By Dan Blair Marriage Counselor and Family Therapist
Why do people divorce and can you stop divorce?
Aside from abuse, affairs, or addictions, the disintegration of relationships can often be understood in terms of attachment research, which studies both insecure and secure attachment patterns. Insecure attachment patterns develop when painful relational experiences cause both withdrawing and pursuing patterns to avoid the pain of abandonment or rejection in the present.
A withdrawing relationship pattern can be marked by a partner feeling uncomfortable or inadequate when talking about emotion or conflict in the relationship. Withdrawers also may feel criticized. Their initial reaction beyond defensiveness may be irritation or anger. Expressing emotion also may make them feel not good enough, or vulnerable. They view significant other’s needs as overwhelming and have been taught to solve problems on their own, and would rather just be appreciated for what they are doing. Withdrawers may feel that they cannot make the other person happy. They would not necessarily look forward to marriage counseling for these reasons. Since relationships do not regularly bring them comfort or relief, they usually do not even think of asking for help. Spouses of withdrawers may feel ignored.
Pursuers run on anxiety or anger as fuel. Parents may have been described as overprotective, or critical. In both cases, a primary focus on the other develops often to the exclusion of one’s own needs. The pursuer is dismayed when a significant other withdraws. The pursuer may continue the pursuit, but in critical ways. The withdrawer may become hurt, and tired of the pattern, even when the pleaser is trying to connect.
A third pattern combines both pursuit and withdrawal. Seeking connection and excitement in the relationship a pursuer may be disappointed or even hurt time and time again. The pursuer may then feel empty and lonely. A withdrawing pattern may begin, and if a negative view of their partner is practiced, then ideas about being more appreciated by someone else may enter the picture. This pattern may be repeated with others. When pursuing, the partner is valued; when the pursuing is disappointing or hurtful, the partner is to blame.
To stop the wish for divorce, an interest in another person has to have not taken root, and a willingness to change these patterns has to be present. Otherwise these patterns tend to be repeated.
Many that divorce are happier, but not that much happier. Over half regret it. Is it worth the long-lasting turmoil for you and the kids?
Good books can be found on rebuilding marriages and changing attachment patterns by Milan and Kay Yerkovich or Susan Johnson.
By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
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.
By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
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.
By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
The Baby Boomer generation is among the first to see divorce as a more acceptable option, and more enter this age group already divorced. Other common reasons for divorce among people over age 50 include anger issues, abuse, infidelity, and addiction. Many are already divorced, or have waited for their kids to be on their own before making changes.
While the number of failed marriages is often thought of as around 50 percent, the general divorce rate is lower, with recent reports ranging from twenty to forty percent. In 2001, the rate was reported to be 41 percent. “This highest rate of divorce in the 2001 survey [of the Fertility and Family Branch of the Census Bureau] was 41 percent for men who were then between the ages of 50 and 59, and 39 percent for women in the same age group,” says Scott M. Stanley of the University of Denver.1
Battered by the economy and subject to longer life spans, people are left with little financial cushion. Divorce divides what people have left and taps into insurance and medical expenses, property division (including house, cars, etc.), assets and liabilities, retirement plans, and business valuations. These have to be split in an equitable way. Divorce also creates a need for additional financial spousal support.
Could you be headed for divorce? Here are ten of the top signs your marriage may headed for trouble.
- A wall of resentment, built brick by brick. Depending on how you or your mate handles anger and resentment, that wall is not coming down, so intimate feelings and thoughts will not survive.
- A pattern of negative thinking about your spouse. If the relationship is entrenched, positive feelings are no longer available.
- Loneliness in the relationship or an inability to have fun with each other. A good adventure can be more bonding than sex.
- Continuous criticism that turns into contempt.
- You or your spouse make demands on the other.
- You or your spouse is continuously on the defense.
- Nearly all of your energy, or that of your mate, is poured into other endeavors besides the relationship.
- Someone special is waiting in the wings, or there’s the thought that I can do better.
- No trust = no relationship.
- There’s no external source of hope and commitment, such as God.
If your marriage is experiencing any of these challenges, it’s time to overcome these entrenched negative patterns. Resentment usually causes one spouse to become disinterested in the relationship and unable to believe his/her partner will ever change. Unfortunately, if you or your spouse has lost interest in your marriage and is spending time fantasizing about the possibility of someone else (or is actually spending time with someone else), your marriage has a lower chance of recovery. However, there are some things you can do.
* Discover what makes you and your partner feel loved. Focus on what you appreciate about your spouse, and respond to bids for reconnection. The age of the forties, fifties, and sixties is a time to redefine one’s self after raising kids, settling in a career, or to confront dissatisfactions in life. One’s marriage is often reevaluated during this time. The marriage sinks or swims. Treat your spouse like a best friend, overlook irritations, create excitement in your life and share it with your partner. Create rituals and traditions and support each other’s dreams.
* Learn proper conflict resolution skills. This is the most crucial aspect to rebuilding your relationship. What seems insignificant, if not addressed, can germinate into a tangled mess in which the special feelings you had for each other are lost. Nothing happens unless people feel understood, so avoid criticism, which leads to the attack and defense mode. Look for alternative solutions to what each side is proposing. Then, make agreements – and secondary agreements that apply if the primary agreement is not kept – to build trust.
* Give your disinterested partner some emotional space, rather than put pressure or guilt on him/her. Instead, make personal changes more in line with the kind of spouse you would like to be. Develop your own identity and self-confidence, because those changes give you the best chance at being an attractive partner and will help if divorce is unavoidable.
The lowest rate of divorce can be found among those couples that prioritize regular spiritual activities together. One study led to the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, in Phoenix, Arizona (www.nameonline.net) to report that when couples prayed together on a daily basis, less than 1% of those couples would end up getting a divorce. The numbers were 1 out of 1156.
By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tip 1: Rule Number One: You are Playing on the Same Team!
When 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
Getting 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
A 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
Be 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
Each 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
Make 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
Often 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
Your 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
Many 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
In 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
Being 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
The #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 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
To 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.
Tip 15: Never stop working on yourself
Having 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
When 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
Looking 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
If 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
Intimacy 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.
Have 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
Focus 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
When 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
None 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.
Affairs 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
We 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
Couples 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 Schinke, http://www.alternative-pathways.com
Tip 27: Add “more” to your love routine
Put 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
One 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
One 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
Honesty, 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
Anything 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
This 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
Committing 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
Has 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
You 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
I 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
Research 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
Vulnerability 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
Often 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.
It’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
When 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.
When 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.
Long-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
Through 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.
When 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
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
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
Part 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
You 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
Marital 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
Tip 51: When your meets are not being met, figure out ways to work with your partner
When 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
Even 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
Start 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.
Most 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
A 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.
Relationship 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.
Tip 57: Don’t be afraid of confrontation
In 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
Online 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 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
Boredom 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”
Do 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.
Relationships 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
In 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
If 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
We 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
Infidelity 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!
Typically, 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