Posts

How do you know if love will last? Some say you don’t, that it’s just luck of the draw if your love lasts over time. Many believe that the more a couple has in common, the more likely they are to be compatible over time. Others say, not so fast.

With more than 40 years of love and relationship research under their belt, The Gottman Institute says that whether love will last is more about how couples address their differences and support one another’s needs and dreams. And it all starts with these 8 conversations for couples.

In studying successful couple relationships and couples whose relationships fail to thrive over time, The Gottman Institute found that people connect and fall in love by talking. John and Julie Gottman and their co-authors, Doug Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, discovered eight crucial conversations that couples need to have.

These must-have conversations can either help couples know that love will last or help rekindle a love that has become lukewarm. The authors made the topics into dates for the book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

These conversation-based dates have the potential to help couples increase understanding and commitment regardless of how long they have been together.

The topics for discussion include:

  • Trust and Commitment. Trust is cherishing each other and showing your partner you are reliable. Choosing commitment means accepting your partner exactly as he or she is, despite their flaws.
  • Conflict. Conflict is a part of every healthy relationship. There is purpose behind it and it is an opportunity to take your relationship to a deeper level.
  • Sex and Intimacy. Romantic, intimate rituals of connection keep a relationship happy and passionate. Couples who talk about sex have more sex.
  • Work and Money. Money issues usually aren’t about money at all. Instead, they are about what money means to each person. Learning what money means to each person can help take your relationship to a totally different place.
  • Family. It is not unusual for relationship satisfaction to decrease after the birth of a child. The decrease often continues with each subsequent child. Couples who maintain their sexual relationship and learn how to manage conflict in a way that builds up their relationship can avoid this drop in relationship happiness.
  • Fun and Adventure. People are often so busy “adulting” that they underestimate the importance of play and adventure in their relationship. They are vital components to a successful and joyful relationship. While couples may not agree on what constitutes play and adventure, learning more about the one you love can be part of the fun.
  • Growth and Spirituality. The only constant in a relationship is change. How each person in the relationship accommodates the growth of the other partner is key. Relationships can be more than just two individuals coming together. They can be stories of transformation and great contribution and meaning to the world.
  • Dreams. Honoring each other’s dreams is the secret ingredient to creating love for a lifetime. When dreams are honored, everything else in the relationship gets easier.

The Gottmans contend that every strong relationship is a result of a never-ending conversation between partners. This book about must-have conversations will guide you through how to talk and how to listen in a way that will benefit you as individuals and as a couple.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

Want to take date night up a notch?

DISCOVER A DEEPER LEVEL OF INTIMACY IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY WITH HOT LOVE.

This premium on demand virtual date night guides you and your spouse to learn the secrets to growing deep intimacy. You’ll work together to learn…

  • Tools to reframe your mindset
  • Ways to discover and remove roadblocks to intimacy
  • Strategies for turning up the temperature

“Money, money, money. That’s all we seem to argue about.”

“She spends too much money at the grocery store on stuff we don’t need.”

“He always wants to eat out.”

“She’s always buying new clothes.”

“We’re not buying the furniture he wants. It costs too much.”

“He won’t let me loan my sister a few ($500) dollars.”

“She should get a better job.”

“He should get a better job.”

Countless marriage experts have documented that one of the top reasons couples give for divorce is – you guessed it – fighting about money. If that’s the case, why is the world’s richest couple, Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of Amazon) and his wife, getting a divorce when they have all that money?

I’ve noticed in my 14 years of marriage that although we have had countless discussions, arguments and conflicts about money, wait for it… the issue isn’t really money.  But if it’s not, then why do we fight about money so much? And why do we think it’s about money?

First, let’s recognize that every couple is different and there is no blanket answer. However, we know that our spending habits often reflect what we value. And if we disagree about what we should spend money on, then we disagree about what we value. And what I value is at the core of who I am and no one has the right to tell me what I should or shouldn’t value. Right?

For example, maybe I shop a lot because I value my appearance, because to look good is to feel good. Or maybe I value my independence and freedom and don’t like to feel controlled. Maybe I want to spend as little money as possible because I need to feel secure and if there’s no money in the bank, then I feel insecure. The issue wasn’t money in any of those instances. Instead, it was the symptom of a deeper issue.

If you feel like you’re fighting about money all the time, here are three things that can help:

  • Start with understanding what you value and your attitude toward money. There are tons of resources you can use, but I think Sybil Solomon’s Money Habitudes can really help you gain insight into your own personal habits and attitudes toward money. Check it out, and trust me when I say that your marriage will thank you.
  • Don’t forget to add in a little lightheartedness. Things like this Financial Would You Rather game from Annuity.org can help you get the ball rolling about some important conversations while keeping it fun.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Do ask questions. I’ve learned to ask some simple questions when we discuss money matters in my marriage. When my wife I disagree about a purchase, I may humbly and non-judgmentally ask, “Why is that particular purchase/outing or whatever important to you? Help me understand.” I’ve learned a lot from that question. And it doesn’t mean that we always end up buying it. But now we are communicating and understanding what we value, not just what we want to spend money on.
  • Seek to understand. (Did I mention that being humble really helps?) Perhaps your spouse has already spent money on something you believe was unwise, and you’re really unhappy about it. Before you accuse them and tell them they were irresponsible, inconsiderate or uncaring, check your own attitude first. Take a deep breath and ask why they thought that purchase or expense was so important at the moment. Humility + a non-judgmental attitude = Progress

Being humble and staying out of the judgment zone when it comes to spending can be a major win because the right attitude communicates that we care deeply about our partner, and NOT just about the topic at hand. Plus, moving past the symptom to the deeper issue is a major accomplishment you can both feel good about.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

As you gather with friends or family, chances are good that at some point you will encounter some difficult conversations this holiday season, such as politics, faith, raising children, immigration, or… you fill in the blank. While emotion surrounds these topics, it is possible to have civil conversations about any one of these things with capacity to agree to disagree and remain friends or connected as family.

Keeping the following things in mind can help create more civil conversations:

  • Remember that what you believe makes perfect sense to you, but other people have reasons for why they believe the way they do. Instead of shutting them down, ask questions to help you better understand why they believe the way they do. You may still walk away from the conversation shaking your head, but having a reasonable conversation may lead to better understanding on both sides of the fence. Many of these issues are not cut and dry; they are often deep and complicated.
  • Your words are like a construction site; they can either build people up or tear them down. You have the opportunity to be respectful and gracious regardless of the topic at hand. When children in the room watch you navigate a complicated conversation in a respectful way, you are teaching them. Whether you believe they are paying attention or not, they are more than likely taking in your words and your every move.
  • Speaking respectfully makes a difference. If you demean, degrade and disrespect the person you are speaking with and then walk away from the relationship, they will have one less person in their life who has a different perspective that could elicit thought-provoking conversations.
  • Self-control is key. We are all in charge of our own emotions, actions and behaviors. Even when people are disrespectful toward us, we can choose to respond in kind or to do something different. It absolutely takes two to tango, but it only takes one person to change the dance. If you refuse to escalate and meet like behavior with like behavior, it becomes a different kind of conversation.

In the end, we must figure out how to live civilly with people who don’t think exactly like us. Thinking about those difficult conversations during the holidays ahead of time can help you handle those topics with confidence.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Every time I introduce myself to a group, I always lead with the fact that I have been married for 24.5 years. I often see wide eyes and hear deep sighs after that. Then I tell them we’ve been together for 30 years, which is often longer than some of the participants have been alive. Some will even give a round of applause. I say my husband needs a standing ovation for being with me all these years.

As we move toward our silver anniversary, I’m thinking about and reminiscing on the things that allowed us to make it when so many didn’t make it to five years, much less 25, especially since my husband and I are so very different. I think there are two main things that keep us together.

For us, quitting is not an option.

We’re both from families where our parents stayed married for many years. My parents were married for 35 years before my mother died. My in-loves will celebrate 56 years of marriage in August. Plus, our grandparents stayed married for 50+ years. We saw marriage lived out in all of its complexities, and I saw my parents stay together through ups and downs. When I was a child, my parents came close to the point of divorce. Seeing them happy and in love as an adult reinforced my view that marriage is HARD WORK. But it is so worth it.

We choose to accept and respect the differences we have.

From the very beginning of our relationship, my husband and I were different. He liked Lakers’ Showtime of the 80s while I was a fan of the Bad Boys of Detroit. I loved pro-football and he was big college fan. I am an extreme extrovert who loves being around a lot of people while he is much more comfortable around a small group of close friends.

For a long time, I wanted him to act more like me. I thought it would make our relationship better if we liked ALL the same things. I now realize and respect our differences. If I were with someone JUST LIKE ME, one of us would certainly be unnecessary. The fact that we are not the same and see things differently makes us STRONGER. We lovingly and consistently challenge each other to see old things in a new and unique way.

No matter where you are in a relationship, it’s important to love and accept your partner for who they are without spending all of your energy into shaping them into the image you want them to be. If they are not who you want them to be, or if their actions don’t mesh with you, you have another difficult decision to make.

Perhaps the person who needs to change isn’t them; it just might be you.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

David and Claudia Arp believe that fun in marriage is serious business. They have written several books on marriage together, including the 10 Great Dates series, and they love helping couples jazz up their marriage.

“In our 30-plus years of marriage, we have learned important things like, if you don’t say what is on your mind when it is on your mind, it may not be there later,” says Claudia. “We have also learned that it is critical for people to be intentional about having fun in their marriage. Most of us lead such busy, stressful lives that many times there is very little left over for the marriage, especially when it comes to anything fun. When the fun dies in a relationship, it is hard to keep the marriage alive.”

Through the years, the Arps have made it a point to enjoy each other’s company and to have fun.

One time when they got lost, instead of getting irritated with each other, they realized they were lost together. The kids weren’t with them, so they decided to make it into a 30-minute get lost date.

“We believe it is important to model a healthy relationship for your children,” says David. “Research has shown that the level of a couple’s friendship is a determining factor in whether their marriage will go the distance. In order to keep a friendship alive, you have to nurture it.”

The Arps have many good ideas to help grow the friendship in marriage, including this fun assignment: Kiss for 10 seconds in the morning before leaving for work with your eyes wide open. When you return home in the evening, do the same thing.

The key is to understand that you can turn any situation into a date, even a frustrating one. For example, you can go on a flu shot date. Or, if you find yourself in an airport with an extended layover, go to a gate where a plane is getting ready to take off. Pretend you are saying goodbye to each other. Once the plane leaves, move on to another gate and start all over again. You can do this for as long as your layover allows.

If your marriage could use some jazzing up with a heaping helping of fun, these great dates can build a stronger friendship into your marriage.

  • Take a trip down memory lane. Remembering your past can energize your relationship for the future.
  • Celebrate your differences. Reclaim that unity and diversity you felt before you married. List ways you are alike and ways you are different. For all the ways you are alike, figure out how to compensate for those areas. For all the ways you are different, determine how you can make sure the differences complement your marriage relationship instead of creating friction.
  • Make a date to talk about “us.” Lots of couples talk over each other. They talk about the kids, work, community service, etc. On this date, the Arps encourage couples to talk about “you.” Talk about positive things, your hopes and dreams, what you want your marriage to look like.
  • Have an encouragement date. Verbalize all those things you keep in your head, like when you think he looks really good, but you forget to tell him or when she cooks a great dinner, you think about how great everything tastes, but you never say anything.

“A number of years ago, we moved our office and David gave in to using an answering machine,” Claudia says. “The past few days had been rough so I decided to leave a message of encouragement for David on the new answering machine telling him I was really looking forward to seeing him at home and suggested some activities we could do.

“What I didn’t know is that David had some friends at the office who ended up helping him install the answering machine.

“Then they all went out to lunch. When they returned, one of his friends noticed he had a message. David hit play and the whole group proceeded to listen to my message. When it finished, the friends turned to David and wanted to know who that woman was leaving that kind of message on his machine. My red-faced husband tried to convince them it really was his wife. Needless to say, we have had more than a few good laughs over that one!”

Jazzing your marriage up is serious business! To find out more ways to create fun and adventure in your marriage, take look around our website.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Over the past 30 years, Gary and Carrie Oliver have worked with literally thousands of couples. Some were preparing for marriage while others were trying to figure out how to make their marriage work. “Every couple we have worked with began their marriage with a proclamation of their love and commitment to stay together ‘until death do us part,’” says Gary Oliver, psychologist and co-author of Mad About Us: Moving from Anger to Intimacy with Your Spouse.

“In many cases, the couples we worked with talked about being madly in love with each other. But over time the madly in love feeling turned to feelings of being mad at each other. The vast majority of failed relationships have at their core the inability to understand differences, deal with the emotion of anger in healthy ways and engage in healthy and constructive conflict.”

Close to 90 percent of people say they want to marry. Clearly, people want to be in relationships. Most married couples will tell you, however, that differences that were so fun and attractive while dating tend to cause marital conflict.

“More than 96 percent of the people we have worked with view conflict as negative and something to be avoided at all costs,” Oliver says.

He has spent thousands of hours playing referee for couples who do not understand that there is both unhealthy and healthy conflict. As a result, responding instead of reacting can make all the difference in the world. He says that conflict pushes buttons of fear, hurt and/or frustration, and things tend to get very personal. “When people feel misunderstood, the relationship doesn’t feel trustworthy or safe. Needless to say, this does nothing to build intimacy in a relationship.”

Misunderstanding anger is one big issue the Olivers deal with as they counsel couples.

“Anger is a complex emotion,” Oliver says. “One of the major reasons why the emotion of anger has gained a primarily negative reputation is that there is so much misinformation about what anger is and can be. We only tend to hear and read about unhealthy expressions of anger. It’s tragic that the mostly incorrect and inaccurate misinformation far outweighs the true and accurate facts regarding this powerful and potentially positive emotion.”

Consider these common myths (and facts) about anger.

Myth: If you don’t look or sound angry, you don’t have an anger problem.

Fact: Just because you don’t look or feel angry, or because your friend wouldn’t describe you as an angry person, does not mean you don’t have an anger problem. Anyone who does not understand and appreciate the potential value of anger may have a problem with it.

Myth: Anger always leads to some form of violence, so it is never good to be angry.

Fact: Anger does not always lead to violence, nor is it always a bad thing to be angry. The key is to understand and control this emotion rather than letting it control you.

Myth: Expressing anger to someone you love will destroy your relationship. Anger and love just don’t mix.

Fact: Being aware of your experience of anger and choosing to express it in healthy ways can actually increase mutual understanding, It can also help, strengthen and enrich your relationship.

Myth: Spiritual people don’t get angry.

Fact: Anger is a fact of life. Everyone experiences it. If you want to be smart and healthy, choose to understand your experience of anger, then express it constructively.

Myth: The best way to deal with anger is to stuff it. Expressing anger breeds even more anger and leads to loss of control.

Fact: When in doubt about what to do with your experience of anger, don’t stuff it. Healthy expressions of anger allow you to deal with the root issues and decrease anger. They are constructive and lead to greater control.

Myth: The best way to deal with anger is to dump it. Just get all of that anger out of your system. You and everyone else will be better for it.

Fact: When you are angry, take the time to understand your experience of anger. It can help you express it in a healthy and constructive way.

“Most couples we worked with were surprised at the degree to which they have believed many of these myths and the degree to which these myths have negatively impacted their marriage relationship,” Oliver says.

“In fact, my wife and I both realized that neither of us grew up with models of what healthy expressions of anger looked like. Learning how to express anger in healthy ways tore down walls of fear, hurt and pain. It also helped us build bridges of understanding and trust that became the pathway to deep levels of intimacy in our marriage.”

Read Mad About Us, Part 2.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Read Mad About Us, Part 1 here.

Almost daily, unhealthy anger causes some kind of devastation. It could be anything from child abuse or domestic violence to road rage, or to children methodically preparing to harm their teacher. The emotion of anger in and of itself isn’t the problem, though. When people allow themselves to be controlled by this powerful emotion, it can become unhealthy and cause harm to others.

“We have to continually remind ourselves that anger is energy and energy is neutral,” says Gary Oliver, clinical psychologist and co-author of Mad About Us: Moving From Anger to Intimacy with Your Spouse, with his wife, Carrie. “We have total control over how we choose to express our anger, so we can choose to express this emotion in unhealthy or in healthy and constructive ways. Plus, we can choose to spend the anger-energy by expressing it in ways that hurt ourselves and others. Or, we can choose to invest the anger-energy in building a healthier relationship.”

The Olivers believe that anger can be an alarm or warning sign that we need to look at some aspect of our lives or relationship. It can serve as a powerful source of motivation. Healthy anger provides the power to protect loved ones, and healthy anger can lead to more intimate relationships.

“Disagreements usually involve the emotions of fear and/or hurt and/or frustration. These are the primary emotions that lead to the secondary emotion of anger,” Oliver says. “Anger sets most people up for conflict – and most couples don’t know how to do conflict well. Couples can choose to spend their anger-energy by dumping, blaming, attacking or walking out. Or they can choose to acknowledge the fear, hurt or frustration and invest their anger-energy in seizing the opportunity to better understand their spouse.”

For example, Oliver spoke with a couple in the middle of a serious conflict. The husband made a comment at a party, and his wife responded with a joke about it. Her response embarrassed him in front of their friends. He was making a serious point and, she spoke without thinking about how it would impact the situation. Since this was not the first time she had done something like this, her husband was hurt, embarrassed, marginalized and frustrated.

When they headed home, the wife asked him what was wrong. Although he initially denied being upset, he releases his frustration after several questions.

In working through Oliver’s seven conflict management steps, they discovered that the wife had no idea he was being serious. The husband realized that his wife didn’t intend to make him look bad, but his friends started laughing and he felt naked, exposed and embarrassed in front of them. As they talked, the wife truly felt bad and apologized. This was a landmark conversation for them because they were actually able to talk through what had taken place and understand each other. Then they set a new direction for how to manage their conflict.

Couples who develop the healthy habit of working through differences often find that listening, asking questions, listening again and asking more questions leads to understanding. Additionally, it provides a window into each other’s hearts and a pathway to greater intimacy.

“When you know someone loves you enough to take the time to understand you rather than take a walk out the door, you know that person’s love is not a shallow, superficial, conditional love,” Oliver says. “That type of love makes a person feel safe and secure. This type of security leads to an increase in trust, which creates the perfect environment for deep levels of intimacy to grow.”

If you’re seeking to more effectively manage the conflicts in your marriage, try these seven steps:

  • Define the issue. Listen and seek understanding. Whose issue is it? Is there more than one issue involved? What is my spouse’s core concern? What is my core concern?
  • How important is it? On a scale from 1 to 10, with one being low-ticket and 10 being high-ticket, how important is this?
  • Ask yourself, “What is MY contribution to the problem?”
  • Do I need to apologize or ask for forgiveness?
  • Choose radical responsibility. Don’t wait for your partner to reach out and seek understanding—be willing to take the first step.
  • Choose what both of you can do differently.
  • Make changes and review them.

“Healthy conflict is good,” Oliver says. “When a couple has a disagreement and one person takes the time to listen even if they think the other person is wrong, that says to their spouse, ‘I value you and you are important to me.’”

It isn’t always about agreeing on something. When you know your spouse is trying to understand what is going on, it increases your sense of value and safety.

One of the best ways to go from being mad at each other to “mad about us” isn’t reading books on new sexual positions. Instead, it’s about creating a sense of trust and safety within your marriage. A spouse who feels understood will feel safe and be willing to trust. Consequently, that trust leads to the deeper levels of intimacy every person longs for. Guaranteed!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

What makes a marriage really work? Is there any way to guarantee that love can last forever? Here’s how you can get your marriage off to a great start.

It has been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

Many people are in love with the idea of marriage. However, many couples fail to prepare for inevitable bumps in the road ahead. Some are just not ready to handle the tough times. Before you take a walk down the aisle, consider making some wise choices that will help ensure a successful marriage.

Get premarital education

Education allows couples to identify potential areas of conflict and discuss them before saying “I do.” Experts say that some premarital inventories can predict with 80 percent accuracy which couples have the potential for divorce. These inventories can give couples an idea of what issues to work on, therefore avoiding the divorce pitfall. Premarital education can resolve some important issues before they get out of hand and make it easier to seek help down the road. Some of the most hotly debated issues among couples are finances, in-laws, sex, employment, expectations and children.

Learn how to resolve conflict and communicate effectively.

How you manage conflict is a strong predictor of marital success or failure. Danger signs include withdrawing or leaving during an argument, attacking the other person’s character instead of focusing on the problem, and escalation. When you listen to each other and talk as friends, you can learn a great deal about your partner and what is important to them. Resolving problems together is a win/win situation that encourages intimacy in the relationship.

Learn what your partner expects from marriage.

Knowing what you expect from each other can prepare you for the years ahead. Unrealistic and unmet expectations often lead to resentment. Knowing what to expect and how to meet each other’s needs can be the glue that holds your marriage together.

Be committed to the permanence of marriage.

Commitment, as well as love, is a choice. Couples who believe that divorce is not an option are less likely to take steps toward ending their relationship. In addition, older, more experienced couples can provide much wisdom and support through the years. Sometimes, mentor couples can give insight on handling difficulties constructively within the marital relationship. Marriage is not a 50/50 relationship, as we often hear. It requires 100 percent from both partners. If you want to make your marriage last, it must be a top priority for both of you.

Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

(And get a discount* on your marriage license at the same time!)

Preparing for Marriage is an online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! From communication to intimacy, conflict to in-laws, we unpack 8 fun and fast-paced lessons in short videos that will provide you with all the essential tools to create a thriving marriage.

Plus you’ll have access to healthy relationship experts, Reggie & Lauren, by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!


*Must live in a qualifying state where a discount is offered on your marriage license for completing premarital education or counseling.