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. 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.

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...

Tracking Success by Doing “The Daily Double”

Sport couple of athletes successHere’s something you can do for your relationship today. It’s called The Daily Double and it's a way of tracking success in your relationship. You earn two points today by doing two positive things on the positive list below, while avoiding doing any of the negative behaviors from the list at the end.… 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...

New Research: A big cause of marital distress is . . . Santa Claus.

for santa syndrome blog v2That’s right dear reader, Santa Claus causes marital distress. Please back away from the ledge and take a deep breath. You will need it for what follows. What is a common tradition for many children at Christmas time? They write to Santa for all the things they want. Or they sit on his lap in a shopping mall and tell him directly. Then they wait for the big day. “Whoopee – look what Santa brought me!” the kids say. “I just asked. And then there it was … a miracle. I didn’t have to do a darn thing except ask for it. Just by asking, I got a lot of what I wanted. I must be really special.” Fast forward to a distressed couple in a therapist’s office.… Read more...

Combat holiday stress with this brain hack

It’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 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?

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

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.”… Read more...