Tag Archive for: Marriage Help

An angry wife greeted her husband, who was late getting home again from work, as he walked through the door. As was their usual pattern, an argument followed. This has been an ongoing issue between the two for several months with no apparent resolution in sight. It is obvious that some fear impacts their marriage.

In Gary Smalley’s book, The DNA of Relationships, Smalley wrote that the external problem couples tend to argue about over and over again is rarely the real problem. Believe it or not, many couples argue about superficial issues, never actually getting to the real problem for the duration of their marriage.

Smalley contends that this is a destructive dance many couples are involved in and it stems from fear.

“We have found that most women have a core fear related to disconnection – they fear not being heard, not being valued, somehow losing the love of another,” said Smalley in his book. “Most men, on the other hand, have a core fear of helplessness or feeling controlled – they fear failure or getting stepped on. We noticed that the common core fears are all related to two main primary fears: the fear of being controlled (losing power) and the fear of being disconnected (separation from people and being alone). Without identifying your own core fear and understanding how you tend to react when your fear button gets pushed, your relationships will suffer.”

The tardy husband had no way of knowing that at the core of his wife’s anger was the reality that her father used to come in late from work because he was seeing another woman. While she and her husband argued about his tardiness, the real issue – her fear that he might be cheating on her – did not surface until much later.

Smalley’s book encourages people to do a self-examination to determine their core fear. Maybe it is rejection, feeling like a failure, being unloved or being humiliated, manipulated or isolated.

Couples who are dancing the fear dance know the steps well. The cycle begins when your feelings get hurt or you experience gut emotional pain. You want to stop feeling this emotional pain and you want the other person to stop treating you in such a way that “causes” you to feel this pain. You fear they won’t change, so you react and try to motivate them to change. In doing so, you start the same process in the other person.

“The fear dance can start with discussions of sex, money, in-laws, disciplining children, being late, etc.,” Smalley wrote. “People fall into patterns of reacting when their buttons are pushed. Most people use unhealthy reactions to deal with fear. Most of us try different ways to change the other person’s words and actions so that we will feel better. As a result, our relationships are sabotaged. It’s how you choose to react when your fear button is pushed that determines harmony.”

So, how do you break the rhythm of the fear dance? According to Smalley, these steps can help:

  1. Take control of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Your thoughts determine your feelings and actions.
  2. Take responsibility for your buttons. You choose how you react when someone pushes your fear button.
  3. Don’t give others the power to control your feelings. Personal responsibility means refusing to focus on what the other person has done. The only person you can change is yourself. You can stop the fear dance.
  4. Don’t look to others to make you happy. Don’t fall into the “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” myth. Come to relationships with realistic expectations.
  5. Become the CEO of your life. You can’t force people to meet your needs, but when you express legitimate needs to others, they can choose to step in to assist you.
  6. Remember that forgiveness heals relationships. Taking personal responsibility means confessing your wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness. You also forgive others.

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV 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.***

5 Ways to Say “I’m Sorry”

Saying "sorry" may not be enough.

Have you ever seen someone say, “I’m sorry” in front of a group of people? Typically, one person thinks the apology sincere while others thought it was not. If so, you are not alone. 

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology, people speak different love languages and they also speak different languages of apology. Even when someone says they are sorry, in many instances the other person may not hear it as a sincere apology for a number of reasons.

“Most people are looking for specifics in an apology—and unless they hear it or recognize it, they don’t trust it,” says Chapman. “The person who has been hurt needs to know for certain that the apology is genuine. But how do we communicate such sincerity? Therein lies the problem. What one person considers a sincere apology may not sound, or actually be, sincere to another person.” 

Apology is about validating the other person’s feelings when they feel hurt or wronged. When you start the process of forgiveness, you’re on your way to reconnecting.

The five languages of apology are:

  • Expressing regret. This is the emotional aspect of an apology. People who speak this language believe it is important to acknowledge that you offended them. Then you must express your own sense of guilt, shame and pain that your behavior has hurt them deeply. Actually being able to say “I am sorry” is very important to a person who speaks this language. 
  • Accepting responsibility. In this instance an apology means accepting responsibility for one’s actions and being willing to say “I was wrong.” This is often very difficult because admitting you are wrong can be perceived as weakness. 
  • Making restitution. For an apology to be genuine, it isn’t just about saying “I’m sorry.” Instead, it’s all about making things right for a person who speaks this language. They want acknowledgment of the wrongdoing and they want to know what you are going to do to make it right.
  • Genuinely repenting. The word repentance means “to turn around” or to change one’s mind. If a person speaks this language of apology, they are expecting that you not only apologize, but that you will seek not to repeat the offense again in the future.
  • Requesting forgiveness. A person who speaks this language believes that an apology not only includes “I am sorry,” but also a request for forgiveness. Requesting forgiveness indicates to some that you want to see the relationship fully restored.

When they say, “I’m sorry,” they accept responsibility for their behavior and seek to make amends with the offended person. A genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation so the relationship can continue to grow. Without an apology, the offense sits as a barrier, diminishing the quality of the relationship.

“A husband shared with me that as soon as he read the book, he understood what went on in his marriage,” Chapman says. “He explained that his language of apology is expressing regret. If his wife said that, he considered the situation put to rest. But if he said ‘I’m sorry’ to her, she had trouble forgiving him. He even lectured her about letting go of things once an apology had been offered. He didn’t understand why she would want to hold on to these things. After reading the book, he realized her language of apology is making restitution. He never thought about what he needed to do to make it up to her. She would say to him, ‘Well, you think you can just say ‘I’m sorry’ and things will be just fine. But things aren’t just fine.’ He really needed to ask what he needed to do to make this up to her.”

Chapman encourages people to determine their language of apology and share it with their spouse, family members and co-workers. 

“I encourage people to make a little cheat sheet so that when an offense occurs toward a spouse, child, family member or co-worker, they know what language of apology to speak to that particular person,” Chapman says. “Good relationships are always marked by a willingness to apologize, forgive and reconcile.”

 

***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.***

Infidelity has rocked many marriages, and unfortunately, you might think that cheating is inevitable in marriage. According to psychiatrist and author Dr. Scott Haltzman, however, that is just not true. Preventing infidelity is possible.

“Affairs are complicated,” says Haltzman. “Very few people actually set out to cheat on their spouse. After conducting research in this area, I have found that infidelity has to do with a combination of Need, Opportunity and Dis-inhibition, the ‘NOD.’”

Need

People often report that the need for respect, sex, validation, attention or an escape led them to look outside their marriage for satisfaction.

“I met a sports trainer in California who told me he had had 20-30 affairs with women,” Haltzman says. “He thought he was being helpful, stating he gave them attention, listened, appreciated what they were going through, and made them feel good about themselves. ‘I was giving them what their husbands weren’t.’ This is not helpful. People who leave a marriage because their needs aren’t being met show no higher level of happiness five years after ending the marriage (unless they are victims of abuse or they are in a second marriage).”

Opportunity

There are more opportunities than ever before to be near the opposite sex. The most common place for affairs to begin is the workplace, followed closely by the gym.

“One particular opportunity that has trumped everything else when it comes to affairs is the internet,” Haltzman says. “Ten years ago, only 6 percent of affairs began or were perpetuated by the internet. Today, 65 percent of affairs are initiated or maintained through the internet.”

Dis-inhibition

This is a medical term to describe people who are unable to suppress their impulses. Many years ago, a researcher conducted an experiment with children. He placed a marshmallow in front of them and told them he’d be back in five minutes. If they waited until he returned to eat the marshmallow, he would give them an additional marshmallow to eat. Almost all of the kids struggled. Ten years later, the researcher followed up on the children. The ones who could not suppress their impulses with the one marshmallow were more likely to drop out of school and get in trouble with the law.

“This trait continues into adulthood,” Haltzman shares. “So when this person is presented with an opportunity to cheat, they are at greater risk for impulsive behavior.”

So, how can you start preventing infidelity?

  • Examine your needs and determine what needs aren’t being met. Some needs may never feel met. What can you live without? What can you do to have your marriage fulfill those needs?
  • Reduce the opportunity to cheat. Avoid conversations about your spouse with members of the opposite sex. Don’t go to lunch alone with a co-worker of the opposite sex. If you sense an attraction to you, move away.
  • You have a responsibility to your marriage to learn to control your impulses and maintain appropriate boundaries.

“People don’t just end up in affairs,” Haltzman asserts. “There is a ‘NOD’ between two people that they are willing to go there.”

 ***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.***

In his song Too Cold at Home, Mark Chesnutt sings, “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for golf and too cold at home.” Even if it’s boiling outside, it can be cold at home when it comes to your marriage.

Over time, many people seem to be willing to let sexual intimacy fly right out the window. Yet experts tell us that healthy intimacy is foundational to long-lasting, loving relationships.

In a letter to Ann Landers, a woman wrote about how her parents could not afford a honeymoon so they made a promise. Every time they made love, they would put a dollar in a box and on their 50th anniversary they would take a honeymoon trip to Hawaii. In spite of hard times, they never took money out of the box. Some nights the husband would come home from work exclaiming he had a dollar in his pocket. His wife would tell him she knew just how to spend it!

When each of their children married, they gave them a box and shared their secret. The couple took their 50th anniversary trip to Hawaii for 10 days and paid for everything from the money they saved in the box. As they were leaving on the plane, the husband turned and said, “Tonight we will start working on a trip to Cancun!”

Many pieces of recent research cite how much humans crave intimacy, but many married couples experience a void in this area due to hectic schedules, children (young and old), jobs, stress, etc. Whether you have been married a few months or many years, sex can be exciting, adventurous, fun and creative. 

You may be asking yourself how that couple made and kept intimacy in their relationship a priority for 50 years…

Well, if you’re looking for ways to stoke the fire of passion in your marriage, you might want to think about some things:

  • Do you always make love in the same place, at the same time in the same way? If your answer is yes, consider doing something different to spice things up.
  • Describe what a romantic time with your spouse would be like. What would be your spouse’s description of a romantic time together? If you don’t know the answer to this question, do some detective work and find out.
  • Does your spouse do romantic things that you really like? If yes, tell him/her so. If not, help him/her to know what you like.
  • Consider sending love messages to your spouse during the day. Stick-it notes in the wallet, voice mail, e-mail, lipstick messages on the bathroom mirror, a special delivery, flowers with a message, a snail mail letter, or a note on the dashboard are all great ways to communicate “I love you,” “Let’s get together,” or “Looking forward to this afternoon.”
  • People find all kinds of creative ways to flirt when they are dating. Think about some of the ways you used to flirt with your spouse. Consider resurrecting those that worked best. The outcome might pleasantly surprise you!

According to Dr. Paul Pearsall, author of Super Marital Sex, “The marriage comes first. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work and play all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice, because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes. If it is true that we reap what we sow, then marriages are in big trouble—if we put as much time in our working as we allow for our loving, we would end up unemployed or bankrupt.”

If the temperature on the thermometer outside is not reflective of the passion level in your relationship, get creative. Be adventurous and take it up a notch when you stoke the fire of passion in your marriage. Even if the passion in your marriage is nonexistent, it can get good. And if it is good, it can get even better!

 

 

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.***

When David and Ellen* married, Ellen never suspected David might be an alcoholic.

“We had a large time with friends and family,” Ellen says. “I knew he drank a lot, but it didn’t cause issues for us. I never felt unsafe. My life looked very normal to everyone around us. David was a good provider and the good far outweighed the bad in our marriage.”

In 2004, David and Ellen moved to Atlanta with their 6-month-old daughter. While Ellen noticed behaviors in David that raised red flags, she didn’t think it was a big deal.

“I noticed David was drinking more at night,” Ellen says. “In addition to David being super-stressed at work, I was terribly lonely and did not want to be away from my family. We had some knock-down drag-out fights which I attributed to both of us having too much to drink. Several times I left and stayed with my parents for a while. When I came home, we both apologized and life went back to normal. The fights were few and far between. We did not realize they were warning signs of things to come.”

In 2008, the couple moved to Chattanooga feeling like this was a great opportunity to advance their lives.

“I convinced myself that a new house, more money and getting out of Atlanta would help our situation. As time unfolded, things remained the same. We had great times and really bad times. Sometimes I wondered if I was crazy because life could go along for so long and be wonderful, then wham.”

In 2012, Ellen began to notice a significant difference in David’s behavior.

“I honestly believed he was having an affair,” Ellen says. “He was unhappy with everything including me and drinking seemed to be the only thing to help him cope and relax. Finally, David acknowledged he had a problem and tried outpatient treatment. Shortly after that he quit his job of 20 years, convinced that was the problem and took a new job in Louisiana. At that point, I was ready to do anything to get my husband back, even leave Chattanooga and friends I loved to support him.”

In Louisiana, David was only home on weekends, and he hid his drinking well. Unfortunately, things went south pretty quickly. After months of living in denial, Ellen finally acknowledged her husband was an alcoholic. Now with two children, she decided she could no longer live with David. She left with the stipulation that if he went to treatment she would commit to trying to salvage their marriage.

“While I was gone, David got a DUI and was fired from his job,” Ellen says. “Once again he entered treatment. When he came home, we made a plan to move back to Chattanooga. David found a job pretty quickly. I knew he was having relapses, but I overlooked them thinking that if I could just be a better wife, I could make him better. I now know that was not true.”

In 2013, David’s life spiraled completely out of control. While David was away on a business trip, his co-worker notified Ellen that David had called to resign from his position—and it sounded like he planned to take his life.

“At this point in our marriage, we are barely speaking to each other,” Ellen says. “I had no idea where he was and I had no interest in going to find him. I was actually determined not to go—I was tired and had rescued him one too many times. My heart was done with him. Something in my core kept saying, ‘Show him grace one more time.’ I resolved that I did not have to be nice to him, but I had to go get him one more time and then I could be done with him.”

Read part two of Addiction and Marriage for the rest of the story, and find resources for those who struggle with addiction in their marriage.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

***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.***

Here’s what some couples say are major issues to deal with in marriage, according to a Life Innovations survey of 21,501 married couples from every state. 

  1. Problems sharing leadership
  2. One partner is too stubborn
  3. Stress created by child-rearing differences
  4. One partner is too negative or critical
  5. Feeling responsible for issues
  6. One partner wishes the other had more time
  7. One partner wishes the other was more willing to share their feelings
  8. Avoiding conflict with partner
  9. Difficulty completing tasks
  10. Differences never feel resolved

Building a healthy marriage means that you have learned to turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones. Build on your strengths and find ways to creatively address your differences. Conflict management/resolution skills are crucial.

In strong marriages, both partners say:

  • they feel free to share their feelings and ideas,
  • their partner understands their positions,
  • they take disagreements seriously, and
  • they work cooperatively to resolve conflicts.

The happiest couples said they were satisfied with the way they communicate, find it easy to express their feelings and find their partner to be a good listener. They note that their partner doesn’t use put-downs.

 

***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.***

It was an all-too-familiar conversation. Jody went to see a marriage counselor hoping to receive guidance for getting her marriage back on track.

“After seeing the counselor twice, he told us, ‘You have three choices. You can separate for a period of time, file for divorce or keep on working,’” says Jody. “We were looking for someone to work with us on a specific plan for our marriage. Instead, we got a totally neutral counselor who didn’t seem to care whether or not our marriage survived. We weren’t neutral about wanting to save our marriage. He was.”

According to Dr. Willard Harley, psychologist and author of numerous books including the internationally best-selling book, His Needs, Her Needs, this is not unusual.

During one woman’s first visit with a therapist, she specifically said that divorce was not an option. However, at the end of the 50 minute-session, the therapist told her he thought she really should consider divorce. There was no violence in the marriage – simply love gone cold.

“People who seek help from marriage counselors usually assume that the goal of therapy is saving the marriage,” says Harley. “Unfortunately, most marital therapists are specifically trained to be nondirective or neutral. They see themselves as someone couples can talk to, but not someone who will coach them into changes that will ultimately save their marriage.

“How can a plan possibly achieve its goal when there is no goal?” Harley asks. “It’s no wonder that most marriage counseling is so ineffective.”

This does not mean that couples should not seek help. In fact, Harley encourages troubled couples to find a marriage counselor to help save their marriage.

“Couples need to understand that there are times when even the strongest of marriages needs additional support and motivation. Frequently, only a professional marriage counselor or marriage educator can provide that,” Harley says. “An effective marriage counselor or educator will help you avoid or overcome intense emotional trauma associated with a failing marriage, create a plan that will help your marriage, and motivate you to complete that plan.”

Whether your marriage is in significant distress or just in a tough spot, Harley’s tips can help you pick an effective marriage counselor.

  • Before setting up the first appointment, ask certain questions to make sure the counselor will help you accomplish your goals of making the marriage mutually fulfilling.
  • Ask to schedule a 10-15 minute phone interview. If the counselor is not willing to have an initial phone conversation, eliminate that counselor from consideration.
  • During the interview, ask about the following:
    • What is your goal for our marriage? (Answer: To help you both achieve marital fulfillment, and save your marriage).
    • What are your credentials and years of experience in marriage counseling? (Answer: a graduate degree in mental health (Master’s or Doctorate in Psychology or Social Work, with clinical supervision in marriage counseling).
    • This is our problem (briefly explain). Do you have experience helping couples overcome that problem, and what is your success rate? (Answer: Experience helping couples overcome that particular problem with more than 75% success).
  • After both spouses have a chance to speak to a few potential counselors, Harley suggests choosing the one that answers those questions appropriately. Then set up your first appointment.

Jody and her husband ultimately decided to divorce.

Looking back at the whole scenario, they question if divorce should have even been an option. At the time, they both felt hopeless about their marriage. Without a recovery plan, divorce seemed to be the only answer for them.

If the counselor had given them a plan to save their marriage, they might be happily married today. They will always wonder if a more encouraging counselor would have helped change the course of their family’s life.

 

***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.***

I cannot tell you how many times something I did or said bothered my wife, and that stayed on her mind all day long. Over and over it plays in her mind…

Why did he say that? What was he thinking? He made me feel like this… What he did bothered me because… He must’ve meant something different… How does this affect our children? and on and on.

At the end of the day, I get home from work having no idea what she’s been internally processing all day and then she asks, “Can we talk?”

Very early in the conversation I realize that: a) I had no idea that she was bothered by something I did or said and b) she’s obviously been thinking about this all day. So, I do what any unsuspecting spouse would do. I say, “Can we talk about this later?”

There’s a whole lot behind this question that I believe some spouses, usually ladies, do not understand. Research suggests that ladies naturally process their feelings, thoughts and emotions out loud and on the fly. And that’s a good thing. That’s why when I ask my wife, “Can we talk?” she generally embraces it because it means we are about to connect. She doesn’t mind chatting with me about feelings, even if she doesn’t initially know the direction the conversation is headed.

Research also suggests that men do not do as well processing thoughts, feelings and emotions out loud in the midst of the conversation, especially without being forewarned. We need space and time to understand our own place in any given issue. That’s why my “Can we talk about this later?” question was meant to be interpreted as, “I need some time to mentally revisit what caused the issue, think through why I may have done or said it, and gather my thoughts so that we can have a conversation that is truly reflective of the type of relationship we desire to have.”

Ladies, I know it’s hard, but give him a little space to process before you talk. Then, choose a time the two of you agree on (within 24 hours, but the quicker the better), and revisit the conversation so that no issue becomes bigger than your relationship.

 ***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.***