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…

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...

Is there a corpse in your living room?

couple sitting on couch looking scaredRealtors and carpenters alike say that when a couple moves to a new house, they’ll see things that could use some fixing up. The carpenters and realtors also say the couple has about six months to take action on the repairs. After that the repairs fade into oblivion even though they continue to get worse over time. One realtor said to me, “There could be a corpse in the living room, but if they don’t get rid of it in six months they will just keep stepping over it.” Humans have a natural ability to adjust to some pretty bad situations. What's the lesson for the first six months of marriage, or for the first few months after a big change in your relationship?… Read more...

What if your spouse said this on your honeymoon?

Couple on the beach at the ocean“Honey, I’ve been thinking. Nobody who says, ‘I do’ ever thinks they will split up. Yet 50% of marriages fall off the cliff. It seems like most of those marriages have a lot of arguments or unresolved conflicts. So here’s my proposal.… Read more...

Why We Lie, and How to Get Back to the Truth

24-why-we-lie-and-how-to-get-back-to-the-truth-with-ellyn-bader-and-peter-pearson_thumbnail-1080x627 We’re going to talk about lies. Why do we lie – ever? And while it’s easy to perhaps scapegoat people who aren’t telling the whole truth – as with anything in relationship – it takes TWO to tango – so how does the person who’s being lied TO help create the dynamic? Most importantly – how do you bring your relationship back into balance, so that you can experience the power created by telling the truth and being in integrity. Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson are two of the world’s leading experts on couples therapy and the topic of honesty in relationship, and their groundbreaking book – Tell me No Lies – explores exactly these questions about how to undo the damage caused by all lies – big and small – in relationships.… Read more...

5 Ways Your 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...
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