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.

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

How low can you go? Anger management in marriage.

Anger management is something all couples have to deal with. At some point we all have those disagreements in our marriage that get out of hand and lead to sparks of anger and days of the silent treatment. The question of the day is– how low can you go when it comes to setting a ceiling on how much anger is allowed to brew in your home?

In my therapy practice, I often ask my clients to rate on a scale of 1 (very low) to 10 (very high) what is the highest they’ll let anger go in an argument. Somewhere in the 7,8 range is a pretty common response. Far too often, it’s more like 11.

Then I ask what they think the maximum anger level is in a really healthy, strong marriage. “Uh, maybe a six?” is pretty standard.

It’s generally quite a surprise to hear that the best thing for marriages is to keep the heat below a 3 at all times. 

So how do you do in this regard? Here’s an activity to help you rate yourself.

Anger management
You will disagree from time to time--it doesn't have to look like this.

Once you know how angry you tend to get, you can set a goal for yourself. Next time you begin to have an argument with your spouse, practice paying attention to your internal “anger” signals. When you hit a 4, practice the PO2 “exit and re-enter” anger management technique. Leave the conversation for five to ten minutes to cool off, and then come back to it. Remember, coming back is just as essential as leaving–you should address the disagreement fully. Oh, and let your spouse know you need a breather to cool down–don’t just storm off!

The bottom line is that in marriage, the lower the ceiling on anger, the better. When differences come up or tensions simmer, it’s better to learn how to resolve them calmly and collaboratively. It takes patience and practice, and you can do it! Anger management–even with just the little things you get irritated with–will make a huge impact in your relationship.

Have a great end to your week,

Abigail

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.

 

How to deal with a jealous husband

When tackling the issue of jealousy, Dr. Hirsch likes to start with some Eric Clapton lyrics: “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself!”

If you’re faced with a jealous husband or a jealous wife, you may be partially to blame. And if you are the one who is jealous, you should also examine your own culpability. Marriage problems are rarely ever a one sided affair. And they need to be solved together, too.

There are two situations where you might find yourself feeling jealous or have a jealous husband or jealous wife. If you are jealous, you are probably struggling with which one to believe: is there a real threat to your marriage, or are you just imagining and projecting things? This expert advice from Dr. Hirsch can help you decide and, most importantly, address the problem so you can repair your marriage in a positive and empowering way.

Case #1: The jealous spouse is picking up on clues to a real danger.

Example: Marcus’s husband Alison is working one-on-one on a tough work project with an attractive male colleague. They’ve been working late and getting drinks together after work. Marcus is feeling jealous and uncomfortable.

Should Marcus be worried that Alison is having an affair? It’s important to remember that full-blown affairs don’t happen all of a sudden. They grow over time. At the same time, Marcus’ feelings are very valid because they are warning signs of behavior that is threatening their marriage. Because of this he should speak up and address the problem now. Staying attuned to his early feelings of danger gives him the opportunity to address the issue before it actually leads to an infidelity.

If you are in Allison’s place, you might react to your husband’s jealousy by dismissing it. Of course you aren’t having an affair! How could he think that?? At the same time, remember that something you have been doing has been causing him distress and is already hurting your marriage. This alone indicates that you need to address the situation.

If you are jealous of your spouse, or have a jealous husband or jealous wife, here are some steps to take:

  1. Prepare for the conversation. Choose a time when you are both unstressed and rested. Also, make sure you have top-notch communication skills to handle this sensitive issue. You and your partner will want to remain as calm and positive as possible–this can be challenging with such an emotional subject. Try some PO2 activities to brush up on healthy dialogue skills.
  2. Approach the subject. This may be embarrassing or awkward, and at the same time, so important to work out. Stay open to your spouse’s opinions. Coming out of the discussion with a re-affirmed trust in each other’s fidelity is the goal.
  3. Set up an action plan so the situation doesn’t progress or recur. Also set up guidelines for what you consider appropriate behavior around members of the opposite sex. For example, Aliston might ask that Marcus not hang out with female coworkers one-on-one outside of work.

NOTE: If you find you cannot productively discuss the jealousy or come to a solution, you may want to try couples counseling or online marriage counseling with Power of Two. In addition, if you have a chronically jealous husband who tries to unreasonably restrict your activity and quality of life, you may want to check if his behavior falls under our reasons for divorce guidelines.

 Posting tomorrow…What if I’m just projecting onto my spouse? The 2nd Case Scenario.

Is cheating the solution to marriage problems? Not so fast!

 

Are you a Tom Sawyer Husband? How about a Workhorse Wife considering an Oreo Marriage? These are just a few of the types of couples outlined in Pamela Haag’s new book, Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting The Rules. Many of Haag’s categories are different ways of describing “so-so marriage,” where security, familiarity, and shared responsibilities are what keep couples together rather than love. “It’s these low-conflict, amiable, but sort of listless marriages that actually contribute the lion’s share to the divorce rate. It’s not the couples who are throwing dishes and screaming,” she said in the DailyMail.
Haag also wrote a guest article for CNN.com. In it she focuses on the “non-traditional” solutions couples may try to make their marriage work. These include: separate bedrooms; a “marriage sabbatical”; non-monogamy; and/or tolerating infidelity.

Well now! These two articles sure got us all stirred up.

“Pamela Haag has it oh-so-right. . . and oh-so-wrong.” Dr. Abigail Hirsch says.

“We love her descriptions of the ways marriages slip into semi-happiness.  Her categories are very true. And, her solution — to open things up to letting outsiders into your intimate life and maybe even the bedroom — is a lousy solution to spicing up marriage.

Can I be harsh?  Here it is.

 

How would you feel about a bike repair shop that told you, “oh, front tire flat?  We’ll just take it off and give it to someone else.  Your bike will work fine with one tire!”  Bad advice.

 

Same with marriage problems — if your marriage has some broken parts, like lackluster passion, missing romance, zero loving connection — the solution is (almost always) not to remove the possibility for deep, rewarding intimate connection — the solution is to FIX THE BROKEN PIECE.  If your love life is lacking, learn the skills to turn the spark back on.  If warmth and connection are a thing from the distant past, invest in learning how to make them a part of the future from today forwards.

 

Be proactive about bringing sex, passion, love, intimacy, and friendship into your day-to-day with your spouse if you want your marriage to sizzle. If you’d rather your marriage fizzle, then take your metaphorical tire elsewhere.”

In conclusion, never settle for solutions that make you feel less than satisfied. A joyous, loving, definitely not “so-so” marriage is a real possibility for everyone. You deserve to, and can, be happy!

 

 

Forget the 80 hour work week

Stop kidding yourself.  The 80 hour work week is a myth.  No one really can do productive, creative, useful work for 80 hours a week.  Likewise, no one can drive a truck safely or fill orders accurately for 80 hours a week.

It’s always nice to find a fellow voice for sanity out there – http://startupboy.com/2005/11/29/the-80-hour-myth/ . Thanks for the reminder StartupBoy.

Here’s the other truth.  Marriages and families need time too.  If you’re at work 80 hours a week, there’s no way your marriage is getting the time it needs.  At Power of Two we work 35 good, hard, productive hours a week.  Focused hours. Creative hours.  And then we all go home and enjoy our lives.

Having done this for four years now, I can tell you, this approach has made our team wildly productive.  It lets us pause and catch mistakes before heading down dead-end paths.  It means everyone is rested and excited when we’re at work.   It keeps our team energized.

How well do you do balancing work and life?   Click here for a quick way to find out.