Friday, February 28, 2014

Addressing Issues Head-On: Where to Go for Help

Where can I get help when I or we need it?

Some times couples find that they are really stuck in unhealthy patterns and cannot find their way out. It is good when both acknowledge that they want to do something differently because changes can happen much more quickly and cleanly when both are willing to make changes.

Here are a few suggestion for places to go to begin the process of addressing issues head-on.

Books and websites

John Gottman is the premier researcher on healthy marriages. From his research, he has written several books. The books have exercises and information for couples to build the skills to develop healthy relationships.

Check out his website for the list of his books and tools to begin changing your relationship.

The Divorce Remedy
by Michele Weiner Davis is a great book for one person who wants to make a change in the marriage, even if his or her partner is not in the same place.

How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Patricia Love and Steve Stosny is a very good book to help you develop a better understanding of your partner. Women often want their men to talk more and men want their partners to do or be more. Neither is wrong or right. Just different. This book helps couples learn how to connect more so that both feel better about the relationship.

Friends or mentoring couples

Are there other couples that you know who have a relationship that you like and admire? What can you learn from them, both by observation and maybe even from conversation. Talk it over with your spouse to see if there are things that you recognize in those other couples that would be good to try yourselves.

Some churches also offer the opportunity to meet with couples who have been successful. Retrovaille is a group weekend setting that offers this in a more formal way. Couples who have been in a very tough spot in their relationship share their experiences, both about their problems and how they found their way to a healthier place.

Professional counseling

Don’t wait the average 6 years between the time that problems start and you ask for help. Get help before it is too late. Talk with your doctor or a trusted friend for a recommendation for a therapist who specializes in relationship work.

Using the internet, start with therapists who are listed on the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website. Any of the therapists listed here have specific training in working with relationships.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Effective Ways to Address Relationship Issues

When you decide that there is an issue that needs to be addressed, it is better to do so sooner rather than later. It is generally not best to address things head on when you or your partner are emotional (hurt, sad, angry, etc.) because strong emotions tend to overwhelm good thinking and keep a healthy conversation from ensuing.

Here are 7 guidelines for ways to address issues head on.

1. Choose times when you are calm.

If at all possible, look for times to address issues when you are both in a calm place. Handling conflict can be hard enough. Starting to address an issue when one or both of you are flooded is a sure-fire way to lead to a disastrous conversation. Being angry, upset and flooded leads to the fight or flight pattern.

Find a calm and loving way and time to introduce any complaints or issues.

2. Find ways to be alone and uninterrupted.

Turn off technology. Make sure that the children are or entertained. Agree to hang in with each other for a specified amount of time.

3. Begin complaints softly.

Make sure that you are calm yourself. Find ways to begin in loving ways and keep you tone and words to ones that say to your spouse “You are someone that I love very much.”

4. Hear each other out and really listen rather than building arguments.

It can be hard to listen to complaints fully rather than spend time building your argument. For effective communication, you must listen to your partner and really understand what they are saying before sharing your thoughts, opinions and differences.

5. If one of you becomes flooded, take a break but make a commitment to get back together.

When disagreeing, most people get flooded. Some are able to stay calmer longer than others; however, when one person becomes flooded, the other often does as well.

As hard as it may be, the wise thing to do is to take a break .. A time out … until both of you are calm and able to talk clearly about the issue.

6. Make a plan to get back together and talk again.

Experts say that it takes 30 days for a change to become a habit. Some plans also need to be changed or renegotiated. Plan to get back together and evaluate how well things are going when there is an issue on the table that needs to be addressed.

7. Find some way to reconnect and repair any damage to the relationship.

After the discussion, make sure to find ways to tell each other that you appreciate the conversation. Look for ways to connect that are positive and loving. Recognize that “winning” an argument is not worth losing the friendship.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Addressing Issues Head On When They Are Affecting Your Relationship: When To Do It and When To Get Help

Letting problems pile up is never a good thing. When you do that, you tend to either
build resentment which leads to distance or blow up about something in a way that is totally unhealthy and unhelpful. It is important to find ways to address issues when they are important and affecting your relationship.

Here are tips for deciding when to address issues. In later days we will discuss how to address them and signals or signs that you may need more help.

When is it important to address issues in my relationship?

It can be a challenge to know when something is an issue that affects your relationship and when it is just “your” problem and something that you need to accept about your partner and learn to let it go.

The following guidelines give some ideas for how to make the choices about when to address issues.

Address issues head on in your relationship:

1. When there is physical harm to someone in the family.

Issues must, of course, be addressed at the first sign of any physical harm. Situations often do not improve for the long term. While there may be a “honeymoon” phase, these changes do not always last.

It may be that your spouse is not the place to start the conversation since it may increase the chances of harm. Consider steps carefully.

2. When there is emotional or verbal harm to someone in the family.

Respect and loving communication are crucial in a healthy marriage. If they are not present, 100% of the time, the issue must be addressed. If you do not feel that you and your ideas are respected, address the issue head on.

3. When the financial livelihood of the family is affected.

Money is one of the top 3 issues about which couples often disagree.
Money is loaded with so many different psychological aspects. For some it symbolizes power. For others, the meaning may be related to childhood experiences. Open and honest communication about money is important in a couple’s relationship.

4. When distance has grown and you are feeling lonely.

Day-to-day living with jobs, children and activities can lead to distance and loneliness in a relationship. The inability to resolve conflict can do the same. If you are feeling lonely in your marriage … talk to your spouse. Be sure to confide in him or her rather than someone else (especially of the opposite sex).

5. When concerns or issues are not resolved in a way that is ok with you both a great deal of the time.

Avoiding conflict is a style of relating that fits for many people. It rarely helps a relationship. Talk with and listen to each other about the issues.

If you feel that you are not okay with how things are resolved most of the time, it is important to address that as well. Find a way to talk about it before the resentment builds.

6. When you suspect an affair.

Turning away from a suspected affair can sanction and give permission for an unfaithful relationship to grow. If you are concerned about a friendship that your spouse is having, talk about it out loud, as calmly as possible.

7. If your resentment has grown so strong that you are having problems dealing with it.

Some things are not worth talking about. Others must be addressed. If you find that resentment is building, that is a sign that something is missing in your communication. Do what you can to identify what is bothering you and find a way to talk about it.

8. When the negativity in your marriage far outweighs the positivity.

Is there an environment of positivity in your marriage … or has it slipped to negativity? Research shows that a ratio of 5 positives for every one negative is present in healthy marriages. If you are not at that place address that head on.

9. When there is a lack of intimacy inside or outside of the bedroom.

Woman often want intimacy outside of the bedroom before feeling ready to be intimate in the bedroom. For men it is often just the opposite. If you are missing intimacy in either place, talk about it.

10. When all communication seems either non-existent or you two are just misunderstanding much of what the other is saying or trying to communicate.

Talk about talking with each other. Share your sadness and disappointment about your lack of communication and find a way to talk more with each other. Share what you think and feel and hear what your partner needs and wants.

Counseling Relationships
Couples Counseling of

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How To Be A Good Valentine

Do you know how to be a good valentine?

Flowers, candy and presents are nice on Valentine’s Day … but that alone does not make a good Valentine, especially if nice things are only done once a year.

Here are some of our suggestions for how to be a good Valentine every day.

Show your spouse that you love him or her every day. Obvious, right? Most forget to do this and it can be so simple. Little acts of love in secret places … for only her to find, frequently will help keep the romance and “special-ness” alive.
Flirt, flirt, flirt. “Heart” him in short text messages. Give lots of good eye contact and laugh at her jokes.
Keep the romance alive all year long. Develop rituals (the 14th of every month is V-Day or all Friday nights involve soft music and a candle for 20 minutes after the children are in bed). Be creative. Simple is fine.

What ideas do you have to add to our list? We would love to hear about how you or your partner have learned to be a good valentine.