Tag Archives: marriage

 5 Tips For Finding Out Where Your Relationship is Going

How to talk about marriage

 

I won’t beat around the bush. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I’ve seen it time and time again. Some men keep a woman in a relationship for years, hinting at marriage as a “someday” thing when really they have no intention of following through.

This is why it’s important that you know where you stand, so you don’t waste your time. Even if it doesn’t go the way you expect, you can’t beat yourself up by saying “I should have waited” or “Now I’ve ruined everything.” If a guy makes you feel crazy, stupid, or needy for bringing up the marriage talk, or if he freaks out, then he probably would have kept stringing you along.

Your needs and goals are valid. So if you’ve been with your guy for a while, and you’re wondering if the relationship has potential for the long term, here are five tips to keep in mind when you want to discover how he feels.

01. Talk to him in a relaxed setting.

If your guy gets uncomfortable with heavy intimacy talk, start a conversation while engaging in another activity together where you can still talk to each other. While making dinner at home, bring up your life goals over appetizers and talk about “us” while prepping the entrée. It might feel more natural to him, and he’ll be more open to tell you what’s on his mind and in his heart if the conversation doesn’t feel like an interrogation.

02. Keep it short, but stay focused.

Deciding your future isn’t going to happen in just one conversation. You’ll need to have multiple conversations where you talk about specific topics, such as what you both think marriage looks like and means to you; how you should handle finances; what your expectations are around sex, children, and housework, etc. Tell him you want to open the dialogue for future talks—that you don’t have to figure things out right away. At the same time, be direct. Ultimately, let him know that you want to make sure he’s a willing participant in actively deciding if you have a future together.

03. Make sure he knows you love him.

When it comes to marriage, many men are terrified that they’ll just be filling a role. If a woman comes across as too future-oriented, he may fear that she’s not all that interested in him for who he is—rather she just wants to check the marriage box, and any man will do. So if you’re curious about where he sees your future, make sure he knows it’s not just about getting your “MRS” but about finding someone who can be a life partner. Tell him why you respect him, what you’ve learned from him, and that you’re excited about continuing to get to know him. This will put him at ease and encourage him to open up.

04. Don’t give him an ultimatum.

How you bring it up makes a difference in it being taken as an ultimatum versus simply expressing your needs and desires. Don’t say, “You need to marry me, otherwise I’m going to find someone else.” This is an ultimatum that will most likely backfire. No guy wants to feel like he’s backed into a corner. You can let him know getting married is a goal of yours, but if he doesn’t see you in his future, you’d rather know so that you can both find people who can give you what you want.

05. Support him in taking action over time.

People have fears of marriage for a number of reasons—their parents had a nasty divorce, they don’t see many happily married couples, or they’re not 100 percent confident that they are picking the right person. It’s OK to give him a timeline of when you would like him to know whether he’s ready to take the next step. However, depending on how long you’ve been together, just “more time” won’t necessarily give your guy the answer. He needs to take some kind of action during this time, such as reading articles or books, talking to happily married friends, or seeing a relationship therapist. I’ve worked with both individuals and couples in helping them decide whether they should get engaged—as well as the skills and knowledge needed for a marriage to work. I’ve noticed that for many guys, discovering this kind of knowledge is power and can help a guy calm his fears and give him clarity.

*As originally published on verilymag.com

Before You Divorce After the Holidays

Holiday Divorce

The holidays are a time for family, friends, and love. It shouldn’t be the season for pain. But for some couples, they keep it together only to divorce after the holidays and in the New Year. In fact, a common time to divorce is right after the holidays.

Here are the three tips for couples to consider before divorcing after the holidays:

  1. Nurture your friendship. One of the top reasons for divorce is that people become emotionally and physically distant and drift apart. Between balancing work, raising children, technology distractions and daily life craziness, it’s tough to feel connected to your partner. But it makes a difference. So many of my clients report that when they spend quality time with each other, things are overall improved and they can weather the tough times better.

TIP: Connect every day. You have to intentionally make it a priority to connect every day, whether it’s 20-second hugs, passionate kisses, or 15-minute conversations. Bring back the fun and play in your relationship!

  1. Maintain your identity. It’s also easy to lose yourself in your marriage. Maybe you stopped doing the things that once brought you joy, or put your needs aside for your partner and family. The thing is, if you’re not happy, it’s easier to blame the marriage. Doing your own thing is a good thing. Some degree of separateness from your partner can maintain long-term passion. It also adds mystery, which is important for desire. When you were dating, you didn’t know what your partner was up to every day. One of my clients told me that when his wife went out with her girlfriends, he would think about how great she looked and that it would ignite his passion for days—something so simple like his wife going out with her girlfriends!

TIP: If you’ve lost sight of who you are, go back to the basics. What were the things you used to do? What brought you pleasure and joy? Some of my clients really struggle maintaining their individual identities—so make a list, and write down your needs and see how many of them have been fulfilled.

  1. Renegotiate your marriage. People buy into what they think their marriage “should” look like. First comes marriage, then a house, then a baby, dog, etc. This doesn’t work for everyone. When you first married, you had an expectation of what your life together would be like. If those expectations changed, or something isn’t working, it’s ok to renegotiate! Couples who have high expectations are actually happier—but they both work toward making their expectations happen in mutually respectable ways.

TIP: Depending on how you think your marriage is doing, you can meet monthly but in general you can meet once or twice a year. I recommend to my couples that they keep their anniversary as a happy time, and then spend their half-anniversary talking about their relationship. Discuss what’s working, what isn’t, what’s been missing, new goals or vision for marriage, put new dreams on the table, what needs to be done, etc.

If you need help with any of the above, see an experienced marriage counselor. Find one who is trained in evidence-based methods to teach you the tools you need to come back from the brink of divorce. Keep the holiday season for what it is meant to be—a time of joy, laughter, and love.

There’s so much dating advice on the internet these days, and some of it makes me cringe, especially when it comes to what not to do on a first date. The first date is particularly important because as much as you may text each other before the date, nothing matters more than first impressions and the conversation that follows. Below are two pieces of bad first date advice that you should never follow:

  1. Don’t talk about your exes. Talking about your ex can give your date important information about you and what you’re looking for in a relationship. It doesn’t mean you’re still hung up on him, but how you bring the info up makes the difference. Obviously you don’t want to bad-mouth your ex. But what did you learn from the relationship? Why didn’t it work out? Did your ex cheat? You can have a conversation about how important loyalty and trust are to you. Was your ex selfish and only cared about meeting his needs? You can discuss what’s important for you in a relationship to feel satisfied. If your ex disrespected you, you can talk with your date about how you don’t tolerate that behavior and that it is a deal breaker. Maybe your ex wasn’t a good communicator and that created a lot of problems. You can take the opportunity to discuss how important open and honest communication is to you. By sharing your stories (just remember to not bash the ex!) and non-negotiables, you can see if your date thinks similarly or if they can’t meet your expectations.

 Trust me, you can filter your date out much more quickly than if you ask about how they like to spend their free time.

  1. Telling him you’re dating for marriage. You’re advised not to bring up the “M” word on a first date because it supposedly makes you look desperate. So basically this advice is telling you to suppress your own needs and desires in order to not scare a man off. If you’re dating for marriage or a long-term relationship, you definitely need to let your date know your intentions. I’ve saved myself a lot of time telling men I was looking for a serious relationship, and to their credit they were honest that they either were too focused on their career or didn’t have the same mindset.

Simply put, timing matters. Don’t waste weeks of your precious time by not telling your date what you really want. That time could be better spent with someone who has his/her goals aligned with yours.

…But it does make a difference on how you say it.

Men are terrified that a woman will just want any man – not him. So I coach my clients to say something like, “Yes, I would like to be in a serious relationship, but I know that it takes time to see if a guy is a good fit. I’m not just looking for just anybody, so it will take time to know more about each other to see if there’s even a chance.” Guys who are also looking for a serious relationship won’t run, despite popular advice saying that they will.

For more tips on how to date to find and keep a mate, come to my “Have More Than a Fling” dating workshop. The details of which are provided on this site.

People date based on attraction and chemistry. You find someone attractive, you feel a spark, and you hope your relationship lasts. Unfortunately this approach doesn’t work in sustaining a healthy and happy relationship.

If you’re ready to find (and keep) love, you can’t miss this event! In this three-hour workshop, you will learn:

  • The biggest mistakes singles make (and how to avoid them)
  • Why you keep attracting the wrong type
  • How to create your “dating blueprint” to find your best match
  • The must-haves for dating & relationship success (they’re not what you think)
  • Online and offline dating tips & tricks – for both sexes

After you register, you will receive an email from Anita with quizzes to complete. You will leave the workshop more prepared to create amazing opportunities for love. Finding your mate will be an important – if not the most important – decision in your life. Anita wants you to get it right the first time.

This event is open to women & men. Bring your friends! Space is limited so be sure to get your ticket early to reserve your spot. Wine and light snacks will be served.

divorce 123rf

Guest Post by: Andrew G. Vaughn. Divorce Attorney/Founder of NuVorce LLC and Professor of Advanced Domestic Relations Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

On January 1, 2016 a new set of divorce laws became effective in Illinois. These laws changed many of the core practices in divorce. In this three part guest blog post, we will discuss: (1) the fundamentals of divorce, (2) how this new law impacts your kids, and (3) how this new law impacts your wallet.

The Basics

Divorce impacts every aspect of your life, from how often you see your children to how much you can spend at Starbucks. Because of this, it can seem very complex. However, some of the new changes to the law have simplified the process. In this post, we’ll discuss how to identify what issues you will have in your divorce and the grounds for divorce.

Identifying the Issues

Do you have children? If the answer is yes, you will need to consider at least 5 issues in your divorce: (1) Child Custody, (2) Visitation, (3) Child Support, (4) Alimony, and (5) Property Division. If the answer is no, you will need to consider only two of those issues: (1) Alimony and (2) Property Division.

Grounds for Divorce

In 2015 and earlier, you could be divorce for one of two reasons (which are called grounds because lawyers have to make things complicated). The first reason for divorce was what the statute called “Fault Grounds.” This included adultery, abuse, impotence, etc. The second reason for divorce was called “No Fault.” This meant that basically the marriage has just broken down. Under the new Illinois Divorce Law the only reason for divorce is “No Fault.”

As part of the “No Fault” grounds for divorce, you also have to prove that you and your spouse have been separated. Under the old law, you had to be separated for two years (but there was an exception where you could agree to a shorter separation). Under the new Illinois Divorce Law, that separation period has been reduced to 6 months.

Bottom Line

Under the new law divorce can happen faster (6 months of separation instead of 2 years) and should happen nicer (under the no fault concept – no one needs to drag their spouse through the mud to get the divorce).

If you’d like to know more, visit us at www.nuvorce.com, email us at info@nuvorce.com, or call us at 312-802-2897.

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.

He’s someone I work with. I didn’t think much of him at first. We talked a little but mostly just went out for lunch with other coworkers. After awhile we broke off from the group and the two of us starting going out to lunch together. Then we started talking outside of work, mostly just text and email. He was a good listener and I could tell him anything. I didn’t think anything of it, he was just a friend.

As a relationship coach and therapist, I regularly help couples who are dealing with issues of infidelity. The workplace is one of the top places where cheating happens, and the above scenario is one I repeatedly hear. This type of affair is the sexless affair, also known as the emotional affair. The boundaries between it and a friendship can be blurry, so how do you know the difference?

Here are four questions to ask yourself to determine if your connection with someone else could really be a sexless affair or merely a friendship:

1. Is there little to no transparency? Your partner should know about your friendship. Most of my clients say that their partner either didn’t know this person existed or to what extent their communication was! Transparency also means you don’t discourage your partner’s questions about what’s going on. Another aspect to consider is whether you share more of what’s going on in your life with your friend than you do with your partner.

2. Would there be discomfort? If your partner asked to see the communication exchanges between you and your friend, do you think your partner would feel uncomfortable? Would you feel embarrassed if your partner stood next to you during any texts, emails or conversations?

3. Have boundaries been violated? If your partner asked you to stop doing things with your friend because it makes them feel uneasy, but you haven’t stopped, that’s a boundary violation. Although you and your partner may need to find a workable compromise, something to consider is why maintaining your friendship has become more important than respecting the wishes of your partner.

4. Are there fantasies? Every relationship has its ups and downs, but do you find yourself fantasizing about your friend when your relationship has hit a tough spot? Do you start comparing your current partner negatively to your friend, thinking life would be better with the other person instead?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, chances are your friendship is too intimate.

It’s important to communicate with your partner. Start a dialogue: What guidelines do you want for your relationship? One couple has a rule that they don’t have drinks alone with an opposite sex friend after dark. Another couple decided to delete their exes from their Facebook friends list. Some couples have the passcodes and passwords to each other’s phone and email. These may seem like good guidelines for some but for others it might feel like they are policing their partner. What works for one couple may not work for you, but start a conversation to figure out what works best for both of you.

A note about irrational jealousy or controlling behavior. Some of you reading this really will have nothing going on with your friend, but your partner may make demands or exhibit irrational jealousy and try to control you. It is beyond the scope of this blog to address this behavior, and instead I recommend seeking the guidance of a professional therapist to help.

What starts out as an innocent friendship can turn into a sexless affair. By considering the questions above and communicating with your partner, you can protect your relationship.

I can’t believe I’m married to such an idiot.

You finished one thing on the list. Do you want an award for being ‘Partner of the Year’?

You call that picking up after yourself? Can’t you do anything right?

You always spend too much money. Why are you so irresponsible? Can you be any more selfish?

Do you have interactions between you and your partner where you feel your partner is mean and even downright cruel, or vice versa? Do you feel like your partner is disgusted by you, or maybe you’re disgusted by your partner? If so, you’re in dangerous relationship territory.

Contemptuous exchanges like those above are the most toxic behaviors for a relationship. Contempt shows a lack of respect for your partner, and you think you’re better than them. You put your partner down and show them they are worthless. Contempt comes in many forms – mockery, insults, name-calling, eye-rolling, sighs of disgust and even sarcasm. I meet a lot of people who are proud of their sarcastic sense of humor. Because it is a form of contempt, be careful how you use it with your partner!

Contempt doesn’t appear in a relationship overnight. It usually develops because you’ve allowed negative thoughts about your partner to simmer over a long time. You’re more likely to have such thoughts if you haven’t resolved your differences. For example, maybe you think your partner is doing things the wrong way, and your ways are better. Your partner probably thinks they’re doing things the right way, and thus you have a stand-off without a resolution. As the conflict continues, you get more and more fed up, and simple disagreements can turn to contemptuous exchanges over time.

Contempt is so toxic that research shows it is the biggest predictor of divorce. It must be eliminated. And if you’re thinking that’s impossible, research shows that among happy couples, the frequency of contempt is almost zero. Happy couples convey admiration and respect for their partner, and it’s never too late for you to do that with your partner.

To counteract contempt you can do three things:

1. Consistently practice sharing fondness and admiration with your partner. To get you started, think about the following: What are your partner’s strengths? What are your top three favorite traits about them? Why did you fall in love with your partner in the first place? How can you compliment your partner today? You have to create a positive mindset about your partner and go a step further by expressing it to them. Be genuine and give yourself time for praise and admiration to seem more natural, especially if it hasn’t been a part of your relationship for a long time.

2. Complain (as opposed to attacking your partner’s character). Think before you speak. Instead of, “Why didn’t you clean the kitchen like you said you would? You’re so lazy, I have to do everything!” you can say, “You said you would clean the kitchen but you didn’t. I’m very upset by this.” You want to focus on the behavior without the character assault.

3. Understand your partner. As I frequently tell my clients, the goal is not necessarily to agree with your partner, but to understand where they are coming from. Does their perspective make sense? You can both be right, and that can go a long way toward repairing the damage of contempt.

Although contempt is the most toxic relationship behavior, you do have the power to eliminate it. If it’s been present in your relationship for a long time, it may take some time to feel comfortable with the new positive and affirming behaviors. But if you want your relationship to have a fighting chance, contempt absolutely must be eliminated.