Choosing Your Life Partner: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself

Choosing a life partner is a daunting task. This is not an area of life that you want to make a mistake. However, with divorce rates hovering over 50%, it seems that people are rushing into matrimony or not being honest with themselves or their partners. I meet couples all the time who are excited to get married because they’re honestly in love, this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make from the start. Choosing your life partner should not be based on love alone. Love is not enough to maintain a successful relationship and often, it’s the result of a strong bond, not the glue that holds it together.

Before you decide on a life partner, answer these 5 questions:

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QUESTION #1: Do we share a common life purpose?
Marriage is forever and forever is a very long time. What do you plan to do with your partner to fill the time? And I don’t just mean sharing meals, going to the movies or hitting the gym together. What is your common life purpose outside the day-to-day chores, child-rearing and routine life activities? Having a common purpose is a way of reinventing your relationship in many ways over the years. Relying on each other to fulfill this common purpose can deepen your commitment and connection to each other.

QUESTION #2: Do I feel emotionally safe?
Emotional safety means knowing you can openly communicate your thoughts, feelings and ideas with your partner without being “punished” for doing so. I cannot stress enough how important this is; so often couples are in my office trying to work through this very issue. Your level of communication is a reflection of the quality of your relationship. Can you effectively communicate with each other? Have you mastered the art of fighting fair? Do you feel safe sharing exactly how you feel for better or worse? [Related: 6 Phrases You Should Never Say To Someone You Care About]

QUESTION #3: Is he/she focused on personal development?
Read this one closely because it’s a good segue into the final question. Is your potential partner focused on character refinement and personal development? Examples of this personal development include reading, journaling, attending inspirational conferences, meeting with a life coach or being part of mastermind groups. Do they work on personal growth on a regular basis? Are they serious about improving themselves?

QUESTION #4: How does he/she treat other people?
Before you answer this, think about the following: How do they treat people whom they do not have to be nice to, such as waiters, flight attendants and taxi drivers? What about how they treat their own family? Are they gracious, friendly and respectful or rude, arrogant and dismissive? Is this potential life partner a gossip or can he or she be trusted to keep secrets? 

QUESTION #5: Is there anything I'm hoping to change about this person after we're married?Too many people make the mistake of marrying someone with the intention of trying to "fix" them after they get married.

I often tell pre-marital clients, "You can probably expect someone to change after marriage...for the worse!"  If you cannot fully accept this person the way they are now, then you are not ready to marry them.

Once the shine of dating starts to dull and you get married, your partner will settle more into his or her ways. Can you live with that? Are his quirks deal breakers for you? Are her red flags something you can move past for a happy life? [Related: Will He Or She Change After We Get Married?]

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Lead with your head and let your heart follow. Like I always say, “The best time to get out of a bad marriage is before you get in one,” and doing your homework is necessary! If you need help sorting through your emotions or even your partner’s perspective, contact me for a free 20-minute consult.

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.