Couples’ Blog

Welcome to our Couples’ Blog. Here we post occasional articles and practical exercises for couples who wish to improve their marriage or relationship. Look through the title and beginnings of articles below, and click any title to read them. Or scan the list of categories to find topics that interest you. You can also use the search box to find articles containing specific words. It’s good to know you’re not alone.

How to Get the Most From Your Couples Therapy

Couples are often uncertain what to expect from the process of couples therapy. They are not sure of what to expect of the therapist or even if the therapist has any expectations of them.
 
I have found most couples approach therapy with the notion that each person will describe their distress and somehow the therapist will assist them to create a happier, more functional, relationship. They expect to learn some new or better skills. However, most people hope their partner will do most of the learning in problem areas.
After 30 years of clinical experience and specializing in working with thousands of couples, I have arrived at some guidelines that can make our work more effective.… Read more…

5 Ways Wedding Vows Will Save Your Marriage

wedding_cake Did you think your wedding vows were just a check off the list for your wedding day preparations? Here’s how they could save your marriage. 1. Wedding vows are an antidote to your worst self. You’re mean, picky, and you hide the truth.  All of us have done this as some point. And most of us are secretly ashamed of our worst selves. But there’s no way to act perfectly all the time. Why? Because Mother Nature gave our brain two different systems: The limbic system, aka the ‘lizard’ brain, and the prefrontal cortex, aka the ‘visionary’ brain. And every single day, you’re in a constant struggle between the two.… Read more...

He could have told a lie, but he didn’t.

Bright and colorful chameleon sitting on a red branch In a recent couples therapy session we were talking about Taylor’s memory. He forgot (yet again) what we had discussed the previous week. Interestingly, this is a common occurrence for many couples I see even though they are intelligent, high-achieving, and powerfully positioned in major corporations. It turned out his memory problem went beyond forgetting our meetings. And it bothered him a lot. We discussed the impact of his bad memory on his partner Ashley. She had to compensate in multiple ways. She would feel unimportant to him and react in pouty punishing ways which then triggered him. She then asked if the reason he didn’t ever call her during the day just to say “Hi” was because he couldn’t remember.… Read more...

What’s better than fixing your marriage?

Bright and colorful chameleon sitting on a red branchWhat if a good marriage was not about focusing on fixing problems? What if a good marriage was not learning a new set of skills or tools? The most common requests couples who are starting therapy have is for communication skills and tools for a better relationship. This is an understandable but misguided request. What if couples were taught skills and tools, with penetrating insights on how to improve, but there was no underlying dedication to growth? What if a great marriage is about character? The sum of moral strength, fortitude, self-discipline, integrity, curiosity and caring. Tools are about using your mind.… Read more...

Mother Nature’s cruel marriage trick

Bright and colorful chameleon sitting on a red branchMother Nature has played a cruel trick on your marriage. Although your partner thinks you’re responsible for most of the troubles in your relationship, it’s not you. It’s Mother Nature.     The lizard brain Mother Nature gave each of you two brains inside your skull. One brain developed hundreds of thousands of years ago. It is primitive. It cares only about avoiding risk, pain and threats. It wants to feel fine fast. Among other things, this primitive brain governs four “F functions”: Fight Flight Feed Reproduction This brain is so primitive that it is sometimes called the reptilian or lizard brain.… Read more...

The affair, the discovery, the betrayer’s first task…

broken heart for infidelityMany people say the worst marital crime is having an affair. It breaks the bonds of trust that were assumed at the beginning of your relationship. Imagine you are in a start up company that is struggling. Then it is discovered that your partner has been embezzling funds. You started your company together with optimism and hope. Of course you assumed you could trust each other, so you never dreamed of such a thing, let alone “planned” how you would handle it! The aftershocks and consequences of the discovery ripple through the entire business and partnership. I am reminded of Gandhi’s observation about trust: “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything else he does becomes tainted.” You don’t know what is truth or deception when you talk to the embezzler.… Read more...

Has your spouse cheated on you?

broken heart for infidelity …a starting point for overcoming the pain of infidelity. Holy #@%!, I don’t need to tell you about the anguish you’re going through if you’ve discovered your partner cheated. Most couples don’t have a “no cheat” agreement. It is simply assumed you won’t lie about who you are with and what you are doing. The discovery feels like getting hit in the stomach by a cinder block flying at the speed of sound. Suddenly it feels like your relationship was built on a pile of broken stones. What’s real? What can you believe? You wonder if you are crazy. (You’re not.) You wonder if you should stay or go.… Read more...

Do you think you listen to your spouse? Think again.

Mind the gap sign on a railway platformI recently made a shocking discovery. About couples, of course. After 30 years of working with couples of every economic and social class, from CEO’s of major corporations to prison inmates, I thought I had heard it all. So I was stunned – really stunned – by this shocking discovery. Here’s the story. A couple of years ago I started asking most couples during our first appointment if they think they listen very well to their partners. The vast majority say, “Yes I think I listen pretty well – but my partner is not so hot.” Then I ask each person, “What do you think your partner’s major complaints about you are?… Read more...

How to Stun Your Therapist (Or Your Spouse) With Your Attitude.

mindset-results-225If you happen to be in couples therapy just say this at your next meeting:  Today I’m here to change my attitude about change, because if I don’t change my attitude about change then I will never be able to consistently apply what we are here to learn. My attitude that needs improvement is: “Why should I have to change?” Because as long as I have that attitude I will come across as insensitive, self-centered, oblivious, and negligent. Even though I seek a pain-proof marriage, another part of me knows that’s an impossible goal. Worst of all – my self-defeating attitude keeps me from creating the best possible team we could create.… Read more...

Is your marriage in distress? Repair the dam before it’s too late.

Johnstown_flood_225Perhaps you have heard of the famous Johnstown flood on May 31, 1889. It was caused by catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam 14 miles upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. What could this have to do with a marriage in distress?… Read more...

Your Marriage Is Like a Koi Fish

Big colorful Koi fishPicture an attractive pond in a park or resort garden. It’s surrounded by beautiful little trees and bushes. Maybe there’s a bridge. And always koi, those bright ornamental fish that come in a variety of colors and patterns. Even though I don’t know you, I’m willing to make an imaginary wager that your marriage is like a koi fish.… Read more...
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