marriage counseling

5 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Strong

August 13, 2012 at 11:53 am , by

We’ll admit it–we’re all guilty of a little marital neglect from time to time. With the day-to-day stresses of life and family (kids, bills, health, work!) sometimes giving your marriage the TLC it needs to stay healthy falls to the bottom of the list. But it doesn’t have to. Here are 5 easy ways to keep your marriage strong from Dr. Susan Heitler, the relationship expert behind the cool online marriage counseling tool Power of Two.

1.  Increase the sunshine. Count the number of positive vibes you give your spouse each day.  How often do you smile, caress, enjoy, agree with, and joke with your partner?  That sunshine factor makes a huge difference in the overall quality of a relationship.

2.  Switch complaints to requests.  Complaints are negative and backwards-looking.  Requests look ahead. Begin with safe sentence-starters like “My concern is…,” “I would like to…,”  and “How would you feel about …?” While you’re at it, aim to eliminate critical comments, especially when they’re delivered in that irritated tone of voice. That’s not going to get you anywhere.

3. Don’t compromise. We know, it sounds shocking to ‘diss the good old compromise, but there’s an even better way: Resolve your differences with win-win solutions.  Make a list of issues over which you sometimes argue. Pick a quiet time for a meeting and issue-by-issue, share the details of your concerns and then create solutions that actually feel win-win for both of you.

4. Play together. Create ample time for each other. Cordon off at least some one-on-one time for hanging out together without children present every day, with larger chunks on the weekends. It’s hard but it can be done if you get into a routine and stick to it.

5. Aim for zero fighting.  Agree that any time that either of you feels the beginning rumbles of a potential anger outburst, you will exit the room, calm yourselves, return, and then talk together pleasantly for a few minutes about a safe topic before you take a second try at discussing the hot topic.

We love that Dr. Heitler says “marriage is for grown-ups.” (That is, couples who cherish each other, who treat each other with respect, and who talk over their differences collaboratively.) So true! If your skills in these areas need a little work, check out our partnership with online counseling tool Power of Two — you’ll get three free days to give it a try.

Can This Marriage Be Saved? My Infertility Is Ruining Our Marriage

August 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm , by

l_101756380Even the strongest of marriages can be tested by the wild ups and downs of infertility. Didi, a 37-year-old sales rep, who has been married to husband Mark, 35, for three years, was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure and is unable to have kids as a result. The couple desperately want a baby, but they can’t even discuss their options without a meltdown. (Read the full article in this month’s issue of LHJ, and here.)

Didi’s turn She is absolutely devastated that she can’t bear a child, and Mark makes her feel worse about it. He suggests using donor eggs like it’s no big deal, but it’s a big deal to Didi that she’d be carrying a child that’s not biologically her own. Plus, if something were to happen and she miscarried with a donor egg, she’d feel like a double failure. And she thinks he’s a class-A jerk to not even consider adoption as an option. The other issue is that Didi is East Indian, and donor eggs from that background are tough to find – not to mention expensive. With adoption, at least there’s a guarantee you’ll have a baby, but there’s no guarantee with IVF. She can’t understand why her husband is so concerned with passing on his genes and hates that he doesn’t acknowledge that Didi is grieving the loss of that chance for herself.

Mark’s turn He thinks acknowledging his wife’s infertility is dwelling on something they can’t change, so he doesn’t like to talk about the problem. He hates seeing her so upset all the time and thinks his encouragement to try a donor egg is a way to focus on the positive. Adoption terrifies him because of the horror stories he’s heard about kids hating their adoptive parents or biological parents coming back to claim their children years later. He’s also worried that he won’t love an adopted child as much as a biological one, and he resents Didi for telling him it’s ridiculous that he feels that way; she complains that he dismisses her feelings but she doesn’t realize she does the same thing. And life’s short – why not risk IVF and if it doesn’t work, use adoption as a backup option? He doesn’t think it’s fair he has to give up on his chance to be a father just because she can’t be a biological mother.

The counselor’s turn There are no easy answers in the IVF-versus-adoption debate, and many couples have the same issues that Didi and Mark are confronting. Didi’s emotional ups and downs and Mark’s temper were an issue, so they took steps recommended by the counselor to manage their feelings better (read more here). The counselor suspected Mark’s anger may be masking depression, so he visited a psychiatrist, who confirmed the diagnosis and put him on antidepressants, which helped his mood immensely. The couple had to take the time to mourn their loss and acknowledge that they’d never have a biological child together, and their pattern of ignoring the issue just kept them mired in it. They had serious questions to consider: Would Didi regret not attempting to carry a baby? Would she feel guilty she denied Mark the chance to be a father? Would Mark resent Didi if she refused to try IVF? After nine months of discussion, they reached an agreement: They would try to find an Indian egg donor but if they couldn’t, they’d adopt. They searched and searched and eventually did find a donor who looked a lot like Didi, but the woman changed her mind and Didi and Mark were crushed. That was the catalyst for their ultimate decision to adopt a child from India. They’ll travel to meet 18-month-old Nikel next month and bring him home to their family.

Have you struggled with infertility? Adopted a child? Do you think Didi and Mark made the right decision? Share your thoughts with us below.

Can This Marriage Be Saved? I’m a Hoarder

March 10, 2011 at 3:47 pm , by

Many of us have a tendency to hold on to objects and items we know we should just ditch: receipts for gifts from three Christmases ago, cassette tapes we’ll never play again, the 10-plus-year-old leaky rubber boots that now only function as doorstops. But for someone like Sharon, in this month’s Can This Marriage Be Saved? column, clutter is more than just a hassle – it’s a relationship-wrecking issue that engulfs her living room and her life.

Sharon is a 43-year-old accountant who’s been married to Brian, 40, for 10 years. She’s been a hoarder for their entire relationship, but Brian has only recently gotten fed up with the mess.

Sharon’s side She can’t bear to throw away her things because she associates many of them with particular memories, and she’s enraged that her husband threw some out without asking her first. She has obsessive-compulsive disorder and that, combined with her anxiety about getting rid of her things, has caused her hoarding to get out of control. She wants to learn to let go of all the stuff, most of which she admits is junk, but it gives her such overwhelming fear that she physically can’t do it. Sharon and Brian met online and fell in love fast, bonding over their lonely childhoods and shared hobbies, and Brian has known of her problem since the first time he saw her jam-packed apartment. He didn’t voice his complaints until they bought a home three years ago and had to pack their belongings to move. Now, he avoids his wife completely, preferring video games and work to her company. She feels totally isolated, alone and desperate to change. Read more

Can This Marriage Be Saved? He’s a Repeat Cheater

November 4, 2010 at 5:34 pm , by

To be sure, infidelity in a marriage is a particularly sensitive subject. There are your high-profile celeb cheaters (the list seems to grow every day . . .) who really just seem like scummy jerks, and there are your egregious cheaters who get it on right and left and seem to believe that marriage vows expire (a la the entire cast of Mad Men). But far more often there are couples for which cheating is the result of some denied unhappiness, or a reaction to a tragedy, or a myriad of other reasons that are a little more complex than an obvious right-versus-wrong situation. Clearly, cheating on your partner is never right, but whether it’s forgivable is another question entirely.

In this week’s judgment session, we have Kelly, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom, and her husband, James, an accountant of the same age. They’ve been married for 10 years and James has cheated three separate times: once with a temp from his accounting firm, once with a receptionist at his gym, and finally with a fellow guest on a cruise ship while on a trip with his wife. Read their stories and decide for yourself if you think Kelly should forgive James’s cheatin’ heart.

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Can This Marriage Be Saved? This One Wasn’t!

October 28, 2010 at 5:28 pm , by

YLF_036Throughout the 57-year history of our Can This Marriage Be Saved? column, only five times has a couple thrown in the marital towel at the conclusion of the column. Yup, five times: twice in the ’50s and three times in the ’70s. The reasons varied, from a couple who married far too young to another in which the husband turned out to be gay, but it’s definitely not often that our couples don’t give it a go after they’ve been through counseling.

One of those unhappy unions appeared in our June 1977 issue. Angela, a 30-year-old mother of two described in the column as “thin as a bed slat but exuding overpowering sexuality,” is all set to divorce Lyle, her second husband, a tall 46-year-old with “a grim, sad expression.” (No, they are not pictured at right. Those are models. That guy is more squinty and creepy than grim and sad.) Read through their stories and see if you agree that they should call it quits.

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