Your relationship maintenance checklist.

Have you had the gutters cleaned on your house lately?  How about weeding and lawn mowing?  Maybe you have had to fix a leak or repair a crack in the wall. Your house, in order to stay in good working order needs regular maintenance. Failure to take care of those tasks and your house is likely to suffer and eventually fall into disrepair, the same is true for the relationships in your life. Regular relationship maintenance will keep the love alive and the investment in your relationship strong.  So what’s needed to sustain a healthy relationship?

relationship maintenanceRelationship maintenance refers to regular behaviors that are engaged in by partners in an effort to stay together.  The more relational maintenance you engage in as a couple the better your chances of longevity in the relationship. Researchers Laura Stafford and Daniel J. Canary identified a set of five general relationship behaviors that when engaged in regularly increase the quality of the relationship.

Your relationship maintenance checklist…

Continue reading Your relationship maintenance checklist.

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?

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!

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

Is free online marriage counseling possible?

You can find just about anything online these days, what about free online marriage counseling?  There are no shortages of articles, forums, advice columns and chats to read and participate in. While there is a lot of great information to be found, there’s also much misinformation from folks who have no place giving it out. So how do you separate the good, bad and the ugly?

Focus on marriage education programs, these kinds of programs offer real, practical skills for making changes in your relationship. Look for articles written by professionals associated with the program to give you a sense for whether or not they are reputable, trained and can teach you something. Marriage education programs often offer some amount of material for free and then if you want to continue you can pay a small fee.

free online marriage counseling

Understand that the most important thing you can do to fix a relationship is to fix yourself. There is a “fundamental law of relational theory” according to Psychiatrist Marina Benjamin “that when any part of a system changes, the entire system will be forced to change.” What this means is that the more you are able to effect positive change on yourself, the more your relationship will move in that direction. Marriage education programs are perfect for situations where one spouse is interested in working and the other is resistant. Continue reading Is free online marriage counseling possible?

Want a good marriage? Don’t call your spouse a “Ball and Chain”

Thanks to Stu and Lisa Gray of the Stupendous Marriage Show for turning me on to this topic! Check out their podcast for some smart commentary.

Negative stereotypes about marriage are so pervasive in our society that it is almost impossible to escape them. Name almost any TV show with married couples and you’ll find at least one example of the “ball and chain” metaphor. Marriage is the end of fun. It is the end of sex. It means constant bickering and being tied to someone who you can’t stand for the rest of your life.

Media and popular culture certainly perpetuate these damaging stereotypes, and, at the same time, we are all just as guilty ourselves. Every time we complain about or badmouth our spouses to others, we perpetuate marriage stereotypes and hurt our own marriages. Continue reading Want a good marriage? Don’t call your spouse a “Ball and Chain”

5 myths about addiction and chemical dependency

Uncontrolled, damaging addiction or chemical dependency is one of the top reasons to leave your spouse. At the same time, many spouses work together to successfully overcome alcohol, drug and gambling problems. Finding the strength, patience and understanding to help you or your spouse beat an addiction takes un-learning a lot of commonly accepted facts about addiction.

Psychologist and researcher Dr. Adi Jaffe is spurred on by his own experience with methamphetamine to study how addiction happens and how the government, hospitals, and loved ones can help addicts truly overcome their demons. In an article for Dr. Jaffe highlights how certain “addiction myths”–often pounded into our heads as teenagers to scare us away from drugs–are misleading and counterproductive. Continue reading 5 myths about addiction and chemical dependency

The secret to communication skills is not in your words

For all of us who spend time carefully picking out our words: it turns out words are the least important element of face-to-face conversations. Communication skills are not so much what we say, as how we say it. In fact, our words barely register in the listeners brain. This doesn’t mean that the words aren’t important; rather it’s how we successfully set the stage for those words that determine how and whether they are heard. “Effective communication is based on trust, and if we don’t trust the speaker, we’re not going to listen to their words,” writes Huffington Post bloggers Mark Waldman and Andrew Newberg on their new book, Communication Strategies.

So what are the most important communication skills to establish trust?

1.  Gentle eye contact

“Gentle eye contact increases trustworthiness and encourages future cooperation, and a happy gaze will increase emotional trust,” write the authors. The most important of communication skills is to maintain eye contact–while avoiding staring, which comes across as aggressive can make others feel uncomfortable.

2.  Kind facial expression

The subtle facial expressions that cue others in on our emotions are largely unconscious. People can pick up on faked smiles and will react with suspicion. Try putting yourself in a kind, happy frame of mind first. Your inner state will glow through and make others more receptive to your words.

3.  Warm tone of voice

If your tone of voice doesn’t match what you are saying, your listener will experience confusion. This can weaken trust, communication and cooperation. Speak in low, slow tones to communicate your compassion.

4.  Expressive hand and body gestures

Speech evolved from hand gestures, and much of our comprehension is still linked to visually drawing or acting out our words with our hands. Gesticulating is also key among communication skills as it signals animation and involvement in the conversation.

5.  Relaxed disposition

Your stressed body language will tell your listener that something is off and trigger defensiveness. A defensive mind is the hardest to persuade. Relax and try calming exercises such as taking three deep breaths if you start to feel too worked up.

Communication skills
Communication skills are only 10% what you say and 90% how you say it.

6.  Slow speech rate

“Slow speech rates will increase the ability for the listener to comprehend what you are saying, and this is true for both young and older adults,” writes Waldman. “Slower speaking will also deepen that person’s respect for you.”

7.  Brevity

A listeners brain can only recall about 10 seconds of dialog. Try speaking in short bursts with only one or two points at a time. This will lead to what Power of Two calls “Braided dialog,” when both speakers work together to intertwine their thoughts and increase comprehension and mutually satisfying outcomes.

8.  The words themselves

Last but certainly not least are your words. Now that you’ve set up the emotional and physical tone for the conversation, your spouse is ready to listen to and absorb what you have to say. Make sure you’re saying the right thing! PO2 has a some communication in marriage tips such as how to approach sensitive subjects and avoid hidden negativity in your conversations. Check ’em out!

Announcing our partnership with Ladies Home Journal!

I am thrilled to announce the soft launch of a partnership with Ladies Home Journal magazine! Dr. Heitler has been a contributor to the popular “Can this marriage be saved” column for years. As LHJ is going through transition with that feature, they reached out to Power of Two Online as a partner. Instead of just answering specific marriage counseling questions of a few women each week, Ladies Home Journal readers are now being offered Power of Two Online–where each individual is given the power to save a marriage.

Power of Two Online was founded in 2005 by a federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services with curriculum based on the writings of mother-daughter therapist team Dr. Susan Heitler and Dr. Abigail Hirsch. PO2 offers a unique skills-based approach to marriage counseling online, combining worksheets, multimedia interactive games and videos, and more. Torque Interactive Media designed the PO2 coaching platform to let users communicate with a real live marriage coach (usually Dr. Hirsch herself), resulting in a degree of personalization and intimacy seldom found in online marriage education. Dr. Hirsch is excited to announce that a Marriage Resources Education study proving the efficacy Power of Two was recently published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Over the next few months LHJ will be promoting the partnership with online ads, editorials and tweets. You can check out our customized Ladies Home Journal landing page. This partnership is a wonderful opportunity to spread marriage health and empowerment. The Ladies Home Journal has a readership of over 11.6 million, 7 million of which are married. The magazine’s interactive online companion,, has 1.8 million unique visitors and 20 million page views each month.

Happier marriages mean happier, healthier people. Why not sign up today? It’s never to late to start your happily-ever-after!

Top 5 marriage stories of the week: Parenting tips

Last week it seemed like everyone was blogging about parenting tips! This review features articles on everything from cooking with kids to being a better kid-in-law to your in-laws. Here are my five favorite articles from across the marriage and family blogosphere!

How to be a better in-law

Via Good Therapy (

When you get married, you not only get a spouse but a whole new set of parents. Many a proverb has harped on the difficulty of dealing with in-laws. Here is some practical and do-able advice for treating your in-laws with respect, resolving differences, and being a good in-law yourself. For more on this, check out Dr. Heitler’s PO2 podcast about dealing with relatives.

Shawn Stockman Of Boyz II Men And Wife Sharonda Discuss Having A Son With Autism

Via Black and Married With Kids (

Shawn Stockman and Sharonda have a frank and open dialog about the challenges they face in parenting their youngest son. While autism is increasingly visible in the media (and increasingly diagnosed in our children), talking about mental disorders is still a taboo–especially when admitting how difficult they can be to deal with. Props to the celebrity couple for being a public voice for families with autism!


Cooking with your kids teaches more than recipes

via Jenny Ellis on the Family Focus Blog (

Preparing food and eating together is a chance to bond with your children and teach them the ways of the world. The kitchen is a microcosm of life. Jenny Ellis shares parenting tips and explains how cooking together provides kids with lessons in safety, math, following directions, and a healthy appreciation for food.

Wisdom of Dog #4

Via Project Happily Ever After (
Ok, so this isn’t directly parenting tips, but lord we all know raising a puppy and raising kids aren’t too different. Alisa Bowman at Project Happily Ever After has a series of pictures of dogs with captions that start out funny and turn philosophical. This one muses on the dual nature of reality. Like the puppy, our children invent toys out of things that weren’t meant to be toys, and destroy things in the process. At the same time, their ability to see things creatively and differently from the norm is a good lesson in life for us parents.

Why So Many Studies About Parents And Happiness Are Wrong

via Lisa Belkin on Huffington post (

There have been a barrage of conflicting studies published this month about whether or not parents are more miserable than non-parents. Lisa Belkin finally puts her foot down in the well argued and insightful essay. Her conclusion: “Does being a parent make you less happy? Some days. And on others it makes you delirious with joy.”