Small, Simple ways to improve your Marriage

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Small, Simple ways to improve your Marriage

It isn’t easy staying married, as today’s divorce rate can attest. But it isn’t always big problems that break up a married couple. Often it’s a buildup of little things that turn into a tidal wave of problems which ultimately wash away the couple’s married future. Fight back against the tide of tiny destroyers. Here are some small, simple ways to improve your marriage right now and move forward from this instant on. Follow these and the road ahead will be much smoother.

If you want to stay close, when you are wrong, apologize. Don’t insist you are right for pride’s sake. Your pride will get between you and your spouse. When you are in an argument, don’t only view it from your perspective. Try and see things from their point of view. Use your imagination. How would you feel? What would your reaction be? Putting yourself in their shoes will calm your anger, give you a little sympathy and help to organize the negotiation phase, conjuring up a plan on how to satisfy both of you without harming either. Laugh when you two are together. It is far more important to enjoy each other’s company. It will make your bond strong and resilient.

Pencil sex in if you two are so busy and don’t have time for a long, drawn out romantic encounter. A marriage without physical intimacy gets dull and fades. But being intimate together, even if it’s just a quickie a couple of times a week, will make you closer, release tension and help keep the spark alive. It’s important to make sure that you attack life as a team. That’s why a weekly meeting is important. Instead of killing the relationship with nagging and arguments, schedule a time each week to tackle important issues and solve them. Make a running list throughout the week on what is to be covered. Solve your problems at that time and spend some other alone time during the week enjoying each other’s company. Talk about the little things in life, good and bad. Talk about everything. Keep the lines of communication open and free.

Make sure you schedule some time for your own hobbies, friends, interests, and so on. Don’t yell. It doesn’t solve anything. It only makes matters worse. If you want to yell excuse yourself and go yell in another room, in a pillow or in your car while it’s parked. Then when you calm down schedule a time to revisit the issue, discussing how it makes you feel and possible solutions. Show gratitude. Thank the other person for what they do. And expect gratitude in return too. For some fun relationship advice read, Advice for a Happy Marriage: From Miss Dietz’s Third-Grade Class by Debi Dietz Crawford and Friends.

4 Warning Signs That Your Relationship Is in Trouble

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4 Warning Signs That Your Relationship Is in Trouble

Most of the time people enter relationships with a feeling that everything has excellent potential.  They’re not anticipating an end to their love.  The truth is, that’s often the case.  Relationships do end.  Often, warning signs are missed, but they do exist.  John Gottman, Ph.D., is a leading psychologist in the area of marriage and relationships.  He has four warning signs and adjustments that can be made:

  1. Criticism - It’s not the same as complaining, when you’re attacking one particular problem or the behavior of your partner.  You’re actually attacking their character.  A criticism might include, “You are such a slob”.  A complaint, on the other hand, would sound more like, “I’m tired of picking up after you”.   You can’t say anything constructive when a person is criticizing, or, it would be more difficult.  If someone complains, it’s easier to address the concern.  To fix this, make it a point to complain and not criticize.  And, if your partner is guilty of the latter, have a discussion about it and see if they’ll commit to not criticizing.
  2. Contempt - This is really criticism, magnified.  When you’re attacking your partner as a person, it’s demeaning and insulting.  You’re looking down on them, possibly calling them names, mocking them and being sarcastic.  To fix this, increase your tolerance.  Learn to communicate with your partner and appreciate each other.  Couples therapy is often necessary for relationships involving contempt.
  3. Defensiveness - This is when you’re attacked and then attack in defense.  This typically involves playing the victim, ignoring your partner, making excuses and disagreeing.  To fix this, listen to the complaint and try to empathize.  Then, take responsibility, or some of it.  After truly listening and showing compassion, tell your side of the story.
  4. Stonewalling - Checking out of a conversation to protect oneself from being hurt is stonewalling.  A person will stop following the conversation or actually leave.  They may seem apathetic, but are actually overwhelmed.  To fix this, try to discuss the issue together and find out when the person stonewalling is becoming overwhelmed. Make plans to give space if needed and eventually come back to discussing the problem.  Identify these issues early on.  The longer they last, the more it hurts your relationship.  If you’re trying your best to fix things and there’s no cooperation, and situations are repeated, you might try counseling together. Also try reading the book, The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman, Ph.D.

See a Couple’s Counselor Sooner Rather than Later

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See a Couple’s Counselor Sooner Rather than Later

A lot of couples get defensive when confronted with the idea of seeing a therapist. They say they are fine. There is nothing wrong with them. They don’t think their problems are all that bad. Seeing a counselor is thought of as a defeat, or that the couple or relationship is defective. Though not as strong as it was in the past, people still have a negative association with therapy. The truth is people see a therapist for all different kinds of reasons. There is absolutely no shame in it. In fact, admitting you could use professional guidance is a show of great inner strength. Just as we all have our own physical health problems, so too do we have our own mental health aberrations. No one is perfect. We are all human and so intrinsically flawed. But that doesn’t make us any less brilliant, capable, mesmerizing or worthwhile. No one can fault you for seeing a doctor, even if the health condition is minor. You don’t want it to get worse. A small injury if left untreated can get infected, even become life threatening. The same is true with your mental health, and the health of your relationship. Seeing a couple’s counselor doesn’t mean that the relationship is on its last leg.  It could just mean you need some direction on certain issues that you haven’t been able to make headway on, some professional guidance.

Divorce counselor and post-divorce advisor, Ian Oliver says he sees one couple even though they have a seemingly perfect marriage. “She says she always learns something that nurtures their relationship,” he wrote in the Huffington Post. “She considers it maintenance.” So couple’s counseling is not only for fixing problems. We can learn how we love and how our partner loves. This will allow us to see ways to develop the relationship we hadn’t seen before, and make it more fulfilling. All it takes is a little insight. It may also help you to notice when things are right versus when they aren’t. Sometimes one or both members of a relationship live in denial of a problem that gets bigger and bigger, until it tears the relationship apart. But understanding what your dynamic looks like when it’s humming along, and when things started to go wrong, can help diagnose problems quickly and work in a more effective strategy to deal with them. Most of the time however, the couple seeks out a counselor when there are major issues. They have tried but are at an impasse. Seeking out a therapist when things first go bad can help stave off the further complications that come from a problem that has grown beyond control.

There are times when we grow accustomed to unwanted behavior, live in denial or fail to see it for what it actually is, damaging to us and our relationship. You may not know why they act like this, or why you do. It can be hard to trace back certain behaviors, reactions or emotions to their origins. A good counselor or couple’s therapist can help you see these patterns and trace them back to their origins. Once you see where things stem from, you can develop strategies to deal with them. Sometimes couples seek out therapy after lots of things have been said that can’t be taken back. The counselor, in addition to being a professional, is also impartial. They are trained to pick up on unhealthy habits and behaviors. They won’t get caught on one person’s side. You can trust their impartiality and their professional training to help guide you. We all need to see the things from a new angle on occasion to get some perspective. The most important thing is to keep communicating with your partner. Be honest with one another. Try to work through your problems yourselves. But if you can’t, see a couple’s therapist before things start spinning out of control. Don’t wait until things have gotten way out of hand. For more help, read the book, Counseling and Therapy for Couples by Lynn L. Long and Mark E. Young.

Can a Fight Reignite your Sex Life?

Couple Lying In Bed

Can a Fight Reignite your Sex Life?

It’s a very old idea. Couples fight. All couples do. But then the energy they release, once they make up, leads to great “makeup sex.” But is it true? Is this a real phenomenon or is it all in our heads? New research is trying to put this question to bed. The first problem we must recognize is, after the honeymoon phase–when young couples are ravenous for one another, is over, couples’ sex lives can often become bland and routine. Some people call it simply “marital sex.” Disagreements can get in the way, fights about finances, raising the children and other concerns, and these issues follow the couple into the bedroom, sucking the life out of it. Most couples take fighting as just part of the routine. But certain fights or kinds of fighting can become baggage, getting in the way of sexual and emotional intimacy. What couples need to do, instead of being disconnected to one another, blowing up and having the occasional loving connection, is to think of their romantic life as distanced and separate altogether from their everyday life. A recent study of infidelity site Ashley Madison found that women go to the site to get sexual excitement, while still keeping their relationship intact. So learn how to compartmentalize the two worlds. Leave the fights at the bedroom door, and instead embrace the things that excite you both.

A lot of couples think they are just going to maintain a certain posture for the rest of their time together, if they are married, for the rest of their lives. A “this is as good as it gets” attitude resides. You don’t have to settle for a mediocre relationship. Psychological damage builds up as couples move along and disagreements and conflict inevitably arise. This has a direct influence over our sexual and emotional intimacy within our relationship. The emotional and physical state our body is in, “fight or flight,” is created with adrenaline. This is the absolute opposite of the status our body maintains when it is time to make love. When we are ready to make amore, oxytocin—the love neurotransmitter, and dopamine are released, the body relaxes and enters a state of “calm and cuddle.” The two states cannot coexist. It is either one or the other. The first thing you can do is establish how you fight. Do you take part in the “demand and withdraw” pattern? This is when a person shoves criticisms and complaints on their mate, hoping that the person will change. When these pile up, the person can’t leave them at the bedroom door, and sexual intimacy is lost. Usually as couples get older, this pattern worsens.  Texas Christian University found that this is “…the most common pattern of conflict in marriage or any committed established romantic relationship.”

One study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that middle-aged fighting increased the risk of death from all causes significantly. Another study, out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that those couples who fought more often were more susceptible to depression. Those who had constant stress from their relationship were also more likely to get depressed. Nothing saps your love life like depression, be it yours or your partner’s. Some people say that the make-up sex is the best part of their relationship. Really, it’s just that you’ve made up and now the resurgence of those good feelings, the ones that should generally inhabit your relationship, has renewed emotional and sexual intimacy. So it isn’t the fighting itself, it’s being loving again that sparks sexual intimacy. Now one might ask what a couple can do to make things heat up again in the bedroom. John Gottman, a pioneering psychologist who spent his career studying couples, has shown through his research that loving kindness and generosity toward one another can increase intimacy, and give partners a fondness and love for each other, which can manifest itself into great physical and sexual intimacy. One recent study showed that the stronger the emotional intimacy between a couple, the better their sex life. Find ways to sustain intimacy and you can sustain your sex life. For ways to do that pick up a copy of, Emotional Intimacy 101: The Surefire Way to Great Romantic Relationships by Pierre F. Steenberg.

The Most Expensive Weddings Lead to the Shortest Marriages

ENGAGEMENT-RING

The Most Expensive Weddings Lead to the Shortest Marriages

The price on weddings has risen significantly in recent years. So-called “normal” couples today incorporate detailed websites, photo booths and giant ice sculptures into their marriages, and even throw weekend-long events. The industry likes to marry the idea of love and commitment with how much is spent. But although most of us scour the plan looking for ways of saving a few dollars, some wish money was no object. They secretly drool over celebrity-style affairs in exotic locales, taking place in lavish venues where so many luxuries abound their guests’ heads spin. We dream of becoming a part of what looks like modern day royalty. But be careful what you wish for. All of that style may be hiding a lack of substance, according to a study out of Emory University. You would think those who shell out the most mean it the most. But this study found the opposite to be true. The most expensive weddings lead to the shortest marriages. Two economics professors came to this conclusion. They also found that the higher the price-tag for the engagement ring, the greater the likelihood of divorce.

3,000 participants, married only one time, took part in this study. They found that those men who spent $500 to $2,000 were 1.3 times less likely to get divorced than those who spent $2,000 and $4,000. Those who spent $5,000 to $10,000 on the wedding were 3.5 times less likely to get divorced than those who shelled out over $20,000. In an email to Big Think researchers wrote, “Advertising has fueled the norm that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and wedding is an indication of commitment or is helpful for a marriage to be successful.” Though they’ve found a correlation, determining causation is far trickier. The economists surmise that such a big event inflates the expectations of the marriage. The couple is enchanted into the notion that things are going to be easy from here on out. Both parties have unrealistic expectations which undermine reconciliation when the couple hits a stumbling block. Those who have a more moderately priced affair have a level-headed view and so are ready when the inevitable difficulties arise.

No matter how much you plunk down for your wedding, there are some qualities that can be sustained by both parties to give the marriage the best chance of success. The first is to focus on the positive rather than the negative. There are little things that will inevitably drive you crazy. But if you can remember how supportive and understanding they are, you can perhaps overlook the hair they leave in the shower drain or that they are never once on-time. Invest in your relationship. This could be time, energy or thoughtfulness. But you get out of a marriage what you put into it. Communicate clearly and make sure you understand what your spouse has said or is saying. Lots of fights boil down to miscommunication. Fight smart. If you hurt your partner but win the argument, have you really won? Learn to let the little things go. And find ways to increase your closeness and strengthen your bond. For more on how to achieve marital success read, Strong Marriage, Happy Life: The Core Principles of a Successful Marriage and How to Make Your Marriage Work by Sonya Dawson.