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…

Teamwork: From now on if someone calls me chicken . . .

I take that as a huge compliment. For any person – especially a male – being called chicken is a searing insult. But not for me. Not anymore. Not after what I witnessed. Here’s the back story. It was a summer afternoon on my vacation in Kauai. I was on the patio feeding a mother hen and her five baby chicks bits of wheat bread. They run wild on the Hawaiian island and are protected by state law. I got to the place where the baby chicks eagerly ate out of my hand. Then I fed a chunk to Mama Hen and she dropped it on the ground. Immediately one of the chicks snatched it and ran off. I thought Mama Hen had a strange medical condition and couldn’t hold onto her food.… Read more...

“I just want my partner to understand me.”

In my practice, I hear many couples say, ” I just want my partner to understand me. Who wouldn't want that? You tell your partner things, they truly get what you say and you feel understood. And vice versa: your partner shares their deepest feelings and thoughts with you, you receive what they say, and everyone in the end feels understood – and loved. It doesn't always work that way though, does it? In my practice I’ve noticed many reasons why couples don't feel they have the understanding relationship that they desire. Or, why they don't feel as understood as they wish they did. I have also found a powerful shift in thinking that can change this.… Read more...

Why couples therapy isn’t just for when things are going wrong

Heart stops dominoes from all falling downMost people tend to associate couples therapy with intractable problems that they and their partner are struggling with. Couples usually wait until their situation has reached the breaking point before seeking couples therapy, often putting themselves through months or years of unnecessary disappointment, distress and destructive behavior. As an experienced couples psychotherapist, I can say with confidence that much of the distress, heartbreak and breakdown in couples’ relationships could have been avoided with early intervention. Your couple relationship can harbor rich rewards for your mental and physical health, and significantly contribute to achievements and life satisfaction in both your personal and professional life.… Read more...

Combat holiday stress with this brain hack

Keep Calm and Merry OnIt’s common knowledge that the holidays can be stressful for lots of people. Some of the stress comes from feeling overwhelmed by the added projects, tasks, expenses and other obligations of the season. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed balancing expectations of different family members. Or you’re frustrated trying to make everyone happy. Another kind of stress comes from other people in the extra social interactions and gatherings. Maybe you’re caught off guard by zingers from a supporter of the “other” political party. Or you’re stuck in conversation with the brother-in-law who criticizes everybody for something – and you for everything.… Read more...

Taking the stress out of holiday preparation

Sisyphus Man rolling huge concrete ball up hill.from Greek mythology was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, getting close to the top only to see it rolling down again. Does your holiday preparation feel like a similar fate? For example, let's say you are hosting the happy event. Let's assume the lion’s share of preparation has always fallen on you. Perhaps you have functioned like Sisyphus: every year you do most of the work, hoping your partner will step up and initiate more so you can enjoy the gathering. When that doesn’t happen, you feel depleted and angry. Like Sisyphus, you have been condemned to repeat the process.… Read more...

Are your expectations for the holidays too high?

Man rolling huge concrete ball up hill.Ah, Sisyphus, the legendary rock roller from Greek mythology. He was forever doomed to push the boulder up the mountain only to have it roll back. Again and again. Sisyphus may have been the original example of insanity. You’ve probably heard that definition: insanity is doing the same darn thing over and over again, expecting a different result. But you are different. Because you are going to stop pushing your rock this holiday season. Here’s another rock so many people push. It’s the rock of unrealistic expectations. Especially the expectations we place on others. We hope our partner will finally give us the perfect gift, our adult siblings will refrain from teasing us at the dinner table, Uncle Al will stay sober through the evening, and that Mom and Dad will give us some unconditional acceptance.… Read more...

Make the best of family conversations over the holiday

Man rolling huge concrete ball up hill.Holidays are filled with all kinds of repeating stresses. Many people dread spending time with family over a holiday. Relatives are thrown together whether they like it or not, often for repeated stories, complaints and arguments. Are you ready to tackle Aunt Martha’s searing comments about your weight? First, recall Sisyphus from Greek mythology. He was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, getting close to the top only to see it roll down again. Maybe that’s how you currently approach those holiday conversations, for example, when Aunt Martha says, “So sweetie, I understand Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers have new programs especially designed for those holiday temptations.” If you choose to follow in the steps of Sisyphus, you will try to change how Aunt Martha thinks about your size.… Read more...

What new marriages can learn from failed restaurants

couple visiting luxury restaurantAs you probably know, the divorce rate for American couples in a first marriage is about 50%. When you factor in the high numbers of couples who don’t divorce, but stay together in mutual misery, the track record for failed marriages is even worse.… Read more...

Disaster Preparedness for Your Marriage

Empty couch in earthquake I live with my wife, Ellyn, over a major earthquake fault line in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s an area famous for past and inevitable future quake distasters. Geological experts predict another big one is coming. Be prepared. Ellyn and I have stored a few bottles of water and a camping stove. Do you think that is sufficient? Neither do the experts. They say if we retrofit the foundation of our home we can withstand almost all but the most severe shake rattle and rolls. Have we taken advantage of this knowledge? Or do we wait until disaster hits with the violence that could wreck our lives for years. We wait.… Read more...

Doing the maintenance on your ship is worth it.

hull of ship covered with debrisThe British Navy dominated the oceans for hundreds of years. What was their secret? They cleaned and did maintenance on the hulls of their ships. Their enemies took little care of theirs. The British sailors removed barnacles, seaweed and saltwater clams. Keeping the bottom of the boat smooth gave them a critical advantage – a ship that traveled quickly to battle stations. An unclean hull would drag tons of shells and hundreds of yards of seaweed. This debris could cut a ship’s speed in half – a severe disadvantage in battle. Salt water clams were a particular scourge to wooden ships. Clams dug into the hulls and turned them into honeycombs.… Read more...
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