Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

AffairsDarling, you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be there till the end of time
So you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

This classic song from the Clash resonates with everyone at some point in their lives. It is especially poignant and painful after infidelity. Many who have experienced the dark world of cheating may initially say goodbye, but actually most change their mind and decide to make it work. This is a tough decision to make.

Affairs start in the mind and do not necessarily end in bed. They do often break hearts. There are subtle signs that lead to both an affair and recovery.  Signs of cheating should be all taken into account before making an accusation. Unless you have proof in hand, it is better to address the already evident: less investment in the relationship and a much greater investment in other activities, personal changes to increase one’s own attractiveness, and evasiveness about spending time or money.

Cheating is sensational. It is guaranteed to sell the news. It is something that everyone can identify with but is easily judged as betrayal. What is not so easily judged is the small ways that we betray our partners. Gottman says in his book “What Makes Love Last?” that “Betrayal is the secret that lies at the heart of every failing relationship.” Not being there, not following through, putting the kids or career ahead of the marriage are examples.

John Gottman, a leading marital researcher, describes the deterioration of the marriage leading to an absorbing state of negativity called negative sentiment override. This is the stage in a relationship where one partner cannot do enough to make things right. Even positive  attempts fall short or are interpreted negatively. He compares it to a roach motel, where once you check in, it is hard to check out.

Add this to another critical element in the demise of a marriage: comparing your spouse unfavorably to others, even comparing to imaginary spouses that are better than your spouse. These are like nails in a coffin. These are usually kept to oneself, along with crossing boundaries. First comes secret-keeping, then comes cheating.

Deciding whether to stay or go depends on the ability to rebuild trust with someone who becomes trustworthy. Signs of someone who is changing a character trait is complete honesty (minus the brutal details which cause obsessions) with nothing to hide. Next, recovery depends on an ability to step outside the self and one’s own pain, and enter into your partner’s pain (without beating yourself up). It is the ability to feel what your partner is feeling, and on that basis fully regret your actions and betrayal. It involves making personal and relational changes that benefit both partners that stand the test of time. These changes are determined by essential relational skills: empathy instead of defensiveness, asking for what is needed instead of criticizing, and setting personal boundaries on what you are not willing to do, and at the same time what you are willing to do for your partner. Deciding whether or not your partner is being honest depends on these criteria, along with your own instinct about what your partner is like when he or she if faithful, and what he or she is like when she is not. Although this may be a confusing process, it can be used to decide if he or she is an acceptable risk. Verification of honesty may be required. Finally, there may be need for a clear consequence to future betrayals.

Is this painful process worth it? Are you able to overcome negative sentiment override? One idea involves writing down as many positive traits of your partner. Look back over your story. Is there regularity to the energy put into making the other feel loved? Are there examples of admiration for each other? Is it marked by “we” decisions or “me” decisions?  Is that enough to overcome the pain of recovery? Most people also consider the pain and effect of divorce, and realize that there is no guarantee that the next relationship will end up in a better place, and decide that because of shared history and children that it is better to stay together. Some researchers find that over time when all things are considered, the next relationship is not a huge jump in happiness. If trust is unable to be rebuilt though, there is little to sustain a relationship.

Feeling Empty in Marriage

y Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Marriage CounselingAs a marriage and family therapist I have learned techniques to help marriages and family relationships work. The one that works best by far is the use of unconditional love. How that works out in the marriage is my next question.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when I would have an argument with my wife, we would have spirited discussions about the same old topics. Often for us, it was about the use of time. We have lots of kids and a lot of work falls on her. We also have lots of bills and that weight falls on me. For you, you might argue about something that happened that you are having a hard time forgiving.

Unconditional love is impossible without humility. My relationship with my wife started by being selfish, thinking about how the qualities of my wife would benefit me. Then I gained my wife’s love by impressing her. However, this is not unconditional love. I cannot depend on a love that depends on my ability to impress. Certainly, it is not the kind of love that can last.

Turning toward our own ability to love someone, have you felt, as I have, that there are moments where you just do not feel like you have love to give? Often when I feel this way I criticize my wife and defend myself, or I act like a victim and run away. Then I dwell on what is right and wrong in order to think of a way to get my needs met. Then I present my argument to my wife, but it seems to have the same impact as if I am saying to her, “I don’t love you.” I am not saying that, but I wonder how if this is what she feels when I argue with her.

I remember the time my wife was telling me about the frustrations of her day and I was tired but attempting to be empathetic. I recall an instant turn in my emotions when she unexpectedly added, “And if you were around, this would not have happened.” It ignited anger in me, so I retorted, “Do you really want this to blow up?” Luckily I came to my senses enough to walk away. “Empty” is the word that came to mind as I retreated. “I’ve got nothing more to give.”

Greg Baer in his book Real Love compares arguments to feeling attacked while drowning. When someone is drowning they lash out. In fear, someone drowning may hit you or grab onto you and pull you under, resulting in two victims. When we are arguing, we are drowning and lashing out. Research shows that similar events are occurring in our brain when we argue as when we are drowning.

When I realize that I feel like I am drowning when I do not feel loved, and I am feeling empty and alone, how can I respond with unconditional love?

First, I remember that my wife may also be drowning, feeling empty and alone. If I view my wife who at times lashes out at me as drowning, my anger at her is reduced. I feel less interested in criticizing her and defending myself, but I still feel like a victim and want to run away. I am drowning and need to get back on solid ground myself.

My wife nor I may be able to unconditionally love at any moment. If someone was overwhelmed and upset, or stressed, or maybe has had a lifetime of not feeling loved, there will be times that person will not be able to love. Unconditional love means I am accepted with my faults, struggles, and weaknesses. So it falls on me to search myself and speak the truth about myself to someone, (not the opposite sex of course) that will accept me for who I am. Then I may have the energy to improve myself.

So I reflected on my own emptiness and thought about ways I can restore my energy for unconditional love. This may involve self-care, for which we are responsible, and seeking care from others. I thought of this acronym, “ACES” to remind me of ways to restore energy for unconditional love.

“A” stands for a sense of accomplishment.

“C” stands for the connection I have to God, family, and friends, that I need to seek out to feel loved enough to love my spouse.

“E” stands for enjoyment, the “small” parts of life, often overlooked, that I need to remember in gratitude.

“S” stands for self-care, sleep, diet, exercise and other needs for which I am responsible to meet.

Most importantly, I needed to confess to someone my struggle and feel their acceptance. If I am loved for what I do for others, what is that? That is a performance-based love. That is how we got married in the first place. But I need the kind of love where someone who sees me for who I am and then accepts me. I need this kind of love in order to love others.

I may have seek this out on a regular basis. It takes courage. Who wants to talk about their struggles and faults? I would rather talk to someone and they tell me I am in the right. But that is back to performance-based love. So I turned to my “ACES,” and turned to a friend to whom I can admit my faults. He still liked me, and accepted me as I am. With time I was ready to understand and give to my wife.

What are some ways I can unconditionally love my spouse? Here are common needs for men and women, as highlighted in Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn’s research-based books on relationships, For Men Only and For Women Only.

Women need to be pursued. They are wired for relationship. Women feel it when something is missing here. They write, “Pursuit is likely to make you a great husband in her eyes.” Relationships need energy like anything else of value. A little time can yield big dividends. Perhaps consider “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.

In the movie, Parent Trap, Nick asks his ex-wife. Elizabeth, how their relationship died. He said, “It ended so fast. So about the day you packed, why’d you do it?” She replied, “Oh, Nick. We were so young. We both had tempers, we said stupid things, and so I packed. Got on my first 747, and… you didn’t come after me.” After a period of dead silence, Nick admitted, “I didn’t know that you wanted me to.”

A common need for a man is to feel their spouses’ respect. They are wired for accomplishment. Men feel it when something is missing here. The authors write, “What is at stake isn’t his pride as much as his secret feelings of inadequacy as a man.” Many unmarried men described feeling inadequate as a major barrier to getting married in the first place. They do not want to feel inadequate the rest of their lives.

Let me conclude by asking if love is the goal in marriage, and unconditional love is what makes marriage work, then what does unconditional love look like for you? Everybody may have a different definition. For some, unconditional love may mean that they set boundaries so that harm does not occur in a relationship. For others, love is characterized as giving without getting. Immediately, when I hear this definition, I think, “But what about me? What about my needs?” I guess the better question is, what is the best way to meet my needs? If I am angry or disappointed in my partner, I am thinking of myself and my needs. I may be feeling empty, overwhelmed or drowning. Here’s a lifeline: confession. It is speaking truth to someone who accepts and loves us as we are, faults and all. I think that is better than finding someone who agrees with you that you are in the right. I do not know about you, but being right has not inspired me to be more loving. Feeling loved has inspired me to be more loving.

 

How to Stay Married

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Marriage Counseling

At times people think about how problems would be solved if they were married to someone else. Some problems may be solved this way, but it also is true that we carry our response to problems from relationship to relationship. John Gottman, a leading marital researcher, gives this example:

Paul married Alice and Alice gets loud at parties and Paul, who is shy, hates that. But if Paul had married Susan, he and Susan would have gotten into a fight before they even got to the party. That’s because Paul is always late and Susan hates to be kept waiting. She would feel taken for granted, which she is very sensitive about. Paul would see her complaining about this as her attempt to dominate him, which he is very sensitive about. If Paul had married Gail, they wouldn’t have even gone to the party because they would still be upset about an argument they had the day before about Paul’s not helping with the housework. To Gail when Paul does not help she feels abandoned, which she is sensitive about, and to Paul Gail’s complaining is an attempt at domination, which he is sensitive about. The same is true about Alice. If she had married Steve, she would have the opposite problem, because Steve gets drunk at parties and she would get so angry at his drinking that they would get into a fight about it. If she had married Lou, she and Lou would have enjoyed the party but when they got home the trouble would begin when Lou wanted sex because he always wanted sex when he wants to feel closer, but sex is something Alice only wants when she already feels close.

Even rock-solid marriages have sensitivities like the ones described above. This is where it can hurt. It is common to think of marriage as something that is difficult, discouraging, and even hurtful. Many think of personal failure. It is difficult to respond well in an intimate relationship when we are not treated well. We all can think of examples where we are not treated well. Maybe you can think of a time you were betrayed by a childhood friend. Or, you ask your teenage daughter how her evening went, and she nearly bites off your head. Possibly you are caring for aging parents and in spite of all your efforts, they are still unhappy. Or, you are unhappily married but stay together for a number of reasons. Others do not. Every 45 seconds a marriage ends in divorce (Dr. Greg Smalley).

An incredible statistic is the one that predicts divorce. Marriage is one of the most researched topics over the last 40 years and this prediction is well-documented. John Gottman and other researchers underscore that your response, when you are treated poorly in your marriage, is predictive of eventual divorce with 91 percent accuracy.

It is not exactly what is said, or what is done, that is so predictive. It is the feeling that one spouse is above or below the other. It results in defensiveness. It can come from dwelling on the injustices in your relationship, or from ruminating on the weaknesses of the other. It leaks out in one’s tone, facial expressions, and non-verbal body language. It is contempt. We often do not mean to be contemptuous. Maybe you just want to bring up an issue, or just talk about it, and your spouse interprets it as criticism and wants to defend, attack back, and finally withdraw. Dan Allender, in his book with Tremper Longman III, Intimate Allies says that “many couples live with an underlying contempt for each other.” Later they write, “Spouses degrade each other when they show a contemptuous, shaming, judgmental spirit.”

We are all treated poorly at times. We all have different desires and these can turn into expectations. When these expectations are not met, we get angry, or at least disappointed. We can feel that the other is not living up to their end of the bargain. The contract is not being fulfilled. If you a sign a contract, there are certainly expectations to be met. If you use that mentality in marriage, you are set up for more disappointment and hurt. Tension develops between the idea of marriage being a contract, and marriage being a covenant.

So what do spouses do, who generally get treated well, in their marriage, act at those moments when they are not treated well?

If there is any recourse from a hardened heart to one that is open, safety is key. It is hard to open up and admit feelings and failures, if you are afraid of your partner’s response. If one feels safe, you can be honest about feelings and failures. It creates a joint struggle to expose the beautiful, and the broken. It allows for true love, the grace that provides the elements needed to grow, and it feeds passion.

Contempt, on the other hand, is beyond the inevitable frustration with your spouse. It does not just say that I am angry, afraid or sad; it puts the emphasis on that the other is wrong or bad. We are all wrong or bad at times. We all struggle. But people that get treated well do not put down the other resulting in defensiveness. This approach seeks to make sense of your partner, and understand what he or she is feeling, and to make his or her feelings as important as your own. Marital researchers underscore that this non-judgmental approach happens in the context of equal regard, creating a sense of safety. It acknowledges underlying needs on both sides of the equation.

Here are common needs for men and women, as highlighted in Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn’s research-based books on relationships, For Men Only and For Women Only.

Women need to be pursued. They are wired for relationship. Women feel it when something is missing here. They write, “Pursuit is likely to make you a great husband in her eyes.” Relationships need an infusion of energy like anything else of value. A little time can yield big dividends.

In the movie, Parent Trap, Nick asks his ex-wife. Elizabeth, about what happened between them. He said, “It ended so fast. So about the day you packed, why’d you do it?” She replied, “Oh, Nick. We were so young. We both had tempers, we said stupid things, and so I packed. Got on my first 747, and . . . you didn’t come after me.” After a period of dead silence, Nick admitted, “I didn’t know that you wanted me to.” Elizabeth felt if she asked him to come after her, she would never know if he would on his own.

Men need to be proud of. They are wired for accomplishment. Men feel it when something is missing here. The authors write, “What is at stake isn’t his pride as much as his secret feelings of inadequacy as a man.” Many unmarried men described feeling inadequate as a major barrier to getting married in the first place. They do not want to feel inadequate the rest of their lives.

What if I am not open to this kind of covenantal approach? Impulsivity, stress, lack of time and energy, built-up anger, hurt and resentment are all facts of life but get in the way. A formidable obstacle is the belief that one’s partner is more to blame for the relationship problems. An urgent need is for personal support to make personal changes from reading, friends, and support groups.

What if my partner isn’t open to this kind of covenantal approach? This kind of approach is for the sake of the giver as much as the receiver. It allows the giver to feel settled and in control about their part, even if your partner does not respond well. Researchers underscore that when one partner is not treated well, this is precisely the time that this approach is needed. When it gets tough, take a break and come back allowing both sides time to process to a better conclusion. Or break the discussion and ask your partner for proposals, or make proposals. Living in a fallen world and being self-responsible means that we have to set personal boundaries. The challenge, according to marital researchers, is to not look down on your partner in the meantime, because looking down on your partner itself puts your relationship at risk.

The Art of Communication

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Relationship Communication

Communication

Is harder than many people think. Since the strength of a relationship is based on connection between people, communication is often underestimated as well. It is a skill that must be practiced over and over. Even when making casual conversation, there is opportunity to strengthen relationships by reflecting the interests of another. One’s words can also strain relationships when they stir up emotions. The intent of one’s message may be lost leaving both parties feeling misunderstood. Three ingredients to resolving relationship issues apply to spouses, parents, children, friends and coworkers: Understanding, Showing concern, and Agreements.

One must be calm and focused to use these tools. Otherwise one’s brain, flooded with adrenaline, does not cooperate and one’s intent in communication is much different than the impact of one’s words. On the contrary, when relaxed, usually taking turns without interruptions works. Taking time to understand before you are understood even works better. Technically, one does not have to prove oneself or convince someone to be valid.

U nderstanding
To show understanding one cannot assume he or she understands the other. One cannot also assume the other is wrong. People tend to repeat themselves, argue, or criticize unless they feel understood. To make sense of what someone is saying does not mean you agree, feel the same, or would do the same as someone else in a given situation. To understand, instead, accomplishes the purpose of communication: to make sense to someone else. People who feel better or closer after a discussion usually feel connected rather than corrected. A couple of guidelines can greatly reduce adrenaline-fused verbal spars. When showing understanding, focus on the following:
Fouls: avoid insults and topic-hopping. Starting sentences with “I” may receive less resistance that starting sentences with “You.”
Feelings:what one is feeling is more important than facts to feel close to someone.
Future: the future can be changed, the past needs understanding but cannot be changed.

S howing concern
Demonstrating that one cares is an essential ingredient in satisfying relationships. If one is in a relationship but no longer cares, perhaps one is dwelling on the negative, or there is a lack of common goals. There are a number of ways to show you care not only about a person, but also about their statements.
Talk: tell the person how much you appreciate them or what they feel.
Time: spend time doing something enjoyable together.
Touch: affection can say a lot more than words when done appropriately.
Tasks: whatever you do for another that’s not expected but appreciated.
Tokens: notes, small gifts or offering to get someone a drink.

A greements
Even though one may not agree about the past or about a given topic, one can make agreements for the future. Adhering to agreements yield trust, commitment, and even passion. The following considerations can increase the chance of success, even if one has to go back to the drawing board.
Optimism: agreements should not bring future resentments.
Options: commit to find options that will work for both parties.
Outcomes: (not threats) that are understood if agreements are not kept.

For many, “I” statements are recommended to be used to communicate. For example, “I feel ______ when ______.” To connect and strengthen the relationship, try an experiment using a particular kind of “You” statements. For example, “You are feeling or thinking ______ and wishing for ______.” Instead of saying, “I understand,” or repeating what another is saying, show understanding with your words. Check with the person or look for signs that they feel understood. Instead of using “You” statements to criticize, condemn, or complain, see what happens when one makes comments showing interest in another’s views, whether they are wrong or right, over time. Even though you may not agree, you can make agreements.

 

Listen
When I ask you to listen to me
And you start giving advice
You have not done what I asked.


When I ask you to listen to me
And you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way
You are trampling on my feelings.


When I ask you to listen to me
And you feel you have to do something to solve my problems
You have failed me, strange as that may seem.


Listen! All I ask is that you listen
Not talk or do – just hear me.
Advice is cheap: the world wide web is full of free advice.
And I can do for myself. I’m not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.


But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel,
No matter how irrational, then I stop trying to convince you,
And can get about the business of understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling.


And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.
So please listen and just hear me, and if you want to talk,
Wait a minute for your turn, and I’ll listen to you.

Anonymous

Communication Cheat Sheet

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

D escribe the other person’s feeling, or show appreciation, or make sense of what they are thinking, even if you disagree.

A sk for what you are wanting, or ask the other person to make sense of what you are feeling. Make multiple proposals. Don’t debate.

B oundaries make clear what you are not willing to do, but end with what you are willing to do. Meet in the middle.

 

This approach can also be used for kids. Start by connecting with your child to increase the chance of being heard, describe their feeling (even in one word). Ask your child to do the right thing, or for a “time-in,” (teaching him or her how to calm yourself), or to take a “time-out.” Set boundaries by making it clear what is not okay, followed by what behavior is okay. Consequences can also be clarified or negotiated also at this point.

What to Ask Before You Marry

How well can you answer these questions with a long-term view?<!–more–>

General
<ol>
<li>What are the five most important things to you in a marriage?</li>
<li>I love you because . . . (three reasons).</li>
<li>I want to marry you because . . . (three specific reasons, not “I love you”).</li>
<li>We’re a good match because . . . (five reasons).</li>
<li>Where would you like to live?</li>
<li>How much would you like to spend your free time together?</li>
<li>How much personal/alone time do you need?</li>
<li>How much sleep do you need? Are you a morning or evening person?</li>
<li>How often do you expect to visit extended family?</li>
<li> Do you expect to be very social as a couple? To spend much time with friends?</li>
<li> Do you expect to take family vacations every year?</li>
<li>Do you plan to make a career change after you get married?</li>
</ol>
Family History
<ol>
<li>What did your father’s role in the family look like? Your mother’s role?</li>
<li> Do you think your parents were healthy emotionally and relationally? Why or why not?</li>
<li>How do you feel about how your parents related to each other?</li>
<li>How did your parents make decisions? Did they talk about decisions together or did one spouse make decisions without consulting his or her partner?</li>
<li> What would you like to see your roles as husband and wife look like?</li>
<li>How would you like to make decisions as a couple once you’re married?</li>
</ol>
Division of Labor
<ol>
<li>Who will do the following chores?</li>
<li>Cooking and preparing meals?</li>
<li>Cleaning up after meals?</li>
<li>Cleaning bathrooms?</li>
<li>Doing the laundry?</li>
<li>Taking out trash?</li>
<li>Grocery shopping?</li>
<li>Decorating?</li>
<li>Household repairs?</li>
<li>Servicing the car?</li>
<li>Yard work?</li>
<li>Planning trips?</li>
<li>Planning nights out?</li>
<li>Buying and giving gifts?</li>
<li>Planning and shopping for occasions?</li>
<li>Corresponding with family and friends?</li>
<li>Caring for aging parents?</li>
<li>Caring for pets?</li>
</ol>
In-laws
<ol>
<li>What do you like and dislike about your parents? Your family?</li>
<li>Are there unhealthy patterns, dysfunctions, or other challenges in your family?</li>
<li>What concerns do you both have about your future in-laws?</li>
<li>Are you worried about interfering in-laws? What will you do if this happens?</li>
<li>What are your families’ expectations regarding your relationship?</li>
<li>What are your expectations regarding how your relationship with your families might change?</li>
<li>Will your families expect to see you regularly? How often?</li>
<li>What boundaries to you need to set right away?</li>
<li>What will you do about holidays?</li>
<li>What family traditions and customs would you like to continue?</li>
</ol>
Spirituality
<ol>
<li>Was church or synagogue attendance a regular part of your childhood?</li>
<li>One a scale of one to five rate the level of church involvement you prefer.</li>
<li>When you’re married, when do you want to pray together?</li>
<li>How important if Bible reading to you? Is joining a Bible study with others something you would like to do?</li>
<li>How important is spiritual leadership to you? Do you believe that one of you should take the lead, or how would both of you work together to lead the family?</li>
<li>What religious traditions are important to you?</li>
</ol>
Finances
<ol>
<li>Did you grow up rich, poor, or middle class?</li>
<li>What value did you learn to place on money?</li>
<li>Were you secure or insecure about money?</li>
<li>Did your parents model generosity, good shopping habits, and careful planning?</li>
<li>Was work more important than family? Was pleasure more important than wise money management?</li>
<li>Did your parents use coupons, pay bills on time, and meet financial goals?</li>
<li>Was there gambling, overspending, or spending to impress friends and neighbors?</li>
<li>Did either parent engage in high-risk ventures?</li>
<li>Did your parents have the idea that bankruptcy is okay?</li>
<li>Did your family sacrifice when needed, save, invest, and use cash versus credit?</li>
<li>Was paying for insurance, education, and retirement important to your parents?</li>
<li>Did they live on the edge of their finances now and not worry about tomorrow?</li>
<li>Do you think joint or separate accounts are appropriate in your marriage?</li>
<li>Do you think paying the bills should be done separately or together?</li>
<li>Do you work with a budget now?</li>
<li>Are you conservative or aggressive in investments?</li>
<li>What are your income goals?</li>
<li>Have you ever lost a large sum of money?</li>
<li>What mistakes have you made with money?</li>
<li>How much and what will each of you be free to spend?</li>
<li>What stress you out when it comes to money?</li>
<li>Do you tithe or give to charitable organizations?</li>
</ol>
Emotions
<ol>
<li>How do you handle anger?</li>
<li>How do you handle anxiety?</li>
<li>How do you handle sadness?</li>
<li>How do you handle disagreements?</li>
<li>How do you solve problems?</li>
<li>How do you stay connected and close over time?</li>
<li>How do you handle resentments?</li>
<li>How do you handle “the silent treatment?”</li>
</ol>
Sexuality
<ol>
<li>One a scale of one to five how important is sex?</li>
<li>How often do you expect to have sex?</li>
<li>What worries do you have about sex?</li>
<li>Can we both initiate sex?</li>
<li>What is your attitude about giving or receiving sexual pleasure?</li>
<li>Are there limits? Acts or behavior that is not acceptable to you?</li>
<li>What would ruin sexual intimacy for you?</li>
<li>What creates passion for you?</li>
<li>What was your family’s attitude toward sex?</li>
<li>How did you learn about sex?</li>
<li>What experiences and influences from your childhood and adolescence might hinder healthy sex with your future mate?</li>
<li>Are you comfortable talking about sex? Why or why not?</li>
<li>How has the media and culture influenced what you think about sex?</li>
<li>How comfortable are you with your body? Your appearance?</li>
<li>How important is healthy sex to you and your future mate?</li>
</ol>
Children
<ol>
<li>How many children would you like to have?</li>
<li>How do you feel about birth control?</li>
<li>Would one of us be a stay-at-home parent? How do you feel about that?</li>
<li>What if we’re unable to have children? How would you feel about fertility treatments?</li>
<li>How do you feel about adoption? Would you consider it, and when?</li>
<li>When would you like to start a family?</li>
<li>How would your disciplinary approaches differ?</li>
</ol>
Red Flags
<ol>
<li>Is your relationship more passion or more commitment-oriented?</li>
<li>Has your relationship stood the test of time?</li>
<li>Are there any bad habits or pet peeves?</li>
<li>Do you detect possible immaturity or selfishness?</li>
<li>Do you detect a critical nature?</li>
<li>Does one withdraw and isolate?</li>
<li>Is there any financial irresponsibility?</li>
<li>Is there any history of verbal or physical abuse? Controlling behavior?</li>
<li>Are there differences in core values or beliefs, especially spiritual?</li>
<li>Are there any addictive behaviors or substance use?</li>
<li>Any crossing of relationship boundaries with other in the past or currently?</li>
<li>Are both partners physically, financially, and emotionally free from past relationships?</li>
<li>Do you have your families blessing for your marriage?</li>
</ol>
Remarriages
<ol>
<li>Have you recovered from the loss of your previous marriage?</li>
<li>Have your kids recovered?</li>
<li>What will each of you change about this marriage to succeed?</li>
<li>Are you comfortable with your ex and your partner’s ex? What potential problems may arise?</li>
<li>Are you prepared for the complexities of step-parenting?</li>
<li>Are there child-custody issues, or legal issues that may appear in the future?</li>
<li>What will you need to become a successful blended family?</li>
</ol>
Skill-based premarital courses lower divorce rates by 45 percent. Call us with any questions at (815) 276-3947.

For more information:

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Making Love Last

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

A practical way to make love last is to devote at least 15 minutes a day to the relationship and two or three hours on the weekend by:

Time: having fun again.
Touch: simple affection.
Talk: be nice to each other, ask for what you want.
Tasks: do things for each other.
Tokens: give something to eachother.

Hugs & Kisses
Longtime couple illustrates how marriage can endure for decades

By CHELSEA McDOUGALL – cmcdougall@nwherald.com

http://www.nwherald.com/2011/02/10/hugs-kisses/a24b38g/

Robert and Arlene Carl, both 89, of McHenry smile at each other Tuesday at Alden Terrace in McHenry. The couple has been married for 68 years and said one thing that made their marriage last was never going to sleep while upset with one another. (Hollyn Johnson – hjohnson@nwherald.com)

McHENRY – Arlene Carl smiled ear to ear, and traces of the young 19-year-old bride she once was were present in her giggle as she sat next to her husband, Bob Carl. Bob is in rehabilitation at Alden Terrace in McHenry, and the couple sat next to each other on the couch for this interview. It was the closest they’ve been in months.

The way Arlene Carl tells their love story is simple.
“We met years and years ago before World War II,” she said. “I was working at a store and he came in with a boyfriend, and they invited me to go bowling with them. I went and that was it.”

But Bob Carl’s version is a little more romantic.
“It was in 1939 in February,” he recalled. “We kept meeting each other from time to time. When I saw her, I said to myself, ‘That’s the lady I want to marry.'”

Bob and Arlene met as teenagers in Depression-era Chicago. While Bob recalls Arlene’s striking beauty and auburn hair, she said it was his manners that eventually won her over. After meeting at a party, then eventually their first bowling date, Bob and Arlene continued to see each other on and off before Bob joined the National Guard. Bob only planned on one year of service, but Dec. 7, 1941, changed his life and put their relationship in fast forward. The couple married Dec. 26, 1942, and the couple enjoyed a month and a half of marriage before Bob was sent overseas. For 33 months, Bob traveled the globe during World War II, while back in Chicago, Arlene worked for the phone company. But the pair never were far from each other’s thoughts.

“It was very sad,” Arlene recalled. “But I worked hard and tried to set a little something aside so when he came home we could live normally. I was lonely and he was lonely, but we wrote every day.” The couple finally reunited in November 1945 and spent a long weekend reconnecting at the Belmont Hotel in Chicago.
“I was mighty happy to be home and see my wife,” Bob said.

Sprinkle in three sons, 11 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, a little traveling, and a move to their McHenry home, and the Carls have lived a good life. The key to their successful marriage?
“Every night at bedtime, we would resolve anything that we had out there,” Bob said. “And we would kiss goodnight. [We] never went to bed mad.”
“Maybe a little miffed,” Arlene said, correcting Bob.
While the Carls have enjoyed nearly 70 years of blissful marriage, for other couples, a healthy marriage takes a little more work.

Dan Blair, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Crystal Lake, has worked with countless couples in his 11 years in practice.
“I think the leading cause of divorce is disconnectedness, a gradual over time erosion of the relationship,” Blair said. “Usually there is conflict involved over money, or sex, or in-laws. But the disconnection of the couple is what places the relationship in jeopardy.”
Blair suggested “putting the fun back in the marriage” and that struggling couples should focus on their friendship.
“Solving problems is easier when you restore that friendship,” Blair said.
Blair also said a goal was to maintain a balance of appropriate closeness, but not too close so as to suffocate one’s partner. Watch resentment, he suggested, and don’t let anger take root. Others looking for a romantic gesture can look to Bob’s tender goodnight greeting for his wife.
“I call her every night before I go to sleep and say goodnight and send my love and kisses,” Bob said.
When asked what he says to Arlene each night, Bob starts singing: “I love you, a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck.”
And Arlene blushed.
• • •
Strategies of the heart
Harvard clinical psychologist Dr. Betsy Sukowicz offers her take on what she calls “winning and losing strategies” for relationships. It is based on a popular therapy tool developed by Terrence Real.

Winning strategies …

  • Shift from complaint to request, meaning ask “would you do this for me?”
  • Speak with love and savvy. Be assertive about what you want. Don’t demand, but say what’s on your mind. Remember your partner is someone you care about.
  • If your partner is asking for something, respond with generosity.
  • Empower each other.
  • Cherish what you have.

Losing strategies …

  • Being right, or thinking your way is the right way and not negotiating issues.
  • Controlling your partner.
  • Unbridled self-expression or venting, telling everything that is on your mind without regard to how your words will affect your partner.
  • Retaliation. When one person feels badly treated, he or she punishes the partner because the partner “deserves” it.
  • Withdrawal, or detaching oneself from one’s partner.

Copyright 2011, Northwest Herald, The (Crystal Lake, IL). All Rights Reserved.

Money and Marriage

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Money and MarriageWhen looking for marital partners, men and women look first for common family goals, financial compatibility, and then compatibility in career choices, sexuality, and religion. Often opposites attract, and financial personalities range from savers motivated by security and spenders motivated by self-determination. Without blaming the other for their differences, couples can ask the other about their earliest recollections of how money is spent to understand why they may be different at this point in each partner’s life.

Financial advisors recommend setting financial goals to create an emergency fund, debt reduction, retirement planning, and a will sooner than later. Insurance is critical, including health, life, disability and property protection. Tools can be found at learnvest.com, mint.com,, and mvelopes.com among others.

One suggestion to recover from debt is to list your debts from the smallest amount owed to the largest.

Add the minimum payments required each month.

Add a hundred or two hundred to this amount. (If you cannot find an extra hundred to add to this amount, recovery from debt may not be possible without help).

The money for the minimum payments plus the extra hundred or two is the amount to be used to pay down your debt. Start by paying the minimum balance on each plus the hundred or two on the smallest debt.

When the smallest debt is paid, take the minimum payment, plus the extra hundred or two, and add that to the minimum payment of the next smallest debt.

Proceed accordingly paying the same amount toward your debt each month regardless of the number of debts owed.

Economy of Matrimony
By EMILY K. COLEMAN – ecoleman@shawmedia.com

http://www.nwherald.com/2014/07/02/examining-the-economy-of-matrimony/ai8pkyb/

CRYSTAL LAKE – Ahead of their October wedding, Matt and Crystle Mariani cut back on date nights and going out with their friends.

The Crystal Lake couple are both planners, and they’re both savers.

“It’s easy to … say, ‘OK, We want to get married; next we want to get a house,’ and now we’re continuing to do that and plan together for one day [when] we’ll want kids and we’ll want to go on vacation,” Crystle Mariani said, sitting on the couch in the home the two bought and moved into last month.

Arguments about finances early on in a marriage are the top predictor of whether a relationship will end in divorce, according to a 2012 study by a Kansas State University researcher.

“Money is an emotional issue with most of us,” said Jim Issel, a financial consultant with Exemplar Financial Network. “You’re bringing together two people from two totally different backgrounds, and it’s important to talk about it. It’s also important for people entering their second or third marriages.”

Besides helping people plan for their retirements and advising them on their finances, Issel is Matt Mariani’s stepfather. Issel’s wife, Ann Mariani-Issel, is a vice president with Dorion-Gray Retirement Planning in Crystal Lake.

With both of his parents in the finance sector, Matt Mariani got plenty of advice on money management, although Mariani said most of it he learned through example.

They talked to him about preparing for retirement, saving, budgeting, and being conservative with income, Issel said. The next conversation is life insurance.

While much of the Marianis’ financial planning is unspoken, more couples are coming clean about their finances before tying the knot, according to an Experian Consumer Services survey that compared couples married before and after 2008 and the recession.

“People are getting the issue that money is the No. 1 issue,” said Dan Blair, a counselor and owner of Blair Counseling and Mediation in Crystal Lake. “They frequently come to get help on that issue, and they don’t just come to counselors. They go to banks and look online.”

Finances have grown as an issue for Blair’s clients since 2008, he said, adding he typically sees three issues in this area: differing views on wants and needs, how to handle unexpected expenses, and a seeming inability to save money.

The heightened awareness around family finances caused by the recession may not be the only reason more recently married couples are talking about money before they get married.

For some of Marianis’ friends, student loans are causing them to push back some milestones, including getting married, or buying a home, they said.

While student loans weren’t as much of an issue for them, Matt and Crystle Mariani – Matt works for Centegra Hospital – Woodstock’s concussion and cardiac clinic and Crystle is a special education teacher at Cary Junior High – decided to rent until they felt comfortable and stable enough to take the next step and buy a home.
Now their focus is putting aside enough money to cover property taxes and household expenses because as first-time homeowners they don’t really know what to expect, Matt Mariani said.

With effort, marriages can withstand pressures of poor economic times
By JENN WIANT – jwiant@nwherald.com

Mel and Bobette Von Bergen have faced some hard economic times.

As farmers, the Hebron couple’s livelihood is at the mercy of the weather and the market.

From 2001 to 2006, times were especially tough because corn and soybean prices were down, but the costs for necessities such as fertilizer were up.

But the Von Bergens are fortunate because they have been able to rely on each other for support for the past 42 years.

For many couples, financial struggles can be so stressful that they lead to divorce. With the current economic downturn, more couples with marriage problems stemming from financial difficulties are seeing local marital counselors.

Perhaps the counseling is working, because divorces are down statewide and appear to be holding steady locally even while the population has increased.

The number of divorces in Illinois per 1,000 people has decreased to about 2.6 in 2005 from 3.3 in 1999, according to the most current data available from the National Center for Health Statistics.

In McHenry County, the number of marriages dissolved in court has stayed fairly stable at about 1,200 a year for the past decade, according to court statistics.

But marriage and family therapist Dan Blair of Blair Counseling in Crystal Lake said he had seen an increase in the number of clients with marriage problems revolving around finances since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“I have found that money is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Blair said. “Even more so now, I’m finding that it puts a wedge between husband and wife.”

Often, the primary wage earner feels the financial burden and overworks, Blair said. The other spouse is left to take care of the home or get a job to help make ends meet. Each spouse becomes distant and resentful of the other, and sometimes spending money becomes an escape, compounding the problem.

The Von Bergens have survived their marriage by supporting each other; diversifying their business to include a country market, school tours, and events like the Fall Fun Fest; and staying optimistic that the economy can get better as quickly as it turned bad, Bobette Von Bergen said.

“You’re in [the marriage] for the long run,” she said. “It causes strain and you get cranky, but in farming every day can be a turnaround.

“You have to talk and support each other. There were some really down times, but most of the time you can’t do a whole lot about it.”

Coping in tough times

Recognizing that the economy affects everyone is key, said Michele Weiner-Davis, founder of divorcebusting.com and director of the Divorce Busting Centers in Woodstock and Boulder, Colo.

“Not enough couples recognize that they’re victim to the poor economy like everybody else,” Weiner-Davis said in a phone interview from Boulder.

She offered three pieces of advice to couples struggling with marriage and their finances.

First, recognize that everyone else is stressed out for the same reasons, and your financial problems are not necessarily related to something your spouse has done.

Secondly, if you and your spouse have different ideas about how to handle the finances, try to understand your partner’s point of view.

And finally, if you can’t solve the problems alone, get help from a counselor.

“I am a very firm believer that marriage can really tolerate many things going wrong as long as couples have a platform to be able to discuss it, negotiate about it, collaborate and be empathetic,” Weiner-Davis said.

“As long as people can do that, their marriage will survive. When there’s no way to communicate so all they’re doing is fighting and blaming each other, that’s what really puts marriage at risk of divorce.”

Blair said he had recommended that spouses schedule time to be together, set spending limits in different categories, and divide home chores to help foster a sense of partnership in the home.

Not just finances

Gunnar Gitlin, a divorce attorney in Woodstock, said financial problems usually were a symptom of other problems in the marriage, and he didn’t see an increase in divorces as a result of the poor economy.

“Divorce tends to be generally unaffected by economy swings,” he said. “People get divorced in good times because they can afford to and in bad times because there are greater financial pressures.”

What was increasing, he said, was the number of couples choosing not to hire lawyers in divorce proceedings to save money or trying to solve all issues in just one court appearance.

But to avoid getting to the point of worrying about the cost of a divorce, licensed clinical psychologist Susan Olesch, who practices in Lake in the Hills and Algonquin, suggested that couples see a financial adviser who can help them get a handle on their money situation and set a budget.

“The majority of people I see stay together,” Olesch said. “In a real marriage, nothing breaks it up if you work on it and can get past it. If you want to make it work and you really value the other person, you can make it work.”

Copyright � 2008 Northwest Herald. All rights reserved.

First Year Can Be Tough Test for Marriages

The first year of marriage involves more in terms of adjustment than any other year. Blending two lives is like blending two different cultures.

 

First Year Can Be Tough Test for Marriages

By CHELSEA McDOUGALL – cmcdougall@shawmedia.com

http://www.nwherald.com/2013/02/13/first-year-can-be-tough-test-for-marriages/as6e9ea/

After a fairy-tale wedding and quick honeymoon, Richmond couple Liz and Joe Bappert returned home to a surprise.

Tucked in with mail that had collected during their vacation was a letter informing the Bapperts of a paternity lawsuit. Joe Bappert’s daughter’s biological mother alleged that he was missing child-support payments.

“Our wedding went off without a hitch,” Liz Bappert recalled of her wedding 15 years ago. “We went on our honeymoon and we came back and my husband had a paternity suit in the mail. … I said, ‘This is not cool, I can’t stay married to somebody like this.’ ”

So much for the honeymoon period.

Australian researchers found that the Bapperts might not be alone in a rocky first year. Deakin University’s Centre on Quality of Life found that couples in the first year of marriage struggle more than those who have made the long haul.

In the U.S., on average, one in 12 marriages will not last beyond the newlywed stage, according to Marital Mediation, a website that supports attorneys, mediators, social workers and counselors who deal with marital issues.

But it is Valentine’s Day after all, and true love really can conquer all. The Bapperts, who have weathered more than 15 of them, are living proof.

Joe and his ex were able to work it out, but not without a drawn-out custody battle. Joe and Liz both learned to listen and stay calm before flying off the handle.

Liz Bappert said she was in shock after learning about the paternity suit. But once she gathered herself, she listened to what Joe was telling her – that his ex’s allegations were unfounded. Her husband showed Liz the canceled checks he had written. It was but one of many hurdles in their 15 years of marriage.

One reason for a stormy first year is the anticipation that comes before the wedding, Australian researchers found.

“Couples build up to the wedding day as the best day of their life, and then find reality biting as they [tally] up their wedding bills and get back to work after the honeymoon,” the study’s lead author, Melissa Weinberg, told The New Zealand Herald.

Liz Bappert looks back fondly on her wedding day, but growing old with Joe is what she really looks forward to.

“The wedding experience is once in a lifetime, but it’s just one day,” she said. “Every day I look at my husband, there’s love that grows and keeps growing. There’s a sweetness and kindness there.”

Another reason for the discontent in the first year of marriage, the study found, is a change in the financial circumstances that accompany marriage.

Crystal Lake counselor Dan Blair echoed that.

“The first year is described as one of the hardest, and I think that’s because there are a lot of adjustments to make,” he said. “Of course, we all come into a marriage with expectations that are somewhat idealized. And if that does not work out, there’s disappointment.”

While living together before marriage could seem like an obvious precursor for post-nuptial bliss, that’s not always the case, Blair said.

“It’s a personal choice; however, studies show that it often does not help,” he said. “What’s needed to make a relationship work is commitment.”

Married people tended to be happier than those who are single and significantly happier than those who are divorced or separated.

The Bapperts found out that sometimes the road to lasting happiness is a little rocky.

The couple, married in 1997, have had a series of ups and downs. After the jarring custody dispute, the Bapperts found out they couldn’t have children of their own, and Liz Bappert suffered through two autoimmune diseases.

“Having such a deep love for our church, our family and for God, that’s what sustained us,” Liz Bappert said. “The thing is we didn’t go in [to marriage] with the mindset that this is going to fail. … There’s a respect there, and I think that’s why it works.”

50 Tips to Prevent Infidelity

Tip 1: Rule Number One: You are Playing on the Same Team!

InfidelityWhen you hit a rough spot in your relationship you may forget that you and your partner are playing on the same team – the “Smith” or “Jones” team! Remind yourself daily: The intention is not perfection but to hone your skills to throw and catch a good pass, to achieve a goal.

Teammates work together! If it doesn’t go well the first time they analyze what went wrong without blaming. They state their concerns, set new ground rules, and try it again. From now on, always assume your partner has the best intentions. Clarify – don’t judge – and pass the ball nicely!

Dr Daniela Schreier, http://www.drdaniela.com

Tip 2: Make your relationship priority #1

Make your relationship priority #1Getting married doesn’t commit us to a life of bliss and happiness – it takes serious effort to keep our marriage alive. Date one another just like you did when you fell in love, go to relationship workshops, and seek counseling before big problems arise. Don’t get overly distracted with the other important areas of your life. In fact, if we neglect our relationship and put it on the back burner, when will we have time to nurture and strengthen our love for one another?

Disagreements, disappointments and stress can break down the bond we have with our spouse and we need to do damage control in order to repair that bond and keep it strong. The stronger our bond, the better our relationship is. I often tell my clients, “You have to really like your spouse and find them endearing in order to put up with the crap they put you through.” If we lose that bond, by not making our relationship a priority, it makes dealing with the stress much harder, if not impossible.

Kristy Labardee, http://www.kristylabardeecounseling.com

Tip 3: Create a “We-ness” With Your Spouse

Create a “We-ness” With Your SpouseA protective factor in keeping your marriage safe guarded from infidelity is to talk positively about your relationship with your spouse to others; specifically what you love about him/her, what you admire, what activities you enjoy doing together, etc. It offers a felt sense to others that you and your spouse are deeply connected, that you both share a “we-ness” together.

This is especially important when travelling alone or working with the opposite sex closely. Intentionally creating this connected “we-ness” with your spouse can decrease the possibility for others to believe they could pursue something with you.

Tami Chelew, http://www.tamichelew.com

Tip 4: Honesty is the best policy

Honesty is the best policyBe honest, even if it angers or hurts your partner. Infidelity doesn’t “just happen.” An affair will cause more pain and anguish than your truth. If your relationship is causing you to want someone other than your mate, chances are your relational space has become polluted and there has been a disconnect. Coming clean with your feelings with a non-shaming, non-judgmental approach,will help clean up your relational space and avoid acting out.

Joan E Childs, www.joanechilds.com

Tip 5: Practice daily appreciations

Practice Daily AppreciationsEach evening, spend a few minutes expressing a daily appreciation or two with your partner. Use the following words:

What I really appreciate about you today….
I appreciate it because….
Your doing/saying that makes me feel….

Mirror (repeat back) what you’ve heard your partner say, checking for accuracy:

So what I hear you saying is…..
Have I got you?

In listening carefully and mirroring back, you will each feel heard and understood. Knowing that you’ll be appreciating each other at the end of the day, will set the frame for you to be looking for things to appreciate all day long!

Mary Kay Cocharo, http://www.mkcocharo.com

Tip 6: Commit to Sunday Sit Downs

Commit to Sunday Sit DownsMake it a habit of keeping in communication about the status of your relationship. Discuss what’s been going well (and therefore should continue) and what needs to be adjusted, negotiated and improved upon. Once a week check-ins develop and maintain an open dialogue which is necessary for a healthy, functional relationship. With regular communication, issues stay small and manageable. When implemented, couples report greater feelings of satisfaction and connection.

Allison Cohen, http://www.lifeissuespsychotherapy.com

Tip 7: Don’t discuss your marital issues with members of the opposite sex

Don't discuss your marital issues with members of the opposite sexOften times an affair begins with what seems like an innocent friendship. Then both people start discussing their martial woes and provide each other a listening ear, understanding and comfort and it starts the slippery slope toward infidelity. Make it a rule to only talk about your marriage issues with one another. If you neeed outside help, seek a professional counselor or someone who is an approved friend of the marriage.

Dana Vince, http://www.marriagecounselingknoxville.com

Tip 8: Be friends first

Be friends firstYour best friend is someone you share the intimate secrets with, talk about you thoughts and feelings with. When you lose this connection, there’s a hole that someone else will try to fill. Don’t let them.

If you see the connection waning, talk about it early on and prevent the drift from happening. The drifting apart can lay the foundation for an affair.

Carolyn Kelley North, http://www.carolynkelley.com

Tip 9: Be honest about your feelings

Be honest about your feelingsMany people think that once they are married, they will no longer be attracted to other people. That is wrong and dangerous thinking. In reality, you are married…but not dead! You and I still see attractive or handsome people and we need to be honest with our spouse when this happens. Tell your spouse about it and invite him/her to hold you accountable by asking you questions. Be intentional about your contact with this person. Avoid them at all cost; do not allow yourself to be alone with him/her, and guard your heart. Daily affirm your love for your spouse.

Jason and Debby Coleman, http://www.youramazingmarriage.com

Tip 10: Find something you appreciate about your partner and tell them

Find something you appreciate about your partner and tell themIn the beginning of any relationship, you brought out the best in each other. However as time goes by, you tend to notice your partner’s annoying traits, behaviors, and qualities. This begins to get more of your attention. When you partner feels you are disappointed in them or do not like them, they withdraw and become vulnerable to the positive attentions from another person.

This does not mean you ignore behavior you do not like; rather savor what you dolike. Everyday find something you appreciate about your partner and tell them. Think about your partner in a positive way when you are not together so when you see them you’ll feel loving, close and happy to be there.

Debra Joy Goldman, www.debrajoygoldman.com

Tip 11: Be authentic

Be authenticBeing authentic means owning what is yours. All your own feelings, perceptions, thoughts, beliefs, rather than trying to mind-read your partner or making accusations. But it also means taking responsibility for your own happiness, rather than wishing or even demanding that your partner make you happy. It means learning to fill yourself up and meet your partner as s/he fills him/herself up. One person can be authentic in a relationship, but that relationship will eventually end. But if both parties are authentic, the relationship builds a fortress around it that is difficult to breach.

Andrea Mathews, http://www.andreamathewslpc.com 

Tip 12: Pay attention to your spouse

Pay attention to your spouseThe #1 most common reason I have heard during my 19 years providing counseling as a marriage therapist that men and women report choosing to cheat is: they feel their spouse was not paying attention to them.

In Section 5 of my newest book: Dr. Karen’s Marriage Manual, I explain that when a man or woman doesn’t feel their spouse is paying attention to them with consistency over time, it makes a person feel unwanted and sad about their own value and self-worth. Choose to take action and make the time to pay attention to your spouse each day. Some examples include: communication, being present, compassionate, hearing your spouse’s voice, empathetic, physically affectionate, nurturing, sexual intimacy, showing active consistent interest, patient, planning activities together, be their biggest fan.

Without attention from one’s spouse, one feels disconnected leading the person to feel like their spouse isn’t interested in them, which leads some to connect with someone who is.

Dr. Karen Ruskin, www.drkarenruskin.com

Tip 13: Trust is a key priority

Trust is a key priorityTrust is a key priority in any relationship. It is the foundation on which relationships are built. Many people bring past issues and hurt feelings into new relationships which creates distrust. Distrust causes people to act in ways that have negative effects on their relationships such as checking phone records and emails, spying on partners, obsessing about them and can even lead to violence. Often it is these negative behaviours which result in people committing adultery.

Distrust comes from feelings of insecurity and powerlessness. To build trust, people need to first work through their negative feelings with the help of a professional counsellor and then make the choice to trust another and choose to not let distrustful emotions dictate their behavior.

Rodney Owen, www.blokesupport.com.au

Tip 14: Tend to your relationship – daily

Tend to your Relationship - dailyTo get through college, a student has to attend classes, study, and complete assignments. To complete a project, an employee has to show up, pay attention, and complete the task at hand. Every day, day after day. Every accomplishment takes our time and our attention. A successful, loving relationship is no different – it needs consistent, dedicated time and attention to thrive.

If I want to play the piano well, but I only practice one weekend every five or six months, I’ll play
somewhat better by the end of that weekend, but no where as accomplished as I would be if I played 30 minutes a day three or four times a week. The same is true for building and sustaining a resilient, harmonious relationship, which is the best prevention for infidelity.

Connect with your sweetheart most days: even 5 minutes is better than nothing. Learn her love language and speak it. Pause, breathe, look into one another’s eyes and smile from your heart. Plan a special date together. Take a walk, giving your full attention to one another. Ask him, especially in stressful times, “What do you need from me right now?” Strive to find a way to be loving to your partner most days. It’s the best prevention.

Connie Feutz, http://www.NWMarriagecounseling.com & www.TheMindfulCoupleWorkshops.com

Tip 15: Never stop working on yourself

Never stop working on yourselfHaving a strong sense of self is one amazing way to remain attractive to your partner. The ways in which to achieve this include looking after some of your most important needs such as having a healthy lifestyle rich in good food, exercise, a healthy work/life balance, and positive self-talk. Make sure your life is full of variety and that you surround yourself by people who love you and who bring positive energy into your life, in addition to your partner. When you exude positive feelings about yourself your partner will definitely feel inspired to stick around for the ride…

Micki Lavin-Pell, http://www.relationship-renovation.com

Tip 16: Remove threesomes

Remove threesomesWhen I look at the home of my Feng Shui clients, I see a consistent pattern in the way they arrange their home that is indicative of their relationship problems.

Here are a couple of Feng Shui tips that may be helpful.

Avoid using art that has three or more people in them or people who are not visually or otherwise engaged with each other. You want pictures of people embracing each other and looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, rather than away from each other.

Arrange decorative items in pairs. And when you use a pair of items or pictures hanging on walls, ensure they look like a match set or a good/equal pairing. For example, if placing two vases, they should be of similar height, width, and sturdiness – one should not look frail or small in comparison to the other.

Helen Arabanos, www.fullbloomfengshui.com

Tip 17: Don’t let an old flame inflame your marriage

Don't let an old flame inflame your marriageLooking up old lovers, seeing how their lives have evolved, is now so much more easier and often times, may start out innocently enough. Yet, if your marriage is not strong, fantasies of how this old flame could reignite your lost passion and your desire for emotional closeness can become a nightmare for you, your spouse (and children) and the other person.

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, http://www.drkgl.com

Tip 18: Get back to the basics: The power of a good make out session

Get Back to the Basics: The Power of a Good Make Out SessionIf you find yourself in a sexless marriage, don’t get discouraged if the thought of spicing things up again seems too tumultuous to bear. Go back to what sparked your intimacy to begin with. Devote time to making out with your mate and sensuously kissing them, without the expectation of sex (or agree to not have sex the first few times). Kissing increases oxytocin and reduces stress hormones, so pucker up and keep it fresh. See how many times you can go before you start ripping each other’s clothes off!

Rima Danielle Jomaa, http://www.arimatherapy.com

Tip 19: Intimate reciprocity: Give and take fairly

Intimate reciprocity: Give and take fairlyIntimacy is one of the greatest benefits of a relationship. It can range from holding a deep stare, to engaging in meaningful conversation, to sexual activity. The type of intimate connections one enjoys varies from person to person.

So what one partner might think is a priority, the other might not. This is why I like to remind couples to give and take fairly.

Kayna Cassard, http://www.kaynacassard.com

Tip 20: Be willing to discuss fantasies, desires, hopes, and dreams with your partner.

Be willing to discuss fantasies, desires, hopes, and dreams with your partnerHave ongoing, constructive discussions with your partner about what you fantasize about, what you desire, what you hope for, and what you dream about. Understand and accept that you and your partner change over time and that what turned you on/off before may now be different from when you two first met. Be honest and open by refraining from judgment so that you and your partner can grow together.

Dr. James Wadley, www.drjameswadley.com

Tip 21: Support your partner’s personal development

Support your partner's personal developmentFocus on what attracted you to your partner in the first place. Most likely it was their intelligence, confidence, values, talents, and goals. Our personal development needs maintaining in addition to supporting our partner’s growth.

Join a dance class, book club, volunteer group, faith-based community, open mic night, mom and baby group, baseball team etc. Have your partner be a part of your passion and support his or her personal growth. Discover each other all over again.

Brooke Campbell, www.creativekinections.com

Tip 22: Take time for yourself

Take time for yourselfWhen you are on a plane, the flight attendant instructs you, in case of low pressure, to place on an oxygen mask prior to placing it on another person, even if that other person is your child. Relationships are like this too. I suggest that every day you spend 5 – 10 minutes doing something entirely for yourself that is physically, mentally, or spiritually stimulating. Choose something different each day. With the two of you doing this and sharing the results, your relationship as a whole will be stronger and richer than the sum of its parts.

Charles F. Glassman, http://www.charlesglassmanmd.com

Tip 23: Make a commitment to be the best partner you can be

Make a commitment to be the best partner you can beNone of us can have an unequivocal guarantee that our partner won’t have an affair. We can, however, strive to be the best partner we can be. It is always beneficial to be kind and generous, to be loving and respectful, to have the courage to face difficult issues and work towards solutions. When we bring the best of ourselves, we’ve done all that we can to have as sound and solid a marriage as possible.

Winifred Reilly, http://www.winifredreilly.com

Tip 24: Learn how to talk and listen to each other openly and honestly.

Learn how to talk and listen to each other openly and honestlyAffairs happen in an environment of duplicity. If a couple can create a safe space for real and honest communication, if they can talk about the difficult issues together and learn how to manage and resolve the conflict that their partnership stimulates, facing it as a team, then they are more likely to affair proof their relationship.

This is a learnable skill and it involves really being able to set aside one’s own perspective to listen fully to the experience of the other, and being able to do that for each other on a regular basis. This creates a safe environment for love and openness and generates a positive energy and climate for the relationship. Affairs are passive aggressive. This is why it is so important for each partner to learn how to express needs and feelings including anger, frustration and sadness directly to their partner rather than taking it outside the couple.

Margie Ulbrick, www.margieulbrickcounselling.com

Tip 25: Define and agree to the principals of love and apply daily

Define and agree to the principals of love and apply dailyWe all think we know how to love, however to really understandand define love in action, takes a relationship to a whole new level. Infidelity usually occurs when we are not feeling loved. My favorite definition of love, comes from the bible. In simple terms, love is patient, kind, understanding, slow to anger, quick to forgive, tolerant, never boastful, always believes the best, gives the benefit of the doubt, covers each others’ wrongs, does not keep an accounting of wrongs, always trusts,always respects and never fails. Put these principals into action and watch your relationship grow!

Dr. Susan Pazak, www.askdrsusanp.com

Tip 26: Create a bliss list

Create a bliss listCouples often report they want to do things for their partner that shows love and appreciation, but often do not know what to do, or forget to do it. I recommend creating a bliss list. This is something that each person generates. It is a list of all the possible things that contribute to your sense of happiness.

Examples can range from taking walks at sunset, to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, to your favorite sex position. Once each of you has created your list, share it with one another. This is an opportunity to connect! Next, put your lists in a place where you can both access them for future reference. You may want to set reminders in your scheduleto plan something for your partner, and then simply consult your bliss lists! Adding items to the list is encouraged.

Dr. Kelly Schinkehttp://www.alternative-pathways.com

Tip 27: Add “more” to your love routine

Add more to your love routinePut more into your relationship, not less, especially if you are busy with your career or kids, or you are drifting apart. Your relationship will only improve with your effort. Put in more quality time, more attentive listening, more kind words and praise, more care and love, more dates, more touch and sex, more interest in him/her, more unasked favors, more small gifts.

Chandrama Anderson, www.connect2.us.com

Tip 28: Allocate 10 minutes a day to connect with your partner

Allocate 10 minutes a day to connect with your partnerOne thing that can lead to infidelity in relationships is a lack of connection. This can often happen when we have been in relationships for a long time. One step that can prevent infidelity is making time daily to connect with your partner.

I will suggest 10 minutes a day to connect. This includes no TV, radio, or book in the way. If we make the effort to connect daily our partners will feel supported and less likely to seek outside comfort. Life will always get in the way and we need to make the relationship a priority.

Lyndsey Fraser, www.relationalconnections.com

Tip 29: Make it your mission to safeguard your relationship

Make it your mission to safeguard your relationshipOne way to ensure that a couple remains faithful is to think about one’s duty in the relationship. Do you love your partner? If so, is it important that your beloved feels happy and healthy and cherished by you? If this is the case, then why not adopt a stance that includes protecting the heart of your mate; always. If you live with the mission of safeguarding your relationship and making sure that it is always taken care of, you will never step out of bounds into someone else’s arms for comfort.

Linda Nusbaum, http://www.lindanusbaum.com

Tip 30: Communicate with love and compassion

Create a “Communicate with love and compassionHonesty, love and compassion are three core elements of good communication. To communicate with love and compassion, part of us needs to be brave. We need to let go of pride and various defenses so we can let our lover have an opportunity to know us fully.

Here is an example, “Dearest, earlier you went to work without kissing me goodbye. I felt sad and missed my goodbye kiss greatly. I was worried I upset you. Can I have one over the phone now? And in the future please don’t leave without giving me a big smooch.”

In this sentence, one’s honest emotions about being left without a kiss were communicated with love and compassion. We must also let our dearest know we heard them. “My love, you did not upset me. I was distracted this morning. I’m sorry this distressed you. Of course you can have a kiss every morning and one right now.”

In life we travel together and separately. In order to stay connected in our distance communication provides a bridge of unity.

Melissa Kester, http://www.MadisonMFT.com

Tip 31: Have a no-secrets policy

Create a “Have a no-secrets policyAnything you say or do with anyone other than your partner (except for your therapist) should be something you would be completely comfortable with your partner overhearing or seeing. An old boyfriend contacts you, someone has a crush on you, lunch with a colleague, your online activity, conversations with your friends etc.

Whatever it is. If it wouldn’t make your partner feel safe and loved, it isn’t in the best interest of your relationship. And if you are acting outside the best interest of your relationship, you are leaving your relationship vulnerable.

Bobbi Jankovich, http://www.bobbijankovich.com

Tip 32: Put more energy into the spiritual and emotional aspects of your relationship

Create a “Put more energy into the spiritual and emotional aspects of your relationshipThis may come as a surprise, but if you want to safeguard your relationship from infidelity, I’d urge you to put more energy into the spiritual and emotional aspects of your relationship. A vital ongoing spiritual connection with God will reap the fruit of unfailing love. And a deep emotional connection, marked by acceptance and understanding, will pull you to each other when tempted to stray. The path to lasting intimacy starts with a strong spiritual and emotional connection which paves the way for a lasing love life.

Dave Gudgel, http://www.davidgudgel.com

Tip 33: Commit to monogamy

Create a “Commit to monogamyCommitting to monogamy prevents infidelity. Feeling remorse and “good” shame are how you know you’ve crossed a line. You realize you’ve gone against yourself and hurt your partner in the process. What kind of a commitment is necessary? If your commitment is so your partner won’t stray, it won’t work because you can’t control someone else’s behavior. You can only be in control of your own.

Committing to monogamy is a commitment you make to yourself. It takes emotional maturity. When both of you get there you have the safety and vulnerability to express and hear each other’s feelings—fears, hurts, angers, hopes, and dreams in an emotionally committed relationship. Ask those who are there and they’ll tell you they’re having a good sex life.

Matthew Cohen, www.matthewcohen.us

Tip 34: Be playful

Create a “Be playfulHas your relationship become dull? Are the two of you going through the motions of getting up, getting dressed, going to work, coming home, eating fast food and turning on your favorite reality show? Beautiful picture of closeness isn’t it? Just the relationship you dreamed about as a child?

For you own sake introduce the spirit of playfulness back into the relationship. Find affectionate names for each other. Play WI. Build a Puzzle. Create Magic. Hold Hands. Be Spontaneous. Eat breakfast for dinner and dinner forbreakfast. Yep, change it out. Play.

Dr. Robin Dilley, http://www.psychotherapyunlimited.com

Tip 35: Flirt with your spouse

Create a “Flirt with your spouseYou remember when you were dating? What was one thing you enjoyed together? Yes, flirting! Most people enjoy this and we forget to keep doing it with our spouses!

Need some ideas?

  • Text message your spouse throughout the day to let them know you are thinking about them.
  • Play footsie under the table while the kids are arguing at dinner!
  • Write a message on the mirror at home with a dry erase marker. Better yet, with lipstick to let them know you love them and “wanna have some fun” later!
  • Keep it spicy- like when you were dating! It takes so little time and effort.

Natalie Chandler, http://www.imaginehopecounseling.com

Tip 36: Don’t Stop Dating Your Partner and You Will Remain Lovers

Don't Stop Dating Your Partner and You Will Remain LoversI recommend that couples weatherproof their relationship from extramarital affairs by continuing to “date” throughout their relationship. When couples are dating, they generally connect on three basic levels.

First, each partner is openly sharing information and is genuinely interested in learning about the other person. Second, each is giving and receiving a lot of attention and affection. Lastly, a passionate sex life will be created.

These three simple ways of interacting create an intimate bond and as long as this is occurring, the need to seek intimacy outside of the relationship will be removed.

Daniel Beaver, http://www.danielbeaver.com

Tip 37: Learn how to argue well

Learn how to argue wellResearch shows that successful couples argue when necessary; they don’t avoid discord or conflict. A vital key to ongoing satisfaction in relationships is to learn to argue effectively. Happy couples, for example, don’t use condescending comments or “zingers” to sting their partners into silence; they don’t withdraw from conflict; when they need to “take a break” to regain their composure, they commit to return to finish the argument; they demonstrate respect even when they are angry. Identifying and admitting grievances allows each partner to speak up, be heard, and take responsibility for their own mistakes.

John C. Weiks, http://www.johnweiks.com

Tip 38: Take risks in regards to vulnerability

Take risks in regards to vulnerabilityVulnerability tends to draw others towards. When couples feel disconnected, they nag, lash out, or distance. Instead, try saying something that isn’t angry, but reveals more of your sadness, loneliness, fear, or longing. Instead of whining, “I’m so sick of you watching football” say, “Honey, I’m scared. I haven’t felt close to you in weeks. Could we make some time for each other?”

Lucille Zimmerman, http://www.lucillezimmerman.com

Tip 39: Be aware that everyone including you is vulnerable to affairs

Be aware that everyone including you is vulnerable to affairsOften I see people who say, “I never thought he would cheat” or “I would never do that.” If you think, “I would never cheat” you may rationalize and excuse behavior like flirty texting, intimate converstions or flirty physical interactions that can lead to affairs.

Admitting to yourself and to each other that you are both capable of engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior allows you to make choices that will protect your marriage. It allows you to see the choices 20 steps back that can lead to an affair.

It helps you avoid saying yes to drinks after work with your attractive co-worker, or returning a lengthy, chatty e-mail. It allows you set good boundaries and respect your relationship.

Shelby Riley, http://www.shelbyrileymft.com

Tip 40: Maintain boundaries in your relationship.

Maintain boundaries in your relationshipIt’s like Vegas. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Well… What happens in your home, stays in your home. Once you start to involve others into your relationship, you invite curiosity and confusion.

To prevent the triangulation and unproductive opinions of others, it is important to deal with problems and develop solutions between you and your spouse/partner only. When you find yourself venting to a close friend or family member, ask yourself “Is this something I would tell my partner.”

Keep the lines of communication open and do not allow yourself to harbor feelings, it only breeds resentment and anger.

Dr. Raena Baptiste-Boles, http://www.crescenttherapyandassessment.com

Tip 41: Create emotional safety & security

Create emotional safety & securityWhen you both know what is expected in the relationship, there leaves very little room for misunderstandings. Communicate directly about the things that are and are not appropriate for you both & the relationship. For example, is it ok for the two of you to have opposite-sex friendships separate from the joint relationship? How much time is appropriate for each of you to spend on social media each day? When boundaries are set & agreed upon, and you know what is expected of you & your partner, it cuts out any guessing games. These actions will promote emotional safety & security.

Tamara Wilhelm, http://www.imaginehopecounseling.com

Tip 42: Beware of the shifting that takes place during times of major developmental stage changes in the family.

Beware of the shifting that takes place during times of major developmental stage changes in the familyWhen a baby comes along or one partner returns to work after a long period of being home, or when kids enter into adolescence, a major shift takes place in relationships. These times are fraught with tension and insecurity that can lead to acting out behaviors.

When we are aware of the issues surrounding these tenuous times, we can move into them with our eyes wide open, rather than being blind-sided by strange behavior and attitudes. Openly communication and exploration of the emotions each of you may feel are essential.

Being able to express the new needs these stages bring will help to prevent dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the relationship. Make sure you each are caring for yourself as well as finding ways to care for the other person. Find support among your friends and family in order to take time away from the chaos life changes can bring. Intentionally restoring intimacy and balance in your lives can prevent infidelity.

Sabrina Walters, http://www.sabrinawalterscounseling.com

Tip 43: Don’t idealize a relationship with a new person.

Don’t idealize a relationship with a new personLong-term relationships are familiar. This familiarity is part of what makes us feel comfortable and secure and what also makes us feel trapped and bored. When you daydream about what it would be like to be with a different partner, you are comparing an unknown which has excitement and newness to a known in which you are aware of your partner’s weaknesses. Whether you are imagining a relationship with someone new, comparing your spouse with someone else, or contemplating an affair with a specific person, remind yourself that all people have faults and weaknesses and no relationship is without problems.

Karla Downing, http://www.changemyrelationship.com

Tip 44: Do a self emotional checkup especially when you are vulnerable

Do a self emotional check-up especially when you are vulnerableThrough the peeks and valleys of a relationship there will be times that you are vulnerable to the temptation of attention from others. Knowing where you are emotionally at all times can combat your more vulnerable times. When your relationship is solid you are less vulnerable. Likewise when you are not getting your needs met, your eyes may wonder.

Always be aware of how you are feeling and do your best to resolve issues in your relationship as quickly as issues are identified.

Donald Goodman, http://www.donaldgoodmanlcsw.com

Tip 45: Take every opportunity to show your partner that he/she is special to you.

Take every opportunity to show your partner that he/she is special to youWhen your partner feels special and cherished by you, they have little or no desire to seek that attention, affection or validation somewhere else. These opportunities can include frequent love-affirming statements, helpfulness, “showing up” for your partner when he/she has had a tough day, being available to listen, freely giving affection, nice surprises, thoughtful actions etc. Most importantly, tune in to your partner and become aware of the kind of words and actions that mean something to them. If you are not sure, ask, which is yet another way to communicate “You matter to me.”

Angela DeVita, http://www.angeladevitatherapy.com

Tip 46: Do an annual “How Are We Doing?”checkup

Do an annual Take some special time together once or twice a year to assess the health of your relationship. Go off for a special romantic weekend on your anniversary or establish this as an innovative New Year’s Resolution. Create a master list that you use each time. Rate your level of satisfaction and share your feelings with each other as you evaluate each item.

Consider these subjects:

– Demonstration of affection
– Sexual satisfaction
– Spending quality time together on a regular basis
– Communication of emotions
– Ability to resolve disagreements
– Personal hygiene
– Money: spending, debting, saving
– Goals: setting and achieving together
– Spiritual beliefs

When you have completed this discussion take some time to tell your partner what you love and appreciate about him or her.

Finally, create a new list of solutions and goals for the coming year.

Gloria Arenson, http://www.gloriaarenson.com

Tip 47: Deepen your friendship

Do an annual Dr. John Gottman’s research on what predicts divorce and long-term relationship stability is ground breaking. We now know, with over 90% accuracy, what harms relationships and what works. The California Divorce Mediation Project identifies emotional disengagement as the #1 reason for divorce (80% of the time), with relationships ending more by ice than by fire.

An affair that is not just sex is a symptom of an ailing marriage, filling an emotional void. The “Masters” of relationships treat their partner like a good friend, they are gentle in conflict, and have learned to tone down negativity and dial up positivity.

Robert Navarra, http://www.robertnavarra.net

Tip 48: Keep it FRESH, Like when you were dating

Keep it FRESH, Like when you were datingPart of what makes a great marriage mature healthily includes creating rituals together. Having those memories and the ability to look forward to the next time you can experience that opportunity together again is good. However, to avoid boredom from either side, try keeping your date life fresh like when you first started dating. Many new couples enjoy the planning and enacting process of a date, especially when it will be a surprise to the other person, or a date at a new place, doing a new thing, or possibly with others. Be creative!

Meghan Cole, www.fdlpsychotherapy.com

Tip 49: Resolve conflict

Resolve conflictYou could make a case that infidelity starts with a seed of unresolved conflict. What seems insignificant if not addressed can germinate into a tangled mess where special feelings you had for each other are lost.Then, “alternatives” to your relationship may be considered. Managing conflict should be the highest priority. Avoiding criticism is crucial to avoiding the attack and defense mode, and nothing happens unless people feel understood. Looking for alternative solutions to what each side is proposing is another key. Then, make agreements, and secondary agreements that apply if the primary agreement is not kept, to build trust.

Dan Blair, http://blaircounselingandmediation.com

 Tip 50: Heighten your awareness of what you are doing in your marriage

Heighten your awareness of what you are doing in your marriageMarital distance and conflict stem from tension that grows between spouses over time. When that distance reaches critical mass it’s common to shift emotional focus to someone outside the marriage (kids, in-laws, friends, etc). However, sometimes that person is a lover. To do your part to maintain a satisfying marriage, pay attention to the ways you either seek attention from or avoid your mate. Deal with marital issues you’d rather avoid. Speak for yourself. Decide what you’re willing to do and not willing to do. In other words, be present and accounted for in your own marriage.

Lorna Hecht-Zablow, http://www.lornahechtzablow.com

Bonus Tips

Tip 51: When your meets are not being met, figure out ways to work with your partner

When your meets are not being met, figure out ways to work with your partnerWhen we do not feel safe, supported, invigorated or nourished in our principal relationship, we can find ourselves looking elsewhere for comfort, excitement and affirmation. If we are able to slow down for long enough to recognize what it is, exactly, that we hope to gain from an outside relationship, we can cultivate insight into what our primary partner is not providing. “What do I have now, and what is missing?” is a good question to ask. Once we can identify more clearly what we are needing, the investigation is in whether these needs can be met by our current partner. “Can he/she give me what I need? Can anyone give me what I need?” Relationships will always disappoint when we seek without for what can only be found within.

Elizabeth Baum, http://www.elizabethbaumintegral.com

Tip 52: “Repair attempt”- Work with and not against each other

Repair attempt- Work with and not against each otherEven while practicing constructive strategies, conflict occasionally arises in healthy relationships. To keep differences from escalating out of control, implementation of any action or comment – silly or otherwise – that results in diffusing the situation, is called a “repair attempt,” and “the secret weapon of happy couples” (Gottmann, 1999). Knowledge about repair attempts isn’t enough. Partners can agree to notice them and give their partner credit, even if the attempt falls flat. The use of a repair attempt indicates that the loved one is trying to work with and not against the other. Then things can go back to a happy, normal rhythm.

Sandra Smith, www.northcountypsychotherapy.com

Tip 53: Set clear expectations early in your relationship

Set clear expectations early in your relationshipStart from the beginning. As awkward as it might sound, have that conversation at some point early in your relationship about what your expectations are. Your partner is a unique person with a unique upbringing. Flirting might be a harmless action in their eyes, while it might very much hurt you. So have that conversation early, or as soon as you can, about your expectations.

Your partner cannot read your mind! And you can’t read theirs. So lessen the opportunity for miscommunication by relaying your expectations about what you’d like, as well as getting their take on what is appropriate in their eyes.

Michelle Warren, http://www.serenitycounsel.com

Tip 54: Think and meditate daily on why you wanted to marry your spouse.

Think and meditate daily on why you wanted to marry your spouseMost people decide to pursue marriage with the person they are dating because either they feel they have found their “Soul Mate”, or because they feel that “We want the same things in life”. Both of these desires are valid and can lead to long, happy marriage. You and your spouse don’t need to match on this point, but many couples do. Do something daily that supports your original desire for him or her, such as a loving touch, sharing an inside joke, working out together, or conversing about your shared interests.

Judy Cares, http://www.judycares.com

Tip 55: Be the partner you want to be with

Be the partner you want to be withA major mistake we make in our attempt to build meaningful lasting relationships is operating from the guiding principle “The success of this relationship depends on how well you meet all my expectations of you.” It invariably leads to difficulty and resentment at some point, because other people are not us, and they never will be. We can’t even live up to our own expectations of ourselves, so how can we expect more from others? It’s a waste of time. Focus your energy instead on this simple question: “Am I being the person today I would want to be in a relationship with?” Ask it often and see what happens.

David Baker-Hargrove, http://www.drdavidbakerhargrove.com

Tip 56: Commit to the idea that you can both have what you truly want.

Commit to the idea that you can both have what you truly wantRelationship difficulty often arises when one person begins to perceive that they are not getting something that they want. In every applicable situation say to yourself:

1. What I want is important.
2. What my partner wants is important.
3. We will find a way that we are both satisfied with the outcome.

If you are both committed to this you will be able to relax and discuss anything. The better you feel when you discuss matters the more likely solutions will emerge. The more stressed you are the more you close yourself to creative ideas and solutions.

Steve Smith,http://www.theenlightenedmind.net

Tip 57: Don’t be afraid of confrontation

Don't be afraid of confrontationIn my experience as a marriage counselor one of the more common things I have seen right before a spouse has an affair is that one or both of the spouses gets tired of all the fighting and withdraws (emotionally and physically) from the other. When this happens an affair is almost inevitable.

People need to get their emotional needs met somewhere. So they find someone else to meet those needs for them. So if your marriage is on the rocks, don’t be afraid of confrontation. The arguing is unpleasant but withdrawing from your spouse is worse. Hang in there and when the going gets too tough, it’s time to get a counselor.

Aaron Anderson, www.blog.themarriageandfamilyclinic.com

Tip 58: Beware of the innocent online chat

Beware of the innocent online chatOnline chats may seem harmless in the beginning, but they can lead to an emotional affair before we know it. Once we begin sharing intimate details about our lives and our feelings we aren’t sharing with our spouse, we may be in trouble.

It’s important to stop and ask ourselves “Why am I doing this and what am I looking for?” “What do I feel I’m not getting from my spouse I’m getting online?” We need to evaluate if we are looking for something we are missing on the inside, and also honestly talk to our spouse about what needs aren’t being met in the relationship.

Barbara Binder, www.alliancecounselingcenter.com

Tip 59: Feed your relationship

Feed your relationshipFeed your relationship a healthy diet of validation and meaningful services to create positive feelings and interactions. Healthy interactions help couples build emotional muscle and allow them to feel secure, which in turn builds desire. Negative interactions can lead to insecurity and resentment. Often these are the first erosive steps to a loveless relationship.

Partners in this state may look outside the relationship to get their needs met. To “affair-proof” your relationship quickly repair negative interactions, resolve hurt feelings and move towards showing interest, giving compliments and affirming behaviors. As you build connection and fondness, the opportunity for intimacy opens.

Cynthia Rebholz, www.cynthiarebholz.com

Tip 60: Do something together outside of your comfort zone

Take pride in the way you lookBoredom is often cited as one of the leading reasons for infidelity. Staying inside your comfort zone leads to routines and predictability, which in turn leads to a boring marriage. When you learn to step outside of your comfort zone, you bring in adventure, play, unpredictability and fun. You will also learn something new about your partner that may intrigue and surprise you.

Elizabeth Ramirez, www.positivechanges4women.com

Tip 61: Keep private information private, that is why it is called “private”

Keep private information private, that is why it is called privateDo not share personal information about yourself or your marriage with another person. If you find yourself confiding in another person to seek comfort, an opinion or just as a way to be heard then you are in dangerous territory. Another warning sign is when you find yourself keeping secrets from your partner. A good practice is to ask is if your partner were listening or reading your emails or texts, would he or she approve. Remember to keep your partner as your best friend, keep clear boundaries to protect your relationship and your partner.

Renee Segal, http://www.mplscounseling.com

Tip 62: Take responsibility for getting your needs met.

Take responsibility for getting your needs metRelationships often take a lot of work! I often see people in relationships where they are hoping things will change but they aren’t really doing anything to make it happen. If you want something to be different in your relationship, don’t wait for your partner to make the change for you; get to work in thinking about what you can do to make the change happen and do it.

Being in a relationship requires both partners to pull their weight and do the work of keeping the relationship a priority. Relationships also require each person to take responsibility to making sure their needs are met. If your needs aren’t being met take responsibility for finding ways to get your needs met in a way that works for both you and your partner.

Naomi Doriott, http://www.collaborativemn.com

Tip 63: Sex: Schedule it

Sex: Schedule itIn today’s busy and hectic times, practically everything we do has to be scheduled in, even sex. Yes, just like everything else, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Many couples frown when I encourage them to schedule in sex. They just don’t feel right doing it and often laugh at the ridiculousness of putting sex in their plans. They say what makes sex fun is the spontaneity of it and planning would take away the spontaneity.

At this point, I remind couples that when they were first dating, when sex was probably not an issue, it wasn’t always spontaneous, but rather planned. Most couples knew what was coming at the conclusion of a date – a date that was planned. Perhaps all day long, there was this anticipation of what was to come and with the anticipation came ideas of what they would wear, what fragrance they would put on, how they might do their hair or perhaps a little more time was spent shaving legs or brushing teeth. Whatever it was, it was premeditated.

Sex is an important part of a relationship, schedule it in, just like you schedule in time to watch your favorite show on T.V. or check your fantasy football team.

Brenda Hansen-Mayer, http://www.bhmtherapy.com

Tip 64: Don’t take your relationship for granted

Don't take your relationship for grantedIf your partner has been sharing the same or similar complaints over time with you, listen! Themes are especially important to hear because they show a pattern of discontentment. Your partner isn’t telling you this just to hear their own voice. Putting your head in the sand won’t make the complaint vanish. Take action.

Stop taking your relationship for granted. Complaints falling on deaf ears make one primed for an affair. Most couples tell me they have been stating their specific complaint for years. Don’t be one of these couples.

Deborah Day, http://www.deborahdayma.com

Tip 65: Work on “liking” your partner

Work on liking your partnerWe fall in love and get married. Time elapses, couples raise a family, and get about the business of running their lives. Over the years, I have heard countless couples tell me that they “love” their spouse, yet when I ask if they “like” their spouse, I hear a deafening silence… or at least a long pause.

While no doubt the tone and tenor of relationships ebbs and flows over time, I have found that helping couples stay “in like” has been immensely helpful in their treating each other lovingly. After all, we can hurt the one we love (especially in times of anger), but we are typically more careful about hurting people we like.

Focus on liking your spouse, and youʼll see the desire to stay close and intimate grow!

Dr. Gregory Alch, www.method44.com

Tip 66: Take Ownership For Your Part of the Couple Equation

Take Ownership For Your Part of the Couple EquationInfidelity happens less often in strong, healthy relationships, so when a relationship is in trouble, it is always necessary for each partner to examine his or her responsibilities.

I give all of my couples clients a brief overview of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz as a guide to what they can do to help their relationship. I like this because it emphasizes that each individual is responsible for their part of the the couple equation.

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word: Say only what you mean. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate clearly. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best: Under any circumstance, simply do you best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Brandy Brown, http://www.brandybrowncounseling.com

Tip 67: Communication: Say what you mean and mean what you say! & Intimacy: What’s Love Got to Do With It? EVERYTHING!!! Keep it fresh and exciting!

Communication: Say what you mean and mean what you sayTypically, couples are struggling in two primary areas: communication and intimacy. From the beginning of time, males and females were created differently, including the way our brains are wired to process information. We think our partner “should know” what we’re thinking or what we need.

However, we are not mind readers. If you don’t afford your partner the opportunity to be aware of your thoughts, needs, wishes and desires, then you are partially responsible when things don’t work. We shouldn’t rob our partners of their options to make choices for themselves in the relationship by not communicating what we need. If you are not willing to listen, there is someone waiting who will!

Dr. Angela Clack, http://www.clackassociates.com