4 unhealthy communication habits and what to do instead.

Have you ever felt like anger played a productive role in your relationship? Fighting can sometimes be confused with passion. Disagreements are natural and unavoidable, anger and fighting on the other hand are unproductive and damaging to a marriage. If you can relate to any of these unhealthy communication habits it’s time to learn a better way. Save the passion for the bedroom!

unhealthy communication habits

The 4 most common unhealthy communication habits:

1. Yielding: Yielding means giving up on the issue to avoid an argument. This habit results in an imbalance of power: one person wins and the other looses– and leads to symptoms like depression and resentment. Plus, the problem starting the arguments never gets solved!

2. Freezing: Freezing happens when you refuse to talk about the issue. You may avoid starting the conversation at all, or walk away and shut down during the conversation. When communication freezes, you build icy walls of stress and tension in your marriage, leading to feelings of anxiety and emotional distance. Continue reading 4 unhealthy communication habits and what to do instead.

Save your marriage over dinner.

Have you heard of the term “dining dead”? In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel asks “Are we like those bored couples you feel sorry for in restaurants?” Joel muses to himself. “Are we the dining dead?”

Can you save your marriage over dinner?

A recent New York Times article described this state as one in which a couple stops talking after many years of marriage finding themselves sitting across the table, wordless, with a vast distance between one another.

save your marriage
Image credit: Andre Slob

How does this happen?

So many couples are bursting with conversational energy when they first meet. There is much to discover; many evenings are spent talking into the wee hours. As time goes on the enthusiasm and excitement lessens and the day to day of life takes hold on conversations. Continue reading Save your marriage over dinner.

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.

Is marriage counseling inevitable?

All couples have challenges, there is no doubt about that. Sometimes the challenges are external; job related stresses or job loss, familial conflict or major life events like the birth of a child. Some conflicts are internal; depression and anxiety can result in conflict in a relationship, poor habits from past relationships or even patterns learned as a child all contribute to how you relate to your partner.  Add to that personality differences, cultural differences and you have loads of potential for conflict.

Is it just inevitable that at some point in a long term committed relationship you would need to seek marriage counseling?

marriage counseling

Just as the question gets complicated so does the answer.  All couples can benefit from learning new relationship skills. Couples who are able to manage conflict in a healthy way are far less likely to divorce or need counseling. While all couples can benefit from a good marriage therapist, counseling can likely be avoided if you are proactive about learning solid skills as early on in your relationship is possible. Continue reading Is marriage counseling inevitable?

Marital problems: I do all the work.

So, you’ve unloaded the dishwasher, given the kids a bath, and as you carry another load of laundry upstairs you think to yourself…”arrgh, why do I have to do all the work around here?”  It’s a frequent complaint on the list of marital problems couples seek help for.  While there certainly are inequities in many relationships, it is possible it’s a question of perception.  There is a concept called overclaiming that may apply here.  The idea is essentially that in our work lives, and likely our home lives most people are prone to the feeling that they are doing more work that everyone else. Whether it’s a case of overclaiming or if you truly do more of the work, here are a few ways to lighten the load and avoid resentment and conflict over the workload.

marital problems
Do you do “all the work”?

Pay attention to your spouse. Continue reading Marital problems: I do all the work.

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!

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.

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.

Marriage problems and technoference: How to ditch the device for better communication.

marriage problems
Put the phones down to connect with your partner

What does your cell phone have to do with marriage problems? Recently, several prominent news sources have presented surveys and research that point to the problem with cell phones and romantic relationships.  One survey reported that “70 percent of women said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.” That’s a huge number of women! In NPR’s recent story  “technoference” was citied as a serious problem in relationships. Aside from the question of what you are actually doing on the device, the accessibility and pervasiveness of  the devices in our lives is causing several problems.  Cell phones are the worst kind of distraction, the convenience of access to all your email accounts, the camera, the social media accounts, not to mention the thousands of other apps you can fill your device with offer an endless stream of information. This coupled with the dings, ringtones and other alerts that make everyone in the room look at their phone in some sort of pavlovian response to a bell are bound to cause marriage problems.

There are certainly big questions to answer individually and culturally about the influence these devices have on our lives. Technology no doubt has it’s place in daily life.  If we can thoughtfully engage with it it can actually be used for good in the relationship.  Time savings is one instance that can benefit your romantic relationships.  If you are able to take care of a task like paying bills that may have in the past taken up precious evening time at the kitchen table you can use that time you’ve gained to connect with your spouse, but do you? The evidence seems pretty clear that by and large they are causing more marriage problems than they solve. In her research, Sarah Coyne, boiled it down to this, “What I think the most important finding is, the more you let the technology interfere, the more conflict you have with your spouse or partner and that leads to not feeling great about the relationship.” So where is the balance?  Obviously this question is best left to each couple to navigate, provided the right skills are there to actually have a win win outcome!

So here are a few tips for curbing the potential marriage problems caused by technoference… Continue reading Marriage problems and technoference: How to ditch the device for better communication.

How to cultivate gratitude in your marriage this holiday season.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The holiday season and particularly Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to take stock in your marriage.  These few weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years can get really crazy, it’s also a wonderful time to cultivate gratitude in your marriage and make sure your relationship is getting a piece of the pie! Gratitude is more than just being thankful for something you have.  It is a state of being that can bring more love, positivity and peace and health into your life. Gratitude is an intentional act, gratitude in your marriage as in all things opens the door to deeper and more fulfilling relationship and holiday season.

gratitude in your marriage

Gratitude is the antidote to desire.  How is it that as a culture we have created the story that Thursday is the day to slow down, celebrate all that we already have and experience gratitude. Then comes black Friday where we are encouraged to hurry up, get to the store and compete with each other to satisfy our never ending need for things. Cultivating true gratitude will alleviate the need for the latest, greatest, cheapest goods and will allow love, respect and joy to be elevated in your marriage and beyond.

Here are a few ways to keep the focus on gratitude and kindness this holiday season… Continue reading How to cultivate gratitude in your marriage this holiday season.