Turkey and Politics – Helping your marriage survive Thanksgiving

marriage, politics and turkeys!

Marriage, politics, Thanksgiving — a tricky triad at any time! And this year, with all the post-election processing, it may be especially challenging to manage everyone around the table.  So, how can you keep marriage, politics and Thanksgiving from undoing each other?  How can you keep political tensions at the table from ruining your carefully basted Turkey?

First, focus on the basics when it comes to communication skills.  That means be a super skilled listener and speaker.  When listening, hard as it may  be, find something that makes sense about what the other person is saying.  No question that can be a challenge if you’re seated next to a friend or family member whose politics are diametrically opposed to yours, and at the same time, listen hard and think carefully as there almost always is a core kernel one can agree with in any political opinion.

At the same time, be careful when speaking.  It’s easy to generalize and talk in a way that assumes others share your perspectives.  Express your opinions as just that, your opinions.  Stick to “I” statements.  Be wary of accidentally including others by saying things like “we need to,” or “our country would be better if . . . ”  A simple, “I believe in” or “I’m worried that. . . ” will be less likely to evoke a defensive response.

Power of Two coaches have many more tips on how to talk and listen to avoid marriage problems.

Likewise, you might want to check out our founder Dr. Heitler’s thoughts on how to cope with the post election blues if you’re struggling to make sense of the election (or if you have family who is less than thrilled).

One more tip that’s sure to work if things are really tense at your table.  Focus on the food!  For one day, put politics aside and enjoy everyone’s cooking.  Feel thankful for all that is in front of you and keep the conversation there as well.

Happy holidays!

How to deal with jealousy in your marriage.

If you’ve been in a romantic relationship you have probably faced your own feelings of jealousy or been the recipient of accusations at one point or another. Even the strongest marriages might experience this uncomfortable feeling from time to time. So how do you deal with jealousy in your marriage?

A really important first step is to take some advice from this classic song…“before you accuse me, take a look at yourself!” If you find yourself experiencing jealousy it is important to first take stock of how your actions, behaviors or thoughts are contributing to the situation. Are you bringing old baggage or past familial experiences to bare in your current relationship. In cases of infidelity and jealousy both partners play a part and placing all the blame on one side of the scale is problematic. Once you have gained some understanding about your own thoughts and feelings it’s time to tackle the conversation with your partner.

deal with jealousy
Are jealousy and suspicion damaging your relationship? Photo credit: Geoff Stearns

Here is Dr. Hirsch’s 3 Step plan to deal with jealousy and get your relationship back on track:

Continue reading How to deal with jealousy in your marriage.

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?

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.

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?

8 Marriage Resolutions to Make 2014 the Best Year for your Marriage

New Years marriage resolutions are a wonderful way to symbolically put behind old, unwanted behavior and set a new course for your marriage. Instead of aiming for, “In 2014, I will have a better marriage,” try these  small but effective (and fun) goals. The following ideas for resolutions can all have a big impact on you marriage. Continue reading 8 Marriage Resolutions to Make 2014 the Best Year for your Marriage

A quick guide to choosing a therapist

Choosing a therapist got you feeling overwhelmed? Find out what options are available and how to pick the best therapist for your marriage (or other counseling needs).

Couples therapy can help you and your spouse increase intimacy, stop fighting and relieve long-term frustrations and old hurts. Therapy is not just for couples on the brink of divorce. In fact, the earlier you start learning how to keep your marriage calm and loving (even before you tie the knot) the better prepared you will be for inevitable future challenges.

At the same time, choosing a therapist can feel daunting. Where do you start looking? What should you look for? How can you tell if your therapist is working for you? Start here with this simple guide. Continue reading A quick guide to choosing a therapist

How I beat postpartum depression

It was a very long four months for both my husband and I. Which four months? The last month of my pregnancy and the first three of my sons life.

The last month of pregnancy was long because I was huge, cranky and not sleeping. The first three months of our baby’s life were harder because on top of the exhaustion and pain of recovering from a c-section, I, the expert, got blind-sided by a serious dose of postpatrum depression.

I share this to emphasize that prepartum and postpartum depression can sneak up on anyone.  Physical discomfort, lack of sleep, and all those hormones certainly are contributing factors.  So too are less tangible experiences of feeling out of control–out of control of your body, of your baby’s schedule (or lack thereof!), or of your ability to get your feet back under you in general. Continue reading How I beat postpartum depression

Strengthen marriage with a new perspective

Here’s a sweet letter sent out from our head coach, Dr. Abigail Hirsch, about how her new baby inspired a strengthen marriage tip. Dr. Hirsch gave birth to her fourth child five months ago. At the end of August we’ll be featuring a post from her about her experiences with postpartum depression. Enjoy!


Hello Power of Two Member,

Today was a big day in our house.  Our five month old baby just got big enough to sit in a high chair at the table with the

strengthen marriage
Our children can teach us skills to strengthen marriage.rest of us. This new perspective was transformative.  All of a sudden his three big brothers noticed him.  For pretty much the first time they started chatting away with the little guy. And, he in turn found their stories so funny he couldn’t stop chortling.

What does this have to do with marriage?  For me, it was a wonderful reminder how just a little shift in perspective can make a huge difference in how people relate to each other. Continue reading Strengthen marriage with a new perspective

Dr. Hirsch’s 5 tips for how to have a great vacation

A special post by Dr. Abigail Hirsch

Every summer I’m surprised how often we hear from folks just back from a “really challenging” vacation. Why are family vacations so…well, not a vacation? How can you actually have a great vacation? Having just taken some time off with my family, and therefore having had the time to indulge in reading the Sunday New York Times, I came across a great article on just that topic. In it, writer and father Matt Richtel outlines how to prepare our brains to to turn down the mental static and let us really relax during vacations.

how to have a great vacationThe article inspired me to write my own, and voilá, here are the Power of Two Top 5 Tips for How to Have a Great Vacation:

  1. Vary the rhythm. Concerts are better when there is a variety of music. So too are vacations more fun when they have a mixture of fast and slow, active and vegetable, excitement and low key.
  2. Leave room for spontaneity. The highlight of our recent trip was discovering in the paper one morning that the Ultimate
    Have a great vacation, stress free.
    Have a great vacation by leaving technology–and schedules–behind.

    Frisbee National Championships were being played just down the street. Doing something unplanned and novel is great for putting some pep into your day, vacation, and relationship!

  3. Make a digital intruders plan. For many of us it’s hard to put down all the digital connections. So all the things one goes on vacation to take a break from often come charging right on in. To unplug and really have a great vacation, try setting a fixed time each day to check-in and let people know you are checked-out. I love getting up an hour early, finding a new coffee house, and doing a one hour check-in. Then the phone goes off and it’s time to enjoy my vacation.
  4. Hone those skills! The nature of vacation is that it’s a chance to make all kinds of decisions that are just routine in one’s day to day life. Where to eat? What to do? How much to spend? Make sure your communication in marriage and Win-Win Decision Making skills are ready to roll. Check out my workshop video if you’re new to this or need a refresher.
  5. Most of all LAUGH. Really, lighten up, it’s vacation after all. When the boat is so late you miss your train or the kids spill ketchup all over their shirts, take a deep breath and smile. You can have a great vacation or a lousy one–all depending on how you look at it. Choose to see each challenge as an adventure! If you’re late, hey, it’s not like you’re on a schedule anyway!

Happy Summer, and have a great vacation!

Abigail and the Power of Two Coaching Team