communication

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...

Super Negotiating for Couples

Marriage is a challenge. Growing your business is a challenge. What happens when you try to combine the two? I know first-hand how daunting it is to blend these two endeavors. You see, I'm in business with my wife. For over twenty years my wife and I, both psychologists, have directed The Couples Institute. As psychologists specializing in marriage counseling, we should have all the skills necessary to blend business and marriage, right? In fact, the opportunities for us to disagree are practically limitless. Fortunately, the opportunities for us to grow together are even greater. For our own personal and marital survival we have had to develop some really effective methods to make decisions, solve problems, and negotiate better solutions.… Read more...

What’s That You Said? The Fears That Prevent Us From Speaking Up

How much do you value being seen and heard? Do you really want a truly successful relationship? How important is it to have impact on others? Let's look at speaking up! Of course, for some people, that's easier said than done. You might prefer to sky dive without a parachute than tell another person what's really on your mind. But it is possible to develop an assertiveness connected to head and heart that clears the way for honest, empowered living-without being rude to others. Those who stay mum when they would be better off speaking their mind do so for a variety of reasons: Fear of being rejected. Any time you risk disclosing what you want and why it is important, you become vulnerable.… Read more...

The Surprising First Steps of Negotiation

In our 40 collective years in practice, we've discovered that most partners do not negotiate very well. Maybe our sample is a little skewed, since it is comprised of couples in therapy. However, the popularity of books on this subject confirms that most people are deficient in negotiation skills. So this month we ask you to focus on improving your own skills as an effective negotiator.Why do partners struggle so much with negotiation? It's hard work! It's often difficult to clearly define your own desires, plus it requires careful dialogue to elicit your partner's desires. If the topic is complex, you will have to ask yourself and your partner lots of questions.… Read more...

Does Summer Vacation Planning Raise Problems for You?

  Summer vacations can involve family visits, which often present a challenge for many couples. This time of year when some couples do their summer vacation planning, I thought it might be timely to share with you a column I wrote for the “San Jose Mercury News.” Q:  My husband and I are at odds over visiting his family in Florida. His mother has remarried (his father died years ago) and her husband is impossible to be around. He is constantly criticizing me and the kids, and when we visit I have a terrible time. My husband says I am overly sensitive and should just “let it go,” which is how he handles his family.… Read more...

One-Liners to Avoid in An Argument

They slice and dice, causing wounds not easily healed by pacifying words. They inflame like a blowtorch on tinder. They suck the life out of all that they touch. What are they? They're the one-liners we fling at each other during arguments, the cruel and aggressive wisecracks or retorts that escalate a fight like nothing else. And when these zingers begin to outnumber the kind words spoken to each other, they cripple the growth of relationships. Learning how to communicate well in a conflict – how to argue without hurting and insulting – each other is possibly the most important relationship survival skill ever.… Read more...

A Successful Marriage is a Series of Unnatural Acts

I recently completed my 64th weekend workshop for couples. Once again I was impressed by a group of intrepid couples who were willing to leave their emotional comfort zone to create a more successful marriage for themselves. One of the exercises of the workshop is brainstorming a list of effective communication behaviors and attitudes. Then I ask the group how many saw their families exercise these behaviors 50% or more of the time when things got tense. I never have had more than 15% of the couples raise their hands. What this means is that under stress, effective communication is statistically exceptional.… 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 that, 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...

The Hidden Cost of Too Much Compromise in Your Relationship

Who hasn't heard about the importance of compromise in a relationship? But how often do we hear about the price that is paid for that compromise? In a relationship of significance, most people do things that are accommodating. But what happens when that behavior becomes passive behavior and is over-accommodating? What happens when you deny, suppress or repress a meaningful portion of yourself? The result is that you become embroiled in an internal struggle. One part of you clamors to be heard and responded to, and the other parts of you go into the accommodation mode. By continuing to compromise and deny important aspects of yourself you stay anxious and conflicted.… Read more...

7 Steps to Help Your Partner Want to Change

Large leather sofa with a bunch of different thingsEveryone has something they'd like to change in their partner. Unfortunately too many partners believe, “If my partner loves me they should want to change.” Frequently this creates quite a power struggle. Here is a 7-step process to create a change in your partner. The key to the success of this process is that it makes your partner want to change instead of feeling coerced. Why? Because your gain will not feel like their loss. Here's what you do. 1. Make a list. List the top three behaviors your partner does that annoy you. For example, leaves messes around house; pouts; doesn't do their share of household tasks, etc.… Read more...

A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.