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.

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.

The top 5 tips to avoid holiday stress

Along with the fun and excitement of the winter season comes with a notorious amount of holiday stress. It can come from the inevitable interaction with less than liked relatives. It can result from financial troubles over rising heating bills and affording gifts and throwing parties. It can come from the overwhelming sense that the holidays have to be “perfect.” Chances are you’ll find yourself at the short end of your fuse and wondering how to make a relationship last through the holidays. Here are 5 effective tips for overcoming holiday stress and keep your marriage strong.

1. Set a budget. Holiday stress often comes from the strain it puts on our wallets. Avoid this by making a realistic budget for the season and sticking to it.Try doing a “secret Santa” arrangement in your family (for Christmas or Hanukah) to limit the number and price of gifts you give. Don’t buy new wrapping paper and bows—which is expensive and bad for the environment—instead, recycle pretty wrapping and boxes from the past year and improvise with cloth, magazines, and newspaper. By trimming off the fat you’ll find what really makes the holidays really special.

2. Muster the troops. Coming together as a family and delegating work for the holidays will reduce stress and increase your bond. Resist the temptation to “do it all.”The children can be given simple tasks such as helping in the kitchen,  decorating, or cleaning up. Play to each of your strengths and abilities. Making sure each person has their role set clearly beforehand will make them more likely to follow through.

3. Get some “us time.” Stay connected to your spouse by setting a goal to show positive intimacy every day. Give him a hug for “no reason” multiple times a day. Hold hands or give her a massage. Scientific marriage help books have shown physical touch releases stress reducing hormones. Plus, it shows you are there for each other. Also, be sure to take an adults-only date night. Go skating or take a walk to look at holiday lights. Do something that gets you alone and enjoying each other’s company.

4. Deflect confrontation. This one’s tricky, especially when we’re stressed out and have a couple of glasses of spiked eggnog in us.  The best option for a nosy or confrontational guest who gets on your back is to face the problem directly and politely. Try saying, “I can see how you feel that way…at the same time, lets just enjoy the party and set that conversation aside.” Check out PO2’s online marriage counseling resources sections “yes…and…” and “anger ceilings” to learn how to agree to disagree.

5. Take a break—a complete break! When you feel worn down, get out of the house and do something simple that doesn’t have anything to do with chores. Go for a walk around the neighborhood. Don’t try to cram something useful into the time like walking the dog or picking up some groceries. Use this moment to clear your mind, admire the houses on your block and their decorations, or the beautiful nature around you.

How to deal with difficult family members

In every family there are certain relatives who fight, bicker, criticize, or in other ways just don’t play nice. Having to spend “quality time” with these people during the holidays–an already stressful time–can be an emotional minefield. Here are 7 tips for how to deal with difficult family members.

  1. Nurture positive relationships with other relatives. Family is a mixed bag so there are sure to be a few relatives that you like to spend time with. Cultivating your relationships with them will foster positive energy that can last you through the difficulties of family reunions. You can also band together to help deflect negative relatives by agreeing to redirect conversations and attacks to more pleasant topics when the atmosphere gets tense. Continue reading How to deal with difficult family members

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.”

Funny Family Photos–Holiday Edition

Ah, the holidays. Tis the season to receive and send out greeting cards with family photos and updates on everything that’s gone on in your life for the past year. Picking that cover photo for the card can result in some pretty funny family photos. Trying to get all the kids to stand still? Getting everyone’s eyes open? Incorporating your dog or cat into the picture? A recipe for disaster…and hilarity!

In preparation and inspiration for sending out my own holiday greetings, I’ve been trolling through examples of what other families have done. The final pictures I get from friends always seem so perfect. Everyone looks great, calm, focused, and holiday spirited–no unruly kids, no stress, no marriage problems. And after all, that is the point, but man, it makes me feel like my family is just insane compared to everyone else’s. Do you ever wish that you could see other people’s outtakes? You know, the 100 pictures beforehand that will never see the public light of day, so-help-me-Gawd?

Well, I discovered that you can! My favorite holiday distraction is Awkward Family Photos, a website that allows you to submit all your bad, funny, outrageous and downright strange family photos for public enjoyment. It’s filled with snapshots of passing fads and fashion faux pas–big hair, glasses, braces, mullets–and misguided attempts at sassy group poses. One reason that I love this website is that it is never mean-spirited and it’s always family friendly. Users submit their own funny family photos and often have crazy explanations to go along with the pictures. It’s like group therapy–a small way to share the ridiculousness of our families with the world. And, it turns out that everyone’s family is a little crazy and a little eccentric.

The holidays are a notoriously stressful time for dealing with family. On Thursday I’ll be posting some great tips for keeping your marriage strong  and how to communicate with your spouse through the months of in-laws, outlaws, holiday parties, and events. But first, some silliness and media for Media Monday. In the spirit of the holidays and all they entail in celebrating the awkwardness and love of our own families, I present to you my favorite funny family photos from May they bring you cheer, laughter, and a bit more tolerance for your own crazy clan.


And lastly, my very favorite:












Dr. Heitler contributes to Military Spouse Magazine

We can only imagine the great strain and stress military deployment puts on the marriages and families involved.  Given this, we owe to our soldiers and their families to provide as much support as we are able.  In Military Spouse Magazine, Dr. Heitler advises spouses of deployed soldiers on how best to set boundaries with in-laws: Don’t feel selfish that you want your spouse all to yourself upon return.  This is the first step in family healing, or reconnection. The second step includes the children.  The third is the in-laws and extended family.

read more here:

Posted by: Rosanna Smith, Power of Two Intern