What Modern Commitment Means for Couples

When you first got together, what did the word “commitment” mean to you?

It’s a multifaceted concept, and if you got married decades ago, you may not have thought much about it. Many of us took our vows without reflecting much on the pledge we were making. That’s because marriage was generally seen as a given – not a choice we made after mulling a full range of options.

If you’re a member of Gen X or younger, you may have heard the notion that you and everyone your age is afraid of commitment. I don’t agree. Instead, I think couples of all ages now view commitment as something very serious that is negotiated and renegotiated over time.

DOING “SLOW LOVE”

One study shows that younger couples hope to create balanced relationships governed by mutual respect, whether or not they marry. They came of age in a time when marriages were becoming more fluid, with both parents working. Many endured the divorce of their parents and then lived with one or more new couples who eventually married or split up.

If this describes you, then you may wonder if it’s even possible to have an enduring marriage with mutual trust. This means you might feel unready to jump right in – preferring what many couples therapists are calling “slow love.”

Slow love gives us time to have many lovers, including friends with benefits, even live with different partners before we consider marriage. This is the way we can address our fears and learn directly from our experiences of commitment in all its different forms. It doesn’t mean we’ll never marry. It means we want more self-understanding and relationship experience first.

RENEWING YOUR COMMITMENT OVER TIME

Whether you’re young and wondering about marriage or eyeing a second or even third union, it helps to think of commitment as an ongoing thing. Some couples can identify the rough patches that caused them to recommit to each other in a big way. I believe that the happiest couples realize they need to renew their love and commitment to one another every day.

Keep in mind that you cannot foresee all the tough times you will face in your marriage. This means being ready to go deeper with your partner – essentially bringing more love, energy, and commitment to the situation as challenges rise up.

It’s all right to be cautious in thinking about commitment. Listening to people who tell you that you “should be ready” will only make it harder for you to hear your own authentic voice.

At the same time, if you let your fears take over, you might miss out on the joy and strength gained from being in a committed relationship. So listen to yourself and each other, and help each other through the fears. We all have them, and it’s so much easier when we take them on together.

As an experienced couple’s counselor, I have worked with hundreds of couples who were seeking answers about marriage, love, and commitment. Working with a seasoned therapist can enrich your conversation and create a new sense of closeness and mutual support.

If you’d like to discuss commitment or any other issue in your relationship, get in touch with me today.

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Psychology Today

When Your Family Doesn’t Like Your Spouse: 7 Tips for Keeping the Peace

When the people you love most in the world don’t get along, it can be tremendously painful. If you’re feeling caught between the family you grew up in and the family you’ve created with your spouse or partner – with or without children of your own – you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You feel loyalty to your parents, siblings and other relatives. You feel love and concern for your partner and kids. This puts you in the middle, especially if your family openly criticizes your spouse or gives the “cold shoulder” whenever you get together.

 STEPS FOR HANDLING THE CONFLICT IN A POSITIVE WAY

Fortunately, there are ways you can support your spouse with strategies that will keep the peace while making sure everyone has a voice. While your partner and your family may never have a perfect relationship, you can minimize conflict and keep things respectful. Follow these 7 steps to manage the situation more effectively.

  1. DON’T IGNORE THE SITUATION. If your spouse has complained to you about your family, you need to address the issue right away. Ignoring or delaying will only cause resentment, which can harm your relationship.

 

  1. TALK TO YOUR FAMILY WITHOUT YOUR PARTNER PRESENT. Bring your concerns directly to family members on behalf of your spouse. You know your own family dynamics best – so you can create an atmosphere that lets them air their feelings and observations. Do this in person or by phone so you can listen closely. Keep in mind that your family may have no idea that their behavior has hurt your spouse.

 

  1. ADVOCATE FOR YOUR PARTNER. Explain how s/he sees things. Share your partner’s feelings and give any background that helps your family understand what’s going on from his/her point of view. For example, “Joe felt hurt when you said he was a bad father for not taking paternity leave. Did you know his employer frowns on dads who take time off? Right or wrong, that’s his situation … and I think we should support him.”

 

  1. LISTEN TO YOUR FAMILY’S VIEWS. Find out if there’s an issue you haven’t addressed with your partner. S/he may not be an innocent party to the problem, which means you will need to discuss what your spouse does and says in reaction to your family, too. Fairness demands that you hear both sides of the story.

 

  1. USE “I” STATEMENTS TO AVOID BLAME AND DEFENSIVENESS. When discussing your concerns, keep the focus on what you and your spouse feel. Don’t assume anything about your family’s inner-thinking and attitudes. Point to behavior in clear, non-judgmental terms. Instead of saying, “You were rude to Sarah last night at dinner,” try saying, “Sarah felt excluded from the conversation at dinner. We noticed that you tend to talk over her when she tries to speak.”

 

  1. FOR FUTURE GET-TOGETHERS, HAVE CONVERSATION STARTERS READY. After you’ve opened up about past conflicts, there may be feelings of awkwardness. Go to the next gathering with ideas to help people relax and get comfortable again.

 

  1. HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY. If family gatherings continue to feel stressful, tell your family what time you’re planning to leave when you arrive. “We need to head out by noon to pick a friend up from the airport.” Have a secret signal your spouse can use if things become overwhelming and s/he needs to bow out.

 

CREATING THE LOVING FAMILY YOU WANT TO HAVE

As an experienced couples counselor, I have helped hundreds of married and committed couples deal with family conflicts. If you’re struggling to find answers and need expert support, reach out to me today.

Source

WikiHow

How Couples Can Handle Differences in Sexual Desire

Just about any marriage can go through times when one partner is less interested in sex than the other. Often, this is a short-term concern that relates to stress in other areas of life. All it signifies is that one of you is more distracted or tired than usual, thanks to a sudden change in schedule – anything from end-of-year work cycles to a health crisis in the family.

Challenges like these can leave your partner exhausted, wanting nothing more than sleep or a night in front of the TV. And while sexual dry spells usually end when stress levels return to normal, a prolonged disinterest in sex can definitely hurt your relationship. Not only do differences in desire stir up resentment and self-doubt, but they may also leave you wondering if this is the first step toward a sexless marriage.

That fear, as it turns out, is entirely valid. According to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, fewer people are having regular sex these days – whether or not they have a spouse or steady partner. So it’s wise to address any threat to your sex life as a real concern.

HOW LONG IS TOO LONG FOR MARRIED COUPLES?

There is no rule that defines how long a dry spell should be before you both get worried about it. This can depend on your age, how long you’ve been together and what your sex life has been in the past.

Ultimately, if a dry spell is causing palpable tension or is attacking the confidence of one or both of you, it’s time to take things seriously.

Of course, that can be more difficult than it sounds. Unless both partners are willing to engage in open communication, discussing your diminished sex life may dredge up feelings of guilt, anger, blame, or embarrassment. This can block your ability to find a comfortable solution to the problem.

REALIZE THAT THERE ARE MANY POTENTIAL CAUSES

There are steps you can take to address the problem lovingly. Start by skipping any assumptions you may have made about why your partner does not appear to want more sex. Realize that loss of sexual interest can be caused by stress, depression, erectile dysfunction, hormone imbalances, genital pain, chronic illness, medications, low self-esteem – not to mention the emotional issues that exist in other areas of your relationship.

With a list that long, you can see that the problem may involve any number of factors. So the more drastic thoughts you may be having – for example, that your partner is having an affair or doesn’t desire you anymore – may be totally unfounded.

Even more importantly, you need to understand the difference between these three states:

  • Low libido, which is the loss of sexual desire
  • Hypoactive desire, which means the absence of sexual fantasies
  • Sexual dysfunction, which is the inability to have sex, which usually triggers feelings of guilt

Each of these conditions can have physical and psychological causes, but all are treated in a different way. By knowing the difference, you can approach the problem more objectively and fairly, protecting your partner from blame and shame.

HOW TO OPEN A LOVING, COMPASSIONATE CONVERSATION

When approaching your spouse about sexual issues, make sure you’re not in the bedroom. This is the place where both of you feel exposed and vulnerable. Instead, find a place you can speak privately but feel confident and comfortable.

Make every effort to be sensitive to your partner’s feelings, with no hint of blame. While you want to be honest about your worries, place your thoughts in the context of love and concern instead of painting your spouse as the cause of problems you are suffering. That last bit of territory is where worry can turn into blame.

If your partner is able to pinpoint a problem such as work stress or exhaustion, work together to find a solution. Focus on small changes you can both make and seek medical help if needed. Do not be shy about suggesting marriage counseling. Therapy can be great for learning stress management skills, and also may help you uncover issues such as anxiety or depression.

If your partner doesn’t know the cause but acknowledges that you do have a problem, suggest a physical exam with the family doctor. Low libido is often the result of an undiagnosed medical condition such as low testosterone, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, or diabetes. It can also be caused by antidepressants, birth control pills, and certain prostate medications.

If your partner shuts down or is shy about discussing the issue, don’t take it personally – but don’t give up. You will need to continue to seek solutions, even if your loved one is reluctant at first.

Remember that this is not about one of you failing the other. It is simply that you both need to take ownership of the problem as a couple. By taking the lead (and suggesting couples counseling if needed), you can bring the issue into the light, which will ultimately strengthen your relationship.

It is important to remember that solving any problem within your marriage is a process, not a single event. Take your time, be patient, and, if needed, seek therapy to ensure your self-esteem and confidence remain intact.

As an experienced couples counselor, I have helped hundreds of married and committed couples address differences in sexual desire. If you’re struggling to find answers and need expert support, reach out to me today.

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Verywell Mind

Married to Your Careers? Resolving Conflicts Between Work and Life

Balancing a demanding job with the needs of your partner is an everyday challenge for millions of us. And while many of us feel that our loved ones work far more than they should, we acknowledge that careers are important – both for financial and personal reasons.

If one of you works far more than the other, your relationship can suffer. The career-focused partner may feel tired when s/he arrives home, and unwilling to discuss the issue. The other partner may feel hurt, angry and resentful, yet feel powerless to create positive change on his or her own.

Naturally, every relationship and every individual career is different, so we can’t point to solutions that will work for everyone. However, there are some insights that can help most couples begin an open conversation about work and life priorities. Here are some steps you can take when career commitments seem to be hurting your relationship.

TAKE A HARD LOOK AT YOUR PRIORITIES

If you’re the one who works more, step back and think about what matters most to you. Whatever you may think your values are, your calendar may tell a different story. Can you look at your recent schedule and honestly say you have set aside enough time for your spouse and your relationship?

The honest answer may be that work truly has been the #1 priority. This means your partner is forced to accept whatever scraps of time and attention you can spare after investing your best at work.

On the other hand, you may have placed a higher premium on family, health and your own personal life – which is a sharp contrast with your spouse’s priorities. It isn’t uncommon for one partner to spend an inordinate amount of time with children and family while another pursues a fast-paced career, but this pattern may lead to a gradual breakdown in the closeness you once shared as a couple.

If you genuinely care about spending time with your loved one, you must make it a specific goal. It isn’t enough to simply respond to pressure from your mate. If it isn’t your personal priority, you’ll never stick with it, so you need to be honest with yourself above all.

As a marriage therapist, I’ve found that overwork sometimes has positive motives. For example, one spouse may feel s/he is building a future for the family by working hard to earn more money. To some, not being able to support others financially means not being able to love them well. Keeping this perspective in mind will help you extend compassion to yourself or your partner as you work on the issues together.

TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Conflicts often occur because each partner wants and expects something different. If one is happy with the existing work-life balance, s/he may be totally unaware that the other is feeling neglected.

Don’t assume that your spouse is fine with things simply because you are. Ask how s/he is feeling about the issue, especially if your work hours and commitments differ. Welcome an ongoing conversation to make sure you are in sync – and if job responsibilities change, make certain you discuss how this will affect your relationship.

If there’s a gap in your expectations, it may mean your partner has a higher need for quality time in order to feel cared for and loved. Alternatively, it may mean there are everyday issues that claim too much of your time.

Maybe you can commit to a 30-minute conversation each evening, a phone chat during your commute home or a weekly date night. If practical issues are getting in the way, look for easier ways to get laundry, housecleaning and errands done to make more time for each other.

If you can afford the extra expense, it may be better to pay someone to ease these routine burdens than to fight about them. The only time this won’t work is if your partner finds special meaning in handling daily chores. If, for example, s/he feels you are being thoughtful and loving when you unload the dishwasher, do it!

ADOPT HEALTHY ROUTINES

Many couples worry that falling into established patterns is a sign their relationship has gotten boring or lost all its spontaneity. Sometimes that’s true. But the fact that your partner travels almost every week or doesn’t make it home for dinner every night isn’t a sure sign you’re headed for divorce court. It may simply mean there’s a predictable pattern, and that may be just fine.

However, when one partner loses control of his or her work schedule, there may be a breach of trust. Every relationship needs some consistency, and every partner deserves some reliability. Without it, partners may begin to feel they can’t count on the one person they should be able to rely on most.

These may seem like trivial matters when one of you is grappling with a work crisis. But relationships aren’t broken in one swift stroke. They erode slowly over time. Every time you make a commitment and then break it, you’re chiseling away at that underlying trust.

So consider agreeing on basic routines that benefit both of you. For example, you may agree to eat breakfast together before heading to work, or putting your devices away on Sundays. The agreements themselves aren’t as important as the fact that they are voluntary and meaningful for both of you.

Keep in mind, too, that there’s no such thing as a perfect score. If s/he makes it home earlier some nights a week (but not all), celebrate that and let go of the others. If s/he’s improving but let you down once, express your disappointment but be forgiving. This can be tough when there’s a long history of disappointment, but it can teach you vulnerability where you both need it most.

WHEN TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

Working through differences that involve careers and personal time can be difficult. Many couples find themselves fighting as each one blames the other for issues that have built up over time. When discussions turn into repeated arguments, it’s time to find a couples therapist who can create a safe, objective space for you to examine the issues and find shared solutions.

As an experienced marriage counselor, I have helped hundreds of couples address work-life balance issues and I am happy to help you, too. Reach out to me today to schedule a counseling appointment.

Source

Fast Company

Couples in Crisis: How to Support Your Partner Through a Rough Time

When your spouse or partner is in the midst of a personal crisis, do you feel confident that you’ll know how to offer the right kind of support?

Many of the couples I see in marriage therapy struggle to work together effectively during dark times. The reasons for their difficulties usually go far beyond the stressful situation they’re facing.

The partner in crisis may say, “I need a lot more support than you’re giving me right now.” The other may respond, “I am trying to support you, but you don’t notice or appreciate it!” Or, “I wish I knew what to do for you. You’re expecting me to read your mind.”

What is causing these partners to miss each other’s signals? It may simply be that we don’t know what we mean when we ask for each other’s support.

Research conducted at the University of Iowa suggests that the concept of “support” has almost as many meanings as we assign to “commitment” or “love”. A 5-year study of more than 100 newlyweds identified 4 kinds of support:

  • Physical comfort and emotional support — Listening and empathizing, taking your spouse’s hand, offering a hug
  • Esteem support – Showing confidence in your loved one, offering active encouragement
  • Informational support – Offering practical advice, gathering helpful information
  • Tangible support — Taking on responsibilities so your spouse can deal with a problem, helping to brainstorm solutions

After studying how the couples offered these differing forms of support, the researchers concluded that too much of the wrong kind of support led to the thorniest issues.

IT’S POSSIBLE TO BE TOO SUPPORTIVE

To be clear, I want to emphasize that most partners complain about getting too little support, not too much. In fact, the research showed that nearly 75% of male partners and 80% of female partners wanted more support.

However, the group whose marriages suffered the most included couples where the male partner felt he had received too much informational support. (These men were in the 25% who reported they were getting too much input from their spouses.) Many women also said they were flooded with unwanted advice from their partners, which led to anger and conflict.

DEFINING WHAT YOUR PARTNER NEEDS

Have you ever said to yourself, “If my partner really loved me, s/he would know what I need right now?”

Most of us have. But I can tell you that this thinking will sabotage your efforts to get the love and support you require. No partner should have to be a mind reader. In fact, when it comes to marital satisfaction, both partners are happier if the one struggling is clear about the kinds of care and support s/he needs.

If you’re in the supporting role, open a conversation with your spouse. Ask for specifics on what you can do to make life easier. Don’t make assumptions; really LISTEN to your spouse’s answers. Clarify with detailed questions: “If I do research on job options, would that help? Or do you just want me to listen when you need to talk?”

As you work to fulfill your spouse’s requests, talk about what’s working and what isn’t. Make adjustments. If you see yourself trying to fix the problem instead of simply taking care of your partner, move your attention back to your loved one. It isn’t your job to fight his or her battles. You are there to offer compassion, understanding, perspective and (when asked and welcomed to do so), constructive suggestions.

FINDING YOUR WAY THROUGH THE STORM

As a long-time couples counselor, I have helped hundreds of married and committed couples to make their way through difficult times. Adult life has its struggles, but the painful times need not weaken your marriage. In fact, they can serve to strengthen the bond between you as you work together to find solutions.

Many couples find they need professional help when one or both are navigating their way through a crisis. If you are having difficulty and need expert support, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

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Psychology Today

5 Harmful Assumptions Couples Should NEVER Make

All of us make assumptions in our relationships. These “educated guesses” about what our spouses are thinking, feeling or doing may come from influences such as the media or what we’ve learned from family and friends. However, assuming we know where our partners stand — instead of taking time to ask them directly – is a bad habit that can damage and even destroy relationships.

When you rely on your own assumptions, you’re labeling your own thoughts and impressions as facts. In reality, what you’re thinking may be very different from what your spouse thinks or believes.

Assumptions actively block your partner from sharing his or her side of things. Your loved one will feel undervalued and unheard and may resent the actions you take since they’re not based on his or her reality.

Here are 5 assumptions that are especially deadly in relationships. How many of these have you made?

  1. MY PARTNER SHOULD PUT ME FIRST

This assumption conveys the idea that our partner must make us happy. We’re defining love as our partner sacrificing for us.

While it’s important to see each other as a top priority, it’s impossible and unrealistic for you to put each other first in every situation. There may be times when children or family members must come first. Other times, one of you may need to put himself or herself first to recharge your batteries after a difficult day, week or life transition.

You’ll do better if you remember that you are in a partnership. View yourself as a team where both are valued, but realize that shifting priorities mean you can’t always be each other’s absolute Number One. If you do feel neglected, discuss ways to restore the balance of attention and love you both need.

  1. MY PARTNER KNOWS WHAT I’M THINKING

All too often, we believe or partners can read our minds. When they fail to do this – which is inevitable – we assume they don’t love or care about us.

Partners may think they’ve communicated thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires, but in fact, find that they have not been clear about what’s going on inside. Many of us give only hints about our feelings and needs, then blame our spouses for being insensitive.

Another terrible trap is saying something once, then assuming our partners have absorbed everything we were thinking about that issue. Real-life is complex and our partners may need for us to describe something more than once, or in greater detail, before they really understand our position.

The best approach is to be specific and clear about what we think, feel, want and expect. Instead of getting mad when our partners don’t magically guess what we want for our birthday, for example, we can share in advance what our wishes are. If our loved ones listen and try to make those wishes come true, our bond is strengthened.

  1. WE WOULD BE HAPPIER IF WE HAD MORE SEX

Movies, music, and media all emphasize sex, giving us the impression that physical love should be the center of our lives. These messages also suggest that having great sex is simple.

While sexual intimacy is important for healthy relationships, it’s rarely the primary focus. In fact, in my couples counseling practice, I’ve noticed that sexual dissatisfaction is usually a symptom of something bigger.

The larger problem may be a lack of trust or emotional attachment. There might be a medical issue or an addiction – or even a lack of skill when it comes to satisfying a partner’s needs.

Blaming your sex life for the unhappiness you feel only leads to more pressure about sex, creating an even greater distance between you. If you believe sex really is your only issue, talk about why — and be open to discovering other issues that extend beyond the bedroom.

  1. IF MY PARTNER WOULD JUST DO X, Y OR Z, THINGS WOULD BE GREAT

We make this assumption when we’re focused on our own pain, which often motivates us to prove that we are “right” about the difficulties in our relationship. It’s much easier to point fingers instead of looking inward to see what we’re contributing to the issues between us.

This assumption keeps couples stuck. It stops them from listening to each other and realizing that each person has valid perspectives on what’s going wrong.

You don’t have to agree with each other or give up your own perspective. However, you do need to listen to your partner and try to understand his or her point of view. Making room for each other’s feelings is the only way to untangle conflicts and find solutions.

  1. WE SHOULD HAVE FIGURED THIS OUT ALREADY

Many of the couples I see in marriage counseling assume that everyone else has a perfect relationship – or at least one that’s better than theirs. They believe they need to keep struggling on their own until they discover the secret that other couples know.

This is a complete fantasy, and a harmful one. All couples have blind spots and conflicts. Human relationships are incredibly complex! Which is why seeking professional help is healthy. It saves time and, in many cases, it saves relationships.

STRENGTHENING YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS

As an experienced couples’ counselor, I have helped hundreds of married and committed couples learn how to communicate effectively. This work always involves building specific skills that help you check in with each other, making sure you understand what the other partner is thinking and hoping to achieve.

Don’t let communication struggles destroy your relationship. If you’re having trouble and need expert support, reach out to me today.

 

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Psych Central

How Healthy Couples Relate to Their In-Laws

Most married people struggle with in-law issues at some point in time. If you feel your in-laws don’t accept you or they’re critical of your spouse, you are experiencing some of the conflicts that can plague these close family relationships.

Having difficulties with your in-laws doesn’t mean you’re in a troubled marriage, though. Conflict of any kind doesn’t have to derail a relationship. However, handling it badly can create bigger problems. What matters is the attitude you take and the mutual support you bring to the issues.

Here are some pointers on how to successfully relate to your in-laws, gathered from professional therapists who have observed what works – and what doesn’t.

RECOGNIZE THAT YOUR IN-LAWS ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU

It’s wise to remember that your in-laws have their own ways of thinking and relating. Each family has its own culture. It’s not bad or wrong, just different from what you grew up with.

MAKE A SINCERE EFFORT

Healthy Couples understand the role their in-laws play in each partner’s life. This leads to respect for each other’s families. Agreeing to take part in family events and giving your in-laws access to your own family are helpful steps. In other words, make an effort — even if you don’t agree with or understand your spouse’s family dynamics.

COUPLES ESTABLISH CLEAR BOUNDARIES

They have open conversations with each other about their needs and take decisions that support those needs. For example, let’s say your partner has no problem with her mother stopping by unannounced, but you hate it. You might decide that family members on both sides need to call beforehand to make sure the timing is convenient for you.

RECOGNIZE THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS SEPARATE FROM YOUR FAMILIES

No matter how complicated or difficult your in-laws may be, it’s helpful to realize you aren’t married to them. You and your spouse are committed to each other, which means being kind and understanding when things aren’t going well with the family. Remembering that your strength comes from your primary relationship will keep things in perspective for both of you.

UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR VIEWS ARE SEPARATE FROM WHAT YOUR IN-LAWS SAY

For instance, one spouse’s mother may be pushy and critical, but those actions don’t necessarily reflect how the spouse feels. This makes it easier to see the individuals in each family relationship and keep from getting drawn into needless conflicts.

KEEP COMMUNICATION FLOWING

Talking openly about discomfort or conflicts as they come up is the best way to deal with in-law issues. Partners can discuss their own positions and listen to each other. Showing empathy when things are difficult goes a long way in assuring that each person feels understood.

DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY

Couples who have strong relationships can deal with the fact that family members are flawed human beings. They try to understand and accept their parents and siblings as they are – and avoid falling into arguments about things that don’t really matter in the end.

RESPECT YOUR SPOUSE’S ATTACHMENTS TO FAMILY

It helps to view your partner’s attachment to the family as something you should respect — and even celebrate. For instance, if your husband’s daily calls to his dad are important to him, be supportive. It shows that he cares about relationships, and that’s a great foundation for success in your marriage.

TAKE DEEP BREATHS

When you’re about to reach your limit, take a break. Find a quiet spot, like a bathroom, or go for a walk. While breathing, focus on the positive aspects of your in-laws — such as their love for your spouse — and remind yourself that you can’t control or change them.

Your in-laws are important to your spouse, and they’re part of your life. It’s up to both of you to nurture family relationships and enjoy your time together as much as possible.

NAVIGATING THE TOUGH SPOTS SOMETIMES CALLS FOR EXTRA HELP

As an expert therapist who has worked with hundreds of married and committed couples in the Las Vegas area, I can help you sort through complex family issues. There’s no question that conflict in your families of origin can affect your relationship – and sometimes, you need professional help to make sense of what’s happening and offer each other the kind of support that will keep your marriage strong.

To schedule a conversation in my offices, get in touch with me today.

 

Source

Psych Central

8 Habits That Can Destroy Even The Best Marriages

Do you pay more attention to your smartphone than your spouse? Have you been avoiding sex – or hiding big purchases from your partner?

These are just a few examples of behaviors that can do serious harm to your relationship, according to marriage counselors who work closely with couples. The good news is that it’s not too late to retool your bad habits. The first step is to understand the things you’re doing right now that may be pulling you both off track. Here are 8 destructive habits that can cause trouble in the strongest of relationships.

1. ADDICTION

If you or your partner is addicted to anything, on any level – whether it’s social media, food, alcohol, drugs, shopping or gambling – your relationship is in for trouble.

Your addiction quickly becomes a third party in your marriage, drawing energy, attention, and resources away from your partnership. Ultimately, an addiction will make it impossible for you to give the other person what s/he needs.

Recovery from any kind of addiction takes time for both partners, and you may need the help of a professional therapist. Preserving your marriage should be an explicit goal of your work together.

2. AVOIDING SEX

If you’ve slipped into the bad habit of making excuses for the sex you’re not having, your marriage may be headed for trouble. Intimacy is the bond that holds a union together, and when it weakens, so does the relationship.

If you find you’re almost never in the mood, deeper feelings about your spouse may be the problem. You need to feel good about each other to be intimate – so if you’re constantly fighting or criticizing each other, your sex life will suffer, too.

Try concentrating for a month on all the things you love about your spouse. Decide to say “yes” a lot more often than you say “no” when s/he initiates sex. See if a good conversation can’t lead to more. Often, the simple feeling of connection that happens when you talk can create the right mood for intimacy.

3. FAILING TO COMMUNICATE

Do you find that every conversation turns into a battle or quickly fades into silence? That’s a serious red flag for the health of your relationship.

Good communication comes down to asking for what you need. It’s dangerous to expect your partner to be a mind-reader. And if you find you keep getting entangled in the same arguments, it’s a sure bet that you’ve lost the ability to really listen to each other and consider what the other person may require.

4. TREATING YOUR SPOUSE LIKE THE ENEMY

In close relationships, we run the risk of using our partners as punching bags. If you’re having a bad day, for example, you may pick a fight just to relieve the tension you’re feeling.

When you’re cranky and out of sorts, it’s your responsibility to realize it. You may need to ask for some quiet time or find another way to take care of yourself. Making your needs clear, instead of turning your bad mood into a problem for your spouse, is the best solution.

5. GETTING ANGRY ABOUT MONEY

It is often said that money is the root of all evil. Arguing over money is definitely the root of many conflicts in marriage.

Squabbling over finances is the top predictor of divorce, according to research from the University of Kansas. Couples tend to use harsher language when arguing about money and take longer to recover, the study of more than 4,500 couples found.

Researchers recommended that financial planning be part of marital counseling and that couples share their credit reports before marrying.

6. LETTING FAMILY COME BETWEEN YOU

Even if you’re close to your parents, siblings and other family members, you will need to make sure your spouse’s needs come first. This includes the need to keep some information private – and making sure you are not disloyal to your mate in conversations with others.

Once you marry, you and your partner become a primary family, taking priority over others. Make sure you discuss how to set boundaries with each other’s parents and family members. If your families have different styles and traditions, negotiate with each other first, then present a united front.

7. NOT FIGHTING FAIR

Do you spend more time complaining about an issue than working to resolve it? When you argue, do you bring up old hurts so that pretty soon, neither one of you can even remember what started the fight?

You and your spouse will inevitably have some differences in the way you resolve conflicts. But the way you go about settling your differences can either strengthen or tear down your relationship.

Work to establish ground rules that reflect mutual respect and trust. Validate your spouse by acknowledging the points you agree upon and practicing reflective listening. Look for solutions that offer advantages for both of you. Above all, avoid falling into the trap of needing to be “right” all the time. There’s no quicker way to destroy your relationship than placing your own feelings first every time there’s an issue between you.

8. NEGLECTING THE LITTLE THINGS

All of us need reassurance and affirmation on a daily basis. Your spouse looks to you to fulfill those needs – and you depend on your spouse, too, for validation and love. But in the crush of your demanding lives, you may miss the chance to compliment your spouse or handle little favors that make life easier.

Don’t ignore the importance of tender and loving gestures. Everyday acts of kindness are crucial for a successful marriage. Affection, politeness, and sweetness make everything run smoother – and while it takes mindful effort, you’ll find that once you focus on appreciating your partner, it becomes easier and more natural with time.

CREATING THE RELATIONSHIP YOU TRULY WANT

As an expert therapist who has worked with hundreds of married and committed couples in the Las Vegas area, I am ready to help you transform the habits that can be damaging to your relationship. Together, we can explore the deeper issues surrounding these habits and create a plan for a meaningful change.

To schedule a conversation in my offices, get in touch with me today.

 

Source

Everyday Health

Time Together, Time Apart: How Couples Can Find a Healthy Balance

Feeling close to your spouse or partner is often the result of spending time together, doing things you both enjoy. Partners who make it a point to reserve time for each other find that their shared experiences give them a common frame of reference and increase the positive, loving feelings they have for one another.

The amount of time you and your partner spend together is important, of course – but it’s more about how you spend that time. For shared activities to support the health of your relationship, they need to pass a few tests.

THE REAL MEANING OF “QUALITY TIME”

How can you tell if you’re using your time together to full advantage? For starters, the activities should lead you and your partner to interact in a positive way. Even chores around the house or yard can fill the bill if you are engaged and supportive of one another while you’re working.

Secondly, joint activities have to be enjoyable to both of you. Most couples have at least one or two similar interests, so you should be able to come up with things you can do together. If you don’t have shared interests, you can take turns participating in each other’s activities. Keep in mind, though, that fairness and balance matter. Both of you should have an equal vote in choosing activities, and roughly equal time should be devoted to each partner’s interests.

Commitment is also important. If you agree to take part in your spouse’s favorite activity – hiking, for example – you must do it willingly and show genuine interest. This is the art of presenting yourself as involved, even though you may not be as enthusiastic as your partner, for the simple reason you want to make him or her happy.

If you act bored or irritated, you will not only diminish your partner’s enjoyment, but you may find that s/he acts surly and uncooperative when it’s time to do the things you care about.

WHY TIME AWAY FROM YOUR PARTNER IS HEALTHY, TOO

Marriages also benefit when spouses have time for themselves. Personal time helps us maintain our individual identities and gives us a sense of control over our lives. “Alone time” can actually help keep relationships fresh and reduce conflicts over time.

How much personal time do you need for the health of your relationship? No two couples will answer that question the same way. What’s most important is that you discuss and agree on how much solo time you need. When handled correctly, each of you will feel you’re getting your fair share.

Even if couples spend very little time together or very little time apart, the relationship will be healthy if the balance suits both of them. If the partners disagree on how much together and alone time they should have, this can lead to serious conflict. For some, too much time together feels suffocating – while for others, too much time apart makes them feel insecure and lonely.

COMMON DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HUSBANDS & WIVES

In heterosexual relationships, husbands and wives may have different views on how much time should be spent together and apart. In many couples, the wife tends to want more couple time, usually because she sees it as crucial to her marriage and making sure there’s solidarity as a couple. Her husband, on the other hand, may tend to prefer more time on his own.

That’s not to say men don’t want to spend time with their wives. Rather, it may stem from the fact that men tend to have more and better quality leisure time than women. Men are often good at compartmentalizing, so issues they’re dealing with in one part of their lives don’t affect the other parts. They may find it easier to put work and home duties aside and enjoy themselves fully when they’re relaxing. Also, many husbands still expect their wives to handle the majority of home and family tasks – meaning that there is less pressure for them to sacrifice personal time to handle those tasks.

Women who carry the lion’s share of home and family duties may not get enough leisure time on their own. Concerns about family, social and home obligations may be on their minds even when they’re supposed to be taking time off. While some can balance their various roles, some may find themselves unable to turn their sense of duty off. As a result, their personal time may feel more fragmented and much less enjoyable. Because of all their responsibilities, many women don’t feel as entitled to free time as do men. They may feel guilty taking time for themselves, which makes leisure time a source of stress instead of the well-deserved break they need.

Taking restorative breaks is crucial for any marriage. Partners may want to encourage each other to take a mini-vacation from their roles. For example, husbands may give their wives a regular break from home and family duties, taking on 100% of the chores while the wife steps away to recharge her batteries. This works well if both partners keep in mind that a break is in everybody’s best interests. When one partner’s stress is reduced, both partners will see a healthy boost in the relationship.

GOOD COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Balance and compromise are crucial when it comes to deciding how you and your spouse will use your time. A mix of time with friends and family, time together as a couple, and separate time for each partner add to the quality of your relationship. If you don’t feel that balance exists right now, you need to have an honest conversation about what’s missing and how to arrive at a better plan.

Focus your discussion on the practical aspects of time allocation as well as the reasons for the imbalance. For example, if your spouse avoids joint activities with you, find out if it’s the activities themselves or some other reason. Agree to listen without judging each other or getting defensive. While you may not like the answers, you will learn something about your relationship – and this is the first step in working out solutions.

 BUILDING THE RELATIONSHIP YOU TRULY WANT

As an expert therapist who has worked with hundreds of married and committed couples in the Las Vegas area, I can help you work through the issues that surround time together and time apart. Working as a team, we can create a foundation for greater understanding about what each of you needs to feel healthy and whole.

To schedule a conversation in my offices, get in touch with me today.

 

Source

Psychology Today

Money Madness: How Couples Can Manage Conflicts Around Finances

Have you ever clashed with your spouse or partner over money? If you answered yes, you’re in good company. Research shows that financial concerns are a major source of conflict for couples.  According to one survey on stress, nearly one-third of adults with partners reported that they regularly fight about money.

Research also shows that couples’ arguments about money tend to be more intense, more complicated and more likely to remain unresolved than other conflicts.

However, money doesn’t have to be a sore spot in your relationship. With practice, you and your partner can learn to discuss finances in a healthier, more rewarding way.

DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT MONEY

The old idea that opposites attract may be valid, especially when it comes to money. We are often drawn to partners whose approaches to life complement our own. Still, differing beliefs about money can be a flashpoint for couples.

All of us develop opinions about money long before we bring our finances together with a romantic partner. Studies show that we inherit attitudes and values about money from our parents and family members. We may not even be fully aware of our beliefs about spending and saving.

At the beginning of a relationship, many couples discuss their views on marriage, children, and careers. Yet they rarely sit down to discuss their financial views and goals.

The good news is that it’s never too late to have that conversation. Whether you’ve been in a relationship 10 weeks or 10 years, talking about your money history is a great way to figure out how to handle your finances together. Here are some questions to get you started.

  • What did your parents teach you about money?
  • What are your financial goals?
  • What are your fears about money?

Having a clear, detailed view of your partner’s beliefs can set the stage for discussions about your joint finances.

COMING TOGETHER AS A TEAM

When it comes to financial responsibilities, couples don’t always work smoothly together. In the stress survey mentioned earlier, only 33 percent of respondents said both partners share an equal role in making money decisions. Only 23 percent said that the management of household finances is shared equally.

It’s normal for couples to divide the work of living together, and financial chores are often part of this. One partner might handle daily household spending while the other focuses on long-term savings and investments. But those roles can work against each other if there isn’t consistent communication between both partners.

To avoid conflicting money roles, some couples trade the jobs back and forth. One month, you might manage household expenses and your partner might focus on savings and investment. The next month, you can swap roles.

Another good option is to share roles equally. Set up a regular time each month to pay the bills, review expenses and talk about savings. Try to schedule something fun for after the meeting. If you know you’ll be going out to dinner or the movies later, your money date will feel less like a chore.

AVOID USING THE “B” WORD

As you and your partner talk about household finances, stay away from the word “budget”. Some people have negative associations with this word, which may set up a feeling of deprivation. Instead, aim to have a spending plan. Agreeing on how to save and invest your money will make for a much more satisfying conversation.

If your discussions become tense, take time out and come back later. Remember, you and your spouse may not always see eye to eye. But with good communication and a clear understanding of each other’s values, you can find common ground.

YOU CAN OVERCOME MONEY DISPUTES

It’s not uncommon for couples to have the same argument again and again, especially when it comes to money. As an expert therapist who has worked with hundreds of married and committed couples in the Las Vegas area, I am ready to help you gain perspective. Together, we can explore the deeper issues surrounding your beliefs about money and create a foundation for greater understanding and teamwork to help you achieve your financial goals.

To schedule a conversation in my offices, get in touch with me today.

 

Source

APA.org