Should you get married?

should you get married

Marriage is in decline, no new news there. The question seems to have shifted from when and to whom should you get married to should you get married at all? Certainly there is no one simple answer to this questions. Looking at a brief history of marriage reveals that the societal and relational view of marriage has certainly changed over time. During several recent conversations about marriage and relationships I have found myself wondering if marriage is really necessary for today’s couple? Some of these conversations involved my spouse and I chatting with happily married couples and others with contemporaries who are as of yet foregoing marriage.  In essence, these conversations have been an effort to interpret general beliefs about marriage and to try to understand why the institution still has value.

It seems to me that there is no argument about the practical benefits.  In our society marriage gives you legal, medical, taxation and many other rights that unmarried counterparts may not have.  There doesn’t even seem to be an argument about the commitment part.  It seems those opting out don’t particularly like the word marriage.  So what is it about the word that leaves a bad taste? Continue reading Should you get married?

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Relationship burnout got you down. Here are some tips for getting the spark back!

relationship burnout
Are you burned out on your partner? Get back on track together with reflection and action.

Burnout is a term often used to describe the feeling of exhaustion and boredom related to dissatisfaction at work. Even when you really love your job it is possible to experience burnout, can the same be true for relationships? Perhaps you have recently been through a stressful time, a job loss, an illness or another major life event that rocked the boat a bit. Or maybe the opposite is true, you’ve just been sailing along managing the daily tasks and have lost inspiration about your marriage.  Relationship burnout can be a significant problem for couples who have been married for a number of years.  It is not usually because of outright conflict, more often it is a slow separation of interests, time spent apart, lack of positive input into the relationship and a lack of skills necessary to keep the love alive.

You may be feeling some sense of disenchantment with your partner, the truth is though that relationship burnout doesn’t happen overnight.  It is cumulative like a bucket getting filled over time, eventually one more drop in the bucket is enough to spill over and you have a mess on your hands.

Either way, relationship burnout can be a major red flag that you are headed for trouble.  Take action now so you can get back on the right path forward together!

Here are 5 ways to nip relationship burnout in the bud!

Continue reading Relationship burnout got you down. Here are some tips for getting the spark back!

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Empower Yourself: 5 reasons to seek online relationship help

When you are struggling to change negative patterns and turn your relationship around for the better it is often hard to know where to start. Online relationship help can be a really helpful place to begin. One of the best parts of online relationship help is that you are in the drivers seat. You are giving yourself the tools and the power to change your relationship. When your relationship is strained and you are ready to seek counseling it is not usually because one day you woke up and were unhappy.  More likely there is a pattern of broken communication, negativity, anger and resentment that has been building for some time. Looking for help can feel overwhelming, the internet is often the first place folks turn.  Online relationship help is becoming more available as therapists are offering skype and online sessions, unfortunately these options still don’t solve several other major road blocks to getting help: time and money.  Finding time to sit down with a therapist or counselor (even via skype) can be difficult.  In addition, therapists who offer online counseling options often still charge high hourly rates for sessions held online.

online relationship help

Programs like Power of Two offer an alternative way to address both those concerns and there is one other key difference.  Power of Two is a skill based learning experience.  While traditional counseling can be very effective in understanding how your childhood and past experience are contributing to your current relationship challenges as well as looking at deeper issues, most couples can benefit greatly from learning relationship skills. When a couple or an individual seeks online relationship help it’s important to look for a program that teaches skills. Online relationship help can be an incredible tool for change.

 Here are 5 good reasons for a couple (or one partner) to seek help in the form of online relationship help

Continue reading Empower Yourself: 5 reasons to seek online relationship help

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Fight with your spouse this week? Blame daylight savings.

fight with your spouse
Daylight savings can wreak havoc on your week.

Did you fight with your spouse this week? Hopefully not. If you did, maybe it is out of the ordinary for you to fight.  You may be wondering why? What’s different? Of course there are many reasons couples fight, and there may not always be a singular cause. One possible cause is your emotional state. The physical environment and choices we make including what we eat and how much exercise we get contribute to both physical health as well as emotional health. Another key factor is sleep.  An article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday argued a link between the Daylight Savings time change and marital discord.  Specifically that when you lose sleep you are more likely to fight with your spouse. “They found that people were more likely to have conflict on days when they slept poorly the night before.”

“If you sleep poorly, you’re prone to being self-centered,” and “You focus on me, me, me, and is it any wonder that you are getting into fights with your partner?”

You many not always be able to avoid having a fight with your spouse. You can however keep in mind the many outside factors that are contributing.

The key here is to pay attention to your physical state.  When you feel yourself falling into those communication traps; snarky comments, negativity and self-centered behaviors or thoughts, STOP, ask yourself… Continue reading Fight with your spouse this week? Blame daylight savings.

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How to communicate with your partner: Up the positivity!

how to communicate with your partner

This will be the final installment of our series, how to communicate with your partner. The last topic we are focusing on is positivity. There is no doubt that a positive outlook on life has plenty of rewards. People who maintain a sunny disposition and in general find the brighter side of life enjoy better emotional health. The rewards of positivity go beyond just your own emotional heath, increasing positivity also results in a longer lifespan, reduced risk of cardiovascular complications, increased resistance to illness and more.

The question remains though, is positivity an expression of happiness or can it create more happiness. In her often cited paper on positive thinking, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson says “positive emotions signal optimal functioning, but this is far from their whole story. I argue that positive emotions also produce optimal functioning, not just within the present, pleasant moment, but over the longterm as well.” What if you were to apply this idea to your relationship.  Many couples struggle with where to start when conflict and strife have become the norm in the marriage.  A wonderful place to start is with positivity. When you are struggling with how to communicate with your partner and are stuck wondering how to open the door to conversation, up the positivity.  Not only will up-ing the positivity make the day to day experience of your relationship a bit brighter it will increase the overall health and stability of your marriage.

Positivity is an action you can take to learn how to communicate with your partner.

Here are 5 actions you can take today to shift the positivity meter in the right direction. Continue reading How to communicate with your partner: Up the positivity!

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Communication with your spouse: Win win decision making.

This week is all about win win decision making.  Last week’s post was about the importance of staying in the calm zone but what happens next? After you have noticed the signs that you are reaching your anger ceiling you have hopefully walked away, taken some time to cool off and then you return to the conversation.

Communication with your spouse isn't always easy
Communication with your spouse isn’t always easy. The right skills can make all the difference.

So what’s the next step? How can you enhance communication with your spouse in a way that allows you to tackle a tough topic and move out of conflict and into a collaborative decision making stance? WIN WIN decision making is the answer. Yes, there are a few communication basics that are helpful to understand like avoiding crossovers and learning effective listening strategies that we have covered in the past.  Once you have learned the basics, the next step is to use the win win strategies outlined by Dr. Susan Heitler in her book and workbook and skills taught at Power of Two online. Continue reading Communication with your spouse: Win win decision making.

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Communicate with your spouse: During an argument.

In continuing with our mini-series on how to communicate with your spouse, this weeks installment is about navigating this tough communication road block: an argument.  Now, the idea of communicating with your spouse during an argument is a bit misleading because in truth you can’t! Effective arguing or “fighting fair” is something you occasionally hear as a solution to couples fighting.  In reality, effective arguing is an oxymoron.

communicate with your spouse
Don’t even try to communicate in this state. Instead, walk away, calm down and come back later.

When arguments are heated and tempers are flaring your brain, under the influence of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) is actually incapable of making rational decisions.  The parts of your brain responsible for rational thinking and problem solving (the cortex) take a back seat to the lower, more primitive part of your brain, (you know, the old fight or flight part) the limbic system.  The limbic system, also know as the emotional center of your brain is not designed for calm, logical thought, you are better off putting the conversation in park until you can reactivate the cortex. Continue reading Communicate with your spouse: During an argument.

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How to communicate with your spouse: On a date

We are going to be running a short series here on the Power of Two blog over the next few weeks.  Let’s call it a mini-course on how to communicate with your spouse.  Essentially it boils down to this, communication in marriage is essential and so many folks struggle with how to do it! When you stop communicating with a spouse or partner it’s a signal that something may be wrong, but what?  Why did you stop talking?  Or maybe you talk to each other all day, and at the same time never really share anything deeper than the surface anymore.  Remember when you were first dating, falling in love or getting married, did it ever feel like there wasn’t enough time in the day to talk to each other about life, dreams, ideas, art, music, books? Getting back to that level of conversation may take time, just like anything else though you just have to start somewhere.  Here an idea of where to start…

Ask good questions.

Sounds simple right? Learning to talk to each other again is a process and takes some time and practice. Taking the time to learn new skills is invaluable for any relationship. One of the core skills groups we teach Power of Two is talking and listening.  Talking about thoughts, feelings, ideas, wishes without falling into the crossover trap and listening to learn.  While these skills require effort and time to learn, there are simple steps you can take to start to turn things around today.

We are kicking off this series in honor of Valentine’s day. The theme of this post is how to communicate with your spouse, on a date. If you are one of the lucky ones who managed to secure a babysitter and get reservations at a romantic restaurant you may want to spend a little time thinking about how to intentionally reconnect to partner while you have the time carved out. Even if you plan to stay home and do something more low key, you can invite a deeper experience with a little thought ahead of time. Continue reading How to communicate with your spouse: On a date

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The Power of Two: Why making a relationship last matters.

Over the past weekend I attended a memorial service for my grandfather.  He passed recently in his own home surrounded by loved ones.  He was 84 years old.  The memorial service was a lovely tribute to the man, mostly shared through stories told by his four sons.  He was a hard working man, a funny and kind person who made friends wherever he went.  He was also a devoted husband, married to my my grandmother (who passed in 2007) for 60 years.  After the service ended, hugs and loving embraces were exchanged and we all went home to continue on with our lives.  As I thought about the day and service and my grandfather I was struck by something that stood out to me as we all celebrated the life of a man we loved.  It was these four words: The Power of Two. These words are something I read, write and say often given the work I do.  I do not ponder them deeply as often as I should.

Tom and Irene
My grandparents on the farm in South Dakota

 

Why does making a relationship last matter? As I thought about my grandparents and the legacy they left behind I believe that their marriage and its impact on the lives of the people who sat in that auditorium was their greatest legacy.  60 years of a life shared together, raising four sons was surely no easy life.  My grandfather grew up on a farm in South Dakota, he worked for The Coca Cola company for 25 years. He then went on to own a successful print shop and retired to enjoy his eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Continue reading The Power of Two: Why making a relationship last matters.

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Rekindle love in marriage: Looking to Dr. Martin Luther King for Inspiration

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Established in 1983 by Ronald Reagan. Dr. King continues today to be an example for the power of love, struggle, light over darkness, nonviolence and so much more.  Can we look to his messages and seek guidance for a way to rekindle love in marriage? Can we practice love and kindness in our most intimate relationships and expand this practice to all mankind?

What can MLK teach us about how to rekindle love in marriage?
What can MLK teach us about our most intimate partnerships?

In Dr. King’s novel Stride Towards Freedom, published in 1958, King writes about the Montgomery bus boycott and shares his vision on what he believes nonviolent resistance to be.  He lays out the Six Fundamental Principles of nonviolence. Looking through the lens of the incredible struggle King and thousands upon thousands of people endured it is not difficult to see the importance of his message and the path to change.  In contemplating King’s legacy we can look to his words for the wisdom to rekindle love in marriage.

THE SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE: 

The Six Principles and how they can inspire the path to rekindle love in marriage.

  1. PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. Kindness towards strangers is sometimes easier than kindness towards the people we see and interact with on a day to day basis. Our close relationships are sometimes bogged down in baggage and deep feelings which can lead us to slip into unkindness. Make love, positive communication strategies and nonviolence a way of life in your marriage.  Let that be your default day in and day out. Maintain a positive outlook and seek a greater understanding when it comes to communication in your marriage.
  2. PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. In terms of a marriage or long term intimate relationships with another person what greater goal can there be than to share a deep friendship and feel a sense of connection founded on the idea that you are understood and loved as you are.  Studies and surveys frequently show that a friendship is the foundation for a life long loving union. Seeking to rekindle the friendship the relationship was built on is an important step on the path to rekindling the romantic relationship.
  3. PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. When a romantic or intimate partnership goes south or encounters difficult or painful times your spouse can become your enemy. Anger, bitterness, even hatred directed towards a spouse or partner can pit you against that person and the goal often becomes defeat.  Who will win the battle between two people? In the end, there will be no winner, only the relationship will suffer. Seek instead to overcome the injustice that led you down this path. Take the instance of infidelity.  What greater injustice is there in a committed romantic partnership than infidelity? On the path to recovery can we seek to recognize the pieces of the puzzle, the unraveling of the connection and direct energy toward healing those wounds and changing the behaviors that contributed to the infidelity rather than seeking the defeat of the “offender.” This is not a question of circumventing blame or responsibility, it is a path to greater healing and to rekindle the love.
  4. PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Few among us will not face suffering at some point in our lives.  Whether it is experienced within our intimate relationships or from outside circumstances can we look to those moments as transformative and a path to greater understanding? What better teacher than a spouse that sees you through your darkest hours.  What better place to look for understanding and learning than the person whom you reveal your deeper self, the self that may be keep from the outside world and shown only in the safety of an intimate partnership. Seek to learn and grow from the difficult times and look at the experiences you face together as an opportunity for transformation.
  5. PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. It doesn’t get more simple than this. Choosing a loving stance over one of anger and bitterness is a choice you can make each day in each moment with your spouse. When times are good celebrate the love, when times are hard find the love. Anger is damaging to you and your partner. Choose to love your partner for who they are today and everyday.
  6. PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. Placing the concepts of nonviolence at the center of the universe of your marriage will create a foundation of love, support, kindness and warmth.  Have faith in yourself and your partner on the path to rekindle love in your marriage. When there is harmony in your closest relationships that harmony can and will ripple through the layers of your life and beyond.

 

A note about Dr. King:

Over the years MLK has become an American mythological figure and much of the complexity of his real life and personality have been lost. For example, many Americans today don’t know that Dr. King had a very troubled marriage plagued with infidelities. At the same time, he a was a remarkably well spoken and intelligent leader whose words cut to the core of how human beings should treat each other.

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