Communication

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. First, I do have some expectations of you. I am not neutral. I have evolved principles and concepts that I believe give us the greatest chance for success.

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

I 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...

In Sickness and in Health

cool Saintpaulia flower in flowerpot isolated on whiteHow Illness Transforms Relationships Thirteen years ago this month, my husband and I got married in our backyard garden with our five children and a small circle of family and friends. Part of the vows we made to each other was a version of, “in sickness and in health”. Little did we know then, that the “sickness” part would be up front and center during our 12th year of marriage when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In looking back on the last 4 months of physical and emotional ups and downs, the experience of deep fear, and anxiety-provoking uncertainty, I can honestly say that illness can be an opportunity for couples to create a deeper bond of intimacy, genuine connection to self and other, and interdependence.… Read more...

What To Do When You Screw Up With Your Partner

oops-road-sign-225 You messed up.  You really blew it.  Your partner is giving you heck about it, seething with disappointment and hurt.  Guilt washes over you, as your conscious mind reminds you that you didn’t keep your word or your end of a commitment.  Or you might have a more flippant attitude, “What’s the big deal anyway? Get over it!”… Read more...

Vacation Time

Many of us look forward to taking a break with a loved one. It can be a wonderful way to renew ourselves and our relationship, a time to visit special places together and to do things we don’t normally get to do.… Read more...

My Marriage Is Like a Bunch of Rhinos

White rhinocerosEllyn and I have a special interest in Africa. We’ve been fortunate to travel there a few times, building classrooms in refugee camps and sometimes even going on safaris. On our last African safari I discovered the correlation between rhinos and my marriage.… Read more...

Taking the stress out of holiday preparation

Sisyphus 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...

Make the best of family conversations over the holiday

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...

This Single Communication Tip Will Save Your Marriage

Couple in serious discussionWant to save your marriage? You should know that under stress, couples do three things that are relationship killers. All three are self-protective reactions to pain or fear. But self-protection to one partner is poison to the other.… Read more...

Play “Twenty Questions” with your partner

Do you remember the game “Twenty Questions?” You could ask twenty questions to identify what thing the other person was thinking about. Here’s a variation on the Twenty Questions game, for your next dinner date or when you have some spare time. Using the questions below, you can find out a little more about your partner and vice versa. These questions will help you go a little deeper than discussing work, kids, vacations, or sports. Interestingly these are the kinds of questions couples often ask each other in the early stage of a relationship. But as time hurtles forward, these great questions get neglected and then abandoned.… Read more...

Stress-Free Valentine’s Day

  Less Stress & More Fun Holidays can sometimes be stressful for couples—especially Valentine’s Day. One partner may be imagining something very specific to celebrate the day. The other partner may not have a clue of what that thing is. The result can be disappointment and confusion. Rather than hurt feelings and a Valentine’s Day gone sideways, take steps to create a relaxed and fun celebration with your beloved. What Would Your Partner Like? Take the stress out of Valentine’s Day by having a conversation about it. You can ask your sweetheart, “What do you think you might enjoy for Valentine’s Day?” Find out if they are hoping for a special gift.… Read more...
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