Marriage Problems and Paddle Ball . . . Really?

It may sound a bit far fetched, that said if you’re facing marriage problems, paddle ball may be just the sport for you!

Side note:  We went to the beach today for a little end of season visit.  As the weather was getting chilly, there weren’t to many swimmers, but kites, paddle ball and frisbee tossing were all the rage.

So, back to paddle ball.  We were sitting next to a young couple who clearly loved paddle ball.  Plink, plink, plink, plink went their little ball back and forth, forth and back.

Distracted from my book, I started to think about marriage problems and what could be learned from this couple’s plink, plink plinking.  Here’s a few of my musings.

  1. Keep track of how many in a row you two can get together.  Marriage problems only get worse if you keep score about who did what wrong.  If you want to assign a score, count how many “hits” you get together.  Can you do 5 conversation turns and keep it happy?  20?  A whole day?
  2. Pick a pace that’s nice for both of you.  It was clear the guy in this couple could have hit the ball a lot harder. And he didn’t.  He went for enjoying the game together instead of smashing every ball.  Same in marriage.  Marriage problems can take some time to sort out.  Find a pace that works for both of you.
  3. Enjoy each others company.  That’s the real reason to play paddle ball — it’s a fun thing to do on the beach together.  Marriage help goes the same way.  It often is best to try to start with remembering how to have some fun together.
  4. Be active.  OK, so I was glued to my beach chair all day.  And, I could see how nice it was for the paddle ballers to be actively moving around.  When facing marriage problems be active about learning new skills.  And literally, be active too – – amazing how more effective conversations sometimes are while walking around the block.

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.

Better marriage on your TO-DO list? Start in the bedroom.

Have you ever wished for a better marriage? If the answer is YES, then you are not alone! Marriage is for better and worse, it’s pretty easy to imagine what the better part will look like; hand in hand walks on the beach, a glass of wine after a tough day, Netflix and chill anyone? The part that is hard to imagine is the worse; the fights, the toxic talk mumbled under your breath while your partner does something annoying in the next room. Even more troubling is a lack of intimacy, lying and a breach of trust or infidelity. Many couples wait until the the eleventh hour to reach out for help. By that time the thought of a light hearted roll in the hay may seem like a galaxy far, far away.

Traditional couples counseling often focuses on other concerns first. How is the communication? Do you fight? What are the critical conflicts that surface again and again?

better marriageHow is your sex life may only enter the conversation (or be addressed in a significant way) later on down the line. Is that the right approach? A new breed of therapists are tackling these issues in a different order. In a recent New York Times article the author reported on and interesting new convergence of therapist focusing on sex first.

So, is figuring out the sex puzzle going to give you a better marriage?

Continue reading Better marriage on your TO-DO list? Start in the bedroom.

4 resolutions for your marriage in 2016

With the start of a new year, naturally there is an opportunity to think about what changes you want to make and where you want to focus your energy in the coming days and weeks. Whether you are a seasoned couple, having spent many years together or a new couple still awash in the glow of infatuation setting intention for the year ahead will be a boon to your relationship. The work you do now will set the tone for the days ahead.

Here are 4 resolutions for your marriage to tackle in 2016.

resolutions for your marriage
Photo credit: Joao Paulo de Vasconcelos

Put your marriage on the front burner.

Too often intimate relationships, especially your marriage end up on the back burner, if it’s on the stove at all! Jobs, kids, hobbies, spiritual lives, personal free time, tend to come before “working on your marriage.” They shouldn’t! The health of your marriage is a driving factor in how successful you are at all the other ventures you tackle. How satisfying your personal relationships are tends to impact the rest of your life including your physical and mental health. While certainly not the only factor, when your emotional house is in order you free up space and energy to go after your goals and dreams with the support of your partner. Make sure your relationship gets its fair share of your time and energy by making a plan. Beyond the old “regular date night” save all, create a real concrete idea of ways you are going to make your marriage a priority. Try to avoid fuzzy goals like, “spend more time together” or “have more sex.” Instead try, spend 1 hour every evening together or kiss each other every day. Continue reading 4 resolutions for your marriage in 2016

Want to avoid ending up in couples counseling? Say something nice!

avoid couples counseling
Whisper sweet somethings to your spouse.

You know how the saying goes… If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. In a marriage you may not always have nice things to say and while it is important to voice concerns and bring up uncomfortable issues how to talk about difficult topics is the subject of another post. The rest of the time, how positive you are and how much warmth you share between you has a big impact on the quality of your relationship. While it may be an oversimplification to say that you can avoid couples counseling by being nice, you can have a major impact on the day to day climate of your marriage by keeping the ratio or positive to negative interactions to 10:1. When you espouse an attitude of positivity and gratitude you lift those around you into that mindset as well. Positive people are more attractive, tend to be healthier and happier. Continue reading Want to avoid ending up in couples counseling? Say something nice!

5 Habits of happy couples.

happy couples
Photo credit: Timothy Krause

5 habits happy couples practice.

1. Steer clear of toxic talk. If not careful, toxic talk can easily creep into daily chatter with your spouses.  One of the wonderful things a close relationship affords is lots of information about each other, the good and the ugly.  When you use the intimate information you have about each other to tease, mock or rail against your spouse you undermine the trust and safety critical for an intimate relationship. Happy couples steer clear of harsh words and share encouragement and positivity instead! Continue reading 5 Habits of happy couples.

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.

Sexless relationship help: Possible or should you move on?

There are so many reasons a couple might be looking for sexless relationship help.  Desire discrepancies, low sex drive, health issues, depression and many other factors contribute to how healthy your sex life feels.  If you find yourself in a sexless relationship or headed for marital problems, how do you know if you should stick it out and work on the relationship or if it’s time to move on?  While there is no out of the box solution to this problem there are a few things to look for when trying to answer this question.

sexless relationship
Stuck in a sexless relationship?

1. Do you and your partner have good communication skills?

Continue reading Sexless relationship help: Possible or should you move on?

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!

Want to have more sex during stressful times? Here are 5 things to try.

A lot of good habits can suffer during stressful times.  Some people overeat, workout routines fall off the map, sleep is often affected. Sex is another piece of the relationship puzzle that gets put on the back burner when stress hits the fan.  Here are a few tips for how to avoid the sexless marriage trap and keep that lovin’ feeling alive even when stress, including holiday stress takes a hold on your life and relationship…

1. Sleep Naked.  Forego the holiday themed, fuzzy footy Pj’s and go to bed in your birthday suit.  Couples who sleep naked have more sex.  Sleeping naked removes one small barrier to getting busy.  In addition, physical touch and close contact increase oxytocin, the love hormone. Climbing into the sheets naked will encourage you to get closer to warm up on cold winter nights. Who knows you might get lucky!

have more sex
Slip into the sheets in your birthday suit.

3. Keep your bedroom a sanctuary.  When it comes to your bedroom, don’t dismiss the power of setting the mood. Too often the clutter of stressful times builds up in your bedroom. Laundry piling up, work to do, stacks of bills, papers or books waiting to be read, shopping bags full of gifts to be wrapped all contribute to the mental clutter aka intimacy killer.  Take some time to de-clutter your bedroom, take the tv out (or at least cover it up or put in in a cabinet) Letting the world in via television and devices can squeeze out special moments to connect with your spouse. Take the stacks of paper out, go through them if you can, if you can’t just put them somewhere else!  The last and probably most difficult task in the bedroom is to GET RID OF THE SMARTPHONE!! A recent article cited the statistic that “70 percent of women in a recent survey said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.”  Now certainly you don’t need to get rid of it all together, just leave it out of the bedroom!

have more sex
Don’t let clutter be a barrier to a roll in the hay.

Continue reading Want to have more sex during stressful times? Here are 5 things to try.