Tag Archives: marriage advice

A blog about why marriages don’t work by Anthony D’Ambrosio has been popping up in my social media news feed over the last couple of days. You can read it here. His stance is that nowadays people are not equipped to handle marriages. While that may be true for some couples, it doesn’t mean that marriage as a whole doesn’t work. I’m a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and my practice is solely devoted to love – from helping singles find it to helping couples keep it (and make it awesome!).

 

Anthony has a limited perspective, almost an all-or-nothing take on relationships. It’s not as simple as falling in love and sharing your life with someone (if that were the case, I’d be out of a job). One of the messages I make clear to my clients is that love is not enough to sustain a relationship. If it was, the divorce rate wouldn’t be as high as it still is. My couples do love each other, so why isn’t that enough?

 

I’m a huge advocate of marriage education and teaching couples the skills they need to make their relationships the best they can be. More and more research shows that marriages can last, and they can remain passionate and intimate – and not miserable and phony as Anthony thinks. People need knowledge and skills to be better equipped to handle the current stressors battling modern marriages. I often ask my clients, “Who taught you how to have a healthy marriage? Your parents? Hollywood?” We all don’t have stellar examples or role models, but we can learn things to be a better partner, a better communicator, and have better intimacy.

 

Anthony’s points can be addressed and worked through, especially with some solid marriage counseling, research-based self-help books, marital workshops, etc:

 

  • When working with couples, sex comes up a lot in my line of work. Yes, Anthony’s point is right that it is an important component and can be one of the most intimate things a couple can share. I’ve worked with sexless marriages and it’s not as simple as his take that couples simply neglect it; there are so many reasons couples don’t have sex. I often see mistaken beliefs that the passion is supposed to last without effort, you should only have sex when you’re in the mood, or you should never schedule sex. Some of my clients who are parents are scared that their child will walk in on them – something a lock on the door can fix. For other people, there is a lack of an emotional connection, which couples have to work on every day, even if for brief moments, since our busy, stressful lives get in the way of that. Some partners stop asking for sex because of the fear of rejection; it’s not that they deliberately want to neglect it. And if you think it’s easy, ask your partner for sex every time you want it and see how deeply vulnerable it makes you.
  • With his point about finances, yes they can be a major stressor. Fighting about money, such as disagreeing to what degree money should be spent or how it should be spent, can slowly chip away at positive feelings and cause disconnection. But money and the stress around it can be managed to protect positive feelings and keep a couple connected – it’s what I frequently help my couples with. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money on gifts or vacations to feel loved and cherished. It’s not always about the money but about being thoughtful. I’ve worked with a lot of women who have said, “Anita, he could buy me a single rose and make me the happiest woman in the world. Just knowing he was about me is what matters.” What’s the cost of a single rose? $2.99? Have one less Starbucks latte and you’re good to go.
  • For some of my couples, technology keeps them more connected to their partner. Being able to text throughout the day and stay updated on each other’s lives deepens their connection. For others, Anthony makes a solid point about feeling disconnected; my clients do tell me that they feel neglected and alone because their partner’s phone seems to be an extension of their arm. This can be worked through. I frequently talk with my couples about the importance of being intentional in their relationship or marriage. I encourage them to set aside time to talk with each other every day, to plan date nights and celebrate special moments in their lives. It can even be as simple as making the bedroom an “electronics-free zone” to carve out time for each other. If it’s not intentional, it’s easy to get caught up in family demands, work deadlines, general fatigue or other obligations.
  • Social media is here to stay, and posting on Facebook or Instagram doesn’t mean you’re craving fame, that you won’t be satisfied with attention from only one person, or that your marriage can’t be sacred because everyone sees what you had for breakfast. I think we all look for validation, don’t we? And who doesn’t expect to get some kind of validation from their partner? He or she is the most important person in our life! But if we look to social media for that instead of asking or getting it from our partner, that potentially could be a problem. However it’s up to each person to decide the impact social media has on them and their relationship, to determine what’s healthy and what’s not, what works and what doesn’t. We’re all impacted in different ways, and that’s where effective communication is important, which can be learned if it’s a problem in your relationship. And as for keeping your marriage sacred, you can still post your photos while on vacation, where let’s say….you are renewing your wedding vows. What a hopeful thing for the world to see.

Love isn’t something that is self-sustaining. It has to be nurtured. It’s ok to get stuck and ask for help – whether from each other or a professional. We are wired to connect with a special someone. We want a loving bond full of trust, commitment and an intimacy that differentiates it from other relationships. And that, my readers, is something that is attainable for each and every one of you. Sometimes we’ll just need to get some extra knowledge and tools to get that, but marriages today absolutely work.

Featured in the Chicago edition of Attorney at Law Magazine:

When I argue with my spouse, she complains I am treating her like a witness I am cross-examining. She gets defensive and the tension escalates. Nothing ever fully resolves and we both shut down. I feel like we now avoid arguments rather than solve them. What can we do?

Having communication issues is one of the main problems couples face. In order to minimize getting trapped in the cycle you described, there are two main points to keep in mind.

First, although I don’t have specifics about what you and your wife disagree about, from my experience getting to the point of shutting down and not resolving anything is over perpetual issues. These types of issues include how money should be saved or spent, degrees of cleanliness and organization, how to discipline children, etc. They account for about 70% of the conflict that couples have. Perhaps surprisingly, they aren’t solvable because they are rooted in fundamental differences between people based on factors such as backgrounds, personality, experiences, and life goals and dreams. The good news is that you don’t have to expect to fully resolve most disagreements with your wife.

Instead, these kinds of problems need to reach a compromise. Managing the inevitable differences between you and your wife in this way will be key to your marital happiness.

Some couples believe they have to see eye-to-eye with their spouse, but this is unrealistic. We each have subjective realities and as I tell most of my clients, you’re probably both right. You want the focus to be on deepening your understanding of your wife’s reality instead of supporting your own case (and hopefully she will do likewise).

Since you’ve gotten to the point of not dealing with an issue to avoid an argument, I recommend that you try to listen without aiming to solve anything. Make a conscious effort to find out why your wife’s stance is important to her. No judging or criticizing, but truly getting an understanding of why that is her position – maybe a particular need, value, want or dream makes this especially significant to her. She also has to work on doing the same. The point is not necessarily to agree with each other’s view, but instead to understand it. Once this takes place, you are much more likely to reach a workable compromise. Respecting each other’s perspective and seeing its value can help you break out of your current cycle.

The second thing to consider when communicating is the timing of your talk. Getting to that point of shutting down is dangerous for a relationship and needs to be avoided. Once you hit that moment, rational thought is next to impossible. As your disagreement escalates, you stop hearing what the other person is saying. Your mind refuses to let you listen because instead it focuses on potential warning signs and escaping the situation. You’re also unable to understand your wife’s perspective or empathize. Bottom line is that it leads to the inability to access the necessary tools to effectively communicate.

It’s important to stop the argument before either of you shuts down, so call a time-out when you start feeling overwhelmed. Take at least 20 minutes, do something that calms you down, and resume the conversation once you’ve both cooled off.

Conflict should not be about who’s right and who’s wrong, who wins and who loses. It should center on respecting each other’s different points of view, to find an understanding on what you both need and compromising. In this way, your marriage can always win.

In my line of work as a relationship expert, I work with cheaters. Some are funny, others volunteer, and some go to church every Sunday. Some coach their child’s sports teams, others take care of their elderly parents, and some are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. Some research shows that, at a minimum, at least 50% of all couples will be affected by cheating.

 

It can happen to you.

 

No relationship is immune from infidelity. There is a lack of education about cheating, especially around how and why it happens. I find myself repeating the same things to my clients and continually debunking myths. Talking openly about the “reality” of infidelity is one of the best ways of protecting a relationship from it.

 

Myth 1: Only immoral people cheat.

Reality: Good people cheat. People are harshly judged for stepping outside the bounds of their relationship. Yes, they made a bad choice, but it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. Two of the most common things I hear are: “I never thought I would cheat” from the betrayer, and “I never thought s/he would cheat” from the betrayed partner. If you assume that both you and your partner can cheat, you can be more aware about threats and risky situations.

 

Myth 2: If there’s no sex, it’s not cheating.

Reality: There’s a different kind of affair that’s been on the rise – the emotional one. It usually starts as “just a friendship” but then a deep, passionate connection grows as time goes on. People can fall in love before realizing just how far they’ve crossed the line. Warning signs your “friendship” may be heading toward an emotional affair: You don’t tell your partner when or what you talk about with this person, and you’ve started divulging personal information about your partner to him or her.

 

Myth 3: You only cheat if you’re unhappy.

Reality: One of the ways people leave their relationship vulnerable to infidelity is by assuming that only unhappily coupled people cheat. Not so, as my clients often tell me, “I thought we were happy.” For some, cheating is less about happiness and more about sliding across boundaries. Opportunity is one of the leading variables of infidelity.

 

Myth 4: Affairs happen because of sexual attraction.

Reality: My clients often tell me they weren’t even attracted to the person they ended up cheating with. Research shows that the affair partner isn’t any better than the spouse, just different. If you assume you need sexual attraction, you’re more likely to minimize the close emotional relationship you’re developing with another person.

 

Myth 5: A marriage is irreparable.

Reality: As painful as an affair is on a marriage, healing and recovery are possible. Many of my clients tell me that the affair was a “blessing in disguise.” Often I hear that spouses talked more in the aftermath of an affair than they have all year, or they realized they have been taking each other for granted and needed a wake up call. Although the process is not easy, surviving infidelity and making your marriage better than ever is achievable.

 

An affair can happen in any relationship. Awareness of these 5 myths and the reality of each can help keep you both faithful to each other.

You meet someone new. You think about them all the time and can’t wait until the moment when you see them next. You can’t eat, sleep or concentrate. You check your phone a hundred times a day to see if you missed their call or text. You feel energized like never before, you have butterflies, feel nervous and worry about what you do or say when you’re with this new person. You’re in the romantic love stage of a relationship and it feels so wonderful and magical and you want it to last forever.

 

But it doesn’t. The spark faded, the thrill is gone. Now what?

 

You may panic, wondering if you made a mistake or if you’re not meant to be together. You should always have those feelings for someone if you’re in love, right? Research says no. For every relationship, it’s natural and normal for the I-can’t-stop-thinking-about-you feelings of romantic love to fade over time. In fact, on average, it only lasts about 18 months.

 

The couples I work with commonly talk about dampened desire, getting too comfortable and being bored. It’s easy for a relationship to feel stuck in a rut. It may sound unromantic to have to create the conditions to reignite passion with your partner, but it can be achieved:

 

  1. Give each other space. When you initially met, you probably didn’t know what your partner was doing every day. You fantasized about what they were up to during your time apart, eagerly awaiting the time you could be together again. Now that you’re in a relationship, you spend more time in each other’s company. Although that’s important for you to maintain a connection, you also need time apart. As the Poet Kahlil Gibran recommended, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” You need some degree of separateness from your partner in order to maintain passion and desire from them. When a reward (the reward being your sexy self) is delayed, it increases brain chemicals that help stimulate romantic passion. Take different classes, engage in different hobbies or take a night off to do your own thing. Missing each other is a good thing.
  1. Get out of routine. Some of my couples call each other at the same time every day, or have date night the same night of the week. With routine comes boredom or a sense of obligation – “It’s that time, I have to call her….” It can be tough to feel hot and heavy for your partner when you also feel bored. Mix it up! Go to a comedy show on a weeknight or take a Ferris Bueller Day and play hooky with your partner. Variety is key to keeping things fresh. Do a boredom check – studies show that boredom predicted declines in relationship satisfaction over time. If one of you is bored, brainstorm what you can change up.
  1. Do novel things together. Do you ever wonder if the Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants really mean it when they profess love to each other so quickly? Believe it! Studies show that exciting experiences not only enhance attraction, but couples who do thrilling things together feel more satisfied in their relationship. Develop a variety of interests, especially those that both of you would find exhilarating. For some of you it may be skydiving or a day riding roller coasters, but even going to an event last-minute or playing tourist in your own city can work, too. Add some fun challenges to your relationship. Do you and your partner root for opposing sports teams? Place bets and loser gives winner a massage or makes dinner. Just remember to keep it light and playful!

The bottom line is that effort is required to maintain passion. Giving your relationship space to miss each other, adding variety and sharing in new experiences can all boost your relationship out of any rut.