Write a list of ways that you have benefited from being married to your spouse. Then write a list of your spouse's positive patterns and qualities. Keep adding to the lists and reread them frequently.
~ Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Does distance in a relationship make hearts grow fonder … or fonder of someone else?
Definitely there are more challenges to having a successful relationship when there is a separation but many couples have been able to do it successfully and others can as well.
Here are 10 tips for growing and maintaining a healthy relationship even when separated by many miles and long periods of time.
1. Discuss together the level of commitment to each other and to the relationship.
Have lengthy discussions about what you want from yourself and each other in this relationship while you are apart. Some couples believe that they are in the same place when really they are in different spots, they have just not talked out loud about their differences.
Assume nothing. Discuss everything.
Will you be monogamous when apart as well as together?
How will you deal with attractions to others?
How will you handle loneliness?
What about time alone with co-workers of the opposite sex?
In this statement, vow to do what you can to be a good spouse … specifically … and note good things about your relationship and your time with each other.
Your pledge might sound something like this.
“I, ________, promise to act in loving and respectful ways with you. I cherish you for your honesty and caring commitment to me and to our relationship. I promise to answer questions that you have openly and honestly and listen to you without judgment.”
Read your pledge to each other every night. Update them as you go through your life together.
P = Being Positive can go a long way in the health of a marriage. Focus on what is good and working rather than what is wrong and needs to change.
Q = Quality Time is important. In healthy relationships, couples understand that they may not have a lot of time together, especially when they are building careers and family, so they make sure that they time that they do have is of high quality. R = Resilience. Couples are able to repair damage to their relationship quickly rather than let angry and negative feelings fester for a longer time. S = Couples in healthy relationships have Sensitivity to how what they say and do affects their partner. They choose their words and how they say them in ways that show respect and care, even when feeling hurt or angry. T = Talk to each other always as if she or he was someone that they love. U = Develop Understanding for their partner’s point of view, even if they do not agree with or like it. V = Veracity with love. They strive to be honest with each other and yet do not believe that they must always “tell it like it is”. There are no secrets and always kindness. W =Wondering, questioning and seeking ideas for new and interesting things to do as a couple. X = Xerox. When couples find something that works, they are likely to try it again. Rather than “correcting” mistakes, they look to repeat what works. Y = Yes. Couples in healthy relationships are more likely to say “yes” to their partner than they are to say “no” for any reasonable request. Z = Zing. Successful couples know that looking for ways to add interest and excitement to their relationship keeps it vital and healthy.
I = Are Inquisitive about their partner’s day and life. This helps your partner to feel cared about. Learning about what happens in each other’s life helps to build a couple’s love map. J = Bring Joy to the relationship. Joy breeds joy. K = Kindness, even on rough days, can turn things around quickly and change negative interactions to positive ones. L = Couples in healthy relationships laugh a lot. Humor together repairs much damage, especially during a disagreement. M = Motivated, always, to be a good spouse. When one person is a good spouse, it affects the other’s willingness to reciprocate. N = Nurture the relationship and your spouse. It is easy to let the relationship cruise on auto-pilot and yet that is what can take a relationships down a wrong path. O = Couples in healthy relationships are Open to a different viewpoint, to a change in a routine or ritual, to your partner’s hopes and dreams.
We want to share with you some tips for a successful marriage.
A = Acceptance is a key. We all have things about our partner that we would like to see different. They have those same feelings about us. A key to a healthy relationship is to accept those differences and not try to change another person. B = Make sure that your spouse is your best friend. C = Communication is very important … open, honest and direct but kind. D = Discover new things together. Learn new things about each other and try out new experiences … a great way to keep the relationship new and interesting. E = Learn how to be an Emotionally intelligent partner. Discover ways to effectively handle emotions in the relationship. F = Healthy partners learn to Forgive even though you may never forget. They let go of the little things and find ways to work through the important issues on the path to forgiveness. G = Be Giving in your relationship, not to the detriment of your own mental or physical health, but find ways to let your spouse know that you love and appreciate him or her. H = Humor is critical for any relationship. In healthy partnerships, couples can laugh together, see the fun and silliness in their struggles and, respectfully, in each other. Humor lightens any load.
Most of us have done dumb, stupid or hurtful things that affected our partner, intentionally or unintentionally. In fact, research shows that most people will do something that is hurtful to their partner in any long-term relationship.
Many of us have also done nice or neutral things that our partner has misinterpreted as mean, evil or hurtful. We never meant them to be hurtful but by clumsiness or negative interpretations, others have seen them as unkind or ugly.
Jan and Terry have gotten into a very tough spot. Neither of them seems to be able to do anything right … even if they are trying to turn things around.
Jan knows that Terry loves the cinnamon buns from their neighborhood bakery. The last time she brought him one, really as a peace offering, he thought it was a bribe just to get her way.
Nancy and Jim are stuck in the same cycle , especially around sex. Nancy wants simple physical affection from Jim and yet, when he tries to hug or kiss her, she sees it as his attempts to move directly to sex.
Jim sees her backing away as a power move to hurt him.
When couples move into this negative pattern, it is so hard to see the other’s attempts to repair the damage as anything but manipulative maneuvering. I often hear partners say to each other, “I cannot afford to let my guard down with you or you will roll all over me“.
And yet, for even half of a couple to let their guard down and see a step forward as a positive thing, giving their partner the benefit of the doubt, must happen.
Parents all have values that are important in their lives and they want to find ways to share them with their children. One that is important in our family is the value of respecting differences in others.
Our grandson, Josh, graduated from high school on a military post last weekend. He is a fine young man and we are all proud of him for many reasons, but one of the most important is his awareness of and respect for others’ thoughts and feelings. Josh exemplifies this by being an advocate for others. Because we are his grandparents, we are not terribly objective; but we do want to share one story with you that clearly demonstrates this value of respecting differences.
One of the boys in Josh’s class was a soccer team-mate. When this young man transferred to the high school on post, he became the recipient of a lot of bullying from the other guys on the team because he appeared to be gay. Josh recognized this and became his friend and supporter and stood up for him throughout the season.
On graduation night, because of Josh’s placement on the class roster, he and this same young man led the recessional. As the boys exited their rows and greeted each other, Josh grabbed his friend’s hand and swung it vigorously as they marched out. Then he lifted their hands high … in solidarity and in accomplishment as they led the rest of the graduates out of the gym.
Later that night, when we were talking with Josh’s mom about the experience, Josh’s 10 year old brother, John, looked up and said “what is the big deal about gay?” He is already respecting differences.
We agreed with John … choosing a partner of the same sex is a difference a bit like having blue eyes or brown, brown skin or white, being right-handed or left-handed, smart in school or good on the soccer field. It is not a choice, it is just how one is and these differences do not make any one person better or worse than any one else.
Josh and John have, intrinsically as well as environmentally, the ideas and values of appreciation and respect for differences. This is an idea that is valued and taught by their parents, grandparents and friends. They have a faith community that also shares these ideas.
When parents are able to create an environment of respecting and appreciating for differences, it matters in so many ways. Not only is there more respect among family members, but children often feel positive regard for themselves and their own differences. (What teen does not need to feel that they can be respected for their differences which is a normal part of growing up and achieving autonomy.)
We would find it interesting to read comments that others have about this issue. How do you feel about teaching the value of respecting difference? How does it fit with your own value system? How would you feel about your child/grandchild/neighbor who visibly took such a strong stand as Josh did?
Staying in love throughout a marriage does not happen automatically. Sometimes feelings of love just seem to evaporate.
As marriage counselors we frequently hear these words “I love him (her) but I am NOT IN LOVE with him (her). In this blog post, we want to share with you the reasons why people make this statement and say that they are not in love any more.
Why DO people fall out of love?
It is upsetting to become aware of these feelings, "not in love" and really not know how this developed or what with what to do to fall BACK in love.
A lot of people contact Couples Counseling of Louisville and Counseling Relationships Online.com about love and marriage. They report that they have fallen out of love with their spouse, or believe that their spouse is no longer in love with them.
The words we often hear are “I love him (her) but I am not in love with him (her),” most often with a disbelief that these feelings can change. One of the places to start is to begin to understand a little about how those feelings eroded within the marriage.
Click here to read the rest of the article "Not In Love Anymore".
Pam’s mother was an attorney and a very strong woman. Her dad traveled with his job in sales. They were very business-like in their decision-making and handled most things jointly.
There was a lot of humor in Pam’s family but not a lot of warmth. Caring and concern were usually shown through purchases and experiences. Pam was very clear that her parents loved her and each other but it was shown more through gifts, money and travel rather than affection.
Jim’s family was somewhat different. He grew up in a family that was very loving and openly affectionate. His mother worked part-time as a nurse and still managed to do all of the cooking, laundry and child care. His dad helped out a bit with chores inside and handled everything outside. Jim’s dad handled the family finances and made most of the decisions about money. They had a lot of family time together and his parents really protected their time alone.
When Jim and Pam married, they had different ideas for how a marriage should be lived and what the roles “should“ be in relationships. Neither one was wrong. They were just different. They brought to the marriage what many do, their own ideas and expectations for their roles and that of their spouse in the relationship.
We all come to relationships with ideas of how we and our partner “should“ behave. Sometimes our ideas and expectations for roles in relationships are similar. Sometimes they are different. Problems can arise when partners have different ideas for each of their roles in relationships.
Problems in your marriage?
Unhappy with where things are right now between you and your partner?
Wonder if couples therapy might make a difference?
What do you have to lose? Facing up to the situation and owning your part in it can be a step in the right direction.
Most couples wait a long time after a problem develops before they ever ask for help. Research shows that problems may go on for 6 years before a couple either asks for help or ends the marriage.
The longer that a problem goes on, the more likely it is that positive feelings and behaviors will erode and disappear. Couples therapy may be able to help you resolve the problems that you are experiencing.
A skilled and knowledgeable couples therapist can provide a safe haven to talk about the hardest of issues and can teach you the skills to be able to carry on those conversations at home.
Good marriage counselors do not want their couples to hang around forever. They want them to be able to be successful on their own.
Here are some good reasons to see a couples therapist.
Marriage is not as easy as it looks from the other side. Falling in love might be fairly easy; however, being half of a good marriage is not usually so easy. It takes work, knowledge, skills, talent and a good sense of humor … not to mention a healthy dose of emotional intelligence.
Sometimes people try to make things better in their marriage but actually make it worse. Here are some of those well-intentioned marriage mistakes that loving spouses can make.
Marriage Mistake 1. Being too positive
Positivity is important in any relationship. Looking at the goodness and what is right is so much better than dwelling on the negative and what is “missing”. Wanting to get your spouse from a negative place by encouraging “looking on the bright side” or forgetting about upsetting things is not always helpful, however. Sometimes you have to deal with the sad, disappointed, frustrated or angry feelings.
If you rush to change a mood, you risk the possibility that your partner will feel that his or her needs and feelings have been discounted. You also might risk the chance to experience intimacy and learn from your partner and the relationship. Hear your partner out before trying to change the mood or tone. Ask a lot of questions that get him or her to talk more with you about whatever is bothering them.
Marriage Mistake 2. Offering advice
Even though you may think (and often do) know your partner very well, you may not do a good job of reading him or her. When you operate from what you “know” he or she is thinking, you may be wrong. In fact, you may be very, very wrong.
Rather than telling your partner that you know what they are thinking or feeling, phrase it as a question and be open to the idea that you may be all wrong.
Does it seem to you that life is more complicated than when you were growing up? Do you think that in many ways your parents had it easier? Certainly seems that way to me.
Not only has technology increased opportunities, both good and bad, but there are also a lot more complicated relationships in families as well as increased temptations for drugs, alcohol, and early sex. Bullying is another problem that is seen with increasing frequency in our schools and neighborhoods.
The changes in families and family structure are significant. What we used to think of as a “normal” or typical family (2 birth parents and 1 – 3 children) is no longer the “norm”. Today we have step-families (parents and grandparents), same sex couple families, adoptive families, bi-racial and multi-ethnic families, single parents, grandparents rearing grandchildren, and many others.
Parenting does not come with instructions, either, and it is often hard to figure out how to rear emotionally healthy and intelligent people, and yet this is an important skill required of parents even more today than in the future. Children have to learn how to think clearly and make healthy decisions for themselves. Successful families require a common sense and open approach to life and parenting.
A new book, "The Secrets of Happy Families", by Bruce Feiler was recently reviewed on NPR and that story, along with my experience with many families over my years as a therapist, leads me to suggest 7 habits of successful families.
"Have you decided what to get for your valentine this year? You could try something classic, like chocolates. Or something blingy,
like earrings. Or sexy, like lingerie.
"But if you really want to improve your relationship, you should give your loved one an i.o.u.
"Find a nice piece of stationery, and in your most graceful lettering, assert: 'I promise to write about our next three fights as though I were a neutral observer.' Then, doodle a heart on the page, stick it in a pretty envelope and give it to that special someone over dinner.
New research suggests that this may be the most valuable present you’ll ever give. After all, conflict is inevitable in long-term relationships, and the way people navigate it can affect not only their happiness, but their mental and physical health as well."
Diane Sollee, SmartMarriages
Throughout our many years of counseling couples who are in the beginning stages of recovering from an affair, we have heard the question “How long do we have to talk about this?” many times.
Affairs are so hard on couples to work through, but not impossible. One research study reported that 70% of couples who experience an affair are able to work through the effects successfully.
There is a common theme among those who were unfaithful … “let’s move on” and for their partners it is “we have a lot to talk about.” So … the question for the therapist is often “how long DO we have to talk about the affair”?
The answer, of course, is different for each situation and couple but generally there are some guidelines:
For effective affair recovery: Talk about it whenever the hurt partner needs to … for the first few days.
After that, find ways to limit the conversation to much smaller amounts of time in order to allow the relationship to heal and recover.
Give your spouse or partner the same benefit of the doubt that you do for a child. Recognize that if he is cranky or she is a bit sharp, it may be because she or he has had a hard day, did not sleep, is hungry or bothered by something that has nothing to do with you.
Or are you just caught up in a terrible downward spiral going nowhere fast?
That awful cycle of complaining and withdrawing and both feeling controlled shows up in many marriages that we see at Couples Counseling of Louisville and couples that we talk with through Counseling Relationships Online.
Nagging, or making the same request over and over again, usually does not get the desired result. Instead, it generally leads to a downward spiral with negative thoughts and feelings about each other and withdrawing, feeling discounted, misunderstood, controlled or unimportant.
Many people don’t realize that nagging can lead to more divorces than affairs because nagging leads to negativity throughout the relationship.
Here is the story of one couple who really started out in a good place. Problems crept in over time as they each set different priorities for their weekends and had different ideas about common marital differences like neatness vs. messiness.