Posts

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 love music. I can’t sing well or play an instrument but I find peace and comfort in songs. My wife and I were headed to Birmingham for Thanksgiving and “Fresh Eyes” by Andy Grammer came on. I had heard this song but never really listened to it. He talks about how his relationship had gotten mundane, to the point of feeling like roommates.

This struck me because my wife and I went through this stage. Early in our marriage as we both chased careers, we fell into a period of feeling like roommates. The fire we had as we were dating fizzled and we weren’t being intentional with our relationship. This can be a danger to married couples. We have to intentionally focus on one another, connect and communicate.

I have had several moments throughout our almost 13 years of marriage where I see my wife through fresh eyes. It’s like falling in love all over again, every time. I feel like that 16-year-old kid.

If you want to keep the fire sizzling, be intentional about connecting with your spouse. It’s all about the little things. Hold her hand, genuinely tell her you love her, tell her how beautiful she is…always. Pursue her like you did when you were trying to make her your girlfriend.

The fire will never sizzle when I see my bride as my 16-year-old self did.

Image from Unsplash.com

Is date night dead? Date night may need some serious resuscitation. Redbook magazine found that 45 percent of couples rarely have date nights, while only 18 percent said they go out once a month.

This is sad news, since marriage experts say you can keep your marriage strong, healthy and adventuresome by spending regular time together doing something you both enjoy. Couples who intentionally spend time together often marvel at the positive impact it has on their marriage and family.

An astonishing 80 percent of marriages crumble, but it’s not because of something huge. It’s because they say they have become disconnected.

According to The Date Night Opportunity, a report by the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, couples who devote time specifically to one another at least once a week are way more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates.

How can a simple date actually help a marriage? 

Researchers say date nights provide opportunities to talk that may help couples deepen their understanding of one another and the relationship. Couples who engage in new activities that are fun, active or otherwise arousing — from hiking to dancing to travel to card games — enjoy higher levels of relationship quality. They also counteract the tendency to take each other for granted. Regular date nights may especially benefit couples who do more than the old standby of dinner and a movie.

Date nights may also:

  • Strengthen or rekindle that romantic spark in order to sustain the fires of love.
  • Strengthen a couple’s sense of commitment to one another. Partners who put each other first, steer clear of other romantic opportunities and cultivate a strong sense of “we-ness” or togetherness are happier than less-committed couples.
  • Relieve stress. They allow a couple to enjoy time away from the pressing concerns of their ordinary life.
  • Give couples an opportunity to support one another emotionally in trying times.

The report found that couples who spend time together at least weekly:

  • Are about three times more likely to say they are “very happy” in their marriages;
  • Report higher levels of communication and commitment;
  • Express higher satisfaction with their sexual relationship than couples who spend less couple time together.

If you haven’t been planning date nights, maybe you could try it out for the next six weeks. Consider setting aside an hour or two each week for a little adventure. If you don’t have a clue where to start or just need some fresh ideas, here are some tips.

Agree not to talk about the kids, your job or the in-laws. You don’t have to spend a ton of money – just play together! At the end of the six weeks, discuss any changes you have experienced in your relationship.

“Couple time” can make a serious difference in your relationship. Try it and see for yourself.

***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.***

Marital health has a variety of implications- financial, legal, and… grammatical. Pardon my background as an English teacher, but the grammar of marriage fascinates me. Any marriage counselor will tell you that they pay close attention to the pronouns they hear in the office. The pronouns of marriage have important implications, as well as some lessons, if we are are willing to brush up on our grammar.

When two people are dating, there is a “Me” and a “You”. If all goes well, and both “You” and “Me” are willing to say, “I do,” the new pronoun that matters is “We.” This “We” signals the wonderful reality that two separate individuals have formed something beautiful that never existed before. Two have become one. And now words like “We” and “Us” become charged with a significance that takes a lifetime to explore and enjoy.

My wife Monica and I took to calling our We, “Team Daum.”

(Feel free to come up with your own, much more creative name.) We would often say to each other, “It’s Team Daum against the world.” It was a reminder that we had a relationship that we both needed to cultivate and protect. It isn’t always easy. “Me” comes much more naturally. Each of us had to commit to do the work to move past our “Me” and get to “We.”

As our children came along, they were added to the team. And as parents, we were making decisions on behalf of a “We” that included all seven of us. We would sometimes huddle up like we were about to play a big game and put our hands together and cheer “One, two, three – GO TEAM DAUM!” Now, our kids grew out of that real quick, but when they were little, it was a fun way to visualize that the family “We” was bigger than any individual “Me.”

There are times in every marriage when “I” is in direct conflict with “We.”

The health of your marriage and your family is going to hinge on which pronoun wins. In any team sport, when an individual player puts their own agenda ahead of what is best for the team, the team will suffer.

What does the grammar of your marital health look like? Is it all “Me,” “My,” and “Mine?” Are there a lot of accusations of “you always” or “you never?” Are you cultivating and protecting the “We” that was created on your wedding day? All the best stuff in my family has happened when there was no “I” in “Team Daum.”

***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.***

Margery D. Rosen wrote Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage, a book based on her Ladies’ Home Journal column, “Can this Marriage be Saved?” She interviewed hundreds of couples whose marriages were in distress and appeared hopeless.

“The book is a compilation of columns over the years as well as information from social scientists to help couples have hope,” Rosen says. “All of the stories are true. I actually interviewed husbands, wives and their therapists. Interestingly, the main topics for couples in the 1950s and 60s are the same struggles couples deal with today. While the specifics of the story change from month to month, the circumstances that can shake the foundation of a marriage remain the same.”

Here’s what Rosen found when she asked why some marriages burn out and others burn on.

“The phrase ‘intentional commitment’ comes up often, the conscious desire and choice to make a marriage last,” Rosen says. “While commitment and acceptance don’t get a lot of press and they’re not the stuff of sound bites on the network news, it is clear that marriages are stronger when couples focus on what they like and appreciate about each other rather than what irks them. Happy couples argue, get depressed, lose jobs, battle over disciplining the kids. But their sense of we-ness over me-ness allows them to encourage each other during the good times and empathize during the bad.”

Rosen’s research revealed that the issues couples struggle with boil down to these seven topics:

  1. Trust
  2. Communication
  3. Fighting fair
  4. Power struggles
  5. Money
  6. Sex
  7. Balancing parenthood

Rosen believes these topics hold the secrets to hope for a lasting marriage.

Here’s a taste of the wisdom from couples who made their marriage work under very difficult circumstances.

Trust.

Trust is the cornerstone of a healthy, deeply satisfying marriage. In a trusting relationship, partners are honest with each other. Deceit does not shadow their words and actions. They don’t sacrifice a partner’s needs for their own or pursue their own goals at their mate’s expense.

Communicate.

Over and over again, communication problems rank as the number one cause of marital strife. “We’re just not communicating,” is a common lament. In many cases, couples think they are communicating, but the messages do not get through. In this area more than any other, couples can learn and practice specific techniques and strategies for sharing ideas and feelings. This can initiate dramatic changes in the way they relate.

Fight Fair.

People who live together are likely to disagree. Numerous columns showed that it is possible to direct anger constructively to improve a marriage rather than destroy it. A key step is for each person to recognize their part in provoking and sustaining the anger.

Defuse Power Struggles.

Power struggles permeate every relationship. Being able to recognize marital power struggles is a key step in defusing them. Equally important, however, is understanding why a partner is so desperate for total control. Ultimately, the only lasting way to defuse a power struggle is to learn to accept each other fully, without competing, criticizing or blaming.

Be Money-smart.

Surveys identify money matters as the top trigger for everything from the occasional marital skirmish to all-out war. Money symbolizes power and control, love and security, as well as self-esteem and accomplishment. Couples who navigate best through financial issues consciously chip away the emotional veneer surrounding them and honestly discuss finances. They express what they need, what they want and how they can best attain these goals. They also discuss how to live with the anxious uncertainty that they just may not.

Make Love.

A couple’s sex life is in one sense a barometer of their marriage. The stress of work and family obligations can physically and emotionally exhaust husbands and wives so much. As a result, they forget the importance of expressing love and tenderness outside and inside the bedroom. Couples with vibrant sex lives understand that the passionate, romantic love they felt at first becomes a more enduring, but equally satisfying love.

Team Up .

Most couples are unprepared for the transitional changes of parenthood. The arrival of children and their unignorable demands often propels couples into therapy. Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage finds that a couple’s relationship is their child’s blueprint for intimacy. By watching their parents, kids learn about themselves and relationships.

“It takes courage to face marital problems head-on,” Rosen says. “Can this Marriage Be Saved? proves that both partners can transform their actions and reactions. That openness and ability to change brings them a giant step closer to where they both want to be.”

Looking for more? Check out 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.***

Have you ever thought about how today’s amazing technological advances affect relationships?

There are very few places where you can’t technologically connect in some way. You can place calls whenever and wherever. It’s fairly inexpensive and there are no additional fees. In real-time, you can show or tell anyone what you are eating, post your latest fashion escapade or something that just happened. Who would have guessed you can actually conduct business halfway across the planet with someone you may never meet in person?

Why would anybody need to read books anymore or memorize anything when with a few keystrokes the information can be on a screen in front of you? The world has never been so flat when it comes to communicating.

How does all of this technology impact relationships?

What if you get an email from a friend who lives out of town who is really struggling? Inventions like Skype or FaceTime make it feel like you are practically there live and in person, which is good. But does it replace being able to hug someone when things are tough?

Do you remember calling home from college once a week to talk to your parents? It required remembering all that happened during the week before and that also meant there were many things you had to figure out on your own because mom and dad weren’t available at the drop of a hat to give you their best problem-solving maneuver. So—how are young people impacted by constantly being able to be in touch with their parents when life gets challenging versus taking a stab at trying to figure it out for themselves?

Have you ever experienced miscommunication in a text message? For example, take the word “fine.” You text your spouse saying you want to go out to eat tonight. Your spouse replies, “Fine.” There are tons of ways to interpret that word and the person’s intent behind it.

How about boundaries? At first, constant connectivity was super-exciting for everyone. Now people realize that being reachable anywhere and anytime may not be so great. Constant pings at the dinner table can make it challenging to have meaningful conversation with family and friends.

There is a fair amount of chatter these days about how digital devices and other technology have changed thinking and behavior. Is technology overload a thing? Does constantly switching back and forth between incoming text messages, email and the task at hand affect attention span? Has creativity diminished?

And, have we replaced meaningful conversation with friends and family with photos and the snippets of life we see on Facebook?

Ask yourself. How can you enhance your most meaningful relationships if you change or limit the way you currently use technology?

Is your marriage unexciting and dull? Have the feelings you had for each other on your wedding day become a distant memory? Do you ever look at other people and envy the spontaneity and freedom they seem to have? If so, you aren’t alone.

According to marriage experts, many couples enter into marriage with the expectation that it will always be exciting and romantic.

Then careers, children, in-laws, and other demands come along and often throw couples for a loop. They begin asking themselves questions like, “Did I marry the wrong person? Why should I stay in a relationship when I am not happy? Did I marry for all the wrong reasons?”

“Love is an interesting emotion,” says Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. “It begins with what I refer to as the ‘tingles.’ You are emotionally obsessed with someone. You go to bed and wake up thinking about him, and have a hard time getting anything done because you can’t get him off your mind. This is accompanied by irrational thinking, believing that this person is perfect and there is nothing more important in life than being with him/her. Some people tell themselves that they will never be happy without this person in their life.

“This is accompanied by an illusion of intimacy. When you encourage couples to attend a marriage education class, they look at you like you are crazy to suggest working on the relationship since they believe their relationship doesn’t need any work. The illusion of intimacy blinds people to their differences in things like taste, values, music, priorities, etc.”

Emotional obsession, irrational thinking and illusion of intimacy lead to faulty conclusions such as, “I will never be happy unless we are married.” According to research, these feelings are not always permanent. The average lifespan of an obsession is two years—then people come off their high.

How does this relate to a ho-hum stage in marriage, you might ask?

When the “in-love obsession” subsides in marriage, people begin to see what they didn’t see before. All those things that were so cute when you were dating now get on your last nerve.

“Many couples are shocked by their loss of feelings for each other and are traumatized by conflicts,” Chapman says. “In many instances, they have no idea how to deal with the conflicts. The conflicts lead to fights. Then they think things like, ‘I wish I had married the other person.’ Walls go up and there is a loss of intimacy. Each person can give volumes of evidence as to why their spouse is at fault for the failing marriage.”

Then it happens. In the midst of your marital struggles, someone else comes along. The person is funny, spontaneous, full of life, neat, etc. He/she seems much more exciting than your current spouse. This person seems to have all the qualities you love in a person and you get the tingles all over again.

“This is when people start thinking ‘I never did love her’ or ‘I got married for all the wrong reasons,’ to convince themselves that their marriage was not right from the beginning and to somehow justify divorce,” Chapman says. “The problem is, they don’t understand that in two years they could potentially be in the very same place. Some people marry multiple times because every time they get the tingles they think they’ve finally found the right person.”

So, what do you do?

  • Recognize the tingles for what they are—they aren’t always trustworthy.
  • Keep your guard up—when there are troubles at home, you are vulnerable to misinterpreting the attention of others.
  • Seek out professional help from someone who is marriage-friendly.
  • Be leery of those who want to give you advice—even people with the best intentions can give you BAD advice.

Understand that it is normal to experience ho-hum stages in your marriage. Even the healthiest of marriages go through this. The key is to recognize it and do something about it. The ho-hum phase should be temporary. You really can feel the tingles again for your spouse.

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 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.***