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Tools and tips for every day relationship problems. Blog posts on how to stop conflict, how to have more intimacy and how to have better communication with your husband, wife or partner.

Filtering by Tag: Tips for Couples

The Ups and Downs of Relationships

Erika Boissiere

Do you feel like your relationship is Failing?

Every relationship has its ups and downs. It is inevitable, really. We grow as human beings, life circumstances change, and new stressors emerge. All of these things are out of our control, and, as significant as they are, we may pay little attention to the changes as they become an intimate part of our every day life.

People tend to believe that we have control over  our relationships. Thus, nothing quite as disquieting as when your marriage or relationship is doing poorly and you don't know why or how to fix it. You feel it when you wake up; you notice it during dinner. Sexual intimacy with your partner starts to dwindle, and your patience begins to snap. Suddenly you find that your relationship is in an uncomfortable, dark place, and you’re not certain when or how this happened. If you are starting to feel or notice these signs, here are five things you can do to get your marriage back on track.

Schedule a date night.

No matter how busy you are, schedule a night out with your partner. Date nights are essential to relational intimacy as they ensure you and your partner have dedicated one-on-one time without the busyness of life getting in the way. The simple act of getting ready to go out is also important. Make it easy – nothing over the moon or strenuous. Perhaps go play miniature golf, or dinner and a movie. The goal? Have fun - together.

Turn down the volume in your life.

Often, stress in your relationship is the result of the stress you or your partner is feeling individually. The stress of being over committed, running from event to event, or having a demanding work schedule can all contribute to relationship dissatisfaction. Reduce your social and work calendar as best you can and be more present in your relationship. Saying “no” can be hard, but by doing so you will create more space for your relationship.

Take care of yourself.

We mean this in the simplest of ways. If you haven’t worked out in ages, get out there. Even a brisk walk for 15 minutes a day will help. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy foods and take care of yourself ascetically.  Do things for yourself that make you feel attractive and energized.  Feeling unattractive can erode your self-worth and cause a negative outlook.

Really assess your unhappiness.

You and your partner are having a bad few months, and suddenly you think your relationship is on its way out.  It may or may not be. Make a list of what is contributing to your unhappiness. Some things on the list may have nothing to do with your partner, but instead are all about you. You may also notice that your list is really long, or really short. This simple exercise can provide a new perspective on what is really happening and how dire the situation may be.

Consider getting outside help.

If after trying each of these steps you are still not noticing any changes, or you have just reached your wit’s end, consider getting help from another resource. Talking to a trusted friend, reading a self-help book (visit our library), or considering couples therapy are all good options to explore as they can help guide you to a better understanding of what is happening in your relationship, and what you can do to change it for the better.

5 Tips to Help Your Marriage Today

Erika Boissiere

Is your Marriage Falling Apart?

No matter if you have been married for one year, 10 years, or a lifetime - your marriage could be in a precarious state in the blink of an eye.

Often, people in this state are confused, unsure what to do next, and couples counseling can help. However, if you need change right away, below are some easy tips for you try immediately. 

WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE. AND NO, WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT PROFANITY.

Think about what you are going to say and self-edit before you speak. Avoid making statements such as, “you always” or “you never.” Choose your words carefully. Refrain from constant criticism of your partner. You do not need to list every imperfection when you notice them.

ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE NOT “COMMANDER AND CHIEF" OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP.

This tip applies to both men or women.  Equality, or balanced influence, in marriage is a key ingredient to happiness. Forgo rigidity and “know-it-all” behavior for flexibility and acceptance. You will be glad you did.

ARE YOU IN A FIGHT THAT ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE? TAKE A BREAK.

Sounds too easy, doesn’t it? But it is true. The best way to resolve an unresolvable fight is to take a break. Some people need just 10 minutes whereas others may need hours. The key? Tell your partner how long you need and adhere to that time frame. Don’t play games.

DON’T ONLY FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVE.

They may be hard to see clearly just now, but there are some positives aspects to your relationship. Focus on those. Make a mental note of when things are going right. It is far easier to notice the negatives, so yes, this is something you will have to work on daily.

FIND A COUPLES THERAPIST. IT Might be TIME.

Often people push off this step,but a professionally trained clinician really can help you and your partner get back on track. Couple’s therapists provide feedback, tips, and can teach you how to be a better partner.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

Do you want to stop a fight dead in its tracks?

Erika Boissiere

Learn the #1 Relationship Tool to End Fighting

Do you and your partner have the same argument over and over or fights that are out of control? Although the topic of your battles with your partner may seem trivial, perpetuating a pattern of psychologically harmful and potentially violent behavior can be toxic to your relationship and personal well-being. So how do you get off that crazy ride? 

If you get to a place where your fighting feels like there is no solution in sight, consider taking a time out. No, we are not treating you like a child, but instead reminding you that you are an adult and have control of your own behavior. Remove yourself from the situation, physically calm down and take some time to collect your thoughts and emotions. The goal of this exercise is to disrupt your usual negative and destructive pattern with your partner and create an opportunity for you to reset and enable better communication with your partner.  

Either partner can signal a time out at anytime during a fight. You and your partner have the ability to stop abusive, psychologically harmful and incredibly stressful behaviors right now, from this day forward. World-renowned couples therapist Terry Real outlines the steps to taking a proper time out in his novel, “The New Rules of Marriage.”

Step 1: Create a Contract 

Agree in advance that each of you has a “right to leave the fight” to take a “time out.“ You can physically leave the location all together or choose to at least not be in each others physical presence. This right is sacrosanct and must be upheld by both partners and can only be broken if there is a safety concern. 

Step 2: Here's How you do it

Signal to your partner that you need a “time out.” Speak from an “I” position. For example, “Dear partner, for whatever reason, right or wrong, I am about to lose it. If I keep this up, I will regret what I will say or do. I am taking a break. I will check back in with you responsibly.”  Both partners need to immediately stop the interaction.  Finally, never tell your partner that they need a “time out."

Step 3: Timing 

Wait at least 20 minutes before reengaging with your partner.  At times, you may need to take 1-2 hours, ½ day, or an entire day.  When you are ready to reengage, you don’t need to necessarily do so in person. 

Step 4: The trigger topic is taboo for 24 hours 

Once you and your partner have resumed communication, for the next 24 hours, do not discuss the topic that sparked the argument. Once 24 hours has passed, you can talk about the conflict.   

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

Are you closer to your iPhone, or your Partner?

Erika Boissiere

Is your Partner Addicted to their Smart Phone?

It is hard to imagine a time when smartphones didn’t exist. In a pre-smart phone world, we had to navigate with paper maps or directions, often getting lost. The anxiety of showing up late is better eased today through smartphones – just shoot off a text telling your party you are running late. Fixed! No need to call.  We are all transfixed by our phones and staying connected digitally. Everyone is doing it - on the bus, walking downtown, at the local coffee shop, busily tapping or scrolling away. We’ve also all seen the cute couple having a romantic, candlelit dinner…staring down at their phones.

What happens if we forget our device, lose it or it stops working? We panic and feel disconnected; we send mass Facebook or email updates alerting everyone that we are off-line.

Why on earth are we so connected to these little devices? Are we happier with them in our lives? Ironically, research clearly shows that those that spend more time Facebook, report more unhappiness than those that don't. A new study from the University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross found that the more people used Facebook, the less happy they felt—and the more their overall satisfaction declined from the beginning of the study until its end. We also see that those that spend more time in general online also report the same thing: more unhappiness. Why do we continually subject ourselves to being glued on such devices? In a short brief answer: we like to be distracted.

If distraction is something you crave, then yes, being addicted to your smartphone can hurt your relationship. When you choose to engage with your phone instead of your partner, you are sending the message that, “This is more important than you.” Send that message often and you will eventually erode your relationship. Our guess is that your partner will start to mimic your behavior and become intimate with their phone too. Or, they will find another way to engage with the world, and it might not be with you.

How can we change this addictive and destructive behavior? Here are three simple ways to get off the phone and start paying attention to your relationship.

Be with the one you are with.

When you are out to dinner, at a special engagement, and during 1:1 time with your partner, make a concerted effort to not check your phone. Put it somewhere it isn’t visible at least; even better, turn it off.

Being uber responsive doesn’t make you awesome to hang out with.

If you receive a text or phone call while you are with someone, there is not need to look at it instantly. There are no extra points for that.  The person you are with will appreciate that you are paying attention to them, and not a text coming in.

Monitor how much you check your phone.

Make rules for monitoring incoming messages. For example: I’ll check my phone once in the AM, once in the afternoon and twice in the PM. Just like a soap opera, you will be surprised how little has changed, despite checking your phone less.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

 

Are you boring in your relationship?

Erika Boissiere

Always Having it "Together" Might be Driving you and your Partner Apart

The #1 way to bore your partner to pieces is to be emotionally distant or unavailable. Emotions and feelings are what make us uniquely human and our individual selves. They allow us to connect to and relate with one another. If you are not able to connect on an emotional level with your partner, you feel lonely and totally bored.

People who are emotionally distant tend to intellectualize almost everything, rarely show vulnerabilities, and do not dare seem insecure. Not sure if this describes you? Ask yourself, "Do I always need to show people that I've got it all figured out? That I'm always together? Is this how I come across to my partner?" Or, perhaps this sounds all too familiar and describes your partner to a tee.

Before you start chasing them around the house asking them to be more vulnerable and “open," realize that understanding one’s own feelings or sharing them with others is not easy for many. Societal norms, the role of our parents in our lives, and a long list of other considerations particular to each person’s personal psychology all influence our ability to be emotionally present and open. So take a deep breath – this might take some time.

If you believe you are emotionally cut off from your partner, or if your partner is becoming the bore, below are 5 steps to help you to connect to your emotional core in a positive way and open your heart – even if just a little bit at time.

Realize you are not alone.

At one time or another, everyone has experienced discomfort with or out of touch with their emotions. There are many reasons why people choose to close off the connection to their feelings. Most are related to our upbringing, cultural influences, and a fear of what might happen if we show how we really feel about things, people, and even ourselves. Particularly in Western culture, being emotionless, “stable as a rock,” is associated with having confidence and strength of character. However, understanding your insecurities, weaknesses and what you fear actually enables you to be confident - not the other way around.

Feelings are like a water faucet.

Unfortunately, you can’t turn on certain feelings, and turn off other feelings. If you shut off your feelings, you cut off access to all of them – even the good ones. Naturally people try to avoid experiencing difficult feelings (sadness, weakness, scared, fear) – that makes sense, doesn't it? However, by shutting down unpleasant feelings - you inevitably shut down access to the positive ones too.

Turn the satellite dish currently facing out to face in.

One easy way to start to access your emotional core is to notice what your experiencing on the inside when interacting with others. People who are cut off emotionally are often consumed with thinking and worrying about what is going on outside of and around them. Catch yourself when you start to judge or react to others. Stop and think, "What am I feeling right now?"

Know the primary emotions – luckily, there are only 4.

We all experience feelings all the time, however it can be challenging to pin point exactly what the emotion is that you are feeling. Start with the primary feelings - these easy to identify. Just by paying attention and noticing which of these primary emotions you are experiencing, you’ll be surprised how much easier it becomes to identify what is happening in your emotional core.  You may find that you are actually filled with feelings of all sorts! The four primary feelings are:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Afraid/surprised
  • Angry/disgusted

Start to check in with yourself – every day, 3 times a day.

Don’t over think it - simply ask yourself 3 times a day, “How am I feeling right now.” Pull out a note pad or your smart phone and quickly jot down what's happening for you and notice the feeling. By practicing noticing your feelings, you will begin to be more connected to what is happening for you. Although you may discover that your feelings vary and fluctuate widely across a spectrum and your emotional life may seem “messier”, the payoff is well worth it. Your partner and you will have the ability to connect at a deeper, more emotional and intimate level. No one will be the bore.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

 

The Effects of Being Chronically Late on your Relationship

Erika Boissiere

Is your wife, husband or partner always late?

For many, even the word "late" leads to feelings of frustration and stress. One partner may sit tapping their foot while the other 's heart races. Sometimes being late is unavoidable, but when it happens all the time, it can be a much bigger problem. Ask yourself: are you chronically late? If you answered, "yes", or even "maybe", here are 5 easy tips to help you change from being late to being on time.

Change your starting point

Simply reframing how you think about your schedule - the starting point as the time by which you need to leave, instead of the time by which you need to arrive, can be an easy and effective tool to help you manage your time better.  For example, if you need to meet your husband at dinner at 6:00PM, and you know it takes a half hour to get there, tell yourself (and those around you), "I need to leave here no later than 5:15PM." 

Give yourself a buffer

As we all know, things often do not go as planned. Perhaps there is road work, a broken down bus, a cab that takes the worst route - whatever it is, give yourself a 15 minute buffer. Your stress, your heart rate and your relationship will all thank you.

If you're chronically late, you are asking others to chronically wait

To be candid, chronically late people are often perceived as selfish, period. Of course things will come up that are unavoidable, it is important to remember that asking someone to chronically wait is unacceptable.

When are you not late?

If your boss asked you be at dinner at 6PM, would you show up late? Our guess is...probably not. You would plan ahead and take steps to ensure that you would be on time. Apply those same behaviors to connecting with your partner. If you are capable of doing it one situation, you can do it in another.

You will get better

As with any habitual behavior, it is can be hard to change overnight. However, improvements in punctuality can can quickly be realized. Remind yourself of these 5 tips before walking out the door to your next obligation. Your efforts will show your partner that you are capable of change, that you respect their time, and most importantly, that you are dependable. These three things are each important elements to a healthy relationship.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.

The Top 10 Mistakes Couples Make When Fighting

Erika Boissiere

How to Stop Fighting in Your Relationship

Every couple fights. Some do it in big boisterous ways, while others do it in small unnoticeable ways. Either way, there are pitfalls that any couple can fall into when fighting.

These top 10 mistakes are the most common conflict tactics that couples use, and often get them into hot water.

In reading below, ask yourself and be honest: Which one do you do? It is with this reflection that will give you insight into changing your conflict pattern with your partner. And hopefully, change your relationship for the better.

Fighting Mistake #1: Being right & blaming: How much does being “right” matter to you?

We get it. No one likes to be wrong, but how badly do you need to be right? Is it hard for you to accept responsibility? If you often find yourself in a fight waiting to hear those words, “you’re right honey” but rarely say them, we have bad news - eventually your partner will want to check out.

Fighting Mistake #2: Unbridled self-expression: Do you talk and talk…and rarely listen?

You are in a fight. You are mad. More than anything, you want to tell your partner everything that is on your mind. And when we say “everything," we mean--everything. If you talk a lot but rarely listen, it is hard for your partner to remain focused and engaged. By taking this approach, you are telling your partner in a small, but big way, “I deserve to be listened to, but you don’t.”

Fighting Mistake #3: Being defensive: The problem is, you’re defensive about being defensive.

If people seem to be walking on tiptoe when they are around you, you are probably acting defensive.  Why is being defensive a problem? Defensiveness ultimately teaches the other partner to either have to skillfully craft their communication for you, or they will choose not bring up anything unless it is in agreement with you. Ultimately, this makes a relationship not healthy. It is often hard for someone who acts defensive to acknowledge their behavior or accept this feedback. Take a deep breath, and try to think to yourself – do I act defensive?

Fighting Mistake #4: Using extreme language: “you always” or “you never.”

Often when we get into fights, we tend to use extreme language. To ensure we make our point understood and heard we resort to big language. However, extreme language, such as "you always" or "you never" is rarely accurate,  over-inflates the problem, and can escalate a fight.

Fighting Mistake #5: Not expressing your feelings. “Are you mad at me?” “No, I’m fine.”

Does your partner often ask, “Are you mad at me?” And is your response, “No, I’m fine," when you're actually fuming inside?  How long does this cycle continue until you finally admit that you are mad?  This strategy might work for a while, but eventually it is going to get really tiresome for your partner. 

Fighting mistake #6: Being sarcastic or passive aggressive.

Sarcasm can be funny, but when you are in a heated fight, it will only infuriate your partner. On the other hand, passive aggressiveness confuses your partner. You may ask nicely for their help, but the well of resentment and anger in your voice is obvious. Both of these communication modes tend to escalate and prolong fights, as they indirectly communicate your needs, feelings and emotions.

Fighting Mistake #7: Telling your partner what to do: you always know best.

You tell your partner how to cook, how to clean, how to change the diaper, how to park, how to chew their food – really, it can be and will be…just about anything.  Unknowingly, you are criticizing your partner. You may believe that you are helping them – but if you are constantly correcting, admonishing or critiquing, you are acting like a parent. It may be hard to admit, but take a step back and ask yourself – how often do I criticize my partner? About what sorts of things? If your critiques are trivial in nature, then this might be your current strategy.

Fighting Mistake #8: Not staying on topic.

You are mad. Your partner is mad. You start fighting about one thing, and then you rehash another fight from a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly, you’ve got a whole armory of things you are mad about, and you start slinging them at your partner.  You're making “fight soup”!  You defend on one topic, and then suddenly you are arguing about something you can hardly remember. “Wait, what did I do again?” Now is the time to learn how to stay on one topic.

Fighting Mistake #9: The never-ending fight: It’s 2AM and you Are still at it.

If you are the type of couple whose fights continue on, and on, and on – it is time to take a new approach. Marathon fights tend to lead to more fights. More issues get discussed, more feelings get hurt, and rarely is peaceful resolution reached when it's all over.

Fighting Mistake #10: Going into problem solving mode: fixing the problem sometimes isn’t the answer.

You want to help. We get it. You say to yourself, “I’ve been there before, I can help!” Or, “I know how to handle this perfectly – you just need to…” And you’re right. You might know. You may have been there before, but your partner isn’t you. Your partner has a different set of experiences and may have a different way of solving the same problem that is right for them.

Still Having Trouble?

Consider couples counseling. Learn about our services or contact us here.