Sunday, December 18, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #87-"I Love You but I am not in Love"-Part 1

One of the phrases i often hear in my office from one of the partners who have come for marital help is "I love you but i am not in love with you". Understandably, this is a very distressing experience for both members of a couple. There is fear that the feeling of "being in love" will never return and this means that the relationship is over. It is often puzzling as to how this happened. It is also confusing as to what can be done to restore the feelings of love and sexual attraction that bring most couples together.

While relationships are complex and there do not appear to be simple answers to the challenge of partnering in this day and age, i believe that this phenomena is most easily explained by understanding how we protect ourselves from feelings of hurt and woundedness that take place on a daily basis: our partner disappoints us; forgets a request; does not understand what we are saying; acts rejecting; is insensitive to our needs; acts in ways we experiece as selfish; calls us derogatory names; is impatient; speaks in a patronizing manner; rejects our requests for affection or sexual intimacy, to name just a few.

Naturally, any of the above at the very least sting and sometimes are experienced as a deep wound in our heart or psyche. If there are many acts of love or tenderness to counterbalance the inevitable hurts that take place, we recover, repair and reconcile. If the pain becomes too frequent, we become cautious around our partner, lose trust in their good will, love and caring for us and begin to see them as "the enemy". In order to protect ourselves, we begin to close our heart and mind to our partner. While this does indeed miminmize the hurt that we experience, it does not allow any love that is coming our way to be felt and also does not allow any love we feel in our hearts to be expressed.

Thus we may have a place in our mind of connectedness from earlier days in the relationship that we remember and ways in which our partner still is helpful which allow us to say we love our partner, but we are now cut off from our own feelings of tenderness and vulnerability and we become isolated in our relationship.

Next Week-What can be done to re-awaken our "feelings of love".

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #86-The Conversation-the challenge of gender

In order to help facilitate "The Couple's Conversation", i am listing below some of the gender differences that contribute to making this process more challenging. Of course, not all men and women are alike and there are always exceptions to prove the rule; however, most of the elements listed below will be recognized by most couples.

1) Women are more comfortable having longer conversations which makes it frustrating for them when men want to end the discussion prematurely.

2) Men have less interest in many of the details that women want to share and want to get to the point or solve the problem.

3) Since men are not as comfortable with "our relationship" talks as women, they will often avoid or put off the discussions which feels very uncaring and unloving to women.

4) Men will respond more quickly with anger when hurt or cornered which makes it difficult for women to not become fearful.

5) Women will often respond with hurt and tears to conflict or accusations which cause men to shut down and withdraw as they are uncomfortable with sadness and feel guilty for causing their partner's pain.

6) It generally takes men longer to calm themselves down when their anger is activated making relationship repair more difficult for women as they usually want to re-establish the connection more quickly.

7) Men will focus on logic and women will zero in on emotion which leads both to feel frustrated when trying to have what each considers a resonable conversation.

Obviously, these differences have been present for a long time and will not likley disappear in the near future.

So what can you do?

I believe the simple recognition of these differences by each partner can help to minimize taking certain gender communication styles personally. Keeping these differences in the back of your mind will also allow you to give your partner the benefit of the doubt and utilize softer and more caring approaches when holding "The Conversation".

Next Week: Individuation

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #85-The Conversation-The Challenge of Consistency

As most of us would agree. the challenge of consistency is one of the keys to developing any new skill. Whether it be sports, eating healthily, learning to use the computer, or communicating with your spouse, you must practice regularly until the skill becomes an integrated part of your life. Most skills do not come easily to most of us and it is not uncommon to give up or decide that we can't really succeed or it is a skill that is not too important. However, i think most of us would acknowledge that talking with our partner in an effective manner is a skill that is worth learning.

What can you do to overcome the challenge of consistency in speaking with and listening to your partner?

1) Speak with your partner about making a commitment to holding "The Couple's Conversation" at least once a week for three months. Recognize that it may be difficult and it is important that you support each other and keep your eye on the goal as you face the inevitable discomfort that comes with developing any new skill.
2) Read the blogs that i have written on this topic together and discuss them with one another before you start.
3) Set aside a certain time(no more than half an hour) each week with a back-up plan in case there is a legitimate reason to have to change the time.
4) Support and encourage each other after each session and look for the progress as well as the areas that may need more attention.
5) Do not criticize each other even if it goes poorly, but rather talk about the difficulty in staying with something that may be challenging or painful.
6) If you are running into stumbling blocks that you cannot overcome, set up a consultation with a therapist who specializes in this type of work.
7) Do not give into your own or your partner's desires to stop talking even when "The Conversation" goes poorly.
8) Remind each other that much of life that is worth while takes true effort.
9) Try to end each session with a heartfelt hug and kiss.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #84-The Conversation-Attitude is Everything-Part 5

This is a continuation of last week's blog:

So what other options do you have to overcome the challenges that interfere with your being the best possible listener or speaker that you can be in "The Conversation".

5) If your partner does the same thing of which he is accusing you, that doesn't mean your behavior doesn't bother him. If you want to act caring about your partner, your focus needs to be on ackowledging the discomfort he is experiencing and attempting to alleviate it if possible. If his behavior is similar, you can always ask that he pay attention to hearing your concerns but this is not the time to do it. If you do, your response will be seen as defensive and dismissive.

6) Yes, it is unfair that you have made requests to have your concerns addressed and your partner has not responded; however, this is not the time to point that out or use this to justify your not being responsive. What you can do in your relationship is to clean up your side of the street and be a model of the caring person that you would like your partner to be.

7) Of course it is frustrating to have made the same requests what may seem like a 100 times or in fact you have made the same concern known one hundred times; however, it in order to act in a caring manner, it is more helpful to take the approach that whatever you are presenting or behavioral change you are requesting is obviously difficult for your partner to give you for some reason unknown to you or perhaps to him. Exploring this is a caring manner rather than an accusing or adversarial approach will be much more inviting and may uncover what is needed for your partner to take you seriously and take action.

8) It is almost impossible not to get angry if you see your partner rolling his eyes or crossing his arms in front of his chest or pointing his finger towards you or turning away or not looking at you. In order to be the best speaker or listner, remind yourself how challenging it is for you to be open when you are being critiqued or being asked to do something that you think is unfair or being blamed for something you believe is untrue. Keep this in mind as you attempt over and over to truly put yourself in your spouse's shoes and see the issue from her perspective. This will help you to be more compassionate and not react so strongly to your partner's behavior and focus on how to continue "The Conversation" in a positive and effective way.

Next Week: The Challenge of Consistency

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #83-The Conversation-Attitude is Everything-Part 4

So what can you do to overcome the challenges that interfere with your being the best possible listener or speaker that you can be in "The Conversation".

1) When you are flooded by impulses to respond angily to your partner's concerns or criticisms, take deep breaths and ask yourself how would you like your partner to respond to you if you were to share your concerns. Take more deep breaths, calm down and be the person you would like your partner to be for you.

2) While your partner's comments may make no sense to you, it is because you are not understanding how he/she has come to her/his view. When your partner is finshed, ask for help in gaining a clearer picture of how she/he has arrived at her/his perspective. This is not for the purpose of gathering information so that you can use it later in your rebuttal, but to create a sense of caring which takes place when one person truly tries to understnad another.

3) If you know you are already stressed and will have a hard time listening or presenting your concerns in a caring, respectul way, do not engage in "the conversation" but let your spouse know that it is because you are stressed and you do want to listen to her/him or speak with her/him at a time when you can be fully present.

4) When you haven't felt loved lately it is difficult to be loving or respond positively to someone who is angry or disappointed in you; however, ask yourself if you want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say that you didn't give 100% to the relationship because it was hard or rather that when times were tough, you rose to the challenge and you continued to lead the way for a caring relationship even though it was not easy.

Next week: More on overcoming the challenges to being a caring partner when having "the conversation".

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #82-The Conversation-Attitude is Everything-Part 3

Why is it so hard to maintain an attitude of caring when you are speaking with or listening to your partner about concerns in your relationship?
You start out with good intentions but as your partner speaks, you can't help but get angry and interrupt or talk over him/her to point out the error of what he/she is saying.

Let's take a look at the factors which make it so challenging to listen or speak with love.

1) The very nature of the conversation, no matter how well it is stated, will be experienced as a criticism of your behavior or the way you think. This will in turn stir up the reptilian part of your brain which will send adrenaline into your system to help protect you from what is now being perceived as a significant threat.
2) What your partner expresses makes no sense to you and it is hard to see it from her/his perspective.
3) You are already stressed out from work, the children or finances and this is pushing you over the edge.
4) You haven't felt very connected or loved lately by your spouse, so why should you stretch yourself to act caringly and listen to him/her.
5) Your partner does the same thing of which you are being accused.
6) You recently pointed out some of your concerns and they were ignored or the changes you requested weren't made.
7) You have raised this issue 100 times before and you are already annoyed that you have to bring it up again.
8) Your partner's body image is already indicating an unwillingness to take you seriously.

If you have any additional factors which impact upon you and would like to add, please e-mail them to me at and i will try to address them in my next post

Next week: How to meet these challenges and overcome them

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #81-The Conversation-Attitude is Everything-Part 2

So what does a good attitude for the speaker sound like?

John Gottman, the foremost researcher on marriage in our country, called his approach to initiating a conversation about concerns in the relationship: "the soft start up".
Unfortunately, many people think that this means that you speak softly when you are expressing yourself. While it certainly helps to moderate your voice, the most important aspect of a successful conversation is again "the attitude" with which you approach your partner.

If you are already angry and on the edge of exploding because you have discussed the problem 100 times before without any success, it would be helpful to take some time by yourself to calm down. What do you want to accomplish? If it is to express anger and frustration, you will most likely not find a sympathetic ear. If it is to help your partner to understand why you are distressed about certain behaviors or interactions, than consider the following:

1) Remember before starting that this is the person that you love most of the time.
2) Can you start by giving the benefit of the doubt? Perhaps, despite your best efforts, there are reasons that your partner has not been able to respond to previous requests which either he/she or you do not fully understand.
3) If you do not want your partner to respond as an adversary, don't act like one. Keep the importance of the relationship foremost in your mind. This means that you may not get a resolution of your concerns immediately or that a compromise may be necessary.
4) If you want to be heard, it is best to ask for that before you start by requesting that your partner not respond or interrupt you; but take a few hours or a day to think about what you have said before getting back to you.
5) Communicate your willingness to be a good listener when your partner is ready to share with you about the topic you have raised.

Next Week-Why it is so hard to maintain a good attitude despite our best intentions

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Relationship Tip of The Week #80-The Conversation-Attitude is Everything

While I believe there are better ways to speak to one's partner than most of us utilize, the most important element in a successful "Conversation" is not the "psychologically correct" words, but rather your attitude.

Are you communicating anger, distrust, contempt even though you may be saying the right words or not yelling? Are you disgusted or feeling hopeless with your efforts to reach your spouse? Are you not really listening? Are you already formulating your answer or some form of defense to what your partner is sharing as he/she is still speaking? What does your body language say? Eyes rolling? Glazing over? Arms crossed? Not making eye contact?

Attitude is Everything.

So what does a good attitude for the listener look like?

When your partner is sharing, you make him/her the most important person(you put your own thoughts and feelings to the background while you listen). You want to know and understand what is of concern to the one you love. Why is she/he feeling a certain way? What can you do to help improve the situation? You want to ackowledge that your partner's experience is valid even though you may not understand it or agree with it. You want to just listen if that is what is being asked. If a response is being requested, you want to think before you talk and take time to consider your partner's point of view and not make a knee-jerk defensive comment. Your goal is to create a space in the relationship in which your partner ends up feeling you care and are trying to consider his/her concerns.

How do you know if you have been a successful listener?

Your partner tells you that she/he feels listened to and understood. This does not mean you agree with everything shared but you are not dismissing her/his point of view or negating her/his experience of your relationship.

Next Week: Good Attitude on the part of the speaker

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #79- The Conversation-Part 3

So when should you hold the conversation? This is a double edged sword, as there never seems to be a "right time". If you are getting along and enjoying each other, why ruin the day. If you are bickering or arguing, a talk will only make it worse. On top of that many men have the belief; "If ain't broke don't fix it". Thus, if their wife is not complaining, they will rarely start a conversation to explore how their partner is feeling about the relationship.

Obviously, like going to the gym or doing anything which is difficult, you must make a commitment to follow through on a regualr basis despite your feelings at the moment. Set a day and time that works for both partners. Right before bed is rarely a good time as a challenging topic can cause a sleepless night. Early in the morning only works if both are early risers. Negotiate a time and then agree to try it for a month and evaluate if it is working after 4 talks. If it is not, try a new time for a month.

While it is important to be flexible if something comes up to prevent the conversation from being held at the agreed upon time, a substitute time should be agreed upon at that point, otherwise, another week may easily pass without talking about one another's concerns.

If one partner appears to be resistant to holding the conversation, it is important that the other partner be encouraging and supportive to moving forward rather than critical, angry or pointing out that this means there is no love or caring.

Next Week: Attitude Is Everything

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #78-The Conversation-Part 2

It is my belief that the one skill a couple has to master to promote intimacy as well as protect the partners from divorce is "The Conversation". What does this actually look like?

At an agreed upon set time each week the couple holds a conversation(should not last longer than a half hour and if done regularly will most likely take only10-20 minutes). Each member has the opportunity to share concerns about the relationship, information about events or experiences that she/he may not have shared during the past week, and positive feelings and appreciation about which he/she may not have had time to let his/her partner know.

In theory,this sounds very simple;however, as you most likely know this is very difficult to actually do on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. Each week i will address a different aspect of holding a successful conversation and offer tips to help you become skilled in this form of communication which is one of the most loving acts that partners can offer to one another.

Next week-When to hold "The Conversation

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #77-The Couple's Dialogue-Shift in Expectations-Part 1

In the 1950's the roles of men and women were very well defined and expectations were clear-men went to work and were providers; women took care of the children and were homemakers. In the 1970's, the women's movement advocated for equal job opportunities, pay and recognition of their economic contribution as homemakers. Men were not so eager to be liberated as they had always had the upper hand in terms of power and position in work and decision making in the family

As women became a larger part of the workforce, they began to expect men to do more around the house, play a greater role in caring for the children and to share decision making in the home equally. With a decrease in emotional support from family (people were living further and further away from their families of origin) community and religious institutions, women looked to men for a deeper emotional connection and a deeper level of contact and support.

Unfortunately, there has not been the necessary development of new skills and attitudes to achieve this new level of couple cooperation and caring. Over the next 12 weeks, I will be writing about the most important skill needed to promote stability and understanding in today's relationships as well as the challenges that must be met in order to change the ways men and women express their love and acceptance of one another.

Next Week-The Conversation

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #76-The Couple's Dialogue

Over the next three months i will be writing about the one skill i believe is necessary for a successful relationship-The Couple's Dialogue. This is a weekly conversation between two partners in which each has the opportunity to express concerns about the relationship as well as sharing aspect's of one's life or experiences which help the partners to stay connected and know each other in an intimate way.
I will be addressing the following elements:

1) The evolution of couple's relationships since the 1950's and why we must make changes if we are to be succesful in maintaining a connection with our partner
2) When to hold the conversation
3) Attitude is everything
4) The challenge of consistency
5) The challenge of gender differences to this process
6) Listening and Understanding one's partner
7) The impact of our past on this process
8) The threat of differences
9) Individuation
10) Interdependence

Your comments are welcome

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #75-Gender Differences-Part 2

As a woman, have you observed your partner's eyes glaze over only three or four minutes into a conversation in which you are trying to share something that has happened in your day or attempting to discuss a misunderstanding you are having in your relationship? As a man, do you hear yourself say in your mind,"Oh no, here she goes again" as your partner begins to talk.

The need to talk and the abilitiy to listen are areas in which gender differences seem to cause many clashes and frustation for both partners. Men want to get to the point. Women want to share the details of their lives. Men feel overwhelmed with too much information. Women feel more connected as they have a better picture of an event or experience.

So who is right? How can this struggle be solved?

As in most differences that exist in a couple, both are right for him/herself but wrong for the other. A compromise is best and is what is right for the couple.

Both need to stretch and grow themselves to show their understanding of their partner's needs.

Women have to appreciate that men are not personally rejecting them when they have trouble listening. Men have to appreciate that women are attempting to share their lives and the details with them and this is the way that they feel connected. If a woman approaches a man, she might give him the benefit of the doubt by starting softly and saying,"I know that this may be difficult to listen to but it is really important to me that i share this with you and i will keep it to five-ten minutes as i know that it can be challenging to listen for a longer period." A man can make a greater attempt to stay focused, knowing his wife will keep the sharing to a limited time period or say that he knows that what she is saying is important and if his attention starts to fade he will ask her to stop and then finish a little later on in the day.

More on gender differences in two weeks when i return from vacation

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #74-Gender Differences-Part 1

Watch any stand up comic and eventually there will be a portion of the routine devoted to relationships and gender differences. If you haven't read "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus". you most likely have heard a reference to it and nodded your head in agreement with a comment on the struggle between men and women. How many times have you found yourself talking with a friend of the same sex about your partners and laughing or crying about living with someone of the opposite sex and how they think or act?

Why is it so difficult and challenging to bridge the gap that exists between the opposite sexes?
Why can't we just agree to disagree on some thiings and not fight about others?
Why does it feel like such a battle to pick a movie or what time of the day to make love?

Over the next several weeks, i will be writing about some obvious differences and some that are more subtle.
I would also be interested in getting feedback from those of you who read my blog regarding what you experience as the greatest challenges you face in your relationship with respect to gender.
please e-mail me at

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #73-part 3-steps to get in each other's corner

Last week i explored some of the reasons it is so difficult to truly listen and be there for your partner. This week, i will list some of the steps that will help you overcome these challenges and form a relationship of trust and safety.

1) The first step is to understand that if you want a partner who is in your corner, you have to be in his/ or hers.
2) Approach your partner and ask if she/he experiences that you are there for her/him and have her/his back.
3) If yes, keep doing what ever you are doing. If not, ask why she/he believes and feels this way and of course listen without commenting-even take the time to write down the answer.
4) While this may very hard to do and the answer may not make any sense to you or hurt your feelings and your view of yourself, it is essential that you take the time to try to understand how your partner thinks and views the relationship and what his/her needs are.
5) If your partner asks whether you believe she/he has your back, this would be a good time to answer honestly. Take the time to explain how you have come to this view and try not to attack her/his character but focus on your needs and what it would take for you to feel safe and secure with her/him. If your partner does not ask at this time, approach her/him the next day and share your view at that time and ask her/him to listen and try to not comment but take time to process what you are saying.
6) Suggest that you each think about what one another has shared and agree to meet in a week and revisit this discussion. Talk about what you each can do to make at least one change that would demosnstrate a desire to create the relationship that you each want.
7) Meet weekly to review the efforts each are making and what further changes need to be done.
8) This is not an easy process and there are often slips and steps backwards but if you stick to the stucture of meeting once a week to focus on your efforts and stay open to one another's experience of each other, you will be taking a stand for a "loving relationship" that will be the foundation of a lasting partnership and friendship.

Next week-Gender issues

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #72-The Most Important Skill Needed To Create A Successful Relationship-part 2

So why is it so hard to listen to your partner or to get in his/her corner?

1) Your partner may be expressing concerns that you interpret as threatening and cause an automatic defensive response.
2) Your partner may be asking for changes in behavior that may be challenging or asking you to give up ideas or behaviors that you believe will be very difficult to accomplish.
3) Your partner's views do not make any sense.
4) If your partner is angry it may be hard to hear the message since you are reacting to the tone or attitude.
5) You may be angry at your partner and not want to extend yourself.
6) You might believe that your partner does not make any effort to listen to your concerns and you do not want to be the only one listening or stretching yourself.
7) You may hold a view that your partner or yourself cannot change.

Try to examine each of these challenges and see which apply to you and your partner.

Next week, i will describe the steps that a couple can take to begin the process of establishing a relationship of real caring.

relationship tip of the week #71-The Most Important Skill Needed To Create A Successful Relationship-part 2

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tip of the Week #71-The Most Important Skill Needed To Create A Successful relationship

For the next several weeks i will be blogging about the most important skill that i believe a couple needs for a happy and successful relationship.

This is the ability to be in one another's corner; to give one another the feeling that you want him/her to feel free to come to you with any of her/his concerns about life and your relationship and that you will make the time to listen and to attempt to understand her/his point of view and to follow through with behavior to support each other if at all possible.

This seems pretty obvious and isn't that what marriage vows are all about? Where do we get off track? Why is it so hard to be there for one another?

Do you and your partner have this type of connection in your relationship? I encourage you to take a week thinking about your part. Does your partner believe that you are there for him/her? Would you be willing to ask and find out what he/she really thinks? Do you believe your partner is there for you?

In the coming weeks i will write about the challenges to accomplish this "feeling state" in your relationship and the steps you can take to begin to work towards achieving this goal.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #70 Resolving Gridlock Part 2- Soothing each other

Since discussing gridlocked issues can be very stressful, it is most helpful to take some time to soothe oneself and each other. Here are a few suggestions to help you and your partners to achieve a better frame of mind for helping make peace with the particular issue upon which you are focusing:

  1. stop the discussion

  2. take some time alone to do some deep breathing

  3. stretch or exercise

  4. find a personal image that helps the mind to let go

  5. share some shoulder massage

  6. do something you both enjoy

  7. go for a walk together

After you have calmed yourselves down, you will be ready for next week's post:

End The Gridlock

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #69-Resolving Gridlock-part 1

After attempting to uncover the dreams behind any impasse(which was discussed in last week's blog) you are ready for the next step. Step two to resolve a gridlocked issue: Each partner writes down his/her position on the issue to be discussed. Take time to note not only the issue itself but also the hidden dreams that you have been able to identify which help to explain why this is so important that you find it hard to compromise. Try to focus on your own needs and feelings and do not use your energy to negate your partner's position. Next each partner will get 15 minutes to express him/herself without any comment from the partner who becomes the designated listner. Keep in mind that in order to hold the attention of your partner, do not use this opportunity to sneak in criticisms of anticipated attacks on what you expect her/him to say as you are presenting your position. John Gottman in his book, "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work", describes the listner's role in the following way: "Suspend judgement. Listen the way a friend would listen. Don't take your spouse's dream personally even though it clashes with one of yours. Don't spend your time thinking of rebuttals or ways to solve the problem. Your role is just to hear the dream and encourage your partner to explore it... The bottomline in getting past gridlock is not necessarily to become a part of each other's dreams(although your marriage will be enriched to the extent that you can) but to honor these dreams." Next week-Step 3-Soothing each other

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #68-Long Standing Issues-Part 2-Gridlock

You want to have a child; your partner does not. You want to save money; your partner wants to spend. You want to raise your child in your religion; your partner is an atheist. These are the types of problems that can lead to divorce or at the very least, many long nights of arguing or silence. John Gottman, one of the foremost researchers on marriage in our country notes that all couples had 67% of the same issues present five years after his initial interview. These are caused by different needs or views of the world and cannot be easily worked out by compromise. So what's a couple to do? Gottman writes in one of his first books, "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work", that the first step is trying not to solve the problem but to move from gridlock to dialogue. He writes that in order "to navigate your way out of gridlock, you have to first understand its cause". He believes that the impasse is a "sign that you have dreams for your life that aren't being addressed or respected by each other". These dreams are "the hopes, aspirations and wishes that are part of your identity and give purpose and meaning to your life." These dreams can be practical or profound and often may be layered one on top of the other; such as the desire to save money may be hiding a deeper need for security. Over the next four weeks, i will describe the steps necessary to address a gridlocked marital issue.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Relationship ip of the Week #67-Long Standing Issues-Part 1

One of the most challenging problems for most couples is what to do about issues that have been part of the relationship for many years. These can be small irritating behaviors like leaving the cap off the toothpaste, forgetting to take out the garbage, coming home late for dinner or annoying eating habits. These can also be potential deal breakers such as whether to have children, major sexual differences, or addictions.

Today, i will address the former. So what does your partner do that annoys you and no matter how many times you have addressed it there is no change or any shift in behavior is short-lived? These are often deeply ingrained habits or ways of viewing the world that do not easily yield to reasonable requests or angy outbursts.

Here is my approach to this difficult challenge:

1) Since it is impossible to change another person, start by altering your own behavior and attitudes.
A) Calm yourself down-Is this issue as important to your overall happiness and well being as you are making it?
B) Give your partner the benefit of the doubt-perhaps the behavior in question is really difficult to change even though it appears to be a no-brainer to you.
C) Try a more positive approach in your requests. Ask with an open heart.
D) Do not give up when change does not occur immediately or there are relapses.
E) Look for ways to create new structures(set the clock ahead for lateness) or rituals(share a cup of coffee or tea after the garbage is taken out) which will encourage shifts in behavior.
F) Always reinforce any movement in the direction you are seeking with sincere expressions of warmth and love.
G) Thank your partner for the effort even though you believe that what you are asking is very simple and should require a minimum of energy.
H) Do not make it about whether your partner loves you.
I) Maintain your sense of humor.
J) Do not demean your partner's attempt to change even if it is not exactly what you requested.

Next Week-Deal Breakers

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #66-How To Avoid Resentment Buildup

One little question and a lot of courage is all it takes to avoid one of the largest problems most couples face-Resentment Buildup.
How do you know when your partner's distance or irritability is being caused by some issue that he/she is not talking about. Besides if she/he is not talking, why ask for trouble-"If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Why ruin a good day or evening?
Unfortunately, when we do not talk to each other about the concerns in our relationship, symptoms begin to develop-distance, irritability, lack of sexual desire, addictive behaviors, depression or anxiety to name a few.
Take a deep breath, remember there is never a really a good time to talk about challenges, call up your courage and keep in mind that you are expressing your love and taking responsibility for attending to your realtionship and then ask:

Is there anything that you have not said to me this week that you are holding back or is troubling you?

Of course, the really hard part comes when your partner tells you a concern that is bothering him/her. Take another deep breath and whatever it is, thank her/him for sharing and say you will give it some thought and get back to him/her tomorrow. Even if you are not in agreement, you have helped the couple to have the opportunity to confront the problem rather than burying it and have it come back to "bite you" when you are least expecting it.

Next week: What about issues that are long standing and only cause fights when you try to talk about them.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #65-How to end any arguement

How many of us have found ourselves involved in what seems to be a neverending arguement? Or the same arguement for the umpteenth time? Yelling, screaming, and tears usually ending with one partner giving in simply to end what feels like torture.

One simple sentence can put an end to this destructive behavior that most couples experience with some regularity:

"I will take what you are saying into consideration and give it some thought and get back to you tomorrow."

Naturally, there has to be a sincere willingness to do what you are saying. What is the best way to go about it?

1) Take some time to cool down and let the neo cortex(adult thinking) part of your brain kick into gear.
2) Ask yourself honestly if what your partner is saying has any validity. Even if there is only part of what has been said that you can see; acknowlege to yourself what legitimate points he/she has made.
3) Try to think out of the box. Are there options that you have not considered?
4) Remember this is your life partner for whom you often have loving feelings.
5) Make sure that you get back to your partner the next day whether it seems to be the right time or not. Share what you have come up with and ask your partner to not respond until she/he has given some consideration to what you have presented and get back to you the next day.

Obviously, this slows down the interactive process and gives each partner a chance to think more clearly. While this may not solve your differences, it will give you a better chance for resolution because each person has time to deal with his/her own anger and respond with more thoughtful and loving responses.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #64-on Being Right-Part 2-Alternatives

So what are the best ways to defuse an "I'm Right and You're Wrong Situation" ?

1) If it is a disagreement over something relatively small like the day or time something took place, reframe the discussion by saying " we obviously remember it differently". If your partner insists that his/her version is correct; ask yourself why you are fighting over this relatively insignificant piece of information. If there is not a really good reason, simply say, well you could be right so i am not going to argue over this. Remember "it takes two to tangle" and if one lets go of the struggle the arguement ends.

2) If the diasgreement is about something that seems more important like financial or career decisions, you can shift the discussion, by saying, "clearly we have two different views and each believes we are right. How about you go first and present your points and i will listen without interrupting and then when you are finished, i will present my points and then lets take a day to consider the possibility of compromise, alternative choices or a change in one of our ways of thinking and then revisit it tomorrow and see where we are".

3) If each of you feel very strongly about her/his belief and there is no movement towards one of the views or a middle ground, it is best to state "it appears we are stuck or at an impasse". Suggest that you take a week off and then revisit the impasse. If you are still stuck, it is important to ackowledge that each of you feel stongly about his/her position but fighting or trying to convince each other about who is right and who is wrong can only lead to distancing and disconnection. This may not solve the immediate situation but stepping back sometimes puts a situation in perspective or it may resolve due to circumstances beyond either person's control.

However, there are long standing impasses or differences which appear to be unresolvable and feel like "dealbreakers". I will write about these in next week's blog.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #63-On Being Right-Part 1- The Problem

Is there anyone who doesn't like "being right". It is so satisfying, so validating. You knew it all along. Even though your partner kept arguing with you. It is hard not to gloat.; to say "I told you so".
And yet, in a relationship there is a price to pay. "Being right" rarely brings your partner closer to you. Why is that? Because "being wrong" feels really bad and your partner now sees you as the one responsible for causing those feelings.
So what are you supposed to do? Not stand up for yourself and your beliefs or the facts? Agree with your partner when in your heart or head you know he/she is wrong? What if you don't get your partner to see the error in her/his thinking? It could have a very negative impact on your relationship in many important ways: mistakes in child rearing, finances, career choices or lesser issues such as an unhappy evening out or a poor choice in what to order for dinner or where to go for the winter vacation.
How often have you spent the evening in a hostile debate that started about what day such and such happened or who said what or the exact time someone came home?
Tune in next week when i will be discussing some of the most effective approaches for dealing with this challenging part of being a couple.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #62-10 Ways to Become Healthier as a Couple-Part 2

This week i am continuing with numbers 6-10 from Michelle Schoffro Cook's suggestions for ways to become healthier as a couple:

6) "Give each other a foot rub. Pressure points in our feet correspond to organs, glands and tissues in the rest of our bodies. By activating these points in your partner's feet, you're helping them with whole-body healing. Find a sore spot? Gently massage that point a bit longer."
7) "Share a pot of herbal tea instead of soda or other less-than-healthy beverages. Choose acai berry for a healing antioxidant blast, ginseng for energy, peppermint for a refreshing boost or licorice root to boost your immune system. Tea is so much nicer when it's shared."
8) "Regularly share words of support and encouragement. Making health changes can be challenging sometimes. Simply sharing words of praise and encouragement can make our days a little bit brighter."
9) "Take a moment out of your hectic schedule to meditate together. Meditation is an opportunity to release tension, become mindful of ourselves and the person we share life with."
10) "Do stretching exercises together. A partner can help us get a bit deeper into that stretch. There are some excellent books and videos that can show you how to do couples' yoga or other stretches together."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #61-10 ways to become healthier as a couple-part 1

I recently came accross ten suggestions for becoming a healthier couple on a blog written by Michelle Schoffo Cook and thought they would be of interest to my readers. Here are the first five:

1) "Start a detox program together. Many toxins produce hormone-like effects that alter our delicate hormone balance, making us vulnerable to mood swings, irritability, depression and other health concerns. By detoxifying together you'll have the support you need to stick to it."
2) "Give each other a full body massage. Not only will it improve your circulation and relax your muscles, it is an intimate way to become closer."
3) "Hit the sauna together to eliminate toxins while sweating. Many harmful toxins exit the body though our pores in sweat. Sauna-ing healps our bodies to eliminate them faster".
4) "Prepare nutritious meals to support your health goals. By sharing the workload, you'll find it easier to prepare healthy meals. And, you may find you enjoy trying new cuisines".
5) "Instead of slouching on the couch after dinner, go for a brisk walk to oxygenate your blood. Exercising with a partner is more fun and keeps you going."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Relationship Tip of the Week #60-One person can make a difference

It is easy for couples to get into impasses in which each believes that the other is not making an effort and then stops making any efforts to foster positive experiences in the relationship. In order to break the logjam of negative feelings and hopelessness that can arise, i would suggest the following experiment for the new year:

1) Pick one of your behaviors that you know is challenging for your partner or you have received many requests to change.
2) Think about how changing your behavior might impact the relationship
3) Make a committment to yourself to alter this behavior for the next month whether or not your partner is making any changes to improve the relationship
4) Do not tell your partner that you are doing this
5) Notice if you see any shifts in your partners attitude or behavior over the next month and keep a record of it
6) Keep a record of your own changes in behavior and write a few sentences about how difficult it is to follow through on a day to day basis especially if you get angry at your partner