As difficult as it may be for you, you must allow them those feelings and not try to talk them away. Listen and respect your child when her or she shares those feelings, even if they are done in an angry … or silent … way. Find some way to let them know you hear them and accept them with all of their feelings.
10. Some children and parents avoid talking as a means of avoiding more grief. Don’t let that happen to you and your children. Check in with them on a regular basis about how they are doing with all of the changes. Ask them about the saddest or toughest parts for them.
11. It is not unusual for children to continue to wish and hope that their parents will get back together, even after both parents have remarried. Expect that. Empathize with this normal wish and explain that you are sorry and that will not happen.
12. Children need on-going, accurate and age-appropriate information about the divorce. They do not need to know the details of the divorce or any reasons that will put down the other parent, especially if they are very young. It is best to use statements such as “We struggled for a long time and know that we just cannot get along. While this may be best for us as parents, we know that it is extremely difficult for you children.” Remember that your attitude about the divorce and your spouse/former spouse is even more important than the words that you use.
13. Inform people who are involved with your children (day care, teachers, etc.) about the divorce.
14. A child’s well-being is strongly linked to the parent’s well-being. Take care of yourself.
15. Whenever possible, do not make any major changes in your child’s life for the first year. Try to remain in the same home, with the same schools and the same neighbors and friends.
16. Be very careful about introducing new romantic partners into your child’s life. The longer that you wait, the easier it will be for the children to accept someone new. By all means, especially in the first year, and with young children, do not introduce others that you date unless you know that person well and are fairly certain that it has the potential to be a serious, long-term relationship. Children can form bonds and it is not healthy to continue to experience losses.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Can we fall back in love?

I love him but I am not in love with him.

We seem to have lost that spark and I do not have those same feelings for her any more.

We seem to be just roommates … and have lost the good feelings that we once had.

Those are words … and feelings … that go through the minds and hearts of almost all of those who are involved in long-term relationships. It is rare for both parties in a couple to have those same, warm and connected feelings all of the time. And, yes, it is possible to fall back in love with your spouse.

Sometimes, hearing those words from a spouse can mean an affair …either emotionally or sexually. An attraction to someone else brings excitement and a marital partner generally cannot measure up to the thrill of newness and interest. If infidelity is the issue, the challenges are much more complex and we will share some thoughts about that on another thread.

Often these feeling and thoughts; however, are more about taking each other for granted, devoting more time to career, children, social lives or other activities that prevent prioritizing the marriage and nurturing the couple relationship. When partners do not nurture their relationship, they tend to become distant and feel more lonely and isolated.

Some will decide that this is reason enough for a divorce. One research study, however, noted that couples who do stay together and find a way to bring their marriage back to life, report happiness 5 years later with appreciation for having found a way to stay together.

So …
How do you try to bring those feelings back? It certainly helps if more than one of you are working on this, however, even one person can make a difference in the relationship. Here are a few ideas to help you begin to turn things around.

· Look at pictures of happier times together and reminisce about those experiences together.
· Every day, think about one good characteristic about your spouse that you really like and admire. Try to remember specific things that he or she has done to demonstrate that characteristic. Ponder on that one all day. The next day, choose another one. Tell your partner about your appreciation for that characteristic.
· Schedule dates with each other and make sure that they are occasions when you do not talk about any problems, just about what has happened during the day, weekend plans, etc.
· Only talk about your spouse and your life in good ways to family and friends.
· Reignite your sexual relationship.

Do you have other ideas for things that you have done that worked for you … or for others that you know? If so … please add those to our comments section for others to see as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tips for Resolving Conflict

1. Begin your concern or complaint in a positive way. This may involve saying things like “I really liked it when you helped me with the housework yesterday. I would love it if we could do more of our chores as a team.” or “I felt very hurt when you talked badly about me to your parents and I need you to only say good or neutral things about me.”
2. Be clear, specific, and, if possible, make a request for a change that you would like.
3. Try to understand what is important to your partner in this disagreement. It is easy to quickly become defensive. Try to stay calm and ask enough questions of your partner to understand what is being asked or what their opinion is about the subject at hand. Ask him/her to express the main issues. It can be hard to address a problem if you do not know what the issue really is, and why it is a problem for someone. Find a way to pursue the concern and understand the other perspective while trying not to be thinking inside your head about your own side to the discussion.
4. Above all, address your partner in respectful terms and with a respectful tone. Refrain from any verbal or non-verbal (rolling your eyes, smirking, etc.) actions that will convey disrespect for the other person. You do not have to agree with your spouse, you just have to respect that they are a person with a thought or idea that is different than your own.
5. If you or your partner starts to get upset, take a break and come back to the concern. When people begin to get upset, they become emotionally flooded and then generally cannot talk in productive ways. It is better to take a break at that point … a time out … and later revisit the concern, if it is important, and try to talk about it then.
6. Find ways to repair and damage that occurs while disagreeing. The health of the relationship is more important than winning the argument. Gestures like kisses, hand-holding, love pats, humor, brief distractions, statements like “I love you” and “I know we disagree, but I do not want this to come between us” can make the discussion much easier on the relationship. If the relationship is suffering during the discussion, take a time out. If the issue is an important one, make sure to find a way to connect later to talk further.
7. Look for lots of opportunities to make deposits into the positive feelings in the relationship so that a disagreement does not spoil the day and there are so many good feelings about each other and your life together, you get through this easily.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Conflict Resolution

Disagreement is normal in any relationship. How you handle the disagreement, however, can provide a key to understanding whether or not a marriage will survive.

Are you someone, or married to someone, who has a conflict avoidant style of relating? What about someone who is highly conflictual or volatile? Are you, or your significant other, a person who likes to work out little details and make the sanctity of the friendship the most important feature? Researcher John Gottman ( notes that the most difficult relationships are when there are two different styles of relating, that is if someone whose style of relating is conflict avoidant is married to someone whose style tends more toward the volatile style. When partners handle disagreements in different ways, it can be frustrating and destructive to their relationship.

In addition, Gottman noted that most couples disagree about the same things over and over again, approximately two-thirds of a couples’ disagreements are over the same things. If you were not married to your partner and were with someone else, you might not disagree about the same things … but you would have some “perpetual issues.” Gottman lists 25 different issues, from “The Big 4”: children, sex, money and in-laws to issues such as how much time to spend together, neatness and orderliness or timeliness. So, you may not be able to come to an agreement on how to handle all of the family money, however, you might be able to find ways to calmly talk about how to handle this bill or the next paycheck.

There are a few very common blocks to healthy communication and conflict resolution, among them are starting with criticism, being disrespectful and derogatory in looks and comments, escalating to fighting and arguing and leaving and refusing to discuss the issue or stonewalling. Also important are a lack of understanding of your partner’s viewpoint (not agreeing with them) and some sense of what it is about their viewpoint that is important to them.

Tip of the week, November 5, 2007

When you find yourself turning away from your partner because of conflict, disappointment or hurt, find a way to turn toward them three times ... through touch, words or eye contact.


Dating can be fun, exciting, exhilarating, embarrassing, demoralizing and confusing … all at the same time. Most of us would like to have a partner … someone that you can count on to spend time with, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with … or as the line in the movie from “Shall We Dance” we want someone just to be there to witness our lives.

Meeting someone that you truly want to invest time in often means “weeding” through some others that are not good matches. When you are no longer in school, or a group where there are easy and plentiful opportunities to meet that special someone, it becomes even more challenging. A wise person once told me that there are at least 25 people nearby that you could be very happy with and develop a strong, long-term relationship. It is finding that person … and finding the wisdom to pick out the best match, develop the courage and skills to explore that relationship.

We will be sharing some of our ideas .... and would welcome yours.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Our first experience in relationships involves that of siblings. We learn about how to get along … or not get along … with others in the “laboratory” of the family. There has been a lot written about why some siblings get along well, while others have a high level of conflict. Some families are close while others are more distant and detached.

Much of the answer lies in the context of the family and the quality of the relationship with the parents. Birth order and gender also enter into the mix. Researchers are also learning that genetic makeup has a great deal of influence as well … the nature versus nurture controversy.

Although the research is not clear about what affect each of these factors has on sibling relationships, there are some things that emerge. The emotional climate of the marital relationship does affect the quality of the siblings relationships. When there is a high level of marital conflict, there is often more sibling conflict. Children learn respect for each other as they witness the respect that they see their parents show each other. Children learn how to solve problems with each other as they witness their parents ability to solve problems.

Controlling and coercive parenting can also engender poor relationships between children as can very different treatment of the children by the parents.

Sibling rivalry is, of course, natural and many brothers and sisters from very different families grow up to be close and connected. Many grow up to learn how to be in healthy partnerships with friends and spouses.

What are your experiences in this area?


When you marry someone, generally, you also become involved with the family. You love the person that you marry; however, you may not love the family that they come from.

Many in-laws are lovely people and want very much to get along with the new member of the family … you. They also may have very different rituals in which they “expect” you to participate. They may also have different needs for togetherness, extremely close relationships with each other … more than you may want.

At times, you, or your spouse, may feel stuck between parents and spouse. Deciding when to “smooth things over” and when to take sides can be tricky and difficult.

As a mother- or father-in-law, you may also have concerns about the spouse that your child has married. While you know how important it is to maintain a relationship with your own child, you have some serious concerns about the person that he … or she has chosen to marry.

Please click on "comment" and share your experiences with us.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Children and Parenting


Parents relationships with their children can be joyous, exciting, frustrating, scary, humiliating and wonderful, to name just a few of the many emotions. It is also amazing how different each child is, even if they are born to the same two parents.

Certainly, the way a parent was reared, influences the way that they interact with their children … often by repeating the same patterns, sometimes by making a conscious decision to change them.

Parents often struggle with their role, to be a disciplinarian with clear, consistent and firm rules and consequences. Possibly to be a nurturer with love, acceptance, positive rewards and feedback as the main means of handling children. Often times there is a path somewhere in between. The goal, however; of parents, is to find ways to be the best teacher of their children. To teach them how to become healthy, happy, productive people in life … and to protect them whenever possible.

It is not unusual for parents to have different philosophies of teaching and handling problems with children … and so parents have to find lots of ways to work together in loving and productive ways, recognizing that they both have the same “end goal” in mind … to have healthy, happy, well-adjusted children.

Through the links on the side of this page, John and Sally plan to have some practical ideas for you to think about … and talk about … with your children, co-parent and others involved in your children’s lives.

Please add your own ideas and experiences for us … and to share with others who are interested.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


The rate for divorces continues to remain in the 50% range for first time marriages and nearly 60% for second and subsequent marriages. Recent statistics show that more divorces occur between 7 and 8 years of marriage. This is also the time when couples are building careers and family.
Many reports relate that divorce is often related to a couples’ inability to resolve conflict. Not talking about issues often leads to distance, isolation and loneliness. These can also lead to affairs, workaholism, alcoholism and building lives apart from each other.
Divorce can be devastating, both financially and emotionally. Even if someone decides that a divorce is the best option for them in their lives at that time, there is a great deal of grieving for the many losses of hopes and dreams for the future and for differences in family and friends that have been developed in the life together.
If the divorcing spouses are parents, it is extremely difficult for most children, even if they are adults when their parents divorce.

Emotionally Intelligent Relationship

How Effective Are You In An Emotionally Intelligent Relationship?

Circle your answer to the following questions.

1. I am able to remain calm when having a disagreement with my spouse.
Yes No
2. If I find myself starting to get upset when we disagree or he or she is talking with me about a problem, I can find a way to calm myself down, even if it means that I need to take a break.
Yes No
3. We have many more positive things happen in our daily lives, than negative ones.
Yes No
4. We can share struggles that we have with others without giving each other unsolicited advice.
Yes No
5. I feel respected and appreciated by my partner.
Yes No
6. Even though we disagree about the same things much of the time, we can still talk about those issues in respectful, caring ways.
Yes No
7. When I talk, my partner listens. When my partner talks, I listen.
Yes No
8. When we disagree, we find lots of ways to remind each other that a good relationship is more important than winning the argument.
Yes No
9. Our intimate and sexual life is satisfying for us both.
Yes No
10. I know my partners’ dreams and fears.
Yes No
11. We fill each other in on lots that happens in our lives.
Yes No
12. When we disagree, we do not automatically jump to negative thoughts about each other.
Yes No
13. We know how to laugh and have fun with each other and do so often.
Yes No
14. We frequently let each other know what we like and appreciate about each other and about our life together.
Yes No
15. We reserve special relationship time for ourselves on a regular basis.
Yes No

If you answered “yes” to 12 or more questions, congratulate yourself on knowing how to be a part of a healthy relationship.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Grandparenting from a distance

John and I had one of our children move to Hawaii a few years ago. While we made ourselves visit once a year, we also wanted to find ways to remain connected to our young grandson, Josh. When we visited, we made sure to repeat some of our regular rituals with him, like getting out John’s childhood train and putting it up at Christmas. (We substituted a different one, of course.) We also had special “bonding” time alone with Josh as well as with his parents. We invited Josh to spend a few nights with us at a nearby hotel. We had great fun swimming, walking along the beach and eating meals together … a little “appropriate” grandparent spoiling. We often tried to incorporate a special holiday during a visit … and we took lots of pictures that we gave him, framed and sent in later notes.

We, of course, read lots to and with Josh and after returning from one of our visits we bought a story book and began reading nightly tales for him on a tape. We sent them to Josh so that he could go to sleep at night … or for his naps, while listening to us reading a story. His mother said that he loved hearing us read to him … and talked about it a lot.

We would be interested in comments from other grandparents about how they kept in touch with their grandchildren from a distance.

Relationship Dilemmas