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 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.

Trust in relationships: New research reveals its unique importance

It may not be surprising to hear that trust is a key factor in successful partnerships. In fact, an entire branch of relationship psychology called “attachment theory” argues that trust is really the primary experience we seek in a relationship. A romantic relationship, like a mother-child relationship, is based on being able to place complete trust in another person. Trusting your spouse to follow through with their promises, to support you, to be faithful…on the whole, to not hurt or abandon you. We long for someone to trust. Continue reading Trust in relationships: New research reveals its unique importance

5 signs of emotional abuse

A tragically high number of people will suffer abuse at the hands of an intimate partner – conservative estimates claim that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. The real numbers are impossible to calculate since most instances of abuse are never reported.

Often education on abusive behavior focuses primarily on physical abuse. In fact, there are several different kinds of abuse that don’t leave physical scars, but are just as serious and dangerous as domestic violence. Often psychological and emotional abuse are the precursors to physical violence.

Familiarize yourself with these signs of emotional abuse so you can protect yourself and your loved ones. Continue reading 5 signs of emotional abuse

The increasing danger of reconnecting with ex lovers online

Social media is wonderful for keeping in touch with friends and family. At the same time, there is one category of person that you should not be reconnecting with-ex flames. Facebook has made it incredibly easy to indulge in nostalgia and look up people from the past. The Australian magazine The Age recently delved into the near-epidemic of social media-inspired affairs with the article “First love, the second time around.”

Nostalgia drives social media searches

Most people do not reach out to past romantic partners consciously looking for an affair–yet this is what often happens. Old flames hold strong sway over our hearts, triggering powerful and deep-set emotions related to desire, regret and attachment. Relationships that occurred during teenage years seem to be especially powerful. Continue reading The increasing danger of reconnecting with ex lovers online

Is it OK to be married and flirting?

No matter how in love we are with our spouses, anyone who has been married or in a relationship knows that you don’t stop finding other people attractive. You may even have a crush or two over the years. But is it OK to be married and flirting?

If your spouse approaches you because he or she is upset that you have been flirting, it’s easy to become defensive. Flirting is innocent, you argue. We were only talking. It wasn’t going anywhere. I’m not seriously interested! Do you think I would cheat on you? How could you think that! This can easily turn into an argument.

But is flirting really so innocent?

Continue reading Is it OK to be married and flirting?

The question of non monogamy

For thousands of years marriage has implied monogamy. In fact, marriage developed because monogamy was crucial to confirm paternity and establish lineage rights. In all but a few polygamous or polyandrous societies, non monogamy is not tolerated and often punished harshly. But how does the idea of sexual faithfulness to one person play into modern and/or non-traditional and non-religious marriages?

Non monogamy is, by definition, not being romantically exclusive to one partner. It may also be referred to as an open relationship. Non monogamy includes all sorts of arrangements from allowing kissing, flirting or non-sexual dating, to one night stands, to full-blown outside relationships, to polyandry (a relationship between more than two partners). Non-monogamy groups claim their arrangement makes everyone happier, reflects more realistic expectations about marriage, and can prevent divorce. Pro-monogamy groups argue that relaxed standards of fidelity are exactly what are causing divorce and only lead to broken hearts. Both sides have statistics and studies to back their cases. Continue reading The question of non monogamy

Confessions of a jealous wife

Jessica and Adam have been married for five years and have no children. They love to go out to concerts, clubs and parties. Most of the time they go out together, but sometimes they have nights where they spend time apart. Jess is fine with that and doesn’t consider herself a jealous wife. Jess loves dressing up to go out to parties. She loves how confident she feels when she’s all done up, and how sexy her husband finds her. She also loves the admiring stares she gets from other men. She is naturally very outgoing and enjoys flirting. She’s never cheated on anyone, and loves Adam. At the same time, she likes to make him a little jealous. “It reminds him of how lucky he is to have me,” she thinks.

Adam is normally more reserved than Jess. Last night they went to a house party together and Adam ran into an old friend from high school, Shauna, who was back in town for the week. Jess had never heard Adam mention Shauna before–in fact, he never really talked about that time of his life. Adam introduced them and then spent the rest of the evening talking to Shauna. Jess hung out with some other people at the party, but couldn’t help watching Dave and Shauna the whole night. In the car on the way back home, Adam was in a great mood, but Jess kept quiet. Continue reading Confessions of a jealous wife

Facing jealousy in relationships: Part 2

Last week I used Dr. Hirsch’s favorite Eric Clapton line to start a post on dealing with jealousy in relationships: “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself!” This post deals with jealousy that may be unfounded or projected.

Jealousy is a problem–unspoken jealousy eats away at the positivity and love in your marriage and can lead to resentment. Feelings of jealousy shouldn’t be ignored; instead, these feelings can be used as jumping-off points for fixing fault lines in your marriage before they turn into big rifts. Attempts to broach such a sensitive issues can easily to turn into fights. Accusations of infidelity and over-protectiveness can fly. With jealousy in relationships, especially, it’s easy to blame the other person. Yet, as Eric Clapton sang, part of the problem will lie inside yourself, in your reactions, presumptions and behaviors.

Last week I talked about how little gnawing feelings of jealousy can be a legitimate warning sign that your marriage is in jeopardy. Taking a cue from these feelings you can prevent an infidelity from taking place. At the same time, some feelings of jealousy in relationships come from our projection of our own guilt and desire onto our spouse’s behavior.

Case #2: Projection.

Susan and Kyle attend their high school reunion where Susan runs into an old boyfriend. She finds herself thinking about their teenage escapades and noticing how attractive he still is. Susan feels guilty and uncomfortable. Throughout the night she is on edge and jealous whenever her husband talks to other attractive women.

In this case, Susan’ jealousy toward her husband is likely unjustified. If logic doesn’t justify the intensity of the jealous feelings, it often turns out that the jealousy is actually a projection.

Projection means that you are seeing in your partner a set of feelings that in fact are going on in you.  Susan is projecting her guilty feelings of attraction to her old flame onto her husband. She assumes that he must be thinking similar things about attractive people he meets.

Deal with this type of jealousy in relationships by using the three steps outlined in my last post: prepare, talk, plan. In addition, you will need to be clear with your spouse about your own feelings that sparked the projection. This may be awkward, and at the same time, it will make your marriage stronger by clearing up doubts and reaffirming your trust in each other and in yourself. By asking how or what questions and by avoiding accusations, couples can clear up the problems and get back on track.


Should I get a divorce? 5 reasons to go and 5 reasons to stay.

Have you ever wondered, “Should I get a divorce?” Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your marriage problems spell doom for your union, or, if it is possible—and worth it—to salvage your marriage. Power of Two is founded on the principle that most divorces can be prevented by learning the skills for strong, healthy marriages. At the same time, some relationships have toxic and dangerous elements that make divorce the best option for everyone involved. These behaviors can be hard to face, and they should never be ignored.

The following are Dr. Heitler’s “Top Five reasons to Divorce”:

  1. Your spouse is controlling. He/she attempts to manipulate you and/or control your friends, activity, behavior or money by the use of threats, put-downs, criticism, excessive guilt or anger.
  2. Your spouse has cheated repeatedly. One infidelity does not necessarily spell doom—with lots of work, your marriage can recover and be stronger than ever. However, repeated affairs mean your spouse unlikely to change his ways no matter what.
  3. There are unaddressed addictions. You should consider leaving if your spouse has damaging problems with gambling, drugs, alcohol, or other behavior and refuses or continues to avoid getting treatment.
  4. There is an unaddressed mental disorder. Many couples live with mental disorders and have strong marriages. At the same time, if your spouse refuses to get treatment for a damaging or dangerous disorder, you should consider ending your marriage. It is the best for both of you.
  5. Your spouse is violent with you or others, or mistreats children. This is the most resounding “YES” to the question “Should I get a divorce?” Remove yourself and your children from this situation immediately and seek professional help.

The good news is the most common reasons for divorce these days are not the ones above—and this means they are fixable!

“Should I get a divorce?…“ Consider couples counseling over divorce if the following sounds like you:

  1. We just don’t communicate very well and can’t seem to resolve our conflicts. Communication and conflict resolution difficulties are the most common complaints of divorcing couples.  Luckily, they are also simplest to change. You can learn the skills to handle these problems at any time and they will help you in all areas of life, from your spouse to in-laws to the office.
  2. I just don’t love him anymore. Love is a cornerstone of marriage and feeling “out of love” can be frustrating and confusing. At the same time, the quality of love is constantly changing; sometimes hot and passionate, other times a cool, subtle bond. Do you really not love each other at all? Passion, intimacy and positivity can be revived!
  3. Because it’ll be better for the kids. It’s true that having fighting parents is hard on kids. At the same time, so is divorce. Also, if you keep fighting while you’re divorced, it’s still bad. The solution? Learn to stop the fighting. Marriage education can help you replace your arguments with positive dialogue and win-win problem solving!
  4. He/she’s just not the same person I married. We all change and grow as we go through life together.  What’s important is knowing how to support each other on our personal journeys. Counseling can teach couples how to turn differences into powerful tools instead of a source of marriage problems.
  5. I don’t trust him/her anymore. He lied and made a stupid deal, she gambled or cheated… Sometimes people do make mistakes.  At the same time, most mistakes are repairable. Get the skills to analyze your errors and prevent future repeats. Sometimes the sourer the lemon, the sweeter the lemonade.

In the old days, and in many places still, divorce is a difficult, lengthy process that is highly stigmatized. This has the potential to trap spouses, especially women, into dangerous and unhappy marriages that fall into the category of good reasons to divorce, listed above. So, in many ways, it’s a good thing that we can quickly leave marriages we are uncomfortable in.

At the same time, this gives us the responsibility to think about our choices very carefully. And I don’t mean to imply that anyone takes divorce lightly! It’s just that marriage isn’t easy, and divorce is not necessarily the answer to your marriage problems. Consider this: If you don’t learn the skills for a healthy relationship now, you are likely to find yourself in the same situation with simply a different person in the future.

If you feel your marriage getting rocky, don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist or try a program like Power of Two. Problems are solved most easily when they’re caught early. And it certainly never hurts!


From an interview with Dr. Heitler, 10/11

TV giving bad advice on how to deal with infidelity

The LA Times released an article yesterday on the prevalence of adultery in primetime television. As the author points out, adultery has been the subject of plot drama since the Bible—it’s nothing new. At the same time, storylines involving cheating are popping up all over TV dramas at a much higher incidence than any point in the past.

Julie Albright, a sociologist at USC, attributes the trend to increasing cynicism about marriage. Marriage has never been less popular. In 1960, 72% of U.S. adults were married. Now that number is 51%. “People believe marriages don’t work anyway,” Albright says, “so seeing affairs on TV kind of serves as a model for how things can and will go bad.”

 The prevalence of adultery on TV doesn’t actually reflect reality. Although it’s hard to measure infidelity, some studies suggest that 20% of married people will stray at some point in their marriage. Right now it seems that 100% of current TV drama couples have cheating in them. It appears that, once again, TV exaggerates truth for entertainment value.

So what’s wrong with some imaginary drama on TV if, as I said before, it’s been a theme of storytelling since the Bible? After all, these show certainly aren’t promoting infidelity as something good. The cheating causes real problems for the characters, and how to deal with infidelity and make amends drives the drama of the shows. In fact, viewers and producers have expressed concern when cheaters don’t get their comeuppance. Cheating is definitely still bad.

My problem is that by portraying cheating so commonplace in every marriage, our entertainment is establishing the idea that infidelity, while bad, is an expected element of a marriage. And affair is simply what happens in marriage. That is a terrible attitude to have and it reinforces negative stereotypes about marriage that can have real negative effects on peoples’ lives. Especially once they realize that how to deal with infidelity in the real world doesn’t tie up so nicely as a soap opera plotline.

Along this line, The Parents Television Council released a report stating marriage is “regularly mocked and denigrated” on television. It seems that “sex with anyone, up to and including a dead person or a farm animal, is more exciting than sex with your spouse.” I think they have a point. It is unfortunate when TV, as a whole, completely disregards marriage as anything but a state of suffering and boredom that is destined to fail.

Let’s show them they’re WRONG! Be positive about marriage. Count your joys and blessings. Don’t accept that your marriage will fail, even when things are rough. Marriage ain’t easy, and there’s plenty of help out there for you, whether it’s marriage help books or online marriage counseling. You CAN do it!