Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Check out our Facebook Page

We now have a facebook page. Check it out. We will have regular tips, videos, articles and links that address many different relationship dilemmas.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Online Counseling, Can This Work?

Does online counseling work?
Can it help me with my problems?
How does it work?
Do you talk on the phone or text or email?
How can things be confidential and private?

Online counseling of one form or another (email, chat and phone) has been around for over 10 years now. It began with therapists connecting with clients through technology instead of, or in addition to, regular face-to-face sessions. As the use of the computer and the ease of telephones and instant messaging has increased, so has the interest in receiving help with personal problems over the internet.

More and more people are using the internet to search out answers to questions. Some questions are not ones that articles, books or message boards can answer effectively. Some need the individual help and support that only a trained professional can offer.

Online counseling has been shown to be effective with a large number of problems. While not many studies have been done in this area, reports and testimonials from some consumers indicate that online counseling can be as helpful as in-person therapy for many problems.

One study did show that it was as effective in treating depression as in-person therapy when clients received regular sessions, completed homework and workbook assignments and took part in online forums. Research continues on this delivery system for counseling and we will update this guide as we receive more information.

In-person, live therapy, is still the preferred choice for most therapists and clients; however, in today’s world, sometimes online counseling is the only choice.

Before deciding if online counseling might fit for you, you should ask yourself a few questions. A couple of them are:

Do I want a relationship with a therapist?

A relationship with an online therapist, even if it is with the phone and with a video camera, does not have the same personal qualities as sitting in a room together. You will not feel the same care, concern and warmth over email or on the phone as you would in person. While you can get a good “feel” for your therapist, especially if it is over the phone, most likely there will not be the same connection as sitting in a room together.

How can I decide if this person is qualified to help me?
Some people find a good therapist by checking with friends or their doctor. You cannot do that so easily over the telephone. Be sure to check his or her credentials and affiliation with organizations. For instance, if you are looking for someone who can help you with a relationship, you might want to see if that person is licensed as marriage and family therapist and a member of The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Read some of the articles or book reviews that this therapist has written on his or her website and ask for an opportunity to talk briefly to see if there might be a “fit”.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tip of the Week, June 21, 2009

Photo by Walt Ratterman

I talk and talk and talk, and I haven't taught people in 50 years what my
father taught by example in one week. -- Mario Cuomo

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Conflict and Couples: Standing Up For Yourself

Remaining calm and hearing out your partner are not the only things that are important in relationships. It is also important to find ways to stand up for yourself. Giving in truly is not always the best response, even if it seems to keep the peace.

There are lots of drawbacks to giving in a lot. The biggest one, of course, is that resentment tends to build as you discover that very little is going your way.

Tim grew up in a family that was loud and angry. He often retreated to his room or to the garage just to get away from the yelling in his family. He vowed never to have a relationship like that so he avoided any kind of conflict with Terry. While Terry found that she often got her way, she also felt frustrated that Tim did not share his thoughts with her and she also noticed that he might go along with what she wanted but often did not seem very happy about it, sometimes even angry.

Tim needed to learn how to stand up for himself in calm, respectful, direct and firm ways. Here are some of the things he said has helped him.

* Tim learned to figure out in his own mind what his needs, thoughts or beliefs were. He learned to understand what it was that was important to him and the reasons for this.
* He began to hear and understand, even if he did not agree with or accept, Terry’s position.
* Tim considered her opinion and determined if there was anything that she wanted or needed that he could agree with and accept.
* He let Terry know that he heard her and respected her as a person but did not agree with her. He told her that his ideas or desires were different than hers and directly and calmly explained them.
* There were a few times that Terry tried to dismiss Tim, especially at first when she was not used to him disagreeing so directly with her. At those times, he again stood up for himself by telling her that he felt dismissed and needed for her to listen to him. There were several times that he had to do that, and eventually Terry learned that she could not always have her way about things.
* There were even a few times that Terry continued to be loud and disrespectful and Tim told her that he was not willing to continue the conversation at that point. He promised to come back to talk with her when they were both calmer and in a better place to listen to each other.

Tim got very good at sorting through the things that were important and that he needed to stand up for and what things were less important and he could lovingly let go and allow Terry’s needs to prevail.

Contact us at CounselingRelationshipsOnline.com if you would like some coaching on how you can stand up for yourself.

Feel free to leave questions or comments here and maybe we can have some discussion about what has worked for you as you have learned to stand up for yourself.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tip of the Week, June 14, 2009

Change the time of day or the location when having a disagreement or fight. If you usually fight at night, get your partner to agree to only disagree during the daytime … and actually schedule a time for the conflict. If you generally fight in the bedroom (one of the worst places to fight) then agree to move all of your fights to the kitchen … or out to the back deck. If you have fought in every room in the house, then agree that all disagreements must be taken outside.

Changing the location and time can change the flavor and feel of the disagreement and help keep partners from falling into the bad patterns that caused problems in the past.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Conflict and Couples: How To Stay Calm

What is it about couples and conflict? How can some people listen calmly when having a disagreement with their partner?

What is their secret?

When you are criticized or attacked, the first response is often to defend yourself or fight back with counter-charges. After all, how unfair does it feel to be criticized!

Responding to a complaint by getting defensive or mounting a counter-offensive, may work in the short-run. You may be able to end the conversation or diffuse the fight; however, there is usually damage to a relationship that may be difficult to repair. Couples who are unable to talk through concerns often grow apart and the distance can erode the loving feelings for each other.

Tips for Couples and Conflict
Here are some tips for you to keep your cool and listen to your partner as he or she talks about a problem or concern that they experience with you.
1. Keep in mind that the best way to have your opinion considered is to hear someone else talk about theirs. When someone feels heard and understood (not necessarily agreed with), then their mind is much more likely to hear your ideas.

2. When having that “defensive talk” inside your head, (statements like: “She is being unfair” or “How can he talk like that?”) take deep breaths and remind yourself that there will definitely be time for you to talk about your ideas.

3. Masters in couples and conflict keep in mind that the relationship is more important than “winning” an argument. This does not mean that you want to let your partner run all over you, you may have to clearly stand up for yourself, but the health of the relationship will be best if you can remain calm.

4. Remind yourself and your partner, out loud, that you love her/him and that you want to find a way to work through problems. Making simple repair attempts can really help to calm things down.

5. In the event that you find you are really flooded and having a tough time remaining calm, take a time out. Let yourself calm down and think clearly about what you heard, your partner’s thoughts and feelings and what you want to make sure you eventually get across.

Using these tips can help make you an expert on couples and conflict.

Counseling Relationships Online

Couples Counseling of Louisville

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tip of the Week, May 31, 2009

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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Conflict and Relationships: Predictors of Success

TV or no TV in bed?
Photo by Todd Turner

What makes some people “masters” with conflict?
How do they listen attentively and keep from being pulled in to fighting during the disagreement?
How are they able to handle the stress of an argument or disagreement calmly and rationally?
What can I do to develop those skills?

We will be writing about these today and in future blogs. Today we want to address the question of the characteristics that make people masters of conflict.

Some people are “masters” if the conflict does not affect them personally. Many lawyers are excellent in court but put them with someone that they are in a relationship with and they display the “fight or flight” response. So it is not just about being able to think quickly, it is also about being able to listen carefully and thoughtfully and respect the thoughts and rights of another (even if they ARE 10 years old.) while also standing up for yourself.

People who handle conflict are able to do the following:

* Keep themselves calm, or knows how to soothe him/herself, while listening to the other person’s point of view.

* Believe that the other person in the discussion has a right to her or his viewpoint and that, for them it feels “right” or correct.

* Is able to listen and verbally as well as nonverbally, let the other person know that they have heard them and understand their thoughts and feelings.

* Recognizes that, while they may hear and understand another’s side to an argument, they do not have to agree or even like what they have to say.

* Recognize that others have rights and that their rights are just as important an any other person.

* Is able to stand up for him/herself and present their point clearly and directly.

* Is able to continue to share their own point of view even if they feel “bullied”.

Easier said than done? Check back with us and we will offer you some ideas for how you can put this into practice for yourself.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

10 Ways To Hurt A Woman’s Feelings, Or, What NOT To Do If You Want A Woman To Like You

1. Give her “constructive criticism” about her appearance. Even if you have a degree in fashion design or are a personal trainer, your ideas may not be welcomed.

2. Lie to her. This can include direct lies and omissions, the idea that “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her”.

3. Tell her that you think she might be emotional or “irrational” and suggest that she may be “hormonal”.

4. Be critical about her family or close friends or just let her know that you do not want to spend your time with them.

5. Ignore her when she is trying to talk with you. Continue with television, reading the paper, the computer or playing your game.

6. “Forget” important dates like her birthday, anniversary or even special memories of your time together. The way that you choose to mark it is less important than the fact that you remember and acknowledge in loving ways.

7. Interrupt her when she is talking, point out that she is talking too much or “correct” her.

8. Flirt with other women, especially right in front of her.

9. Spend more time with your friends than with her. Let her know, even if you do not say it directly, that your sports/buddies/work/time alone are more important ways to spend your time than with her. Check your calendar to make sure that you do not have “more important” things going on.

10. Roll your eyes, smirk; turn away or directly let her know that you do not value her ideas or comments.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tip of the Week, May 10, 2009

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. - Elizabeth Stone

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seven Ways To Let A Man Know That You Think He Is Important

1. Notice what he is doing that you like and find a way to let him know 2 things that you really like and appreciate about him every day.

2. Listen attentively to what he has to say and ask follow-up questions in a way that lets him know that you are interested in whatever it is that he wants or needs to talk about.

3. Brag about him to others, in his presence.

4. Be affectionate with him. This includes non-sexual touch as well as initiating sex. Hold his hand, give him a kiss, share a warm hug.

5. Ask for his opinion on things and respect what he says, even if you do not agree with it or decide not to use it. Men want to feel needed, not in an artificial way, but in a real way so look for things where you really could use his help and ask for it.

6. Make sure to begin the day and end the day with a special sign of affection for him. Take leadership in making it happen.

7. Do special things for him: fix his favorite meal and let him know that you are doing it because you care about him, buy his favorite drinks or snacks, rent a movie that you know he will like, buy him a little gift that shows that you have thought about him and what he likes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Top Ten Ways To Make A Man Feel Bad About Himself

There are things that a woman can do to shame her man or make him feel bad about himself. Men, even though they may not openly show it, are vulnerable and have a fear of being hurt. They are not as emotionally “tough” as they might try to portray. Women are often surprised to discover this and men are not very quick to bring it to a woman’s attention.

Here are 10 things that women do that can lead to a man feeling bad about himself and, ultimately about her and about the relationship.

1. Flirt with someone else when he is around.
2. Make fun of him, especially when someone else is around.
3. Ignore him when he asks you a question.
4. Talk frequently and at length about all of the wonderful things about another man, like a guy at work, the man next door or one of his friends.
5. Turn your head when he tries to kiss you or refuse to hold his hand if he reaches out in a gentle and loving way.
6. Never ask about his day, his work or his activities.
7. Talk negatively about his mother or his best friend.
8. “Forget“ about a date, cancel at the last minute or just stand him up.
9. Poke fun, even in good humor, about some aspect of his physique.
10. Roll your eyes, sneer, or in any other ways, put down or make fun of what he says or how he expresses himself.

Next we will share the list of 10 things to make a man feel good about himself … besides avoiding these pitfalls.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do You Wonder If Someone You Love Depressed?

Is Someone You Love Depressed?

Living with someone who is depressed can look and sound very differently than what you would normally expect of a person suffering from depression. For some it may have more the appearance of anger and irritability. For others, it may seem like laziness or irresponsibility. While for others it may seem like a deep sadness with a lot of tears and sad, unhappy and negative talk.

Here are some questions for you to consider when thinking about someone you love who does not seem to be acting in ways that are healthy and positive.

* Has there been a change in sleep habits? Does your loved one sleep a lot more or a lot less than in the past?

* Has there been a marked change in his or her eating habits, eating a lot more and gaining weight or eating a lot less and losing weight?

* Does your loved one seem to be a lot more unhappy and negative and have difficulty recognizing the good things in life?

* Does he or she seem to have a lot of trouble with making decisions?

* Is your loved one more forgetful and seem to have difficulty concentrating?

* Do you notice frequent irritability or an underlying anger?

If you answer “yes” to several of these questions, the answer may be that your loved one is suffering from depression.

Some beginning things for you to consider as a way to be helpful are:

* Educate yourself about depression. Learning more about it may help you find ways to talk with the person you love about your concerns.

* Talk with them and acknowledge the positive things about him/her and your life together. Know that it may be hard to hear positive talk. You do not want to come off as “fake” so you will want to keep comments small, specific and behavioral like “Thanks for getting the children today.” “That color really looks nice on you.” “I appreciate your ideas about this and will absolutely use them.”

* Recognize that depression is not something one chooses and can readily change. It is not about being lazy or irresponsible and a “cure” does not happen overnight. Some live with sad or down times off and on throughout their life and will often struggle with and look for ways to cope with it effectively.

* Remind your loved one of things that they have done in the past to feel better and get through tough times. It may be that these same things will work once more.

* Take care of yourself to make sure that you, and your children, do not “catch” the depression. The “blues” and negativity can be contagious so you want to find ways to immunize yourself and prevent its spread.

* If your loved one will not talk with a therapist or the doctor, consider going yourself.

Do you have other ideas about what has been helpful for you? We welcome your comments and feedback.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tip of the Week, April 19, 2009

“I knew couples who’d been married almost forever ­ forty, fifty, sixty years, seventy-two, in one case. They’d be tending each other’s illnesses, filling in each other’s faulty memories, dealing with the money troubles or the daughter’s suicide, or the grandson’s drug addiction. And I was beginning to suspect that it made no difference whether they’d married the right person. Finally, you’re just with who you’re with. You’ve signed on with her, put in a half century with her, grown to know her as well as you know yourself or even better, and she’s become the right person. Or the only person, might be more to the point. I wish someone had told me that earlier. I’d have hung on then; I swear I would.”
Anne Tyler, "A Patchwork Planet"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Connecting: Men and Women Do It In Different Ways

Men and women view love, experience closeness, and derive comfort from intimacy in different ways. Men and women both value love and want a close, caring relationship and yet, there is generally a difference in the way they relate to intimacy.
Here are some of the ways that men and women feel loved and connected.

What Women Want:
Conversation. Talking about the day, the relationship, feelings … about each other and the life together.
Listen. When she talks, put down the remote or computer and pay attention to her. Ask questions that show you are interested in what she is saying and how she is feeling.
Advice only when asked. Even though men have a natural tendency to want to help solve problems, women just need to have someone who listens and is interested in what she is saying.
Affection. Women really like physical and non-sexual signs of affection like holding hands, kissing gently and warm hugs.
Love. Women want to be told that you love them in a way that is meaningful. This does not have to mean flowers and gifts. Rather it can be the words with a loving gaze.
Honesty. Women want someone that they can trust, who will be open with them and not “sugar-coat” reality. Women are stronger than men think and can often handle the truth and forgive more easily if they know what has happened.
Apologies. Women want men who are not afraid to say that they are sorry or made a mistake. They respect vulnerability.
Help. Women want men who are not afraid to help them with housework and children. One research study found that men who helped with housework and chores reported happier sex lives.

What Men Want:
A playmate. Men want someone who will be involved in activities with them.
Respect. Men want to feel like their partner values and respects them and show it in the way that they talk to and about them.
Affection. To the surprise of some women, men also really like physical and non-sexual signs of affection like holding hands, kissing gently and warm hugs.
Appreciation. Men need to feel appreciated and their efforts recognized, even for simple things like taking out the trash or emptying the dishwasher.
Support. Men want someone that they can talk to and count on to be a shoulder to lean on. They do not want a lot of advice, just someone who lets them know that she is on his side. Men appreciate kindness and caretaking.
Sex. Men feel more connected during and after sex and often find that this leads the way to more conversation and affection.
Honesty. Men want women that they can trust to be open and direct with them.
Humor. Most men like someone who has a good sense of humor and a positive personality.
Appearance. Men, like women, have certain ideas about what is attractive to them. Certainly, women who take care of themselves, physically, emotionally, mentally and fiscally are important to most men.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Am I Anxious Or Do I Just Worry A Lot?

Sandy worries about her marriage and that her husband may find someone else more interesting or attractive, even though there is absolutely no reason to think that. Tina worries about her daughter and all of the possible problems that she might, and many that she might never, experience. John constantly expects to be fired by his boss.

While these might be normal concerns for some people, for Sandy, Tina and John they are worries that often keep them awake at night or cloud their thinking during the day.

Anxiety, in its simplest form, is useful because it helps people prepare for real or imagined fears, losses or difficult times ahead. When it becomes overwhelming, then it is time to think about doing something about it. Consider the possibility of talking with your doctor, especially if you have any physiological symptoms.

Medication may be the first thing that many people think about; however, if the anxiety is not crippling (losing work, school or a lot of sleep) then learning some anxiety management techniques might make a big difference and provide the opportunity to manage the worry on your own.

Here are some suggestions for things that you can try yourself.

Educate yourself about anxiety
. There are quite a few good websites that have a lot of good information about anxiety, anxieties.com is one. Recognizing that some of what you experience is normal is a step towards finding ways to caring for yourself.

Slow down on any caffeine
through coffee, tea, chocolate, etc. These substances increase your heart rate and affect ability to remain calm.

Find a way to incorporate 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your daily routine 5-6 days a week. Research has shown many psychological benefits to raising and maintaining an elevated heart rate.

Practice deep breathing. Take slow, deep breaths and slowly let them out. Notice the relaxation in your body as you do so.

Put your fears down on paper and identify any that are irrational
. Write replacement thoughts that are more realistic. Any time that you notice the irrational thought, change it to a more realistic one.

Shift your thinking
from your body and your worry to other things. Take a walk, read a book, watch a movie, call a friend.

Develop some coping thoughts
that you can use when these thoughts intrude into your mind like “I have made it through tough times before and I can make it through this.”

Stay in the present
as much as possible. Pay attention to what you are seeing, hearing and smelling in the present.

Write in your Gratitude Journal
every day. Put down three things that you like and really appreciate about your life just that day … and what you did to make a difference.

What have you found that helps? We would be interested in your ideas and suggestions.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mastering Conflict: Stay In Charge Of Your Own “Buttons”

Are you able to stay with a disagreement and keep focused on the issue?

Do you find yourself having a hard time remaining calm?

Do you frequently take disagreements personally?

Do you find yourself reacting more strongly than you planned … maybe in response to old fights or old wounds?

Many people find that they have a hard time remaining calm and focused on one issue or problem when arguing or disagreeing with their spouse. Old “buttons” get pushed and it becomes hard to remain in the present. Feelings of hurt, disappointment, disrespect, being discounted or dismissed may emerge and lead to reactions and responses that have nothing to do with the issue at hand or to the gravity of the situation.

We all have to find ways to remain in charge of our own responses with our partners. This involves recognizing old tapes from relationships and patterns of the past that visit today. An awareness of old fears and hurts can be the first step toward helping to change this pattern.

Julia grew up with parents who had money to buy her lots of things; however, their time was limited and they had little interest in spending it with Julia. She developed the idea that she was not important and what was important to her, did not matter. Julia cannot remember any times that either her father or her mother showed up for school performances or even teacher’s conferences. Julia felt like she pretty much reared herself. When Julia and Troy fought, she often felt dismissed if he did not agree with her or her point of view. While she “knew” that he was entitled to have a different opinion, when he did, she felt discounted and it was not until she could tie that reaction to the frequent one that she received, the message that she often got from her parents of not being important, that Julia was able to calmly listen and talk with Troy when they disagreed.

Gerald’s dad had very high expectations of his son and Gerald was never able to meet those expectations. His father was highly critical, rarely positive or complimentary with Gerald. No matter how hard Gerald tried to please his dad, it never worked.

When Marcia had complaints about Gerald or something that he had done, Gerald would immediately become defensive and accuse her of being critical of everything that he did. He was unable to really hear Marcia, even when she was able to softly and gently ask for something different or try to talk about a problem. Gerald realized that he “heard” his father in all of Marcia’s complaints, even though they were very different. As he was able to separate his reactions from his relationship with his dad and his response to Marcia, he was able to talk with her about a present issue without revisiting the old “programmed in” responses.

Do you have “buttons” that get pushed from old past or wounds? Are you able to recognize them for what they are?

Please share your thoughts and ideas about this with us.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tip of the Week, March 22, 2009

“Everyone of us wants to show how much we care for each other and, in the process, care for ourselves.”
Princess Diana

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fighting Fairly: Avoid Triggering Your Partner

Questions: How can you fight fairly? I mean, conflict is conflict and it is important to clearly state your point and stand up for yourself, right?

What do you mean when you say: “avoid triggering your partner”? Everyone is responsible for his or her own reactions and responses, correct?

Answers: The answers are yes and yes. With a disagreement, it is important to stand up for yourself and state your point or opinion.

Being assertive means standing up for yourself while also respecting the rights of others. That’s different from being aggressive which often involves running over other people and their rights.

Most people who have regular disagreements with a partner or spouse, usually know what upsets or “sets off” their partner. It may be a comment about being just like their mother or a reminder of a past fight that has long been over but not forgotten. These remarks can be “dirty” and very unfair. When delivered, they are provocative and escalate fights.

While everyone is in charge of his or her own reactions … with words and with responses, take off the boxing gloves and put on the kid gloves. Treat your partner with love, tenderness and respect while also standing up for yourself and what is important to you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tip of the Week, March 14, 2009

May you have the hindsight to know where you've been
the foresight to know where you're going
and the insight to know when you're going too far.
Irish Proverb

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Conflict: The Dance of Disagreement

Most couples find that their dance around a disagreement seems to have the same steps over and over again. It starts out the same way and often ends the same way with one or both partners feeling hurt, disappointed, discounted or angry,

Sharon and Bill fought a lot about money, children and household chores. The disagreements always began with Sharon’s request in what she thought was a friendly tone but Bill heard as a nagging tone. Bill’s response was generally a defensive one, complaining about her tone or the fact that she was always nagging him. Bill then often withdrew by leaving the house or turning on the television and Sharon became more angry, often following after him in an attempt to talk about the problem or come up with a solution.

Andy and Sue had a different dance. One of the frequent issues for them was intimacy. Sue was more interested in intimacy and sex than Andy. She would light candles, send text messages, schedule dates, only to find that Andy was not interested, busy, too tired or would say that he just did not feel “in the mood”. Sue would then feel hurt and disappointed and then angry.

If Sharon and Bill and Andy and Sue want to find a way to change this dance, they each have to find ways to recognize their own steps and change them.

For most people, it is hard to recognize your own “mistakes” and find new steps to the dance, and yet, that is the quickest way to resolution. It is much better to find ways to change yourself rather than trying to change another person. When one person changes, others do change in response.

Pay attention to your own last argument with your partner. Can you describe your “dance”? What about your own steps? Do you find that you are trying the same thing over and over again ? Are you getting the same results? It may be time to try something different.

If you are having trouble figuring out what your step might be … or a different way to dance, contact us at Counseling Relationships Online. We provide in-person and on-line therapy to help couples understand their dance and change their steps.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tip of the Week, March 8, 2009

“If you don’t like the way something looks, change the way that you look at it.”
Wayne Dyer

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Making Good On Promises: “Until Death Do Us Part”

George told me recently that there are times when he really feels like giving up on his marriage. The conflict and distance in his relationship depresses him, but he remembers how much he loves his wife and truly believes that they can get through this stressful time.

Sandy was not sure that she could survive her husband’s mid-life crisis. She knew that he was acting differently than at any time before and she truly believed that he would come full circle and return home to make things work in the marriage.

Jenny and Jim were overwhelmed with the stress of trying to get pregnant, the loss of his mother and Jenny’s job lay-off. Both recognized that they were shorter and more critical of each other, not nurturing each other as they once had. When talking with them; however, the conversation usually ended with one of them saying something like “I know that things will get better” or “It cannot stay this bad forever”.

This belief in a solution to problems and stressful events can save a marriage. Having the courage to hang in with the relationship and work through difficult times has been what has made the difference in many marriages. When people are able to acknowledge the tough times and yet also talk about their commitment to the marriage and working things out, we feel pretty confident that the marriage will make it.

One study of long-term marriages reported that many couples reported very stressful periods, and yet, years later, they remember them with a sense of having coped, survived and even thrived as they describe how happy they were to have hung in there and made it through. Many say that divorce would have been the worst decision and, while it may have been the easy way out at the time, in the long run, remaining in the marriage and working through things has been the absolute right thing to do.

What stories of commitment and its affect on your relationship do you have? Please share them with us.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tip of the Week, March 1, 2009

"When the wind changes directions, there are those who build walls and there are those who build windmills."
Chinese saying

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How Can People Stay “In Love” Throughout Their Marriage?

Most people who get married believe that they will stay in love forever … that nature will just take its course and spouses will continue to feel the wonderful love that they felt through the courtship and early marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Most people, in most marriages, find that they have times of feeling more in love than others and there are definitely times when they may not feel much love at all. It is also true that it is very easy to find yourself attracted to someone else … I mean, that is human nature to notice and appreciate others.

Those who recognize the “normal” gees and haws of marriage are more easily able to get past them quickly. Staying in love, seeing the positives in your partner and your marriage and focusing on them more than the bad helps keep the loving thoughts alive. Acting in loving ways with intimacy and fun, talking in nurturing and caring ways, all help as well. Here are some of our ideas about what you can do to help keep the love in your marriage.

Recognize that staying in love does not happen automatically. You cannot put it on autopilot. Keeping it has to be a priority in your marriage. It should not take a lot of work, but will require some effort.

Find a time or two during each day to think about your spouse, maybe look at a picture, and remember why you love him or her.

At the end of every day, talk together about three things that you really like and appreciate about each other and about the relationship.

Have regular rituals together where you celebrate your relationship and each other. These rituals may include lighting a candle and sharing a cup of tea every night after the children are in bed, a weekly date night, Sunday morning breakfast in bed. Rituals help to hold couples together.

Talk together about the future
on a regular basis … both about the near future such as the weekend or a home project, a vacation that you want to take, etc. and also about far into the future as you think about retirement and growing old together.

Have a mind-set for yourself and a pact with your spouse
that you want to stay in love and that all problems have a solution. Some may take a while to solve and some may require a professional “consultant” but together, you can figure anything out.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tip of the Week, February 23, 2009

“To experience pain may not be a choice, but to suffer is a cognitive decision.”
Jill Bolte Taylor

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Man's Guide To Healing A Broken Heart

This is an article in a local weekly. John shares some of his ideas with the witty and interesting author.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It is Valentine’s Day and I am not in love … but I am married. How depressing is that!

While we think that Valentine’s Day is fun for those in a new and loving relationship, we know that it can be a very depressing day for those in unhappy relationships. Here are some tips to help you cope with this day.

Lower your expectations.
This is not a time to hope for a big change in any relationship, let alone one that has been in a rough spot for some time. Try not to look for something special from your spouse because you have a good chance of being disappointed and hurt. Better not to set yourself up for that.

Find a way to love yourself.
Remember that you are an important person who is worthy of love.

Do something nice for someone else, particularly someone who might be alone or sad. Send a card, make a call, give a box of candy or single flower to someone else who might be alone or lonely.

Make a careful decision about whether or not to do something for your spouse.
Doing nothing because you are mad or hurt does not help you to feel better. Giving something because you hope to give something in return may set up disappointment. Choosing to give a card or small gift as a way of making a move toward your spouse may be a good idea. Whatever you choose to do, examine your motives and do it because it would feel right to you and not because you want something in return.

Be grateful for the good in your life.
At the beginning of the day, write down 3 things that you like about yourself and your life. At the end of the day, make 3 entries in your Gratitude Journal. Write 3 things that you are grateful for on just that day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

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.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tip of the Week, February 9, 2009

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
John F. Kennedy
Ask not what your relationship can do for you. Ask what you can do for your relationship.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Showing Love and Feeling Loved: Are They The Same?

Jane really feels loved when Tim talks to her about his day and asks about her day. Just finding time to put down the paper, turn off the television and sit with her for a few minutes lets her know that Tim really cares.

Tim feels loved when Jane does things with him. When Jane finds a sitter and invites him to a movie or to play tennis, he really feels loved and cared for.

Zack feels love when Cindy cuddles with him on the couch while they are watching a movie or takes his hand while they are going for a walk.

Cindy really feels loved when Zack brings home a simple flower or her favorite chocolate bar. For her, it is not the cost, it is the idea that he has thought about her and found something that says “I love you. You are important to me.”

Expressing and feeling love is different for different people. Finding out from your sweetheart what feels like love to him or her is important rather than giving love in the way that you want. Jane may appreciate Tim inviting her to do things and really enjoy the opportunity, but would really feel more loved by his giving her a coupon for 20 minutes of uninterrupted conversation every night.

Listen and learn from your partner about what is important to them and what makes them feel loved. Some of the most common ways are:

finding time in the day or night to spend together, even in the craziness of a busy life.
Attention: actively listening and remembering what is happening.
Conversation: talking out loud about your day, hopes, dreams and asking about your partner’s day, hopes and dreams.
Gifts: even the smallest token of acknowledgement is very important to some.
Physical affection: hugs, kisses, touches along with making love.
Activities: doing things together feels like love to many. This is often what men miss most.
Affirmations: recognition and acknowledgment of what you notice that is good and what you really appreciate.

What have you learned about love and what it means in your relationship?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Seven Common Dating Issues

Researcher John Gottman notes that all couples have perpetual issues. They argue or disagree about the same things over and over again. According to Gottman, many of these are not solvable even though certain aspects may be negotiated, compromised or decided amicably.

Here are some of the most common issues that we notice in couples who are dating. Clearly, the longer a couple dates and the more serious the relationship becomes, the more clearly the differences appear. Most of these are usually not enough to end a relationship. Couples, instead, need to learn and practice healthy and respectful ways to talk about them with each other.

1. Time together versus time apart. Often one person wants to spend a lot of time together and include each other in most activities while the other person feels a real need to maintain a sense of independence.

2. Relationships with friends of the opposite sex/jealousy. One half of a couple may want to remain friends or develop new friendships with others of the opposite sex stating and believing that they provide no threat to the relationship. Others believe that involvement with people of the opposite sex should always include the new partner. This can be especially difficult if there is a desire to remain friends with a former romantic partner.

3. Sex. There are often different levels of desire for sexual and physical contact.

4. Friends. Some feel that friends are a bad influence on a partner. This may be because they believe that these friends encourage “single kinds of behavior”, are just critical of the relationship partner or otherwise undermine the relationship.

5. Family. Some believe that family members interfere too much, are nosey or require too much time taken from the relationship.

6. Levels of intimacy. Women often want more verbal intimacy from men than men are comfortable with or see as important.

7. Future goals for the relationship, especially marriage and children. This can be one that ends a relationship. While we always encourage couples to take things slowly and not push for a decision about any of these issues, there are times when it is best to just let go of a relationship if these desires are very different.

Couples can chip away at many of these issues, for instance, they may agree on how much time to spend together on a specific weekend or how to reassure a partner that they are the only person in their lives that they care about in a romantic way tonight. With these perpetual issues, however, couples have to find lots of different ways to stay calm, caring and respectful as they share their different ideas, needs and feelings.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

How Can I Build Trust In A Dating Relationship?

I have had bad luck with dating. The guys that I go out with either end up leaving me or have some problems like pot, alcohol or dating several at the same time but not letting me in on this. Trusting a new person is hard and yet I really want a new relationship. Can you give me some ideas about how to find someone that I can trust and when I can decide that it is okay to let down my guard.

Congratulations to you, Tara, for recognizing that you want to go more slowly and be more careful before beginning a new romantic relationship. Dating is and should be about learning about yourself as much as it is about finding the right person for the rest of your life.

Think about these ideas when you are looking for a new romantic partner.

We tend to be drawn to the “familiar”, even if it is not necessarily healthy.
Our radar seems to just “hone in” on partners who feel comfortable to us, even if the comfort level is not a good one. Hence, we may find ourselves drawn to “thrill-seekers” or engaging alcoholics or players because their behaviors remind us of other significant relationships with parents or former loves.

We have to find ways to get over one significant relationship before beginning a new one.
Finding a new love is really not the best antidote to getting over an old one. Take time to mourn the loss and grieve the hopes and dreams for what might have been.

Take the time to do a “post mortem” about the relationship.
Was this just about your “picker”? Or would you say that you did some things that you know that you want to do differently the next time around?

What about that picker? Have you chosen the same kind of person only with a little different look? Are you always with someone that you have to “fix” or take care of? Do you tend to choose men who are romantic and exciting but with no history of commitment?

What about your own half of the relationship? Are there things that you did with communication or with conflict that you know you need to do differently?

These are just some points to ponder. Please call or email us if you have comments or questions. We offer online counseling by phone and by email and would be glad to work with you in more detail about your specific situation.

Tip of the Week, January 19, 2009

Soul mates are not found, they are made.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dating Advice: What Are Some Things I Should Look For In Choosing a Partner?

So, what are some of the things to count in and count out when looking for someone to date? Remember, in choosing someone with whom to partner, it is important not to look for someone who might want you; but rather, someone that you think can be a mature, healthy fit for you.


Has your new interest been able to hold on to a job for a while, have healthy relationships with friends and family or be able to explain honestly some of his or her decisions about distance or disruption in a relationship? Is he or she able to be nurturing and supportive? Does he/she struggle with “old baggage”?


While you may be of different political perspectives, can you respect the differences? Are they too large? Do you believe that your partner is honest and has integrity? What about spirituality? Is he/she a loyal person? Responsible? Trustworthy?


Is your new interest able to handle money effectively? Is debt appropriate for his or her status? (Student loans are a lot different than a large credit card balance.) What do you notice about how he or she handles money when you are together?

Interests and Lifestyle

Do you have things in common? Like similar music interests? Activities? Hobbies? What about social activities, do you both enjoy generally the same level of activity with others? Does one of you really like to be out and about while the other is more of a “homebody”?

Education and Intelligence

Do you have similar educational backgrounds? Relationships work best when there is similarity although it certainly does not have to be equal. It is also best when intelligence is similar. It enhances conversation and interests.


What does your interest think about marriage? What are his/her thoughts about roles for a husband and wife? What about children? If he/she could describe an ideal marriage, what would it be?


While beauty is only skin deep, there are also some physical characteristics to consider. Certainly, physical attraction is one of the first things that you notice but, in the long run, some aspects may remain important. Is being “fit” important to you? Are neatness or stylish dressing important to you?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tip of the Week, January 12, 2009

Studies have shown that people who actually write their goals have a better chance of achieving them.

Monday, January 5, 2009

For Singles: How Ready Are You For An Emotionally Intelligent Relationship?

Consider these questions and answer them honestly about yourself to determine if you know how to be part of an emotionally intelligent and healthy relationship. Think about friends and especially about those you date as a way of determining if they are able to be part of a healthy relationship with you.

1. I am able to communicate my needs in a relationship with others.
2. I am able to listen well and resist giving unsolicited advice.
3. I am able to say “no” when I need to.
4. I can be clear about preferences for closeness or distance in friendships/relationships.
5. While I do not consider myself to be one who likes conflict, I am able to talk about disagreements and remain in the discussion.
6. I know how to calm and soothe myself in a stressful or conflictual situation.
7. I know what “healthy boundaries” are and I am able to respect my own and those of others.
8. I am able to be nurturing and allow nurturing in a relationship.
9. I am able to reach out and repair a friendship/relationship with words and actions when it is needed.
10. I have identified characteristics in a partner that are important and I am able to end relationships (get out of ones that are not healthy) when I need to do that.
11. When there are differences in the kind of partner who attracts me and the kind of partner who fits with my values and life, I am able to make the distinction and make choices that are healthy for me.
12. I have made decisions about what part I want sex to play in a relationship and can communicate those clearly and stand by them with my partner.
13. I have a good sense of humor.
14. I know how to say “I am sorry”.

If you can answer “yes” to 12 out of 14, congratulate yourself on your emotional intelligence and seek dating partners and friends who reflect these characteristics as well.

Sunday, January 4, 2009