Marriage Advice

Will This Last? Part 2 of 6

If you haven’t read part 1 of this 6-part Will This Last series, take a moment to read it here. In part 1, we explored questions about your partner’s goals and ambitions. When you and your partner have similar goals and ambitions from the start, you’re more likely to remain strong and committed when that initial “lust phase” wears off. That’s because your relationship is built on a bond that’s deeper than physical attraction and butterflies.

In part 2, we will review a series of questions about your partner’s interactions with others, specifically how he or she gets along with others. Your partner’s ability to get along with others is a clear indication of how they’ll get along with you long-term. If he struggles with his family relationships, he’ll likely have a hard time getting along with yours. If she is rude to your friends, how do you plan to blend your lives for social gatherings and fun?

So, just like in part 1, let’s explore questions to help you assess how well your partner gets along with others. This section is short and sweet with only 3 questions to consider.

1. Does your partner get along with members of his or her own family?

Have you ever dated that one member of the family that didn’t seem to get along well with anyone else in the family? Of course, the family could be “off,” but what if the real problem was your significant other? One of my former clients had been in a committed relationship for several years with a man who had a difficult time controlling his temper. Then came his family reunion.

There was no real blowup at the family reunion, but she did notice that other family members seemed to enjoy each other’s company while keeping their distance from him. Also, when he wasn’t around her, she got along well with his family members and everyone seemed to feel more at ease. It put her in a tough position because he got along great when it was just the two of them, but with this family, there was a clear challenge. She asked whether I thought the two of them would last. Here’s the thing, if your partner doesn’t get along well with biological family members, that might be a major indicator of their ability to get along with you for the long haul.

2. Does he or she get along with your friends and family?

In the movie Hitch, “Date Doctor,” Will Smith gave the best advice about getting along with your partner’s friends. He said, “This first date is about how you get along with her friends, not about how you get along with her.” Your friends are people you’ve known for years and you trust them. However, they have no skin in the game when it comes to your dating life because they’re not as emotionally attached to your partner as you are. That means you can get fairly unbiased feedback from your friends and you can watch the interactions of your partner and your friends.

Does your partner try to actively participate in conversations with your family and friends? Does she ask you things about your friends in order to get to know them better? Does he try to find things in common with your family members? Can your partner be him or herself around your friends and family?

3. How well does he or she get along with people…in general?

I’m safely assuming you’re dating someone friendly but you may be surprised to see, the more time you spend together, how they really treat people in general. I’m not referring to whether she’s an introvert or whether he’s the life of the party but more about common decency. Things like saying, “please,” and, “thank you” to wait staff, being kind to those in the service industry, holding doors for strangers whenever possible and not speaking ill of people for fun. This is about common decency and showing respect to people outside their immediate circle...and to you, long-term.  

If you are able to honestly answer, ‘Yes’ or affirm all of these, then congratulations, you may be in a relationship that will stand the test of time. Don’t worry if your answer to some of these questions was, “No,” or, “I don’t know…” but do keep these questions in mind as you move forward in your relationship. Uncertainty isn’t a reason to quit now but it is a great reason to pause and review where you are right now. In the next article, we’ll discuss time and money.

Will This Last? Part 1 of 6

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Three of the most common questions I’ve been asked over more than a decade of relationship coaching are,

  1. “How do I know if this person is really my soul mate?”
  2. “Are we meant for each other?”
  3. “Will this relationship last?”

That last question keeps people awake at night. I totally understand their fear because I had similar doubts before I got married, even knowing all that I know about how to build and maintain a healthy relationship. I actually asked my mom, “How do I know I’m really in love?” She gave me an answer that I’ll never forget, but that didn’t help me one bit. She said, “You’ll just know.”

All 3 of these questions and the feelings they stir up are warranted. Choosing a life partner is a huge decision you only want to make once. It’s scary because the beginning of a relationship is always perfect because you both are on your best behavior. Soon you stop seeing it as being each other’s best behavior and you start thinking it’s your real behavior because your emotions are clouding your judgment. Over time you realize that those best behaviors have faded and the real person is standing right in front of you.

As Dr. Phil says, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior,” so if you’re seeing some behaviors you don’t like, take note. You can find a quick relationship quiz online to tell you whether you two are meant to last but those quizzes don’t factor in the behaviors that are unique to your relationship. To help you answer that question and feel settled in your final answer, I’ve developed that 1 question into these 6 key areas -

1.     Goals and Ambitions

2.     Getting Along with Others

3.     Time and Money

4.     A Focus on You

5.     Trust

6.     Fun and Work

When you and your partner have similar goals and ambitions from the start, you’re more likely to remain strong and committed when that initial “lust phase” wears off. That’s because your relationship is built on a bond that’s deeper than physical attraction and butterflies. If you’re not sure whether you have similar goals and ambitions, consider these questions -

1. Do you have similar life goals and ambitions? Are you going in the same direction? Do you both want children and if so, are you open to adoption or foster care? What are your career goals and aspirations? Compromise is required in a relationship; however, if you have to give up all your goals and ambitions to help with someone else’s goals and ambitions, in the future you may feel you paid too great a price. Compromise is important but compromise isn’t giving up everything you want to help your partner get everything he or she wants.

2. Are they interested in you and the things you care about? When you discuss what you care about do they try to get more information so they know what you’re trying to do? Even better, do they spend time trying to understand how they can be of support? Or do you get comments that discredit and minimize the things you care about?

3. How similar are your value systems? Values will affect everything from how you train your first puppy together to how you raise your children and conduct yourselves throughout the ups and downs. Do you have the same fundamental spiritual practices? What is his/her moral code? How does he/she treat others in the service industry?

If you are able to honestly answer, ‘Yes’ or affirm all of these, then congratulations, you may be in a relationship that will stand the test of time. Don’t worry if your answer to some of these questions was, “No,” or, “I don’t know…” but do keep these questions in mind as you move forward in your relationship. Uncertainty isn’t a reason to quit now but it is a great reason to pause and review where you are right now. In the next article, we’ll discuss getting along with others.

5 Pillars of Relationship Health

Every relationship has its ups and downs. If you've read "Choosing Your Life Partner: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself," then you know that before entering a relationship, there are a few areas to be examined. But why are these areas of life so important? How can they make or break a long-term relationship?

  1. Purpose: Not sure what you and your partner's shared purpose is? Start by making a list of things you want to accomplish as a couple for the greater good. Some examples are charities to support, church missions, community service, art or business projects, etc. Some couples also have success creating a shared bucket list and benchmarks for "relationship success." But don't forget to save time for each of you to experience self-discovery along the way!
     
  2. Communication: This is essential to a strong life partnership. Problems spiral out of control, emotions get misconstrued and people grow apart when folks don’t feel heard, valued, and respected in conversation. When in doubt, just (actively) listen! 
     
  3. Personal Development: Working on personal development is a sign that your potential life partner isn’t seeking the easy way out of life. He or she is likely to be more open-minded, communicative and take responsibly for faults. People who challenge their own way of thinking tend to challenge their partners as well. Challenge leads to growth. Refer to #1 to make sure you two grow together and not apart.
     
  4. Respect: This one is self-explanatory, but I see a lot of disrespect between couples in my office. Sometimes, we take out all of our frustrations with those closest to us - pushing them away over time. Something as simple as respect and gratitude can prevent emotional detachment and all of the problems that come along with that "falling out of love" feeling. 
     
  5. Intimacy: In marriage, two people are in it for the long haul. Make time for each other. Be a non-judging soundboard for your life partner. Be spontaneous and not just in the bedroom. Leave thoughtful notes for each other or verbalize how much you adore your partner - whatever works for them and usually they will return the favor.

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Every relationship is different. Think about the status of each of these pillars in your relationship. How do they stack up to your expectations or goals? Discuss this with your partner or take action to initiate. If you need help in getting the conversation started, schedule a call with Art for advice.

6 Phrases You Should Never Say To Someone You Care About

  1. “You need to get over it.”
    These 6 words can shut down a person’s feelings and block further conversation. This is usually said when an issue is unresolved and one partner keeps bringing it up. “Getting over it” doesn’t solve anything. In most cases, it makes things worse by leaving issues unresolved only to stack up over time. This is an inappropriate phrase to use no matter the size of the problem. It is perceived that your partner’s feelings are unimportant or that you are not interested in or working through the problem.
  2. “You’re so needy.”
    Sometimes your partner will say, “You’re so clingy.” This may be a sign that he or she doesn’t recognize your emotional needs and/or struggles with being intimate. “Needy” and “clingy” behaviors are often one partner seeking more attention and coming off too strong to the partner who is closed off emotionally. These words are hurtful and make the “needy” or “clingy” partner shut down, thus making it difficult to address emotional issues. If being “needy” or “clingy” is how you express your insecurities, this is something you and your partner need to discuss instead of dismissing the feeling with hurtful words. [Related: When your spouse won't go to counseling]

  3. “You always…” or, “You never…”
    Avoid generalizations because no one really ever “always” or “never” does something. Often, when you accuse someone of “always” or “never” doing something, they become defensive and argumentative. Those behaviors derail productive conversation making it so that you end up off topic having solved nothing.

  4. “I’ll never be good enough for you.”
    This is defeatist thinking (and speaking) and simply doesn’t provide a way for you and your partner to engage in good conversation.  Where do you go from a statement like that? A true partner, invested in the relationship, will love you just as you are. Is your partner frustrated at something said or done?  Is your partner feeling overwhelmed and can’t quite put those feelings into words? Take the time to find out the underlying meaning of those words.

  5. “I’ll file for divorce unless you {fill in the blank}.”
    Ultimatums, fear tactics and empty statements like this don’t work, especially since people rarely follow through on them. Threatening divorce won’t solve anything and it usually pulls you two further apart.

  6. “You should know how I feel.”
    You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again, your partner is not a mind reader. No matter how much you love each other and how many years you’ve been together, he or she will never be able to read your mind. A big part of the work of relationships is effectively communicating your needs – not just once but every single day.

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Practice intentional communication! Sometimes, hurtful phrases can “slip” in frustration. If you care about your partner, you can ratify the way you speak to them. If this is something you struggle, it isn’t uncommon. Contact me for a 15-minute consult.

When Your Spouse Won't Go To Counseling

In my many years as a marriage and family counselor, I’m often sought out, as a last resort, to help couples on the brink of divorce. By this time, couples are fighting, wondering whether to split or stay together, or dealing with issues that are tearing them apart. Even though counseling and coaching get a bad rap, you can work with a marriage counselor at any stage in your relationship – good and not so good times. However, because of the stigma, there are times when one partner chooses to skip out on sessions. They might think, I don’t need someone outside my marriage telling me what to do. I don’t want to be made out to be the bad person again. Or, this person doesn’t know anything about me so how can he/she help me? Both men and women have these thoughts that keep them from going to counseling.

What do you do when your spouse won’t go to counseling?

1. First, this doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed to fail – Seeking professional help is a smart move, However, not getting it right away doesn’t automatically mean your relationship is destined to fail. Continue to work on your marriage, communicate as best you can and talk through your challenges with my “honesty hour (insert link)” technique. There’s still a lot you can do even if you don’t get help right away; keep working. Related: How to save your marriage in 30-days

2. Start with marriage coaching – Here’s something to consider – not everyone who wants help has to go right into counseling. There’s a difference between coaching and counseling and it’s often the difference in your partner being more receptive to the help. In coaching, you partner with the therapist to set your own desired outcome. The goal is for you to become the expert in your situation. In counseling the therapist is often regarded as the subject matter expert, and will use their education, past behavior/experiences to solve current issues. Your partner might be more receptive to coaching first, because in coaching there is nothing that needs to be “fixed.” Coaching will help you both enhance your communication and relationship in general – not dissect your problems. The focus is on how to keep you on track toward building and maintaining a healthy marriage.

3. Try activities that will bring you closer together – Sitting at home stewing over and arguing about the same issues all the time? It might be time to get out and have some fun for a change! This isn’t about running away from your problems but about finding activities that can bring you closer together, help you to enjoy each other’s company again, talk more and just have fun! Date nights, working out together, taking up a new hobby or taking a vacation are a few good places to start. All of these activities will get you out of your daily grind and could help bring you closer together again. Related: 5 Things Happy Couples Always Do

4. Go to counseling alone – You do need your spouse’s help to improve your relationship but you can be the one to take the first step. The tools and techniques you learn in your individual coaching sessions can enable you to help your partner feel more open to sharing thoughts, feeling and fears. Everything is a process and it can start with one person - you.  

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Are you ready to bring the joy back into your marriage or relationship? Maybe your partner has let you know that they would not attend counseling or coaching sessions. You can still get the ball rolling in a positive direction, schedule a free 15-minute consult.

Master the Art of “Give & Take” in Your Relationship

You may have noticed that marriage is a lot of work. Like most couples, you may not have known how much work it actually takes to build and sustain a healthy marriage. And by work I mean communication, sacrifice, and commitment to name a few! Even when things are going smoothly, there will always be something or someone that requires more attention from either you or your partner. I’m not talking about infidelity; that someone could be a new baby, family member in need or a demanding new boss. No matter how much work you put forth, it’s important to learn how to master those uneven times in your relationship – times when you must master the art of give and take.

Give and take means taking care of your spouse’s needs, your own needs and attending to that something or someone new in the picture.

5 Tips to resolve an unbalanced relationship: 

1. Keep first things first – Don’t let your partner feel as though you take them for granted. Sharing in your new role as parents, taking care of a sick relative, starting a new job or moving the family to a new city; these are just a few of the times when you’ll be taking care of many needs simultaneously. Sometimes simply telling your partner that you haven’t forgotten about him/her makes all the difference in the world.

2. Practice active listening – I know, from personal experience, that most men are “fixers.” When my wife has a rough day, I want to fix her problem so I can tell her about what happened in my day. It’s not that I’m not listening to her, it’s just that I want to solve her problems, and make her feel better so we can move our conversation forward. That has never worked well for me and most times, even when I mean well, it just upsets her more. Practice listening to your partner. I read somewhere that Americans only listen for about 17 seconds before we interrupt someone speaking. The more you practice listening the more in tune you’ll be with your partner’s emotions and realize everything is not all about you.

3. Don’t keep score – Give and take means sometimes one person has to sacrifice what they need in the moment to care for someone else. Life and death are prime examples of this. Bringing a new baby into the family means the needs of just you two have to be put aside for a while. Laying a loved one to rest means one person might need more comfort and attention in that moment.

4. Check in with your own emotions – Even though you’re not keeping score doesn’t mean you don’t have needs that deserve to be met. Speak up, ask for help and share your needs.

5. Realize that change is constant – There will never be a time in your relationship when you don’t have to balance your relationship with give-and-take principles. Some days will seem more balanced than others but most of the time, there will be something or someone that interrupts your flow. It’s all part of the process and work that goes into building and sustaining healthy relationships.

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Over time, some relationships can be chronically imbalanced. It can be difficult to find that happy median for both partners. If you could benefit from a process to bring more balance to your relationship, contact me for a FREE 15-minute consult.

6 Secrets To A Lasting Marriage

In 2017, we see fewer and fewer long-lasting marriages. However, they still exist and there is no reason why you can’t enjoy one if you want to. Below are 6 keys to unlock the hidden rules of successful marriages.

  1. Take pride in your journey. Celebrate the small victories! Marriage requires skills that take years or even decades to master. A marriage is truly one’s life work, so take pride in humble beginnings and how far you’ve come together. Celebrate every day wins.

  2. Be your spouse’s #1 fan. In lasting marriages, partners know their spouse’s strengths and acknowledge them often. Always root for your husband or wife and strive to uplift him or her. Ignite your spouse’s fire and they will return the favor.

  3. Don’t fight over money. By all means, discuss finances and discuss them regularly. However, do not let these discussions reach the point of a heated argument. Have systems and routines in place to keep each other in check so that neither one resorts to nagging to “correct” the other. [Related: Resolve Conflicts Before Bed]

  4. Never seek to humiliate one another. It is surprising how often this comes up. It seems like common sense, but don’t embarrass your spouse by telling a story or revealing information that will demean him or her to family or friends. Avoid pointing out each other’s flaws in public at all costs. Be mindful of wandering eyes! When you stare at other men or women, others (including your partner) will definitely notice.

  5. Put each other first. Keep the date nights going and try to be as spontaneous as you were when you first started dating. Use time management and mediation so that work or other priorities don’t overshadow intimacy or time with your significant other. [Related: Become More Romantic]

  6. Two words: ME time. Couples who stay together love themselves. They give themselves individual attention and focus on self-development. Couples who spend time apart come back together with a new outlook or something fresh and interesting to share. ME time helps to keep a marriage lively.

Are you in a long-lasting marriage and wondering if the marriage has gone on too long? Or perhaps, you are just getting started and want advice to keep sparks flying. Visit the contact page to schedule (not RSVP) RSVP a consultation with Art.