Friday, August 19, 2011

Tough time in your marriage? 7 helpful tips

Are you angry with your spouse? Are there ongoing issues that try your patience, compassion and love? You may want your marriage to work, but are out of ideas of how to fix the issues. I have been providing marriage counseling for over twenty five years and have put together these helpful tips:

1. Communicate. There are different ways you can communicate. Talk honestly about what is happening. Each of you can share what you are experiencing. If talking doesn’t work, write letters or get a licensed therapist to facilitate a dialogue. Even if it is hard to communicate keep on trying.

2. Create a vision of the solution. If you made a video tape of how your marriage would look when your issues are resolved, what would be on the tape? How would you and your partner feel, what would you being doing and saying to each other? What would be different?

3. Express your authentic feelings, how you truly feel. To the best of your ability, listen to your partner’s feelings with an open mind and a lot of love. You may be surprised to find you both have similar feelings.

4. You may both want the same things, peace of mind, to be loved, appreciated, supported and respected. When I listen to couples fight, underneath the anger and stories I hear hurt and a longing to be accepted and loved. When you fall in love you often feel “now I have a safe place, someone who will be there for me, and support me”. When this does not happen, you feel disappointed and need to blame someone. To some extent, these unspoken expectations are there for everyone.

5. Work together. You can work together and share the journey as you move in an agreed upon direction. Continue to communicate and share your vision for the relationship. This is an ongoing process. Keep practicing.

6. Instead of looking at your partner’s behavior, look at yourself. What are you doing to block what you want in the relationship? Change your behavior.

7. Learn how to move past disappointment. Everyone will at some point in your relationship, disappoint you, (not live up to your expectations). We are only human. After experiencing disappointment, learn how to repair the martial connection and continue on the road towards your vision (what you saw on the video tape).

Make the commitment to work through the tough times. Having a partner who works towards a shared vision can bring many rewards. Having a companion who shares the tough times, as well as the good, is all part of marriage.

THE GOOD NEWS: Your marriage will often be stronger after you work thorugh the tough times.

*as seen on

Does it feel like you and your spouse live in different worlds?

In a study reported in the book Rapt by Winifred Gallagher couples were given a checklist of events and activities and asked to mark ones that had occurred during the course of the week. The list included items like fights, lovemaking, issues with children and so on. The data revealed the percentage of agreement between husbands and wives was at the level of mere chance. Your spouse is experiencing an entirely different world from you!

How does this happen? Your experience of the world depends on where your attention is focused. We all have selective attention. What you focus on is what you will remember.

What determines what you pay attention to? Attention is determined by many factors, both conscious and unconscious. Each one of us is unique. Your past, your beliefs about the world and your self all influence what you focus on. This creates an individualized experience of the world.

For example if you get a new hybrid car, all of a sudden there seems to be many hybrid cars on the road. Your attention is now focused on noticing these hybrids cars. Before you bought one you never paid attention in this way and did not notice as many hybrids.

How can you benefit from this knowledge? Realize how important communication is for your relationship. Without communication, sharing your feelings, perceptions, and thoughts you lose the connection with your partner. You stay in your separate worlds.

Learn how to communicate with your partner, pay attention to them and listen to what and how they have experienced the world. Invite them into your world and be willing to enter theirs. Neither view is objectively “right”.

Communication will increase intimacy and satisfaction in your relationship and it just might expand your world.