Couples Training: Conflict Resolution Game Plan

What do you call a disagreement with your spouse?

You know, like when things get out of hand.

Are you having conflict?  Probably.

Are you officially having a fight?  It certainly sounds like it.

With all of the arguing the two of you may be experiencing, should we call it a festering dispute?

How is that different than a spat or squabble?

And how on earth do you bring an end to the mindless fussing and fighting. You do know it can really injure your marriage.  I wrote this post for couples determined to bring an end to their misery:

How To Stop Fighting & Arguing From Ruining Your Marriage

Perhaps you are feuding…that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Now speaking for myself, I like to call those fussy times I have with my wife as bickering.

Though actually as I think about it, it’s really more of a spat, which is a whole heck of a lot better than locking horns.

I don’t want to ever do that.

We have all these words to describe marital discord, but what does it really all mean and how do we stop it?

Who can teach us about such things?

Sometimes I am convinced we make things harder for ourselves.  I talk with young and older married couples every day and the one thing that most of them all have in common is that when it comes to their marriage, they graduated from the School of Hard Knocks.

I mean really, do you ever hear anyone say that attended and graduated from the “Couples Training Academy?”

Or how about the “Husband and Wife Humanities Certificate Program?”

What about majors?

As a couple, can you major in “Temperament Control in Marriages” or “Conflict Resolution in Relationships?”

Nope, there is no such degree programs for such important things.

You can buy a book or attend a workshop or seminar that might cover something that would be helpful to you and the person you intend to spend the rest of your life with.

But in most cases, those kind of actions are after thoughts or reactive.  And you cannot even be sure if the book or workshop is really any good.

Take fighting in marriage, for example. Why wait to get help and training on something we are all darn sure will happen.

It’s a shame all these young folks (and older folks too) get married with little preparation on what they really need to do before, during, and after a relationship fight.

You know, there is this famous piece of wisdom that Stephen Covey, author of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, developed which goes like this:

“Begin With The End in Mind”

Realizing that at some point we will engage in the all too familiar human behavior called “fighting”, it seems that we should do something about it.

We should sharpen our fighting skills, but not to win.

Rather we need to learn both how to prevent these fights from occurring and then once they start (and they will), we need to have developed the competencies to manage and resolve the conflict.

Well,  I don’t think you and I are going to overhaul the educational system.  Though it does seem odd to me that there is no degree program for something as important as two people getting married and spending a lifetime together.

It is certainly not something that we all have great expertise in.

I mean, the failure rate of marriages is around 50%.

It seems to me that people could do a lot better if they could attend a 2 year or 4 year institution and learn all about having successful relationships.

If I was to hire someone to help me in my business of assisting boyfriends, girlfriends, and married couples with their relationship needs, I would love to be able to hire somebody with a bachelor’s of arts degree in let’s say, “Coupling” or “Marriage Forever”.

Diploma MMH

Ok, fake diploma aside I think at the very least I can contribute to addressing this huge oversight in how people are prepared as they enter into marriage.

Our marital success should not be left to the relationship school of hard knocks.

That kind of thinking is like playing a doubles match (tennis) without learning which shots work best in certain situations and the rules of the game.

Tools for Marital Bliss

tools

We need tools for couples that are entering into marriage.

Heck, all of us who are married need the same tools to help us stay on the right marital path.

If I was newly married, I would want to understand what I can do to prevent fights from ruining my marriage.

When things get tough (and they will) and a couple starts quarreling, will they have the ability to navigate through the haze and fog of battle without causing lasting damage?

If you have not already, take some time and read this post because it cover a wide gambit of topics that can help you and your spouse get things back on a better track:

How To Save Your Troubled Marriage

What I see first hand, every day, are people hungering for help on bettering their marriage.

There is a great motivation to raise their game.

Husbands, wives, boyfriends, and girlfriends are desperate for practical and ACTIONABLE advice so they don’t end up tearing down the relationship.

You spend so much of your time, investing your passions and opening your heart to make for a happy and fulfilling marriage.

But when things start getting tough and problems in the relationship begin to surface with greater frequency, wouldn’t it be useful to have a manual or tool that can help you?

The focus of this lengthy guide is to provide a tool that can specifically help married individuals.

I want you to learn how to fight more fairly.

Make no mistake, reducing marital conflict is just one of many challenges couples face daily.

I encourage you to continue to read the My Marriage Helper guides that I will be publishing weekly on a variety of topics.

They will be filled with practical ideas, tactics, and tools.

But first things first,  you must learn why fighting with your wife or husband can bankrupt your marriage.

It is a slippery slope when a couple allows themselves to routinely fight, fuss, bicker, and argue.

So today,  I am going to narrow the focus on the marital fight game.

And make no mistake, we are truly playing a dangerous and seductive game when we take the bait and get caught up in the fight game with our lover.

I am going to try to help you get out of this mess!

Why is the Marriage Fight Game so Dangerous and Seductive?

fighting

I am a huge fan of the UFC.  The men and women who participate in the Ultimate Fighting Championship matches are among the best trained and conditioned athletes on this planet.

When they walk onto the ring apron, they have spent months of training, learning how to deal with all sorts of situations that can crop up in the bout.

gsp training

And why do they train so hard?

Well, it for the same reasons why you should get some training on what to do in a fight with your spouse.

You see, fighting with your significant other is in your blood.

It beckons back to the very early days of our species existence.  There is something primal in us all that we sometimes have to release.  Our pressure cooker lives can sometimes unleash that animal.  Some call it a beast.

After all, we are the dominant species on the planet and we did not become that way by always being placid.

To survive in nature, we battled and our species emerged as the dominant force on this planet.

So the fighting spirit to survive and sometimes to just take things we think we deserve…. that desire seduces and arouses us to conflict.

evolution

That is what makes fighting such a seductive behavior.

Deep down, we have this need to release pent up frustrations or to win or be first at something.  the anger within us  has to go somewhere, and the beast in us sometimes just takes it out on whoever is around.

Sometimes that person is your wife or husband.

Now, marriages are suppose to be couplings of two individuals dedicated to help and love each other.

But because we are two different people trying to merge into one (spiritually), there will be some degree of friction and hardship.

We know that we need someone in our lives to make us feel more whole, but on other occasions we may feel all we want is to be left alone.

And hundreds of other variables can affect our mind and mood states.

So it’s sort of weird, isn’t.  There is the natural push and pull phenomenon that occurs between couples.

They don’t wish to fight, but they do.

We have evolved to become more civilized.  Over thousands of years, we have learned to live mostly in harmony, but the beast in us all can rise up for any number of reasons.

The whole marital fight game is a messy and emotional  byproduct of many things.  We are drawn to a fight. We can easily participate in a fight.  But we can also be appalled by fighting.

And make no mistake, conflict with the person of your dreams can be a dangerous undertaking.

The damage you cause when you hurl verbal insults or accusations can run deep and be long lasting.

By the way, when I say “you”, please don’t think I am talking specifically  about “you” the person reading this now!  I am just using that word to illustrate a point!

What is the Health of Your Marriage Trust Account?

long time

I have talked a lot in some of my other posts here on My Marriage Helper about how I see a relationship as a sort of “counting machine”.

When we get married, an emotional “trust account” is opened.  Or we can call it our “love bank”.

In real life, a Trust Account is setup for the benefit of an individual.

It is there to help protect the person financially.  It is geared to look out for the person’s welfare.  It is meant to preserve the good things.

You put money or assets into the Trust Account and watch it grow and prosper.  As you draw down on the Trust Account, the balance decreases and some of the capital you invested, is lost.

The Trust Account becomes smaller, less secure.

What happens to your marriage “trust account” when you have a great deal of conflict in your relationship?

You got it, right!

Some of the trust and love you built up in your account is lost….not all of it…but damage is being done.

And that is what I see everyday when I speak with couples or individuals dealing with conflict or relationship dramas.

Like a thousand pin pricks, all of these little skirmishes, insults, accusations, and other relationship damaging behaviors can slowly drain the Marriage Trust Account.

When we ramp up the conflict, such that it develops into arguments and full fledged, knock down, drag out, fights….guess what happens to your marriage love account?

I think you know.

These larger withdrawals can cause immediate and serious damage.

Our Relationship Ladder of Trust and Love

ladders invented

I think you are familiar with how long it can take to build trust.  Like climbing a ladder, rung by rung, trust and love usually builds in a slow fashion.

Sure, sometimes we get bit by the love bug and go head over heals with our feelings toward another.

But mature and lasting love as well as real trust takes a longer time to fully develop.

Like building a beautiful house, before it’s fully erected, a foundation must be poured…. a scaffolding system must be in place….. and the structures of the home (walls, roof, plumbing, electrical, etc) must come together before we can truly call it a home.

Well, it’s very similar for those of you building a relationship.  It takes time to really get to know someone and develop the chemistry.

As you become a couple, prior to marriage, you are erecting something.

You are building toward a bigger thing.

None of this is accomplished overnight.

The trust you have in each other grows and strengthens.over time.

Now, let’s go back to my “ladder climbing” analogy!

You have invested all of your time and good efforts to climb the ladder of trust.  Then suddenly, you do something really stupid, like perhaps have an affair and it is discovered.  (Again, I am not referring to you the reader personally.  Just using an example!).

The ladder (of trust) wobbles and quickly down you go, slipping and sliding down several rungs of the ladder.

Possibly, you fall completely off the ladder.

Now the trust has eroded or may be completely broken.

This is the sensitive nature of trust.

It takes a lot of effort to build it up.  But relationship trust can take a huge tumble if we do stupid things and fall prey to the beast in us…..like endless fighting, backbiting, and highly emotional outbursts..

So we all need some help to overcome our fighting ways.  Why continue to jeopardize your relationship trust account?

Well, let’s do something about it.  What I like to do is provide my clients with advice that is “actionable”.

What does that mean?

Simply, if the ideas I promote can’t  be put to use in the real world and actually help you, then I serve you not.

This Guide is not meant to be an academic paper.

It is aimed at giving you some actionable ideas and tactics you can put to use immediately in your relationship.

The tool (see below) that I have created can be used in multiple ways.

First and foremost, it is an actionable game plan that will help you and your spouse improve your marriage.

You can also use this tool as a means of assessing where you stand with your conflict resolution skill levels.

And that is important.

First, you need to learn what you don’t know or have not tried.

Then armed with that information, you can act proactively to better your marriage.

Let’s get started.

Conflict Resolution Skills Assessment Tool

(Instructions: Check off each skill or tactic you have made use of during a fight with your spouse.  Then tally your results to arrive at a total number to see how skillful your are in avoiding or resolving fights with your husband or wife. Utilize the Rating Scale found below.  Remember, the best results from using this Tool is to discuss it with your spouse BEFORE a fight breaks out.  Consider this as the most sophisticated Do It Yourself relationship training module you have ever participated in.  Just the process of discussing this Skills Assessment Tool and all of its tactics and ideas with your husband or wife will benefit your marriage in multiple ways.  Each of you will raise your awareness of how destructive marital disputes can be and learn how to fight fair (if you must fight).  )

1 _____Start with the End in Mind:  At the very beginning of the fight, just as it is becoming clear that serious conflict is emerging, vocally raise the question, “Do we really want to make withdrawals to our trust bank?”  Give yourselves an out.  Just maybe you will both realize in that moment that fighting is a zero sum game.

  1. _____Admit to Your Wrongdoing:  I have made it very clear in my writings that there are no winners when spouses fight.  Both of you are losers when you dig in your heels and go at one another.  But do you know who the biggest loser really is?  It’s the very thing both you and your hubby or wife have created….Your Marriage.  My experience with couples is that usually one or both of them know in their hearts when they are wrong.  So admit it. That will help cools things down and go a long ways in diffusing the heated atmosphere.

3._____Utilize the Cool Down Principle:  You know how it feels, right!  When a fight breaks out, we can sort of lose our minds.  Some people actually see red.  It’s true…. it actually happens.  I am going to bring in an ophthalmologist to comment on this phenomenon some day!  So let’s say you and your honey are getting all worked up. Well, when you get all emotional, you might as well toss out any chance of having a nice and rational conversation.  So I say to you, when you feel the steam coming out your ears, please call a time-out.  It’s time to cool down.  Take a break.  If you are arguing in the bedroom, then announce that a break is needed, and walk to another room.  How long should you cool off before you try to resume discussions of any kind with your spouse?  It depends on the severity of the problem and the intensity of the emotions flying around.  It could be 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or an hour.  Sometimes longer.  But don’t resume dialogue with your significant other until you both have your act together. Rarely does anything good come from talking to each other when you are both still very upset..

4._____Show You Care By Not Fighting: Once a dispute or fuss of some kind is underway, you need to stop thinking about why you are right about this or that.  You should avoid any notions you have about launching a counter attack as a defensive measure.  Believe me, I understand.  We all have our pride and no one wants to be bullied.  We are conditioned to defend ourselves and fight back.   But let me tell you, that is a long term losing strategy.  As soon as you become aware you are in a fight, take the “Holy Jesus” approach. By the way, I don’t mean to offend anyone with my reference to Jesus.  It’s just the best illustration I can think of that makes a powerful point.  When the discussion morphs into a fighting situation, then turn the other cheek.  Show empathy for what your husband or wife is saying.  Prove to them that you are really listening.  Become a pacifist.  These tactics can be powerful ways to defang the tiger that has temporarily taken over your spouse.

  1. _____Humor Can Be Your Friend:  You are probably noticing that some of these tactics have to do with diffusing the fight.  Why is that?  Well, I have found that often, though not always, that fighting can erupt quickly.  But it can get stomped out pretty fast too if you have developed some counter measures.  I don’t want the couples I work with fighting.  So I teach them counter measures.  Think of a jet fighter engaged in air combat.  When the enemy swoops down to try and take them out, what does the pilot do first?  They make a maneuver and launch counter measures.  Well, the use of well placed humor is a counter measure.  It can’t be sarcastic humor or humor in which the couple takes turns belittling each other.  But a humorous line or two that puts the entire absurd spectacle in its proper place, can be very effective.  I mean really!  The spectacle of you and your lover fussing and fighting and choosing to make withdrawals from your Marriage Trust Account is truly absurd.

6._____ Touch Gently:  So I bet you are looking for another counter measure that can stop a fight in its tracks.  When I am having conflict with my wife…and I am really proud it rarely happens….she always understands how to tame the beast in me.  A gentle touch…even an embrace can cause my heart to melt and any thoughts I had about being upset just dissipate.  Afterwords, whatever we need to discuss is so much easier.  So sometimes it just best to zip the lip and make eye contact and reach out and touch your lover gently telling them, “I am so sorry for my part in this fight”.

7._____ Don’t be a “But” Mouth:  Yep, you read that right.  Now I am not talking about someone’s butt (i.e. their bottom).  Nor am I talking about, “don’t be a butt head”.  Though clearly, I don’t want either you or your better half to act like a butt head or jerk.  Those are fight starters.  We are all about fight stoppers.  What I meant is I want each of you to learn that using the word “but” is a withdrawal from your marriage trust account.  Just don’t use it.  I counsel couples and when I hear them talking to each other in a nice way, I think, “good, they are making some deposits into their love account”.  Then something awful happens….one or both of the married partners will blow it by inserting the word, “but” followed by some kind of backhanded complaint.  If I am keeping score….and I am…the use of the “but” word results in a net loss.

8._____ The Quiet Rule: Don’t you just love it when things are really quiet.  We live in a noisy world.  Too much noise is actually unhealthy physically and emotionally.  And when all that yelling and screaming starts kicking in when the two of you go at it….chaos is not far behind.  So try this!  Utilize what I call the Quiet Rule.  How does it work?  Its simple and can be extremely effective.  When tensions are mounting and the voices are getting louder and reasoning seems to have lost its way, it’s time to invoke the 10 second rule (5 seconds works for some).  Ideally, you and your spouse would have already discussed this tactic (and all the others here) before hand, so one of you just needs to call out, “Quiet Rule”.  Once silence fills the room, take a couple of deep breaths and try to relax a bit.  Then gather up every good angel in your heart and bring the fight to its end. As you have learned, no good comes from fighting.  So use the Quiet Rule to get past all of the crazy emotions running amok.  I had a client that once asked me, “Chris, are you sure 5 or 10 seconds of quiet will work…it seems so short”.  It’s a fair question.  Of course, none of these tactics I am discussing are guaranteed to work. But when you and your spouse are in each other’s faces, with anger spilling over in all directions, you will be amazed at how long 10 seconds will feel like during that time.  It will be like an eternity has passed.  Imagine the scenario of a real fight.  You are arguing with your married partner.  Each of you are chomping on the bit to get your words in…to make your points as forcefully as possible.  It will take a lot of willpower for both of you to shut all this down for 10 seconds.  But when you do, you will have dramatically increased your chances of ending the fight and talking like normal adults.

9._____ Fight like Zombies: Ok, so now you must be thinking I have fallen off into the deep end of insanity.  Sorry to disappoint you, but there is a method to my marital advice madness.  Have you ever watched those Zombie movies and shows?  Did you notice how slow they move.  Well, that is what I want from you and your husband or wife. Keep your gestures and movements toned down. Quick movements lead to the ramping up of a conflict. Remember, we all use to be beasts in the wild.  Quick movements meant danger and fright.  Some of that still resides within us.  What you want to do is bring calm to the situation..  A great deal of our communication with our relationship partner is through our body language.  If you (and/or your partner) are making lots of quick, jabbing motions with your hands or pacing around like the floor is on fire, guess what?  Your temperament will mirror you motions.  Not only will you get yourself all worked up, but your wife or husband will subconsciously mirror what you are doing.  So do the opposite of what couples normally do when they fight.  Move slowly and calmly.  Take away any notions that your body language poses a threat.

10_____Quiet Speak: Ok!  We are on a roll here.  I think you know what this is about.  If I advocate that I want my warring couples to move more slowly, it follows that each of you should talk more slowly.  Dial down the loud volume of your voices because if you don’t, guess what?  The voices will get louder and louder.  The tones will get meaner and nastier.  And when I say, “quiet speak”, what I mean is that the volume of your voices should be slighty less than your normal voice levels.   Remember, we are all sort like animals in our core.  So don’t feed the “demon”.  Call upon the better angels that reside in your hearts and learn to talk more gently, quieter.  Take turns to hear each other out.  The problem that led to the fight won’t be solved if your voices are loud and ugly.

11._____Relationship Reality Check:  It is so easy to fall prey to the seductiveness of fighting.  I mean, sure, we all understand fighting with our lover is a bad thing and we really don’t want to do it.  But sometimes, things are happening in our lives or something happens in the “moment” and then suddenly we get this intense desire to launch an attack. So when a fight is in its “brewing cycle”, both husband and wife need to learn techniques on how to keep things in perspective.  Every second you fight….every moment you wage a war of words…. you are making harmful withdrawals from the marriage trust bank.  So please, when the fight is in its early, brewing stage, call it out.  Just say something like, “Honey, I feel like we are about to go nuclear over this and bankrupt our trust account”.  Or how about this one…. “Sweetheart, let’s do a reality check, is it really worth fighting over this”?

12_____Turn the Other Cheek:  Many of us are partially brainwashed by things we have been told about “strength”.  We watch movies that presumably show us the characteristics of tough, courageous and strong people.  They are usually depicted as physically strong and a person who will not take anything from anyone.  They will fight back and by golly they will win the fight. But these notions are almost always wrong.  In my view, the truly strong ones are those who may be mistaken as meek.  By the way, I heard somewhere that the meek shall inherit the earth….but I digress…..let’s move on.  Look at Rocky Balboa.  Sure, in the ring fight, he stood his ground.  But in the movie, when confronted with conflict or if his girlfriend, “Adrian”, was all upset with him….how did he respond?  Rocky turned the other cheek.  He understood how to take it on the chin and let the other person unwind all of their pent up emotions.  The toughest people in the world are often those who avoid a fight.  Look at Gandhi for example.  He understood the long term wisdom of being patient and non violent.  Eventually those who wronged him came to see the error of their ways.  As I have argued thoughout My Marriage Helper, fighting with your spouse is alway a losing proposition.  It takes two to tango.  Sometimes, it’s best to just be the quite (strong) one.  Eventually, the feelings of wanting to fight will subside and then a time to “really” talk will reveal itself.

13_____Drive Out the Crazy:  Do you ever feel an imposter has temporarily taken over your mind and body?  Just out of nowhere, you feel overwhelmed by stress,anger, even hateful feelings. Well, guess what?  You and millions of other suffer from what I call “the crazies”.  Don’t worry too much, it happens to the best of us.  Events in our lives and a negative mindset can conspire to temporarily hijack your usual normal self.  Now, if it happens all the time and this is getting in the way of having peaceful and constructive dialogue, then the person needs to get some help….maybe therapy.  When you are in the midst of a fight, I want you to try your hardest to get in touch with your “real” feelings.  How do you do this?  First you have to recognize that you may be suffering from the “crazies”.  Don’t worry, the signs will be there.  Your head will spin around like 1000 revolutions a second. You might drool.  Ok, well, maybe those things won’t happen.  But I think you get the picture!  Once you suspect your are not quite right in the mind, you need to tell your spouse, “Look, I am feeling just crazy out of my mind, so let’s me cool down for awhile”.  When you feel out of control or out of your mind, you are in no condition to discuss anything.  Likewise, when you see that your spouse is suffering from the “crazies”, bring an immediate end to the conflict, even if nothing has been resolved.  There will always be another time and another place.

14_____Create a clear moment:  At some point during or after a fight, the couple needs to salvage all of this mess they made for themselves.  What you want to do, once all the smoke clears, is create a CLEAR moment where you both realize and agree, you just “blew it”.  It sounds awful, but it is actually a positive thing.  If you both can arrive at a place where you realize you are both “losers” for participating in a fight, it will help you the next time around when a fight is brewing.  Remember, no one can be declared a winner.  Even if one of the married partners was wrong about something and admits it, don’t take digs at them.  Rather, allow them to save face and self respect in that moment.

15_____Location, Location:  I am sure you have heard that a key thing to consider about a home you are about to buy is “location”.  We all want to reside in a nice area, surrounded by things that make us feel secure.  Well, let’s learn to apply this simple truth to our situation.  Often when a fight breaks out, we get mired down in the same arguments and they often take place in the same room.  It’s as if certain rooms are haunted by memories of old skirmishes.  Well, sometimes you just need to shake things up by changing the environment.  Move to another room to change the vibe. Or go on a walk together. Don’t keep digging a hole for yourselves.  If necessary, call a timeout…cool down…and then agree on where you want to meet up to finish discussing the problem.  Find a setting that is friendly and comfortable and has a positive vibe.

16._____Avoid the Full Court Press:  I love sports and basketball is one of them.  Sometimes, the opposing team will launch into what is called a full court press.  It’s kinda like ganging up on the ball handler. Whoever has the ball is surrounded by several of the opposing team’s players.  Fighting with your spouse can turn into a gang like attack if one of you launch into multiple attacks, bringing up old, worn out topics to bicker about.  Look….I just hate the idea that couples fight.  And I want you to use every tactic on this checklist to avoid and/or stop the battle between the sexes.  I know that can be hard to do, so if you find yourself squabbling, please stick to one fight topic at a time.

17_____Don’t Talk Over Each Other:  What a mess of things a couple will make if they constantly talk over each other.  All that does is heighten the tension.  Take turns making your points.  When it’s your turn to offer your thoughts, discuss them clearly and honestly.  One of the things that seems to be a common complaint among the couples I coach is the “listening problem”.  I think I will need to write an entire post on this topic because it crops up so often when I talk to people who are having problems with their relationship.  One more thing!   When you become aware that you are fighting with your spouse, avoid the temptation to make blanket statements or over generalizations.  If your spouse falls into this trap, just state the obvious, “Honey, please don’t make these blanket statements about me as it is hurtful”.   I call this technique, “Naming the Objection”.  If you have an objection to the way you are being spoken to, then give it a face….call it out in a calm way.

18_____ Don’t Wear Your Camouflage:  Normally, when you go into combat situation, you don your camouflage to hide behind your true intentions.  Well, guess what!  If a fight is coming on with your spouse, your mindset should not be that you are going to wage war and win.  Nope, that is the wrong mindset.  Remember, there are no winners when marital bliss is interrupted by conflict.  Avoid speaking in riddles or hiding behind the truth of what you really are feeling or thinking.  Your spouse is not a mind reader.  Talk calmly and plainly.

19._____ Stay out of the Penalty Box:   Look, if you are like me, you want to win and sometimes you play hard.  Well in the marital fight game, the harder you play, the faster your lose. And when the argument turns heated, never ever hit below the belt.  If you turn to tactics like yelling, aggressive body language, mean spirited accusations, or re-hashing prior arguments, you might as well throw in the towel, because you blew it big time.  I had a client that asked me what was wrong with telling his wife that she was “crazy, neurotic, and boring”.  He argued it was mostly true and that he was trying to toughen her up because sometimes she just got too weepy.  I asked him what would he think if she called him a “self centered, insensitive, @ss”, because that too was mostly true.  I don’t think he understood my point very well as he got a little fussy with me…. so I gave him a refund.  Thankfully, his wife is also seeking coaching advice from me, so I will do my best to help her, help him to stay out of the penalty box.

20_____ Finding Balance: One of the other common complaints I hear about from couples struggling with conflict is that their communications are one sided.  Please go read my lengthy Guide I wrote about “Balanced and Transformative Communications”.  Any time one person is doing all of the talking….that is bad news.  Now, sometimes we have a lot to say.  But if you or your spouse is dominating the discourse, then resentment will grow.  If this is happening to you…meaning you have the short end of the conversation stick….then there are a couple things you can do.  Either you just “call out” the problem, such as, “Bill, you are doing all of the talking”.  Or, another tactic is to enter into the Marriage Cone of Silence. Simply walk slightly away…..look away and say nothing. Let your silence do the talking for a spell.  At some point, the individual will ask why you are not listening and “what is wrong”.   You simply explain that you are not a fan of one sided conversations.

21_____Utilize Communication Feedback Loops:  Don’t you just love these fancy phrases psychologists come up with.  Let me break it down to its essence.  Remember, once you have entered the Fight Zone, your objective is not to win, but to diffuse the heated engagement.  Once tempers have subsided and normalcy has returned, then you should discuss the issue. To eliminate the chaos and slow down the anger, you need to listen carefully to what the person is saying.  Then you repeat it to show you understand.  You are not necessarily agreeing with their statement, you are just showing empathy and understanding.  For this to work properly, both you and your spouse should adopt this communication approach.  When your spouse believes that they are being heard and understood, you are halfway there to bringing an end to the fight. This technique also has the added effect of slowing down the conversation such that neither of your are throwing zingers at each other.  Seek first to understand, so says the wise man.

22_____Create a No Fight List:  This is one of my favorite techniques I encourage married folks to use. If the two of your are truly committed to eliminating fighting from your marriage, then you need to create a No Fight List.  Once the skirmish is over….and hopefully each of you utilized some of the skills discussed here…what you want to do is find a path forward.  You are looking for a solution to whatever brought you to a place where conflict intervened.  Then with that solution or agreement in hand, I want each of you to vow that this “matter” will never again result in a fight.  Write down the topic that was the cause of discord and post it on your bedroom closet door.  That area is private enough where other won’t see it, but visible enough where the two of you can.  Let it stand as a reminder that each of you are committed to getting out of the fight game.

23_____Zip the Lip About Your Fighting Ways: There is not a lot of explanation needed here, though I say that and I recall a case in which one of my clients literally told the world (i.e. Facebook) about her fight with her Ex.  That turned into a disaster.  Please avoid discussing with others any conflict you and your husband or wife may be having.  More often than not, it gets back to the other spouse.  If you really need some emotional support, I understand the temptation to lay it all out there for a friend.  But consider the risk.  And whose to say that your friend knows best.  I am just saying it’s a slippery slope.  I know some folks will still confide in a close friend.  Just make sure they are very close and be careful about acting on someone’s advice until you have researched and thoroughly thought about the matter.  And whatever you do, don’t post it on Facebook or put out a tweet to share with the world.

24._____Don’t Drink and Fight: Well, you have heard about the risks of drinking and driving, right?  Fighting when you have been drinking alcohol is also a terrible idea.  You simply need to observe a strict marital fighting policy of ceasing all communications that have a hint of conflict.  I know…it’s not easy to do that.  The reason why things have gotten out of hand in the first place may be because one or both of you are intoxicated or under the influence.   Somebody has to be the strong one.  It is really hard for a fight to get any traction if one of the marriage partners is sitting on the sideline.  Just don’t engage.  Soon enough, the conflict will lose its legs. Unless you are totally blitzed, just walk way.  Literally take a walk around the block.  Put distance between you and your partner as neither of you are in good shape to have a rational discussion.

_____25. Don’t Succumb to Physical Violence: If you feel threatened in any way or the urge to strike back and become violent is quickly taking grip of your better self, then leave the area of conflict immediately.   If anger is rising inside of you, find a healthy outlet. Just as I suggested above, go for a walk…a long walk.  The same applies if you feel unsafe.  Leave.

_____26. Cry It Out: . Some experts say that crying is for babies and we should deal with our problems like adults.  Well, guess what?  Those that advocate such nonsense must be suffering what I call the “idiot syndrome”. Ok, I totally made that up, but you get the point!  Our emotions can be messy.  When we get upset and a fight breaks out with the one we love, we are dancing on a razor’s edge of emotional turmoil.  Stress is building fast.  We often feel helpless and frustrated and seem powerless to stop the emotional forces at work.  Well, the most mature and honest thing you can do is to allow these emotions to come out.  They certainly want to.  Why are you holding them in?.  And crying is a heck of a lot better than shouting or hitting or throwing things.  Now, I am not in favor of fake crying as a means of manipulation.  Seldom does that work and it’s dishonest and results in a withdrawal from the marital trust account. Crying is a truthful way of telling your spouse your care and you are in pain.

Relationship Fighting Resolution Rating Scale

(Note: This Assessment Scale is only an approximation of how your marriage might stack up in terms of the two of you keeping conflict out of the relationship).  

  • 19 to 26 Items Checked Off:  Congratulations, you must have a pretty darn good marriage because you have learned how to avoid and stop the vast majority of fights in their tracks.  Keep the momentum going and talk about some of the other skills you can still employ.
  • 14 to 18 Items Checked Off:  Good job!  You and your better half are on solid ground. While far from the perfect couple, most others would envy some of the things you do to keep the lid on conflict!
  • 10 to 13 Items Checked Off:  While your marriage is far from falling apart, there is clearly some skills each of you need to master so that you can avoid some of those withdrawals being made to your relationship trust account.
  • Less than 10 Items Checked Off:  Alright!  Help is on its way.  I encourage you and your spouse to make use of this Assessment Tool to realize some significant progress.

How To Avoid Fighting And Conflict In Your Marriage

Can you ever avoid conflict and fights from breaking out in your marriage?

Do you and your husband or wife have ground rules in place to minimize or eliminate the damage fighting can cause your relationship?

Why do fights happen and who is often to blame?

Once a fight has started, what can a couple do to turn a negative event into a positive one?

I plan on discussing all of these topics and more in the following guide about conflict in marriages.

You see, learning how to avoid fighting in your marriage is a big part of a fulfilling marriage, but what I also want you to walk away with after reading this article is what should you do when a fight breaks out.

Make no mistake, all couples will engage in some kind of argument during the course of their marriage.  Sometimes the question you might need to ask is what is needed to help you and your souse get the marriage back on track.  In the post below, I get into some advice for those couples looking to put an end to their conflict and jump start their marriage.

What Does My Relationship Need To Get Back on Track

Those who contend that fighting can be completely avoided are living in fantasy land.

I appreciate you visiting me here at My Marriage Helper to learn about how to successfully avoid fighting and conflict in your marriage.

So when this extensive Guide is completed, I hope you will check back to review often as it is probably one of the most comprehensive training modules on this topic.

Indeed, you will walk away with an awesome resource that my clients have raved about when I help them with the conflict they are experiencing in their relationships.

I call it the Conflict Resolution Skills List.  

I will get into all of the skills and competencies you need to have a bit later in this Guide, but first let’s go looking for the monsters!

Our Inner Monster

monster

All of us are subject to what I describe as the principle of the inner monster.

It is in our nature to engage in conflict at times.

I know, it sucks!

But it is what it is.

Where do we inherit this human condition?

Is it a survival mechanism?  Is it a deeply rooted flaw we all have?

Is it a natural product of our need to release jumbled up emotions?

Does conflict serve a constructive purpose?

Well, I suppose we could probe deeper into the fields of anthropology, psychology, evolution, and all the rest of the sciences that teach us about the human condition.

I could spend hours examining each of these questions.  But that is not what you are really here for.  This guide is not intended to be a tutorial on the history of human psychology or the underpinnings of conflict in the human species.

Wouldn’t that be boring??

OK – OK!…. so maybe we will touch on some of these things.  I do want you to know about how to avoid conflict.  I would like to teach you about the kind of adversarial situations that can crop up in your relationship.

For example, what if your husband seems to be always angry with you.  What can you do to turn that around.  I explore some ideas on that topic in the post below:

My Ex Husband is Angry at Me – What Should I Do?

Let’s just agree that throughout the course of human history, these exceptionally complex creatures that are “us” can and will engage in many forms of conflict ranging from flare-ups, skirmishes, fights, battles, and all out wars.

And yea…I am talking about our marriages!

Is a Fight Free Marriage Possible?

fighting

Yes, we can do something about it.

We can shape our emotions and our relationship such that the occurrences of fights are greatly reduced.

And we can learn to manage and tame the “monster” within us when fighting does break out.  But what I can’t teach you is how to totally eliminate conflict in your married life.

So if you come across some other relationship expert that is trying to convince you that can achieve a fight free marriage or adopt a zero fighting policy, don’t believe it.

Don’t buy into their flawed thinking.

Rather, I would encourage you to master the principles that can help you with minimizing fights.

While we can’t stop conflict from occurring entirely, we sure as heck can learn how to prevent much of it.  And once it has arrived at the doorstep of your marriage, you can learn to slam the door on its face.

Like any good survivalist trainer, I want to teach you about the things you can do once you are in a fight with your husband or wife.  Because after all, survival is what we are really talking about.

The core of this discussion is helping you develop the competences to ensure your marriage will survive and prosper in an environment in which various forces, some which you may never fully understand, can lead to conflict and fights.  So let’s get to work!

Fights and Conflict – Are They the Same?

war

It funny to me when I get this question from clients or visitors of my websites.

Don’t get me wrong.  It is actually a very interesting question.

It actually makes me laugh, but not at the people asking the question, but rather the so called relationship experts that dispense advice.

People want to know if they can have a relationship that is free from fighting.  No one really wants to fight with their spouse.

It it exhausting.

It is painful.

And it is almost always hurtful and destructive to some degree.

So it makes sense that couples will seek out help books or training courses that can presumably rid them of this most terrible behavior

It’s as if the couple is possessed, so if the demon can be cast out, all will be well in marriage land.  So these books and workshops, I suppose, are designed to exercise the the “fighting devil”.

These authors conjure up the spirit of their infinite wisdom and call upon the monster in our marriages to be exercised.

I can hear them now……

“Let the devil in your marriage be gone! Rise up satan and leave this loving relationship.  Be scattered to the wind”.

Ok, so maybe I am exaggerating just bit!

But you get the idea.

There are many thousands of loving couples desperately seeking help to end the fighting that tears at the fabric of their relationship.

So these folks are very motivated.

And when they walk by the bookstore or search the internet and discover books or workshops with titles like:

“Discover Marital Bliss:  Be Rid of Fighting Forever”

or

“A 7 Step Method To Stop Fighting With Your Spouse”

or

“A Foolproof Plan to Eliminate the Conflict that Tears at Your Marriage”

or my personal favorite…

“A Proven 17 Module Marriage Workshop – Zero Fights”

So as these good hearted married couples come across such titles, they naturally are attracted to the prospect that they too could have a fight free marriage.

They become overwhelmed with the desire to shell out hundreds of dollars in the hope that their marriage can be saved, permanently.

What often happens it what I call the old bait and switch.

These books and workshops make very bold assertions, but upon closer examination after one peels back the layers of what is really being said, it is discovered we are dealing with word play.

You ask, “what is do you mean by word play”.

Well, this what I meant earlier when I pointed out that I often get questions about whether fighting and conflict are the same things.

So, are they?  Of course they are!

A fight is a form of conflict.

A conflict, for all practical purposes, is a type of fight.

Remember, words are inventions of man.

They are in reality “mental constructs” and can be turned and twisted to mean a lot of different things for different people.

Unfortunately, given the slippery nature of words, they can be turned into weapons of deception.

So please be careful about what you read and what is promised.

If you come across a relationship expert or some kind of book or workshop that promises you that your relationship can be fight free.

Don’t believe it.

They will argue on one hand that they can teach you how to never fight with your spouse, but what they are really doing is splitting hairs in their use of semantics (i.e. words).

When you peel back the layers, what they are really saying is that your “dreadful fighting ways”  can be cured….maybe….sort of…. but you will still have conflict at times.

Look, I understand.

None of us like fighting with our spouse.

But would you rather cling to a pipe dream or going forward, look at your relationship in a pragmatic and realistic way?

So why did I tell you all of this?

Because it is important that you come into this discussion understanding that if you and your spouse are fighting, you are not unlike millions of other couples.

What I want to do is first help you with understanding the causes and effects of marital discord.

Understanding the cause and effects of something is the first step in helping you deal with it better.

Then I want to show you how to best deal with conflict once you find yourself within its grip.

Be assured, once you soak up some of these learnings, you will come out the other side a much stronger and informed person.

The 5 States of Mind We all Experience

loses their minds

Do you ever feel you are losing your mind?

I hope so!  I certainly lost my mind ages ago!

But in a good way…..a normal way.

Science has shown us to be a species whose mind is frequently shifting from various states.  If you and your spouse were always of the same mind, then I suppose you would be like a drone.

And that would be terribly boring.

Thinking and doing the same thing is certainly a path to a boring existence.

Fortunately, we all experience different states of mind.

Depending on the state of mind we occupy at any given time, we may be open to welcoming new ideas and ways of looking at things.

Or, we may be very closed minded and disagreeable. Then there are occassions such that if both you and your spouse are occupying a certain similar state of mind, the fighting spirit can rise up and lo and behold, you guys are fussing at each other again.

So what are these states of mind?

How do they influence our ability to cooperate and find resolution versus becoming angry and disagreeable?

Well, the science of the mind tells us there are five of them.  I took the liberty of creating a fun little infographic for you to illustrate the five states,

5 states of mind

What I am going to do now is go down the five stages one by one so you can get a better idea of how this works.

Sound good?

Ok, lets hop to it!

STATE ONE: Beta

beta

The first one is referred to as Beta (15 to 40 hz brain wave cycles per second).

This mind state is our most predominant way at experiencing the world around us.  Our brain wave cycle is  percolating at around 15 to 40 hz per seconds throughout the day.

So we are pretty alert. It is in this state that our logical and critical reasoning takes hold.

At higher brain wave cycles (e.g. 35 to 40 hz wave cycles per second), that part inside you which we will call your “self”….well, that part can become your nagging voice and stress or anxiousness can rule the day.

So do you see how we can sort of lose our minds.

In one moment we are logically thinking through a problem, then in the next moment our brain wave cycle can speed up and suddenly we are overcome with anxiousness.

The cause of this could be external in that something happened.  It could be something we saw or heard or smelled that triggered a reaction.

Or the change in the brain wave cycle could have been triggered by the propensity of our mind to sometimes just switch gears.

It’s like when you suddenly or even slowly become aware you are in a bad mood.  Your are not sure why or how you quite got there, but it’s like something deep at the subconscious level has taken control of your mental steering wheel.

I know, it’s all pretty weird if you think about it for a spell.

Yep, I am pretty sure we all are losing our minds now and again.

Are you starting to see how this can impact relationships?  Y

es, maybe, or not sure?

Well, hang on, we will dive a bit deeper.

STATE TWO: Alpha

alpha

We also have another mind state referred to as Alpha (8 to 13 hz).  This is my favorite place to be.

You might be thinking, “well, you are a guy, so of course you enjoy going alpha male”.

But it’s not what you are thinking.

We are talking about something different here.

You are probably in an alpha state of mind right now, with some Beta mixed in!  Alpha is described as a restful and peaceful mind state.

You are fully wake, but quite relaxed.

You may be reading, fantasizing or daydreaming.

Maybe your are working in the garden or getting in a favorite yoga position.

This is a mind state where creativity reigns supreme and peacefulness remains at your side.

People are usually quite imaginative during this state and experience a  heightened ability for visualization and learning.

Now I don’t know about you, but I rarely ever feel like fighting, fussing, or anything like that when I get lost in my alpha state.

It’s a nice place to be and this is where you and your your marriage partner can make some great inroads within your relationship.

This is where calm, collaborative dialogue takes place.

It is this state of mind that your marriage bonds can grow tighter as both of your are primed to accept and love many things about each other.

STATE THREE: Theta

theta

Now as we drop down to lower brainwave activity, we find ourselves in what is described as the Theta state.

The brain waves are cycling at about 5 to 8 hz per second.  You have now entered the world of deep relaxation.

It’s a very restful period and is comparable to meditative activities and possibly a very light sleep.

If conflict with your hubby or wife has created undue stress, then by golly take a trip to the world of Theta and you will be most obliged by my advice!

It is a powerful, personal and relationship building place to reside.

I should point out  that sliding down the brain wave activity scale such that you arrive at this serene place is not an entirely easy thing to accomplish.

It takes practice and discipline.  Those with experiences with Yoga or meditation can achieve this state of mind more readily.

If there ever existed a conflict or fight buster, then a Theta state of mind is pretty darn close.  Not only is it useful as a conflict preventative measure, but even after a fight, it can be extremely therapeutic to visit your Theta self.

Like I said, we can all get lost in different states of mind.

Learning to recognize them and guide ourselves to more healthy and enriching emotional states is the perfect medicine for warding off those ugly and disagreeable feelings that sometimes overcome us.

Of course, it takes two to tango. You can have your act and mind state fully together, but your spouse may not be in the same place.  He or she could be wanting to get it on.

Despite your reasonable and calm demeanor, your spouse may just default to that “not so nice place” and be dying to pick a fight.

I will be offering you some really helpful skills training and other techniques you both can employ to dampen that fighting spirit.

But let’s finish this discussion about our many mind states.

STATE FOUR: Delta

delta

Delta is yet another state of consciousness.

It operates at the 1-4 hz brain wave cycles per second range.

This is where you enter into deep, dreamless sleep or an extremely deep, meditative trance.

There is an interesting theory out there about fighting and sleeping.

Some believe that the best cure for an unresolved fight is to just sleep on it.

That’s right, just go to bed…. so say some advocates.

I am neutral on this tactic as I really can’t point to any overwhelming evidence that supports the notion or argues against.

It seems that the idea revolves around the concept that instead of arguing into the night, it is better to just turn off the lights and get a great sleep.

There is indeed a restorative power to sleeping.

Also, by putting some “time” between when you last argued and when you decide to take up the discussion again….the idea is you will both be in a better place….more calm…perhaps with more perspective.

Then there is the other possible benefit that by going to bed, the two of you will transfer your unsettled feelings to a healthy sexual encounter, thereby diffusing much of the tension.

The old kiss and make-up strategy!

STATE Five: Gamma

gamma

Ok, so before we leave this discussion of “mind states”, let’s at least finish with the most recent discovery.

It is believed that there is a 5th state of mind and it is called “Gamma” (i.e. over 40 hz).

It was only recently discovered.

Very little is known about this mind state, except that it is thought to be associated with bursts of insights and periods of extremely high information processing.

If only we could all master this sublime state of mind!

So Where is Your Mind at Any Given Time?

thinking

I cannot emphasize enough how complicated people are in the ways  they think about things.

Sometimes there appears to be no rhyme or reason to why we feel they way we do or behave a certain way.

Usually, our actions are a function of our mindset.  A relatively happy couple that ends up in knock down, drag out fight, may have been victims of incompatible mindsets.

And there are a lot of mindsets we can adopt at any given time during the day.

The good news is that a mindset is not permanent.

A mindset changes frequently based a variety of factors, some which we control, others for which we have little or no control.

Thank goodness none of us can read our spouse’s minds. We would be confused, shocked, inspired, humored, freaked out, relieved, worried, and just about everything else.

Heck, it’s even difficult to know our own minds!

I think it’s important to note that unlike robots, that are specifically programmed to act a certain way, we have very complex and highly variable reactions to the environment around as well as the internal workings of our mind.

Conflicts emerge from these places in our minds as we process the world around us.

So let’s drill a little deeper into the Machinery of the Mind in search of root triggers and solutions for conflict.

Our different mindsets can result in all sorts of collisions, some of which we may not be able to anticipate. These mindsets include:

  • Giving:  This is where we feel compelled to offer, selflessly, something to another.  In this mindset, you may freely offer your spouse a backrub without any expectation of getting something in return….except perhaps the loving pleasure you gain from being close to your husband or wife.  When both spouses are “givers” then we are looking at magical moments.  I truly believe giving is much more powerful than receiving because it is a strong component of building a connection and bond between the couple.  If both you and your spouse were of the mindset to spend the majority of your waking hours in the “giving” frame of mind, then would have little need for this Guide.  Indeed, I would be interviewing the two of you to learn how you’re able to spend so much of your time with such a benevolent spirit.

 

  • Taking:  Then we have the other side of the coin, “Taking”.  A “taker” is one who just wants everything his or her way.  These individuals are often controllers or selfish, requiring that everything revolves around them.  A taker will usually take advantage of a “giver”, with little consideration of ever returning the favor. When we are in this frame of mind, we are acting upon primarily selfish or impulsive tendencies.  I hate to admit it, but I am a relationship “taker”.  But so are you and everyone else.  Of course, our degree of “taking” varies from person to person and situation to situation.  Imagine having a married couple whose primary mindset is to be “takers”.  Do you think they will fight?  You bet they they will!  Cooperation is usually at the bottom of their preferred behavior.

 

  • Analyzing:  Again, we all live in the mindset of analyzing things.  Some more than others.  And with most things in life, too much of one mindset can stifle the relationship.  A marriage partner that is overly anal about things, fussing over the smallest of details….well, that is not an optimal mindset, unless both spouses are highly analytical and enjoy the tedious dissection of facts.  Please don’t think though that an “Analyzer” is a bad thing.  It is not.  We all need our analytic skills to make sense of things.  You are using some of those now to decipher the meanings of the things I am talking about in this Guide.  It’s important to understand that analyzing is one of many “mindsets” we can employ at any given time.

 

  • Stressing:  This is where the higher beta brainwave cycles can get us all wound up.  Think of a time when you marital partner came home, already predisposed to be easily annoyed or quick to anger.  It may have been an unusually stressful day in the workplace, so his or her mindset may be filled with tension. Fights often get started when one or both of the spouses are filled with anger, tension, anxiousness or,restlessness.  The most fertile ground for an all out battle of the sexes is to put a stressed out husband together with a stressed out wife…behold, a battle royale is born.

 

  • Withdrawing: Have you ever noticed that your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or husband….whatever the case may be…sometimes will just disappear on you.  I mean they pull away and become emotionally detached.  This mindset of withdrawal is far from a healthy place for a couple. Avoidance is almost always an unhealthy state, though there are situations where short term avoidance can be helpful.  In general, if both husband and wife or withdrawing, retiring into themselves…look out…things are going down a very bad path.  Even when one of the marital partners frequently withdraws, we are dealing with a dysfunction within the marriage.  A relationship where both parties experience emotional withdrawal is a lot like separation under the same roof.  It’s reflective of a couple ready to give up, throw in the towel.  This is state that is sometimes followed by depression.  I see this happening in couples or in an individual spouse that is bone weary of  marital conflict and lack of resolution.  When two people are frequently engaged in an adversarial relationship, they are in dire need for help.

 

  • Creating:  -This is an example of an alpha state and is among my favorites.  This is a state of mind where you and your better half want to spend a lot of time. It works at both the personal level as you seek to become the best version of yourself.  And it is also exceptionally effective in helping marriages become more fun and fulfilling.   What  we are talking about here is imaginative collaboration with your marriage partner.  Marriage couples that make use of their creative juices are thinking out of the box.  They learn the value of experimenting with new things or solve their problems using creative solutions.  Creating is about continuous renewal and learning. This is the mindset where couples can more easily experience transformative problem solving and win-win solutions.

 

  • The Subconscious:  Ok, I am going to talk a bit about the subconscious and its role in marital conflict.  The subconscious resides deep inside a place that is off the conscious mental state radar. Freud is probably best known for his ruminations about the subconscious.  There is still quite a debate about this mind state, if we can call it that.  But most experts agree that it is a powerful and influential part of our minds.  It controls and regulates much of our automatic systems, like breathing and blinking and plenty of other bodily functions.  It is sometimes referred to as our automatic pilot.  It is also said to shape and form our actions and mental state.   In my view, the subconscious bridges with the alpha and theta states of mind.  It is in these states of mind that the subconscious can be tapped into and re-programmed, at least that is what many believe.  Tap into your subconscious and create your reality.  Our reality is our thoughts, beliefs, and the mindset is thereby formed.

Putting Your Mind To Work

working dead

So what does it all mean?

Well let me tell ya!

First, I want you to learn to recognize your mindsets, both your own and your spouse’s.

It can be easy to get locked into certain negative or destructive ways of thinking about things.

It can slowly, over time become the norm.

After a while, each of you can retreat into your favored mindsets and that is not always a good thing.

Habits and routines can eventually take over your life.

That is not a problem, unless these habits and routines are unhealthy for the relationship.

So audit your mindsets.

Call them out.

Reward those which are healthy and benefit your marriage.

Do so by simply offering positive reinforcement such as, “I just love your positive and creative attitude.”  Change those that are leading you down the path of conflict.

A little later in this training guide, I will walk you through some skills development that will help you recognize the behaviors you should encourage and those that should stop.

I will provide you with a lot of tactical ideas and tips.

Adverse Effects from Fighting

nerds fighting

There really is not much good that come from fighting.

Now, there are some professed relationship experts out there that I am sure will try to convince you that fighting is a good way of getting things off your chest and releasing tension or whatever.

I just don’t buy into that reasoning.

Sure, some tensions can get released in the process of fighting with your mate, but not always.  Sometimes the tensions and resentments grow larger, particularly if there is no satisfactory resolution.

No, I think fighting is almost always a withdrawal from the relationship “bank”. People who advocate that fighting is a good thing are deluding themselves.

When I think of a healthy marriage, I imagine an emotional bank of goodwill as a measuring stick.  If your emotional balance sheet is healthy, then your marriage is strong.

What goes into your relationship account?

Every day you can deposit many little and large acts of love, trust, kindness, positivity, and appreciation.

When you fight, you are making a withdrawal.

When you fight, the trust between each other erodes.

When you fight, you end up perpetuating negative, unhealthy habits and routines.

The most powerful thing I could ever teach you is that Kindness rules.

Marriages that are filled with kindness are enormously successful.

Common sense reveals this principle to be true.

But it has proven to be validated through numerous studies of successful couples over the past decades.

Couples that fight injure the marriage.

The relationship is backpedaling when tempers rise and words and actions turn nasty and hurtful.  

For every serious fight, it takes 5 positive interactions with your husband or wife to make up the damage.

Bad Behavior Leads to the Worst of Fights

bad behavior

I have learned over the years that couples fight about many things.  But not all fights have the same weight in terms of impact.

Some are worse than others because of the topic.

Most fights stem from small issues that were triggered by someone’s emotional state.

The topic itself may hardly even rise to a level of importance in the scheme of things.

But the fight can grow out of control and still cause damage.

The worst fights are those that usually deal with very serious topics.  The fight itself can get very destructive and in these cases, the resolution may not be easy to come by.

So as you can see, fighting with the person you love is a complicated web of things.

The severity and duration and damage of the fight can be a function of the mental state you or your spouse may possess at the time and it can be affected by the actual topic the two of you are fighting about.

If I had to wrap it up in a nice, tidy little package, I would say that the worst and most destructive of fighting triggers would be the Four A’s

  • Anger
  • Affairs
  • Addictions
  • Acting like an Ass

And what is ironic is that these top four triggers that lead to bad fights or also 4 outcomes from fighting.

Stay away from the 4 A’s.

Fighting Bad – Learn to avoid Love Busters

bad fights

We all get busted now and again.  Ok, now I am not talking about drug busts or things like that!  But sometimes we do or say things and if the Love Doctor was watching us, they would bust us.

Yes, I know, we are all human and so sometimes we say and do really stupid things.  But I think it’s important to call them out.

I mean really, out loud.  If we say and do something stupid, own up to it and tell your wife or husband what you did.

Trust me, they will appreciate your honest, self appraisal much more than they may ever let on.

So what are these love busters that can create conflict.  Well, let’s start with one of the jewels of the conflict crown…selfishness.

If you take a hard look at your marriage and see that selfish behaviors rule, then it should be no surprise that the relationship has turned adversarial.

What I tell my clients who are seeking help with getting their marriage back on track is to participate in the “selfLESS Game”.

For an entire day, do nothing for yourself, but everything you can think of for your spouse.

Then on the following day, it’s your spouse’s turn.

They are to put aside their own wants and desires and genuinely become the selfLESS person you dream for them to be.

It may sound a bit silly, but try it.

Afterwords, sit down with your spouse and each of you talk about your feelings. Discuss what you think you may have learned from the exercise.

You will be surprised at the power of selflessness, particularly as it applies to the person offering it.

Once the two of your are engaged in conflict, what you both need to get away from are the angry outbursts and disrespectful comments that can so easily creep into the fighting dialogue.

Fighting bad equates to love busting.

When you or your spouse succumb to insult rituals or condescending and accusatory tones, guess what….you are a love buster.

Research psychologist, John Gottman, has done some amazing work in what makes great marriages tick.

He is the individual who put a face on what I consider is the long pole in the tent when it comes to the most successful of marital behaviors.

In his research work he came upon a great wisdom…..specifically, kindness and positivity rules.

Relationships that perform very well and survive for the long haul, observe a ratio of good to bad interactions of 5 to 1.

Learn to Negotiate (avoid winner vs loser outcomes)

i won

Another important skill you need to sharpen is the art of negotiation.  What you want to avoid during the course of a fight is the typical winner versus loser outcome.

Trust me, if you are fighting, you both have already lost.  You are both responsible for the withdrawals being made from your “relationship trust bank”.  So follow this simple plan:

  • Call a timeout.  You both need some time to settle down.  When one is emotional, one is seldom logical or cooperative.
  • When you reconvene, look for win-win solution(s)
  • Recognize conflict for what it is….a losing proposition for both of you.
  • Seek to understand the other’s point of view
  • Brainstorm together for a solution. Learn to shift your paradigm to come to a joint agreement

If after the fight, both marriage partners remain upset, angry, bitter, or resentful, then you both are DOUBLE losers.  If you both choose to fight, then you have a responsibility to end the conflict with a clear and equitable resolution.

That does not mean you walk away after the fight, promising not to repeat your mistake.

Both of you need to articulate and understand why the fight occurred and resolve whatever the problem is.

Anything short of that, leaves the fuse in place.

And I bet you know how easy it is for a fuse to be set off again.

Let me let you in on a trick of truth.  You might be wondering, “Gee Chris, it all sounds good, but how do my spouse and I accomplish what you described above”.  Here is the trick.

There is no way you will accomplish what I described, unless you sit down with your husband or wife BEFORE a fight occurs and discuss proactively that these are the things you agree to say and do.

You should also agree on the things neither of you should say or do during a fight.

And remember, a fight can last a little as 15 seconds or as long as many, many minutes…hopefully never for hours.

Now, I have several more ideas for couples to include in this proactive discussion.  So hang on, more help is on its way.

Are Fights Learning Experiences?

no try

You bet they are!

The first thing I hope you learn is how terribly injurious it is when couples fight.  They end up robbing the love bank and those wonderful deposits go missing.

When all the dust settles, husband and wife have an opportunity to take their relationship lemon and turn it into lemonade.

Fights can teach you something about yourself.

It can help you with understanding your state of mind.

It can teach you about your spouse’s state of mind.  You can learn to be more empathetic to the needs of your spouse and vice versa.

As fights occur, you have an opportunity to apply conflict resolution skills to manage them.

As time goes by, you will get better at employing these skills if you are committed.

If the frequency, duration, and severity of fights worsen within a marriage, then both parties are in real need of a conflict skills training.

Learning to Fight Fair – 25 Skills on How to Keep the Peace

not fair

As with all things that require some expertise, you need to invest time to develop your skills.

A marriage couple must learn to be competent in many areas, include how to keep the peace.

This is probably the most complete Conflict Resolution Skills List you will come across.

Like I said earlier, as much as we don’t want it to, conflict will come knocking on the door.

Sometimes it will just bust right on through when you least expect.

So you best be prepared to deal with this unwelcomed intruder.

Here are several skills, ideas, or tactics you can make use of.  Most of them you can implement right away.

Others may require a bit of practice before the couple masters these competencies.

If you and your spouse are committed to doing something about your fussy and fighting ways, then let’s get your mindset right.

It’s time to do some analyzing and learning.

Are you ready?  Well, let’s get on with it!  Oh, by the way, the items on this list are in no particular order.

Oopps….one more thing!

If you want a much more comprehensive discussion of the following skills and tactics that make up this Checklist, then read my upcoming post here on My Marriage Helper, titled, “Couples Training: Conflict Resolution Game Plan”.

Given that this is such an important topic, I have turned this skills checklist into an Assessment Tool that helps couples with understanding where they stand and what they can do to improve.

You are getting a great tool here!

Typically, I charge my coaching clients $400 for a 1 hour session (phone/email).  I provide them with the Assessment tool, answer all of their questions and put together an individualized game plan.

They love it, because it really helps.

I am now making it available to my website visitors at no cost.

Ok, finally, here is the Tool in the checklist format, but I encourage you to also check out the post I referenced above for greater insight.

Remember, these skills are to be employed during the fight.  You don’t have to use all of them to resolve a fight.

Conflict Resolution Skills Checklist for Couples

  1. _____Take a break during the conflict.  It’s time for each of you to cool off.
  2. _____Admit when you are wrong.  It moves you closer to resolution.
  3. _____Show empathy and it better be real!  It shows you are really listening.
  4. _____Find the humor in the situation, without belittling or using sarcasm
  5. _____Just shut up and reach out and embrace your lover.  Touch gently.
  6. _____Outlaw the word “but”.  It’s a non-starter and sets back the conversation
  7. _____Utilize the 5 second Quiet Rule frequently and take a deep breath
  8. _____Keep your gestures slow moving. Slow down the cadence of your voice
  9. _____Dial down the volume of your voice. Make it more quiet than normal
  10. _____Keep things in perspective. Every second you fight, you are making withdrawals from the marriage trust bank.
  11. _____Be the strong, quiet one. Take it on the Chin. Let the person unwind to release anger and emotion. Then talk.
  12. _____Get in touch with your “real” feelings.  An imposter may have temporarily taken you over during the heated discussion.
  13. _____Create a clear moment – when the smoke has cleared, agree you are both losers in the fight. No one can be declared the winner. Even if your spouse is wrong, allow them to salvage self-respect in that moment.
  14. _____Move to another environment to change the vibe – After cooling off, agree on a time and place to discuss problem.  Choose a setting that is comfortable.
  15. _____One fight at a time. Stick to the topic at hand
  16. _____Don’t talk over each other. When it’s your turn to talk, describe the issue honestly and clearly. Generalizations and blanket statements create openings for divisiveness, so avoid them.
  17. _____Don’t speak in riddles or camouflage the real issue.  Your spouse is not a mind reader.
  18. _____No hitting below the belt or fouls. Don’t escalate things by yelling, using aggressive posturing, raising sensitive topics.  Don’t label or make personality based statements about your spouse (eg. “you are awful, depressing, boring, crazy, neurotic, etc)
  19. _____Strive for balance in your discussions. Ensure each person has equal time to make their points and share their feelings.  Don’t dominate the dialogue.
  20. _____Utilize communication feedback loops to slow down chaos, anger, and heated atmosphere.  Both of you should repeat what the other said and show empathy and understanding.
  21. _____Agree to a No Fight List.  After the fight, there must be a solution…a path forward.  Vow you won’t allow the topic that triggered the fight to be a subject of a future fight.  Put it on the No Fight List.  Post on the bedroom closet door and let it be your reminder not to damage the relationship
  22. _____Don’t talk about your fights with others
  23. _____Suspend fighting if alcohol is involved
  24. _____Never, ever succumb to physical violence. If you feel the urge or you are afraid, leave the area immediately.
  25. _____Allow for crying.  It’s an honest and healthy release of emotions and can diffuse conflict. But don’t fake crying.

Click Here To Download The Checklist In PDF Format

How To Save Your Marriage During An Affair

It’s kind of ridiculous isn’t it?

The lack of actionable information you can find online to save your marriage during an affair.

Since cheating/affairs are kind of a hot topic here at My Marriage Helper I figured I would dive in and do some intensive research and you’ll never guess what I found.

NOTHING!

Ok, that’s not actually true. I did find something but nothing that really blew me away.

Instead I found the same old generic articles that you would expect to find. There were the Oprah or Dr. Phil articles swearing that if you follow their advice you have a chance of saving your marriage. And then there were the famous “list articles.”

“List articles” – is a term I coined that is meant to describe the plain jane articles out there that offer no real value.

You know, the articles that are entitled,

10 Ways A Cheating Spouse Can Ruin A Marriage

or

21 Ways That Cheating Can Actually Be a Good Thing

Pshh…

Ya right….

But enough of this nonsense. Lets get to the real reason you are here.

You are most likely here because either you or your spouse has been having an affair and you want to determine how you can save your marriage.

Hmm… perhaps I should be more specific.

You want to determine how you can save your marriage with in-depth details that actually work.  By the way, speaking of a detailed action plan.  If you have not gotten around to reading this lengthy article on how to save your marriage, then please make a note to check it out.

How To Save Your Troubled Marriage

So let’s get back on track with the point is was making earlier. You don’t want to rely on those generic “list articles” that I talked about above.

Well, I have just the thing for you.

15 ways that you can save your marriage if you or your spouse cheated!

Ok, reason number one..

Ha ha ha ha ha…

I am just messing around with you.

I tend to do that a lot so if I get out of hand make sure you slap me and get me back on track.

This page is going to have one sole purpose.

To save your marriage if either you or your spouse cheated on one another. Now, I feel that I should warn you before I get started that trying to save a marriage in this instance is not easy.

In fact, let’s explore this a little bit deeper.

Saving A Marriage If An Affair Occurred Is No Easy Task

Cheating/ Saving Marriage

I am not in the business of lying to you.

That’s what all those other list articles out there are for.

Nope, I am in the business of telling you the truth and the truth is that if you are trying to save your marriage from divorce if cheating is involved you have your work cut out for you.

Oh, and by the way, while I have your attention let me direct you to this post I wrote on how to affair proof your marriage.  While the article you are reading now will help you if your marriage is currently under fire due to an affair, here is some useful information you should consider that can help you and your lover be more proactive.

How To “Affair Proof” Your Marriage

Why Is It Hard To Save Your Marriage In This Instance?

marriage is hard

Cheating is the ultimate betrayal that someone can make in a relationship.

In fact, it’s so scary that it rules some peoples lives.

I don’t know if you know this about me or not but on top of being the founder of My Marriage Helper I also have founded two other very successful relationship websites called Ex Boyfriend Recovery and Ex Girlfriend Recovery.

These websites (yes you guessed it) help men and women with either,

A. Getting back with their exes

or

B. Getting over their exes

Due to the nature of these websites I have heard my fair share of crazy cheating stories.

But none of the stories I have ever heard have topped this one.

There was a girl who THOUGHT her boyfriend was cheating on her. Now, when I asked her what made her think that she said that her boyfriend came home later than usual one night.

That’s it…

He came home late one night and never did it again and she thought he was cheating.

As a result of this fear she went through his things whenever he wasn’t around.

She cracked his Facebook password and read his personal messages.

Oh, and this is the best part.

She started spying on him when he was at work.

Yup, she literally took off from her own job to spy on him.

After she didn’t find anything out of the ordinary she confronted him and demanded that he come clean.

“I didn’t cheat on you” he kept telling her

“YES YOU DID!!’ she kept yelling back

This woman, who had absolutely no proof that her boyfriend was cheating on her let the fear of cheating rule her life and as a result her boyfriend broke up with her.

I mean, we all want to think the best of the people in our lives. We want to think that they would be loyal and never stray but sometimes the fear of being cheated on takes over.

Now, when you work yourself up like that and find out that you were cheated on it can hurt.

Oh, and lets not discount the people out there who were completely blindsided when they found out they were being cheated on.

So, why is it so hard to save your marriage if you or your significant other had an affair?

Because of this very same fear.

I want you to look at the graphic I put together for you below.

face

There are three parts to this infographic.

Part One: Being Cheated On

This isn’t rocket science.

Part one is the actual act of cheating. Either you or your spouse cheated and that’s why both of you are here looking for answers.

Part Two: The Fear Of Having It Happen Again

Lets say that you cheated on your spouse (and I am not saying that you did) just bear with me here.

So, you cheated on your spouse.

Well, as a result of that action your spouse is going to be terrified that it is going to happen again.

Oh, and we all know what fear can do to a person.

Re-read that crazy story I told above about the girlfriend who thought her boyfriend cheated but didn’t if you need proof of that.

Part Three: As A Result Of That Fear The Person Isn’t Able To Reconcile

Let’s stick with this idea that you were the one who cheated on your spouse.

(Again, I am not saying that you did we are just using this as an example.)

So, you cheated on your spouse and as a result of that cheating your spouse has the fear that it is going to happen to them again.

They don’t want that to happen to them again.

The pain…

The betrayal..

All of that stuff is frightening to a person.

So, what do they do? They push the source of all of that pain away YOU.

This makes it very difficult for a reconciliation to occur and is an underlying reason for why a lot of people can’t forgive cheating.

There’s that word…

“Forgive.”

Forgiveness is defined as the ability to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.

Forgiveness is kind of a big deal when we are talking about cheating because in order for you and your husband or wife to full reconcile the wronged party/ies is going to have to forgive the wronger.

So, how often does this even happen?

How often do wronged couples stay together?

Lets look at some of the statistics…

Statistics? Why Do We Need To Look At Statistics?

stats are coming

I know…

I know…

I hate citing statistics as much as you hate reading them but they are important because they can teach us a lot so bear with me here.

Oh, and just an FYI when I cite statistics I always like citing the ones that are shocking.

What can I say?

I am a “shock and awe” fan.

Except in this case I suppose it’s more shock than awe.

Alright, are you ready for the first SHOCKING statistic.

You Cheated…. IT’S OVER FOREVER

Well…

Maybe not.

According to an article from YourTango over 50% of marriages actually are able to survive an affair.

So, that’s actually pretty good news when it comes to your chances right?

Absolutely!

However, that doesn’t mean you are out of the woods just yet.

Your marriage can still break up over other issues so make sure you stay on top of the five synergistic principles of a successful marriage.

Cheating Is Common… A Little Too Common

According to Dr. Dana Fillmore 50% of marriages are impacted by some sort of infidelity at some point during the marriage.

In other words, if you look at your marriage and your best friends marriage then statistically either you or him will cheat/be cheated on in their marriage.

Actually, we know the answer to that one already.

Your marriage was the one that was affected and not your friends.

Men Are More Likely To Cheat Than Women… Except In This Case

This isn’t so shocking to hear but I did find it interesting so I decided to include it.

It is statistically proven that men will cheat more than women.

Hmm… perhaps I should change that statement to say that men cheat slightly more than women.

HOWEVER, as women are becoming more and more financially independent they are starting to act more like men and the percentage of cheaters goes up.

You hear that ladies?

You can be just as guilty as us men.

Fantasies… Oh Fantasies…

This one is also pretty interesting.

When I was doing research on cheating I came across a website called “The Truth About Deception.”

It was actually a pretty great resource.

Well, one of the things that they do is survey their readers about cheating.

Through these surveys they learn truths about cheating. Well, in one of the surveys they were trying to determine how often couples thought about someone else sexually.

In other words, if you were a man who was married this survey would measure how often you would fantasize about a woman who wasn’t your wife in a sexual way.

Guess what the results were?

Well, the “Truth About Deception” claimed on their website that “almost everyone fantasizes about someone else” but when I had a closer look at the actual statistics it looks like 65% of people claimed that they had fantasies.

So, while I wouldn’t say that “almost everyone” fantasizes I would say that a really large amount does.

This begs an interesting question.

Is fantasizing about someone else other than who you are married to considered cheating?

My Marriage Helper’s Definition Of Cheating

If there is one thing I have learned about relationships in the past several years it’s the fact that everyone has a very…. unique way of looking at things.

For example, let’s say that you grew up being taught that the sky was purple.

purple sky

And then I came along and insisted that the sky actually wasn’t purpose but it was blue.

blue sky

So, whose right and whose wrong?

Me of course!

(Actually the sky can turn kind of purple during a sunset but lets forget that little tidbit for a second.)

It’s for these type of disagreements that I would like to officially define what an affair is.

Yes, believe it or not but some people’s definition of an affair is different than others.

So, lets take a look at some of the things that we are going to consider “an affair” here at My Marriage Helper.

What We Consider To Be An Affair At MMH

what is an affair

I figured I would be thorough with you so I am going to go down this list one by one of what we consider to be cheating here at My Marriage Helper.

Alright, lets just get this show on the road.

Kissing Another Person Passionately

The keyword here is passionately….

Look, if I caught my wife kissing anyone on the lips I would be absolutely ferocious in my anger.

However, I am not naive to the fact that we have visitors from all over the world coming to this site and believe it or not but in some cultures you say hello by a little kiss on the cheek or on the mouth.

There is definitely a difference between a peck on the mouth or on the cheek to say hello and a passionate kiss that means something.

Here let me give you an example,

Peck to say hello,

italian cheek kiss

Ok, in this case it was a peck to celebrate but you get the idea. Now lets look at a passionate kiss which clearly is cheating.

kiss

You can definitely see the difference right?

How the guy is into her…

How the girl has this little smile on her face…

Heck, I am sure after the camera was off there was tongue involved and the kiss went from passionate to sexual.

In other words, if you or your significant other have kissed someone like the kiss shown in the gif above then you are cheating.

But that’s just the first level.

If things progress beyond just a kiss….

Well, then you are really in trouble.

Having Sex With Another Person

This is what everyone thinks of when they think of affairs or cheating.

I am not going to lie to you.

Out of everything that is listed here this is by far the worst.

I don’t have to spell this out for you do I?

Ok, how can I do this in a family friendly manner?

Hmm…

There isn’t really a great way is there?

I guess I can get super technical with it.

Alright, so a man and a woman have these reproductive parts and when they “smush” these reproductive parts together they do something called “sex.” When you have this “sex” you make babies.

BAM!

I totally explained that in a very family friendly manner 🙂 .

Ok, lets move on to our next offense.

Sexting

This is a fun little fad that’s popped up in recent times with the invention of the cell phone and text messaging.

Alright, so what is sexting?

Sex…

Texting…

Sexting….

Do you see how that works?

Basically people combined sex and texting to form sexting.

The way it works is quite simple. Someone sends an explicit and very sexual picture (through text messages) to someone else and they are engaged in sexting.

Or as I like to call it….

Being engaged in CHEATING.

Emotional Cheating

There are a lot of people who say that emotional cheating isn’t really cheating.

Hmm…

I suppose technically it’s not but we are going to count it as real cheating and if you don’t agree with that decision allow me to defend my position.

I like using role playing to illustrate my points so we are going to pretend that there is a married couple named Julie and Bob.

(Side Note: I use Bob a lot throughout my little role plays and Bob usually does something stupid so I apologize if your name IS actually Bob. Ok, onto the role play lesson.)

So, Bob and Julie have been married for 7 years and things have been pretty solid between the two for most of their marriage except recently they have been growing apart.

As a result of this “growing apart” Bob has decided to turn elsewhere outside of his marriage for emotional support in the form of Jenny.

So, we have Bob, Julie and Jenny and they are in a bit of a love triangle,

triangle

So, right now Bob is getting emotional support support from Jenny which kind of looks like this,

triangle

Now, initially there is nothing wrong with this except the fact that the more that Bob gets emotional support from Jenny the more he begins to develop feelings for her,

1438175688-test

And once those feelings have developed then you know a physical affair is right around the corner. In fact, I would make the case that the type of affairs that are “one night stands” are rare in marriages.

Take this statistic for instance,

60% of affairs start at the workplace.

In other words, that means that more than half of all affairs are committed with someone that you or your spouse knows.

Time has developed this connection and in many cases they spend more time with this person than with you.

(Assuming they were the one who cheated. If you were the one who cheated then you obviously know already who you cheated with.)

So, emotional affairs are dangerous and I would say that most of the time they lead to a physical affair sometime down the road.

But enough of this talk.

I think I did a pretty good job of explaining what we consider to be an affair here at My Marriage Helper.

Lets move on to the interesting part of this article, saving your marriage during an affair.

Something You Need To Understand About Saving Your Marriage After An Affair

you don't understand

People are lazy…

I guess what I am trying to say is that YOU are lazy…

Does that offend you?

NEWSFLASH I am not here to cater to your needs. I am here to save your marriage and sometimes that means telling you the cold hard truth.

Why am I saying that you are lazy. Well, I know that as you have been reading this article there has been a thought that has been gathering in your subconscious.

The Thought = I hope this doesn’t take too long to work.

And therein lies our problem.

If you attack this problem from a position where you are thinking “I hope this doesn’t take too long to fix things” you are going to fail because here’s the thing about affairs,

People don’t just get over them. They take time and work on you and your spouse’s part to get over.

Why?

Well, I am a married man,

married man

And I love my wife very much but even thinking about her having an affair gives me chills (and not the good kind.) It scares me a lot. So, you know that something that scares me that much is a serious deal.

Here’s the thing though.

She hasn’t had an affair on me but either you or your spouse has.

That’s not going to be an easy thing to forgive.

Now, at this point of the article I was going to attach a YouTube video of something I saw years ago from a man who specialized in helping couples who have had affairs.

Unfortunately I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find the video.

Here was the gist of it though.

Being cheated on is probably THE most painful thing that you can experience in a relationship and that horrible feeling of betrayal doesn’t go away in a matter of days, weeks or months.

Did you get that?

This problem isn’t going to go away quickly.

It is going to take time.

How much time?

Well, probably a minimum of a year or two before you and your spouse can fully move on.

Now, I know what your thinking.

“Holy Toledo, it’s going to take THAT long to save my marriage from an affair?”

Yup, I know that it sounds like a lot initially but if you really think about it, it’s not that hard to believe.

Lets go back to our example of Bob, Jenny and Julie above and pretend that Bob has cheated on Julie with Jenny.

Well, Julie isn’t just going to forget about Bob’s affair.

Nope, she will most likely obsess over it…

Worry about it…

Get depressed…

Get angry…

Get depressed again…

Worry about it one more time…

Be disgusted…

You get the idea.

It can take YEARS to pick up the pieces from an affair and even after all the pieces are picked up the person who was cheated on won’t EVER forget about it.

I suppose I can end this section with a quote from Helen Fisher, a Rutgers anthropologist, whose husband had an affair 15 years ago,

You can get over it. You can get over all of the feelings; but in my experience, you never forget it.

How To Save Your Marriage From An Affair

Ok, so rather than set this up I am just going to give you My Marriage Helper’s four part strategy for saving your marriage after an affair,

save a marriage from cheating

Now, I know what your thinking.

“Really… four steps? That’s all? You can’t be serious.”

Nope, I am dead serious.

While it may look like a pretty simple strategy to save your marriage at first glance it’s anything but.

In fact, these four steps will probably take one or two years to fully complete.

However, in order for you to even have a chance of saving your marriage you need to get past part one of this process.

Let’s examine that now.

STEP ONE: Overcome You or Your Partners “Want” To Leave

I want to leave

Have you ever asked yourself why I put together this website?

Why I am so dedicated to saving marriages?

Care to take a guess?

I am sure some of you will guess that I am all about the money and while I won’t deny that I do hope to gain more financial freedom from this site that’s not it.

This site is my attempt at preventing people from making the biggest mistake of their life… divorce.

So, I am from the United States and where I am from the system is completely broken.

Lawyers profiting off of people in pain…

Judges profiting from it…

Alimony payments lasting a life time even when marriages only lasted a year…

Children used as pawns by lawyers and judges to prolong disputes which ultimately end up making them more money.

What’s that old phrase?

You end up paying your lawyer your kids college savings to put HIS kids through college…

There is truth to that statement.

That’s really sad isn’t it?

To be honest, it’s rare to find someone who goes through a divorce unscathed.

In fact, many people end up completely broke and some people are never allowed to see their kids again when they did nothing to warrant that harsh of a punishment.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because either you or your spouse has been cheated on here and pretty soon one of you is going to start to feel this strong pull to leave the relationship. I like to call this the “want.”

So, let’s pretend that you are a man and your wife has cheated on you with Bob.

(That damn Bob…)

Well, after the reality of the betrayal sets in and you can’t get the thought of Bob being skin to skin with your wife out of your head you are going to feel this very strong pull or “want” to say the leave the relationship.

So, lets say that you were to do that.

Let’s say that you and your wife get into a screaming match over the cheating one night and you tell her you are done and you want to file for divorce.

So you do…

You want revenge and you start thinking of the worst way that you can hurt her…

A way that you can make her feel the pain that she made you feel…

“The kids… you think to yourself. I am going to seek full custody of the kids.”

Now, your wife has been an excellent mother and there is no reason that she should get her custody right reprimanded.

So, the two of you battle it out in court.

Now lets throw in a rotten lawyer and a crooked judge that delay the process and the two of you end up broke and in debt just paying fees to cover the expenses of your lawyers.

Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.

Despite all of that you are still in love with her.

Why would you do that?

Why not just work on your marriage instead?

Look, I don’t know who I am talking to here. I don’t know if you were the one who cheated or your spouse was the one that cheated.

Whatever the case I want to tell both of you something.

DIVORCE IS NOT THE ANSWER!

You will regret it because it ruins EVERYONE involved including your kids.

So, what’s the best way to overcome this “want” to leave the relationship?

It’s basically explaining the fact that divorce is often a mistake in the United States by making many of the points I made above.

Here’s the thing though, if you were the one who cheated you lost almost all credibility so they need to hear it from someone else other than you.

A parent…

Friend…

Heck, even a stranger.

Now, if you were the one who was cheated on then you are hearing it from me right now.

Divorce is often NOT the answer.

STEP TWO: Kill The Contact With The Cheater

its over

This is a big step and it’s essential that it’s done if you want to have any chance of saving your marriage.

Now, I don’t know your situation exactly so I don’t know who cheated on who but lets just assume that you cheated on your husband or wife.

(Again, I apologize for making what could probably be a false accusation but bear with me here because I promise there is a point to this)

Assuming that in order for you to have any chance to salvage this thing YOU are going to have to take some drastic steps regarding the person you cheated on your significant other with.

Hmm…

I hate to use my own marriage as an example here since it is about as good as it gets but if my wife had cheated on me and I were to give her a second chance I wouldn’t do so without making sure that she is no longer in contact with the person she cheated with.

I mean, it’s beyond me why some people think they can still “be friends” with the person they cheated with while still working on their marriage with their spouse.

What are they thinking?

That their spouse is going to be cool with the idea of them still being around the cheater?

NO WAY!

That’s why I recommend that if you cheated to make sure you kill ALL contact FOREVER with the person that you cheated with.

And if your spouse was the one that cheated on you then you need to make sure that they do the same. In fact, I would say that you really don’t have a great chance of saving your marriage unless they do and while I hate to advise anyone to demand something out of their relationship this would be the right time to do so.

Now, I would like to talk a little bit about what I mean when I say “kill all contact with the cheater.”

What Does “Killing Contact” Really Mean?

Perhaps a better word for this should be “killing existence.” In other words, what we are trying to achieve here is to never talk to them again and to never EVER acknowledge their existence.

Now, if that sounds drastic then you aren’t going to like this next part.

Sometimes that means a job change.

I should have really included this part in the section above about statistics but this is a better place for it.

In her book, Not ‘Just Friends,” Dr. Shirley Glass stated that 50% of women and 62% of men had affairs with people in the workplace.

In other words, it seems like work is one of the top places for an affair.

This could be a little troubling to those of you who need to “KILL the contact” with the person involved in the affair.

I mean, it’s a really tough position to be put in.

On one hand, you could have a flourishing career that helps you put food on the table and a roof on the head. However, your marriage could suffer due to the fact that you still work with the person you cheated with and your spouse is always going to have trust issues with you.

Oh the other hand, you can give up that flourishing career and risk financial hardship for a while (until you find a new job) but you can take a big step in salvaging your marriage by getting away from the person you cheated with.

What do you do?

Let’s look at this logically.

Now-a-days the average time a person spends in a company is 4.6 years but lets round that up to 5 years.

Marriage on the other hand is supposed to last a lifetime.

When you look at things like that it should be a simple decision, right?

Logically… yes.

Emotionally… no.

It’s hard to ask or expect anyone to give up a career that is bringing in good money for anything.

What’s that old phrase,

Money is the root of all evil?

So, I have an idea if you find yourself in a situation where you have to choose between your job or saving your marriage.

Look, the one thing that you have to understand is that if you cheated on your spouse with someone you work with and you continue to work with this person then you are risking a divorce.

But I do understand the need to make money for a family (I have been there.)

So, what if instead of just quitting altogether you shopped around and found a job in the same niche that pays around the same.

This way we can satisfy both needs.

The need to get away from the person you committed an affair with and the need to have money.

STEP THREE: Rebuilding Trust

trusted

This section is going to be controversial…

I am sure of it.

Why?

Probably because of the unconventional advice that I am about to dish out.

BUT before you jump to any conclusions all I want to ask is that you hear me out.

We have already covered the first two steps of saving your marriage from an affair but now it’s time to get to the hard part, rebuilding trust.

Now, I have talked extensively in the past about rebuilding trust in a marriage but rebuilding trust after you or your spouse has had an affair is a little bit different.

It requires a bit more effort.

Why?

Well, in order to explain that I think I am going to have to do another of our favorite role plays.

Lets pretend that you cheated on your spouse and they just found out. For the next few months/years that betrayal from you is all that they are going to think about.

They will think about you kissing that person…

Holding that person in your arms….

Doing “the nasty” with that person…

These type of thoughts will consume them and I have yet to meet a well adjusted human being who is ok with these thoughts.

Do you remember above how I talked about the fear of cheating sometimes being worse than the actual act itself?

How it is extremely difficult for someone to be open to a reconciliation because they are so afraid of having it happen to them again?

Well, this very same fear is going to cause a person to be extra suspicious of everything that you do from this point on.

If they do decide to stay with you and you go out with your friends one night they are going to wonder,

“Is he/she really going out with friends or is he/she really just meeting up with a fu*k buddy?”

Lets say that you leave your phone out one day while you are in the show and you get a text message from a friend named Bob while your significant other is around.

Well, I would bet good money that they would pick up your phone and start looking through it to make sure nothing inappropriate is going on between you and Bob.

Fear is a very powerful motivator… remember that.

What you need to do is be aware of this fear and combat it with trust building strategies.

Now, I have come up with a few unconventional trust strategies that you can employ to make your spouses fear of being cheated on a little… less.

Lets look at those trust building strategies.

Trust Building Strategy One: Phones, Facebook, Emails And More…

Ah, so we have arrived at the first controversial strategy.

Every time your phone goes off your husband or wife is gong to be petrified that it’s some other fling that you are about to embark upon.

So, instead of letting your husband or wife wallow in despair let’s lift them up a bit by giving them full access to your phone.

While I do realize this is a bit elementary I think they will appreciate the idea.

How does this work?

Ok, lets say that you are a man named Gerry who is married to a woman named Ginny.

You have just cheated on Ginny.

(YOUR SO BAD :p .)

Well, after Ginny found out you decide to sit her down and employ this strategy.

“Ginny, I just want you to know I am so sorry for what I did to you. I truly don’t deserve you for sticking by me. BUT to prove that I am committed to you and only you I have something I want to propose. I want to give you full access to my phone, Facebook, email and anything else you can think of. Whenever you want to see it or go through it you can and I won’t have a problem with it. I want to prove to you that you can trust me.”

Now, I realize that this strategy may be a little unconventional and definitely controversial but that’s kind of the point.

You don’t see a repeat cheater offering this kind of solution up now do you?

Oh, and for those of you who are going to give me a speech on how spouses should trust each other.

I think the fact that someone cheated pretty much seals the deal on why one spouse can’t trust the other one right now.

Now, another controversial thing about this strategy will probably revolve around the fact that if you open the floodgates and let this happen when will it end?

Lets say you cheated and you offer this phone solution up to your spouse.

For the rest of your days will you always have to serve up your phone any time your husband or wife gets a feeling that you are being unfaithful again?

No…

Because something interesting happens.

While you may have to use this solution for a few years I will say that eventually when trust does get restored you will find the frequency at which a spouse looks through your personal accounts will become less and less and then eventually it won’t happen anymore.

Trust Strategy Two: Revamp The Rules Of Your Relationship Regarding The Opposite Sex

And herein lies our second controversial strategy.

Most relationships have these unwritten/un-talked about rules regarding the opposite sex.

Take my wife and I for example.

While we have never actually discussed it, it is understood that I am not to spend any of my free time with other women not named Jennifer or Lilly.

(My Wife and Daughter.)

This is an unwritten rule that I understand just like she understand that she isn’t to go on dates with other men.

Again, we haven’t ever talked about this it’s just understood.

Now, I am sure that you and your significant other have similar un-talked about rules in place but after one of your cheats on the other it’s time to talk about those rules.

More specifically, it’s time to revamp the rules.

What I suggest is that you sit down and talk about the rules of your relationship regarding the opposite sex.

Here is the thing though, if you cheated on your spouse then you let him/her make the rules and if your spouse cheated on you then you should have a right to make the rules.

STEP FOUR: Meaningful Acts of Repair

meaningful

Ok, this is the last trick up my sleeve and it is arguably the biggest one.

Have you ever heard that quote on risk?

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.

Let’s look at your situation for a minute.

Either you or your significant other cheated.
When you look at cheating in a marriage what is considered an ordinary response to cheating?
And no, I am not talking about the initial reaction to the cheating that involves anger, depression and all that other stuff. I am talking about the big picture stuff.
Do people normally stay after a betrayal like an affair?
No, they usually separate or ask for a divorce, right?
That’s the ordinary thing to do.
And it’s because of most peoples inability to try something unusual that they can’t seem to save their marriage.
Not us though, right?
We are all about the unusual here.
So, what extraordinary thing can you do to get an extraordinary result?
You will have to perform a meaningful act of repair.
What Is A Meaningful Act Of Repair
It’s something HUGE that goes for the shock factor.
More importantly, it’s something meant only for the person who was cheated on. In other words, if you cheated on your spouse then YOU would have to perform the meaningful act of repair.
What’s an example of a MAR (meaningful act of repair?)
Let’s pretend that you have an amazing job that you love.
It pays well…
Ok, saying it pay’s well is a bit of an understatement it pays phenomenally well and you get to feel powerful since everyone is always coming to you for help.
However, it is also at this job that you cheated on your spouse.
So, a meaningful act or repair would doing something drastic like quitting your job to not only satisfy your husband or wife’s need for you to be away from the person you cheated with but to also sacrifice for them.
To remove yourself from the environment so you can spend more time focusing on your relationship with them.
Here is a list of some meaningful acts of repair that you can use,
  • Quitting a job to spend more time with spouse
  • Being open to going to therapy
  • Offering a heartfelt apology (aka the apology of the century)
  • Having OPEN communication

How To Rebuild Trust In Your Broken Marriage

“Breaking Bad” was one of the most popular television shows ever made. It underscored that the erosion of trust in a marriage and within a family is one of the most destructive forces that can act upon a relationship.

bb gif

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist putting a breaking bad gif in 😉 .)

Breaking trust can topple the very best of marriages. The lack of trust is probably the single biggest factor couples point to as ending their relationship.

That is why it is a continuous process to make your marriage work.  Losing your husband or wife is incredibly painful.  I discuss that in the article below:

Why is Breaking Up So Hard and Painful

It is not the straw that breaks the camel’s back, it is a thousand tips of an arrow piercing the heart.

You see, trust is all about the hundreds of little and sometimes big things we do or don’t do that amount to gaining or losing that important connection we need in marriage. Think of a patchwork of a quilt. It consists of numerous squares and as it is assembled over time, its shape takes form, strengthened by the the contributions of each solitary square. Developing trust works in the same way and as a couple creates experiences that reinforce their bond, they become protected by a blanket of trust.

Building a Wall of Trust

wall of trust

The way a successful marriage is suppose to work is they start off with a bond and over time the relationship strengthens. When issues of mistrust arise, the bond being secure from years of loving acts will serve to protect the marriage..

That is how trust should operate over time.

It is like a wall of support we slowly build, a brick at a time, so that when you look back to see what you have constructed, it is strong and sturdy.

One way to grow trust is to work on the key elements in making your marriage successful. Take a look at this post, if you have not already, as it is filled with a great deal of useful advice.

How To Save Your Troubled Marriage

If love is the bonding agent in our marriage, then trust is one of its ingredients. Without a healthy dose of trust, marriages break down and fail.

It is instrumental that couples realize that trust can be fragile.

You do 10 things to build it strong, but one serious act of betrayal can cause it to come tumbling down. And like Humpty Dumpty, putting it back together again can be a difficult and lengthy process.

Now usually, if you have a good amount of this love juice working in your favor, then your marriage can tolerate a good number of misdeeds from one or both of the spouses. It really depends on the severity and frequency of the lies.

Speaking of lies, guess what?

Everybody lies.

Husbands at times will lie to their wives and wives will also feel compelled at times to bend or break the truth completely.

Why is this so?

There are many reasons why people lie just as there are many things people lie about.

Deception in Marriage

deception

So what should we call a liar?

Are they a fabricator?

Well, yes, that is part of the equation. A person, whether it’s a spouse or anyone for that matter, who does not tell the truth, often will fabricate facts to spin their story.

But it’s more than that isn’t it?

A person need not make up things to be a lying.

They can conveniently leave out key facts. So in that case we could call them a deceiver. A person of deceit is one who paints only the picture they want you to see.

For that matter, if we want to get childish about it all, we can call the person a fibber.

We can press the definition further and to biblical and claim the person is bearing false witness.! Perhaps from a legal perspective they are a perjurer.

Ok, enough of all of that! I think we will mostly stick with the term liar.

Types of Lies

throne of lies

Let’s talk about the types of lies that contribute to a breakdown in trust. Now, if you are out there thinking that you and your husband or wife are immune to deception and lies….that you have constructed the most trustworthy of all marriages…think again.

I do not wish to burst your balloon.

It very well may be that your relationship is strong, underpinned by years of trusting each other and seeing that trust is well placed.

But know that even the strongest of couples will encounter issues. Don’t fear it and don’t be surprised by it.

Accept those experiences when deception and lies creep into your conversation as opportunities.

I once had a client whose husband seemed to be a pathological liar.

Now, I certainly am not suggesting this is the norm in most marriages and I don’t want the suggestion that certain people seem very comfortable with lying to color your view of the opposite sex.

I just want you to see the kind of deceptions that exist in some marriages.

In this particular case, the client….

(We will call her Beth…)

Contacted me asking for help.

She said that her husband seemed to have perfected the concept of lies and deceit. If she had to assign him a grade on the trust scale, he was reportedly a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1 through 10 (from the lowest trust to the highest).

trust scale

Beth went on to explain that he seemed to have a compulsive need to lie about things and as a result, she really did not trust him about anything.

She said he told numerous white lies, frequent opportunistic lies, some very hurtful lies, and absurd untruths which I characterize as whoppers.

White Lies Aren’t So Bad, Right?

what lies

So what is a white lie, you may ask?

It is one in which your husband or wife bends the truth in an effort to minimize pain or hurt.

People who are conscientious of how others feel about all sorts of things, will sometimes withhold information or modify the truth so as not to bruise the other individual’s feelings.

So you are thinking, “Well, that is not so bad, right”.

Ok, I agree that an occasional “white lie” given certain situations is not harmful to a relationship. But even while lies, if they accumulate in greater numbers, can create a sense of distrust.

Oftentimes, the person who is the recipient of the little old lie, is aware that their spouse is not really telling them the entire truth. If this happens frequently, the trust for the person telling the “lie” erodes.

Moral of story….don’t make telling white lies a habit.

Yellow Lies For Yellow Bellies

yellow belly

Beth was also the recipient of what I would characterize as yellow lies.

Her husband was constantly dipping into the deception pool in search of ways to promote himself or hide things that might make him look bad.

I think it is cowardly when someone is lying and deceiving another just because it’s convenient and/or self serving. Instead of facing the music, some individuals will persist with telling their fantasy and spinning the truth.

Sometimes, such lies are told to disguise a truth so it won’t be detected.

As Beth explained, the examples of these yellow belly lies ran the gambit from,

“Oh, yea I took care of all of those bills” when in reality the family’s finances were under even greater strain….

To

I am going to work this weekend for a few more hours”, when in reality he went fishing and drinking with his buddies.

When your marriage partner is telling yellow lies with great repetition, it suggests that they are seriously misjudging your intelligence.

In most cases, such lies are partially transparent as they result in the spouse becoming suspicious due to the frequency of occurrences. Beth kept telling me, it was not just the lie that hurt, but it was the comfort and ease her husband had when telling her these fibs.

Ironically, she explained that it would have bothered her little, if he had just told her the truth about what was going on. But with her suspicions aroused and the eventual truths later coming out, she realized that there was something seriously wrong with the relationship.

She further explained that her husband seemed to have a compulsive need to tell lies because even after caught red handed, he would again resort to the same tactics again and again.

Black Lies Create Dark Times

lies

Beth also talked about very serious lies that tore at the fabric of their relationship…. deceptions that could be characterized as betrayals.

Her husband had an Ex that he swore was no longer part of his life. But truth be told, the two of them were frequently seeing each other.

When finally confronted, her husband acknowledged that he and his former Ex saw each other, but argued that it was strictly platonic and that they were just good friends.

As it turned out, the reality was quite the opposite and to make matters worse, the Ex was not even aware he was married.

It is these wicked lies of deceit that when piled up upon each other, turn out to be the most destructive and darkest of lies.

As the dark clouds began forming over the marriage, Beth’s husbands pattern of defense was to deny, deny, deny.

In hiding the affair from his wife, he constructed an elaborate assortment of lies. Such is the slippery slope of all “black lies”.

The more one turns to fabrications to cover up other lies, the deeper they fall into the quicksand of deceit.

It is these kinds of multi layers of lies that invariably create some of the most darkest periods in a marriage. Hence, I refer to them as the black lies.

The Whoppers We Sometimes Tell

whopper

Another type of lies that individuals fall prey to are called “whoppers”. These lies are also often elaborately constructed.

The liar will put their own unique spin on the facts such that it eventually takes the shape of an unbelievable story.

In many cases, the lie is small and has minimal negative impact on the relationship. Often, the person spinning the story seems acutely motivated for personal or other reasons to extend the life of the deception .

Eventually, the whole charade comes comes crashing down, often before the fabricated story is even completed.

I know some couples that just like telling whoppers to each other and they get along quite well. It is almost like a game as the weave in and out of the facts. Provided that such stories are told with a degree of “tongue in cheek”, I have no problem with this form of storytelling. Indeed, it can be quite entertaining and healthy for the marriage.

So not all whoppers are necessarily a bad thing. But if your spouse is frequently making up absurd stories to impress you and it is clear they are not doing it for your amusement, then we are dealing with an unhealthy form of communication.

Unintentional Lies

didnt mean it

Sometimes we are so convinced that our spouse has lied about something that even a swearing on a stack of bibles would not change our view.

But guess what? We all make mistakes with the facts.

We misspeak often.

The things we end up saying may not reflect what we were really thinking. We can get confused about what happened or recall something incorrectly.

As a result of these developments, certain untruths can escape our lips. So even if your husband or wife has said something you believe to be untrue, don’t assume that they are intentionally lying.

They may just not be remembering correctly.

I often see occasions where the communications between the couple is less than ideal and things can get turned around or confused. So while I certainly do not tolerate habitual liars and intentional deceptions, just know that your partner in life may have made an innocent mistake.

Moral of story….do not be too quick to judge. To evaluate the veracity of whatever you are hearing, learn to probe and give your spouse an “out” to revised or modify what they “think” they know.

Lying by Omission

omission

We have all seen this in operation and I bet you have been on both ends of this type of lie. Sometimes a person will feel they are “technically” telling the truth by omitting certain facts.

Their rationale is that they can’t be accused of lying because everything they said is truthful.

The problem is that sometimes what the spouse shares is limited in scope and they purposely leave out details knowing that if they provided the fuller story, it would land them in trouble.

Politicians do this all the time, hoping to shape opinions and gain support.

Fortunately, most people see through these veiled attempts to deceive. People who use this technique intentionally seek to cloud the truth. I think of them as sneaky liars.

Does your spouse sometimes behave like a politician in your marriage?

Hopefully not!

My experience in counseling couples is this type of “bending of the truth” eventually gets called out. Sooner or later, the truth bleeds out.

These efforts of carefully crafting the truth is futile.

By the time the real truth has surfaced, the damage resulting from the lies has grown larger.

This is because the longer the lies exists, the greater its propensity to cause harm to the marriage.

So in this respect, lies can be measured by both the gravity of the deception as well as the length of time the lie has persisted.

What Do Spouses Lie About?

lie

Quite honestly, the kinds of things spouses lie about covers a large swath of topics.

Here is a list of many of the things about which husbands and wives will bend the truth.

Many of these kinds of lies and fabrications cover broad categories such as personal issues, relations, sexual activities, time spent with others, secretive or negative thoughts, and general insecurities.

  • Meetings with Ex
  • Engaging in emotional affairs
  • Participating in extramarital affairs
  • Deception around whereabouts
  • Drinking habits
  • Drug use
  • Financial and Money matters
  • Watching Porn
  • Why they can’t spend time with you
  • Past boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Concealment around flirting behaviors
  • Secret email or phone contact with old flames
  • Sexual fantasies and masturbation
  • Concealment about past sexual history
  • Secret addictions
  • Lies around their true sexual orientation or preferences
  • True feelings about partner’s friends, family, or co-workers
  • The physical appearance of their partner
  • True feelings about their husband’s or wife’s habits and behaviors
  • Religious beliefs
  • Hiding their jealousy and snooping behavior
  • Concealment of their job security or level of contentment
  • Deception about their “true” feelings of love and feelings of attachment to their spouse
  • Hiding the truth about their own insecurities or emotional disorders
  • Lies about discipline or lack of discipline of children

Why Does My Husband (of Wife) Tell So Many Lies?

why

So as you can see, there is quite a number of lies men and women tell each other. The web of lies that are spun can act as a divisive force.

Intimacy suffers.

Without an open and truthful marriage, everyday life becomes an uphill battle.

True intimacy comes from really knowing the truths about a person, particularly those at the deepest levels.

Why do people find it so difficult to tell the truth? Why would a spouse jeopardize their relationship?

Well, those are good questions. It is also a difficult to answer specifically for each person because everyone brings with them their own set of attitudes about truth telling. Again, let me remind you.

Everyone lies.

Obviously, some people lie much more frequently than others. Learning to curb the desire to tell untruthful things to your spouse is critical.

If your marriage is predicated on the notion that you accept and trust each other completely no matter what you tell each other, then the desire to lie is greatly reduced.

If you know that there will be no or little in the way of repercussions for telling hard truths, then the truths you tell each other will ultimately strengthen your relationship.

To learn how to reduce the “Lies” being told in a marriage, it helps to understand why people lie. The reasons why people lie can sometimes be deeply psychological, but generally they fall into these forms of justification:

  • The husband or wife feels they have a right to tell a lie every once in awhile to protect their feelings or those of their spouse. White lies fall into this category as do those lies of convenience. What I would describe as “lazy lies” also fall into this kind of thinking. Sometimes, the truth is more complicated, so people will rattle off a little lie to just tie things up faster. Or, the marriage partner is actually quite lazy and for example, if asked if they took out the trash or paid the bills; they simply reply, “sure, I took care of that”…..when actually they did not.
  • Another reason why a spouse will hide the truth is to avoid embarrassment. They may be trying to “save face” and feel compelled to “color the truth”. By the way, isn’t that an interesting phrase….”color the truth”. It is so appropriate because people find many reasons to modify the truth about things or situations. Just as there are many colors in the spectrum, so too are there many ways in which the truth can be twisted. Forgive me for digressing! The point here is that no one likes the feeling of being embarrassed, so invariably there will be times when your spouse will simply lie to make themselves look better.
  • Another reason why people have difficulty with the truth is that they may be protecting someone else. They could be hiding an affair. Their motivation could be due to sparing any bruised feelings that could occur if the facts were fully known.
  • A marriage partner will often feel secure in their lie because they feel they can get away with it. Their reasoning is flawed of course because they often discount all the times they have gotten caught. Liars also don’t take into account those times when they were suspected of lying, but were not called out. People who frequently lie usually will just remember the times they think they “got away with it”. So they reason, “if there are no repercussions” then why not lie. But as already pointed out, their logic if flawed. Most of the time, a lie is eventually found out. Liars who utilize this form of rationalization, are deluding themselves.
  • Yet another reason why your husband or wife may lie is that they have formed a habit of frequently misleading you. And habits and routines, once established, can be difficult to break. So, some people just lie when it suits them because they have done so often and this behavior is deeply rooted.
  • We also have some individuals, hopefully not your spouse, that lie because they have serious psychological issues. Certain characters out there tell lies in a pathological way. They usually have serious character flaws. Maybe they have little empathy for their marriage partner and care less about the impact their lies have on others.

Why Telling The Truth Is So Important in a Marriage

truth

In many cases, the act of lying is far worse than the actual lie itself. One a constant stream of lying is allowed to exist in your relationship, the very core of the marriage is at risk.

As lies mount up, trust recedes.

A marriage without heavy doses of trust and belief in your spouse is like a car that has run out of fuel. You can stay in the vehicle as long you wish, but it won’t go anywhere.

But don’t throw in the towel if the trust in your marriage is eroding. Time can be your ally.

Think of your marriage as a “Trust Bank”. As you and your spouse make investments into each other with “truths”, your marriage emotional bank grows.

The actual building of trust (i.e. marriage bank) is associated with a secreted hormone called oxytocin which is the cuddling and bonding hormone.

Lies tear away at trust and can bankrupt your marriage trust bank. Telling the truths, particularly those “difficult” truths that may in the short term but painful….

It is this type of behavior that grows the marriage trust bank.

Oxytocin is the same hormone that is secreted when we orgasm.

Truth telling over time is a powerful investment in your relationship bank. Telling the truth is associated with stronger marriages, better health, and longer life so say the researchers…. and I agree as I have seen this in practice.

Building trust is an endeavor every marriage couple should strive for everyday. This is accomplished through small and large moments…. but mostly the small, positive experiences you have together.

If your daily experiences are founded on little lies, the relationship will eventually collapse.

It is through the flow of positive and pure little moments you have with your wife or husband that you will form a tighter connection…. a stronger bond.

There are some practical things you can do to help with growing the trust in your marriage. It starts with being “attuned” to your partner’s needs.

If you can understand their needs, even anticipate them, this can help with building a foundation of trust.

Also be aware of your marital partner’s mood, empathize with their situation, and learn to be open to their viewpoints.

Try to avoid being defensive if they raise topics or issues that make you feel uncomfortable.

By all means, stay away from playing victim or playing the blame game.

The most impactful thing a marriage couple can do to promote truth telling in their relationship is to talk about it.

Discuss with your spouse that there will be times where each of you may feel compelled to hide, conceal, or outright lie about things and talk about how those behaviors almost always get found out and cause injury to the marriage.

Encourage your lover to stay on the straight and narrow path and when they do tell a “difficult truth”, express your genuine appreciation.

Now with all that said…. I have to admit….. I still think it’s appropriate to occasionally tell a white lie, provided the telling of such a lie results in emotional support for another.

Obviously, the telling of a white lie is very subjective and situational. But I think there is room for the smallest of lies if they are for selfless purposes (i.e. not selfish) and you are convinced that the lie, if found out, will not cause harm.

My experience in giving and receiving of “white lies” is that they are not entirely a deception, but rather an exaggeration or partial truth.

Restoring Trust in Your Relationship

trust me

Ok…. I think we have talked enough about the types of lies and the kinds of things people lie about within their marriage.

Let’s turn our attention to doing something about it because after all, if we can’t restore trust in the marriage and break the cycle of deception, then we have some serious issues. Here are the top 10 ways of rebuilding broken trust in your marriage.

Don’t Seek Revenge

revenge

Once the lie or deception becomes apparent, do not double down on the misdeed by seeking revenge.

That only makes things worse.

I once had a client whose husband was lying about his gambling ways. When she found out that he had been lying for months about some of his weekend trips, she decided to get back at him.

Instead of discussing the matter openly, she went to the bank and immediately closed their joint checking account, took out all of the money and decided that she too would go out gambling with her girlfriends.

You can probably guess what happened next. It suffices to say that the relationship between her and the husband turned into a gigantic cluster frack, if you know what I mean.

Seeking revenge is never a sound strategy and in some cases actually increases the chances of more future deceptions as both parties now have even more to conceal.

Don’t Directly Confront Your Spouse About Their Lying

poor ppl

If possible, once you discover your husband or wife is lying about something, try to orchestrate the discussion such that they eventually reveal to you the truth. If you can create an environment where your spouse feels safe in telling you the full truth, then you are moving in the right direction.

Now, this approach in no way excuses them of their misdeed. Nor should your spouse be awarded for their untruthfulness.

They should see that their deception or concealment of the truth has an emotional effect on you, the marriage partner. Indeed, you should tell them how you honestly feel about being lied to.

The pain you feel should be shared with them, so they understand the full effect of their actions. But it is important that they hear that you appreciate them “coming clean”.

Don’t Play Victim

victim

A while back, I had a client that told me a story about her boyfriend and his former Ex girlfriend. It turns out that he had lunch with his Ex and had concealed this event from his girlfriend. She had suspected something was up because she noticed he was behaving differently and was hesitant to talk about his day.

The couple was quite close, so she was particularly well in tune with his behaviors. Eventually, she stumbled upon the fact of her boyfriend’s lunch date when she checked his phone records and saw the confirmation.

Well, like most people would be, she was very unhappy and disappointed that he was concealing the lunch with the ex girlfriend.

So when she confronted him about it and even though he claimed it was all very “platonic”, she turned inward for days, frequently telling her boyfriend how wounded she felt.

I am not a big fan of playing victim.

Some people think it can be an effective way to “guilt trip” somebody to do or not do something. But more often than not, I have seen the “victim play” turn out to be very counterproductive.

For most of us, the pain of a lie, coupled with the feeling of a potential betrayal with a member of the opposite sex is a powerful emotional cocktail. So expect to feel upset and maybe some panic if a situation like this occurs.

But stay away from the idea of playing victim because you can become what you play at. And a victim is not what you want to be in this situation. A victim is perceived as weak.

You want to be the strong willed individual. But you also want to be pragmatic. So your spouse or boyfriend (in this case) needs to know that you are disappointed that he was not more forthcoming.

Unless there is more to the story or situation, then move forward. Living in the past and playing the victim works against you in both the short and long run.

Avoid Being Defensive, Casual, or Righteous

breath

Ok, this piece of advice is for those who lied or deceived their loved one. Accept that you screwed up. You truly did. Do not make matters worse by being defensive or trying to justify your lie. That approach or attitude will most certainly explode in your face.

Nor should you be casual about the whole matter, giving off vibes like, “what’s the big deal”. A lie, even the small ones, can feel like a pretty big deal at the moment of discovery. Finally, by all means, avoid the act of behaving in a righteous manner, like you are entitled to lie or that the lie was not that serious.

When caught in a lie, throw up your hands and offer no resistance to whatever the emotional outburst may be. Don’t launch into a series of justifications or detailed and confusing explanations. Trust me, in most cases, whatever you are saying won’t be heard as the person is still thinking about the lie you told and how it makes “them” feel.

I am fond of saying that “when emotions run high, logic runs low”. Avoid making the situation even more emotional than what it already may be. There will be time, later, to discuss why you had the terrible notion of lying to your spouse. In the moments right after the discovery of the lie, most spouses will not been open to any of your notions or rationalizations.

And don’t forget…the bigger the lie…the greater the negative reaction will likely be. So keep it zipped up, except showing you are sincerely regretful. Be contrite.

Come Clean

clean

It is unbelievable to me how often liars are unable to come to terms with the truth. There seems to be some spouses out there that are in constant denial. It is as if they believe they can talk their way out of the original lie. But what invariably happens, is they end up telling more untruths and the situation just snowballs.

So for us liars (remember, everyone lies), it is best to come clean. Don’t compound the situation by telling more fabrications. It is much better to move the conversation quickly to exactly what you did and why you did it. Constant denials is weak and in most cases your lies are obvious. When couples are able to immediately put the truth out on the table and work through the issues together, then the topic of conversation can move from looking backwards at the deception to moving forward as to next steps. When the married pair are arguing about the past, there are no deposits being made to trust bank.

Remember, it is often the length of time a lie exists that creates the most pain and conflict. The sooner the person comes clean, the faster the healing and forgiveness can unfold

Be an Open Book to Support Your Story

no memory

So now that we have outed the “lie”, let’s talk about the truth. Admitting to a lie is one thing, but then getting the spouse to believe what the individual has to say next about what happened (or didn’t happen) can be a tall mountain to climb. And it’s understandable because credibility is probably in short supply.

What is advisable is for the person to be an open book. Just lay everything out there. This means making the cell phone and email records available. The lying spouse needs to be prepared to expose their vulnerabilities as that might be the price one needs to pay to regain trust.

Now, some people may balk at this advice. They may say, “hold it, I not going give up my privacy just to prove my innocence”. Well, if you have a very understanding wife or husband or have previously built a lot of trust in the “marriage bank”, you may have a point. But I always like to ask the question, “what is more important, your privacy or your marriage”.

Avoid Words and Actions That Can Trigger Conflict

words

When considering serious breaches of trust, a couple can break out into an all out war. Some years ago, a movie came out called, “War of the Roses”, starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. This married couple, started off quite blissfully in the beginning, but by the end of the flick they ended up sprawled down on the floor with a chandelier laying on top of them.

Hopefully, if you saw the movie or get around to watching it, you will realize the futility in allowing words and actions to get so out of control that you end up tearing down the relationship.

It is better to avoid all of the ugly talk. I realize this can be difficult for some, particularly the person who has been lied to. Emotions being what they are, it can be hard to hold it together. But realize that no one is perfect.

Even the victim of a lie, has victimized others with untruths. So keep things as civil as possible when discussing whatever the mess is all about. And please, stay away from chandeliers!

Forgive and Decide to Love

forgive

The key to rebuilding broken trust in your marriage is to forgive your spouse. Now, I don’t want you rushing to forgiveness. Let the discussion of why the person felt compelled to lie play out. Explore what the truth really is.

When you see that your marriage partner is truly contrite and regretful, that is the prime time to offer your heartfelt forgiveness. It comes down to whether the couple wants to loosen the bond of marriage or strengthen the marriage.

They each have an act to play in this unfolding drama. The liar has to come clean and express genuine regret. The person lied to has to make the decision to forgive. Together the couple decides to love. Strong marriages don’t allow past mistakes to dominate and grip their lives.

Renew Vows and Set Goals (Message in Bottle)

bottle

I am real big on symbolism and events that underscore commitment. You don’t need to wait around for such things to happen. You can make them happen, just as you made and created the love between yourselves.

One of my favorite ways of rebuilding trust is to re-write your vows and place them in a bottle. Then go out to a beach or lake and watch the sunset, then launch the bottle on its way. Another way to symbolize your trust is to take a padlock, place a special mark or symbol on the back of it, then take it to a popular bridge and secure it in place. Let that lock represent the forever bond between the two of you.

Marriage Recovery Systems

Sometimes the problems of mistrust and broken vows are of such significance that despite what actions the two of you take to reconcile, it just does not work out. In these situations, it can be helpful to seek help in the form of a couple development marriage program.

There are audio and video marriage recovery systems that can prove to be helpful to some couples. You can also seek marital counseling or therapy. Depending on numerous factors, one on one marriage counseling has proven to work. Not always, but if your marriage is on the line, then you should not stop short of trying both traditional and non traditional solutions.

In closing, please take a few minutes to share with me your story or situation. I am happy to offer my input and our readers are often eager to share their experiences which can be of benefit to you.

Every relationship will have its challenges in the trust department. Start building your marriage trust bank account. Make deposits every day. Your future balance will grow to be quite large and will withstand the down cycles all marriages experience.

How To Know If You Should Try To Save Your Marriage

I have to admit something.

I struggled writing this.

Why?

Because most of the people who visit this website are probably trying to save their marriage and while I am a strong believer that every marriage should be saved there are some situations where I do think it’s better for a couple to split.

Can you believe I just said that?

Crazy, right?

But more on that later.

For now all you need to grasp is that this page is all about knowing if you should TRY to save your marriage.

Now, I don’t want you to mistake this article for if a marriage can be saved.

Almost any marriage can be saved.

We already know that.

What I am trying to make you realize is whether or not your marriage is worth the time and energy to save.

So, here is how this page is going to work,

How This Page Will Work

work

When it comes to My Marriage Helper I have a tendency to go a bit… overboard.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that I give away a lot of information for free. You see, my theory is that if I write the very best articles/guides/pages in the world then this website will flourish.

That means that this page is going to be no different.

I am going to go way above and beyond for you and attempt to provide you with the best information in the world around whether or not you should try to save your marriage.

So, here is the rundown of what I am going to be talking about today.

  • The Special Situations Where I Think Divorce Is Necessary
  • The Cost Of Divorce And How It Relates To Saving A Marriage
  • My Theory On Saving A Marriage
  • How To Go About Saving Your Marriage If You Decide You Do Want To Save It

 

By the way, if you are also seeking some answers on how to put it all together, consider this post:

Looking For A Way To Put It All Together?

Lets just cut all the build up and jump right to it!

The Special Situations Where I Think Divorce Is Necessary.

necessary

This is going to sound really funny coming from a guy who makes his living making sure couples stay together.

Sometimes divorce is necessary…

Yup, I don’t live in the magical fairy la la land where all divorce is never an option that some of the other experts out there live in.

I live in the real world where nothing is ever black or white. Sometimes it’s the shades of grey that you have to pay attention to and that is certainly the case here.

But what are the situations where divorce is necessary?

Hmm…

Perhaps I should put this in a way that you will jive with a bit better.

What are the situations where you shouldn’t try to save your marriage?

Turns out there are quite a few.  Take a look at this post if you find yourself questioning how you can move forward without your lover.

Is Your Marriage Going In Reverse?

Below I have compiled a list of the top reasons for why you SHOULDN’T Save your marriage.

(Don’t worry, I will cover the reasons for why you should save your marriage a bit later.)

The Situations Where You Shouldn’t Save Your Marriage

shouldnt

This is weird.

It really goes against my nature to talk about the situations where you probably shouldn’t try to save your marriage but I want you to listen to the following situation and tell me if you personally would advise to save a marriage in this situation.

Lets pretend that you know a married couple named Jim and Janet. The two of them have been your best friends for years and they seemed to have the perfect relationship.

At least, that was your view of them until one fateful night where you run into Janet looking like this,

After some detective work on your part you determine that Jim has been beating Janet pretty brutally.

Now, upon talking to Janet about her current circumstance you learn that Jim has been doing this for years and there is no indication that he is going to stop anytime soon.

Now, here is my question to you.

When you see a situation like this do you think you could advise that Janet try to save her marriage with Jim?

Personally… I can’t.

And this is just one form of abuse, physical.

Generally abuse can be split up into three categories.

  1. Physical
  2. Emotional
  3. Sexual

I suppose I will take a quick moment to cover what each of these looks like in a marriage using our favorite fake couple Jim and Janet.

Physical Abuse

Not too much left to cover here.

Basically if Jim hits Janet repeatedly on purpose or if Janet does the same to Jim then that will classify as physical abuse in my book.

I think I did a pretty good job of covering what it looks like above though so lets just move on to emotional abuse.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse isn’t cool.

However, the good news here is that it can be worked around. In other words, if your wife or husband is being emotionally abusive then I don’t necessarily think that you should try to give up your marriage.

Like I said, almost every marriage can be saved and no human being walking this earth is going to be perfect.

Do you need proof?

Ok, here is a list of qualities that are common among emotionally abusive relationships,

  • Constant put downs
  • Humiliating you
  • Refusing to communicate with you
  • Jealousy for no reason
  • Needing control at all times
  • Using money to control you
  • Threatening to leave you
  • Threatening to commit suicide if you leave
  • Making everything your fault
  • Constantly calling/texting when you aren’t with them

I am sure that at some point I have committed a few of these sins in my relationships.

Let’s see here…

I definitely have put down an ex girlfriend before but not excessively.

Hmm… what else bad have I done?

I have refused to communicate when I have been mad before as well.

Oh, and I have threatened to leave an ex girlfriend before (ultimately I did and it was the best decision ever but that’s besides the point.)

What I am trying to illustrate here is that committing a few of these sins isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, I would wager that if you look at this list you have committed a few of these sins too.

In regards to marriage and emotional abuse what we are looking for here is an excessive use of the signs above.

For example, lets say that every time you went out just to see friends your spouse texts you and calls you.

Why?

Because they think you are up to something. Now, this fear that you are “up to something” makes them jealous and they certainly act jealous when you get home.

Of course, when you add in the fact that they have to be in control of you at all times you have got yourself a winner.

Oh, and lets not forget that in order for them to feel truly powerful and exert their control over you they threaten to kill themselves if you were to ever think about leaving.

…..

Hmm…

If you are married to someone like that then I would say that before you make a decision on whether or not you want them back you need to ask yourself one question.

What is that question?

Can they change?

Believe it or not change is possible but it will take A LOT of work on their part.

If you ask yourself that question and you are able to answer “yes” then I would say that your marriage is worth saving.

On the other hand, if you ask that question and say “no” then it may be time to invest in a change in your life if you catch my drift.

Sexual Abuse

This is always a hard topic to talk about but…

Sexual abuse CAN happen in marriages.

In fact, it can happen in many different shapes or forms.

I guess I would like to dedicate my time here to talking about a couple of situations regarding sexual abuse.

And like before, I would like to use our favorite fake couple, Jim and Janet.

So, lets talk about the first situation.

Let’s pretend that Jim and Janet are going to bed one night and Jim is “in the mood.”

So, he goes to his tried and true method of begging for sex.

Of course, Janet is tired from her hard day at work and decides that tonight is not the best night to embark on a lovemaking session.

However, being the caring wife she is she decides to tell him that they can do it tomorrow.

Jim doesn’t like this answer and tries to force himself on her.

Janet pushes him away…

Jim get’s angered by this, holds her down and eventually rapes her…

I am sorry but if you have been sexually abused in this way there is no way that I could ever recommend that you try to save your marriage.

But that’s only one situation of sexual abuse.

Let’s talk about the other and more frightening one.

Now, I know what your thinking.

What can be more frightening than getting raped?

Well, lets take a look at Jim and Janet again.

Jim and Janet have been married for ten years and have two children together (a boy and a girl.)

One day Janet comes home early from work and notices that Jim’s car is the the driveway.

“That’s strange?” she thinks to herself.

“He isn’t usually home this early.”

She walks in the house and notices that the kids have been picked up from school when she sees their backpacks near the front door.

“Jim must have picked them up.”

Excited she decides to check on her little girl and walks to her room. When she opens the door she is horrified when she sees Jim sexually abusing her.

Now, let me ask you.

At this point does this sound like a marriage that should be saved?

I don’t care how great of a guy Jim was to Janet in their own relationship there are no words or actions that can be said or performed to make up for sexually abusing a child.

This does not get my stamp of approval for a marriage that deserves to be saved.

The Motto Of Saving Your Marriage That You Need To Live By

best

Lets switch gears for a moment and talk about something more uplifting.

I am a pretty positive guy and that last section totally bummed me out so I want to turn our attention to the marriages worth saving.

Do you remember above when I said,

Almost every marriage can be saved

Well, that “almost” in the phrase above were the situations where you shouldn’t save your marraige.

Other than that just about every marriage out there is worth saving.

Now, I entitled this section “The motto of saving your marriage that you need to live by” for a reason.

There is a motto that I want you to get really used to because  you are going to be hear me say it a lot here at My Marriage Helper.

What Is The Motto?

Are you ready?

Ok, here is the motto!

Leave no stoned left unturned

It’s funny, when I hear this phrase I always picture some guy in a forest of stones kind of like this,

stone forest

And he is just going around turning over every single stone.

Now, while I am sure that little image was interesting to you it really doesn’t capture what the phrase means to us here.

Look, if you want to give up on your marriage that is fine. I am not going to stop you.

HOWEVER, only after you have turned over every stone.

What do you think I mean by that?

Ok, lets say that you are debating on whether or not you should save your marriage. Maybe your husband or wife hasn’t been the best to you in recent years but you haven’t take any actionable steps to improve things.

That means that there are still stones that you haven’t turned over yet.

I mean, at the end of the day you can’t close your eyes and say that you have done absolutely everything in your power to save your marriage.

From what I have seen in my own life most people give up on their marriages without making any effort at all to fix things or “right the ship” so to speak.

I want to dive a little bit deeper into this for you since this motto about “leaving no stone unturned” is kind of a big deal.

The Goodnight Tactic

goodnight

I am going to teach you a little tactic for saving your marriage and it is going to require a bit of work on your part BUT it aligns perfectly with MMH’s (My Marriage Helpers) motto of leaving no stone unturned.

Requirements For “The Goodnight Tactic”

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Discipline
  • Hard Work

What The Goodnight Tactic Is

I want you to take out a pen and paper and write down EVERYTHING you can possibly think of that will save your marriage.

Now, I realize that it’s hard to think of everything to save your marriage in one sitting BUT do your best. If you happen to think of something down the road feel free to add it to the list.

Oh, and if you need a few ideas of what you can do to save your marriage you can read the uber long workshop I wrote about saving marriages.

Once you have your list all written out the easy part is over and it’s time to start actually checking a few items on that list off.

At the end of the day (every day) right before you go to bed I want you to pick up the list and look it over.

If you ended up completing one of the things on the list you can check it off.

If you still have a lot of items that aren’t checked off then don’t sweat it. Just take things one day at a time.

Essentially what you are doing with this list before bed (you see where the goodnight part comes in, right?) is you are listing out all the stones you still have to turn over in order to save your marriage.

If a year or two down the road you found that you have checked off every single item on your list (and yes sometimes checking off the list will take that long) and your marriage still isn’t saved THEN you can give up but only after you have done everything in your power to save it.

Hmm…

Perhaps this would go better if I gave you an example.

The Goodnight Tactic Role Play

Lets take our favorite power couple Jim and Janet and say that Jim wants to save his marriage since he was such a jerk in the examples above :p.

So, he comes onto My Marriage Helper and learns about the goodnight tactic and he decides to implement it.

After a lot of thought he takes out a pen and paper and jots down the following things that he would like to work on in his marriage.

  1. Becoming more positive in the marriage
  2. Spending more quality time together
  3. Go a week without fighting
  4. Become A Better Version Of Himself
  5. Come To Terms With His Wife’s Past

Now, when you look at this list it’s pretty basic, right?

I mean, it’s kind of hard to measure “being more positive” isn’t it.

Well, that’s why you need to come up with specific goals to meet relating to each thing you wrote down.

Let me show you by going down the list of 5 things above.

Becoming More Positive In The Marriage

Like I said above, this is kind of hard to measure.

So, lets make it more measurable.

What is your idea of a perfectly positive person?

Mine would probably have to be Joel Olsteen.

Now, that may be weird for me to say since I am not necessarily the most religious person in the world but I can’t get over how positive this guy is.

He always has a smile on his face and always tries to see the good in people. I like that and I think that is the perfect attitude to bring to a marriage.

So, in order to make “being positive” more measurable I would say that if you can copy this type of behavior for 66 days (the average time it takes to create a new habit) you should be golden,

Spending More Quality Time Together

This one isn’t that hard to make measurable.

What is your idea of quality time?

How much of it do you think is enough?

You are probably thinking,

“Umm… Chris, that is why we came here. YOU need to tell us.”

Truthfully, I think there needs to be quality time every single day. However, that quality time doesn’t have to be that long. Maybe after you put the kids to bed you and your husband or wife can sit by the fireplace and talk about the day you had.

I mean, it’s not as hard as people make it out to be.

Now, with that being said there also needs to be one night a week where the two of you do some type of quality activity (like a date.)

Again, we are going to use that 66 day mark to achieve this goal since that is how long it takes to form a new habit.

Going A Week Without Fighting

This one is very easy to measure so I am not sure that there is much that I can say here.

I guess the only thing I would like to add is the fact that sometimes it is good to have easy goals to achieve to sort of get you on the board.

Lets move on to our next goal.

Become A Better Version Of Yourself

In this article I laid out why it is so important to be happy with yourself before you can have a successful marriage.

I find this is very easy to measure as well.

In a perfect world what would make you more attractive to others?

Would it be a perfect body?

More money?

More awesome stories to tell?

A calmer demeanor?

What I am trying to get at here is that you live in a perfect world and there is nothing stopping you from achieving the perfect version of yourself.

So, go out and achieve it.

Come To Terms With His Wife’s Past

Remember, this is Jim’s list and Jim is a bit.. jealous of his wife’s past. In fact, this jealousy has been the cause of quite a few fights in the past.

Well, the time has finally come for Jim to come to terms with his wife’s past relationships.

Now, how can we measure this?

How can we say that he has successfully gotten over his wife’s past?

To be honest I am not sure he could ever get over his wife’s past 100% BUT he can get to a point where he doesn’t see red every time it’s mentioned.

My advice would be to turn to all the anger and hatred over the past into a positive thing.

You need an outlet to get over a past and the best outlet is to put all that energy into improving yourself (the last list.)

But that still hasn’t answered how we are going to measure this.

Well, lets use our favorite habit rule of 66 days and say that if Jim can go 66 days without starting a fight over his wife’s past then he can consider that a success.

 

The “D” Word

d word

Nope, I am not talking about “damn.”

I am talking about divorce.

In the section above I talked a lot about leaving no stone unturned and doing everything possible to save your marriage but what if you turn over every stone and exhaust every avenue and you haven’t seen any positive change in your marriage?

Are you allowed to give up then?

Hmm…

The first thing I would say to you is,

“Have you really turned over every stone?”

More often than not there is always something more that you can do.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say that Jim (our favorite husband 😉 ) seeks out my help to save his marriage with Janet and he is claiming that he has done everything to save it.

Well, after asking a few basic questions I determine that he actually hasn’t done everything in his power to save his marriage.

He hasn’t sought out marriage counseling from a licensed professional…

He hasn’t tried the goodnight tactic…

Heck, he hasn’t even grasped the core concepts of the synergistic principles that I talk about on this site.

So, he hasn’t done absolutely everything.

Now, it might be a different story if he had tried everything which is what I would like to talk about now.

Look, I am not one of those people that thinks absolutely every marriage should be saved.

I showed you above that clearly there are situations where married couples shouldn’t stay married.

If you have turned over every stone and your marriage still hasn’t improve or if you are in one of the situations that I mentioned above where I don’t recommend saving a marriage I think it might be time to move on.

However, you do deserve to know what you are getting yourself into if you do decide to divorce.

The Risks Of Divorce

risk

I want you to look at this in two ways.

Way One: To prepare you for what divorce is going to feel like

Way Two: My last ditch effort to convince you that most marriages are worth saving.

So, the first thing I am going to tell you is pretty obvious.

There is a link between divorce and depression.

In fact, according to this article by the Huffington Post 60% of people who had a previous history of depression reported another bout of depression after divorce.

I know that is probably common sense to you.

Divorce probably scares the heck out of you which is why you are here trying to save your marriage.

I guess my point in telling you this is that you are more likely to truly become depressed after divorce.

But that’s perhaps just one reason divorce is scary.

What’s the other reason?

Well, it’s a bit more… financial.

The Cost Of Divorce

Lets pretend that you were to divorce your significant other right now.

How much do you think it would cost?

Sure, if the divorce is uncontested you are probably out around $500.

(FYI: uncontested divorces are divorces that are settled out of court.)

But what if you find yourself in the middle of a contested divorce?

Well, that could cost you anywhere between $8,000 to $132,000.

OUCH!

Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.

On top of the HUGE cost of divorce from your ex significant other your yearly expenses go up.

How much do they go up?

They can go up by $42,000.

What if you own a home together and still have to pay the mortgage on it?

What if you have children together and have to pay child support?

What if you have to find child care?

At first glance you can scoff at the idea that all these things could cost you that much but these things really add up.

The average mortgage on a home is around $1,061/month which equates to $12,732/year and we all know that, that is just the tip of the iceberg. You still have utilities, water, gas, etc to account for.

All in all paying all of these things can really add up.

Now, when you look at it that way isn’t your marriage worth the investment?

 

Can You Save Your Marriage With The No Contact Rule?

We are all interested in having the most wonderful and fulfilling of marriages. Our relationships bring us closer to the reason why we even exist. Without contact and interaction with other people we love, then our very soul gets whittled away. So what is this idea of advocating No Contact with the person you love? Why would we want to pull away from our spouse? It is difficult enough to tackle the world out there, so why would we want to do it alone? Well sometimes, to draw closer, you have to step back to gain some perspective and reconnect.

Can your marriage be saved strictly by using the No Contact Rule? No it can’t. But if implemented properly, under certain circumstances, you and your husband or wife can benefit from going through a no contact period. So what is this No Contact Rule? How does it work? When should you use it? What are its benefits and drawbacks?

Really, must you ask so many questions! Well, I am glad that you are because learning how to implement the No Contact Rule properly and consistently could be huge. On the other hand, if you do not understand how this process works and put it into play where it is not appropriate or execute this relationship strategy improperly, you could suffer a serious setback in your marriage.

No one wants to experience a headwinds in their marriage.  And that is why I decided to write this lengthy post.  I want you to be able to explore all the possible angles and applications of possibly using this principle.

I also want to encourage you to ask me any questions or offer your comments and observations at the very end of this post. You can leave me a comment and I usually get back within 48 hours.  Also, check out the comment section at end of this article for further insights.

What is the Marital No Contact Rule?

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Have you ever noticed that relationship experts like to talk about fanciful topics and put their own spin on it. I guess it is normal for people to grab a hold of a concept and put it out there for masses to digest. There are tons of married folks and couples who are seeking help with getting their relationship back on track. And when they hear about a technique or strategy that can help them, they will in most cases latch on to it and ride it as far as it may work in their personal situation.

I try to offer to my readers a ton of content that can help them lift their marriage to the next rung.  Along with learning about how No Contact can work within your marriage scenario, be sure to dive into my post about all aspects of have to save a marriage in trouble.

How To Save A Messed Up Marriage!

Now, since you most likely have arrived at this page partly because you wanted to learn more about the No Contact Rule and how it works and what it could do to help you with the problems you are presently experiencing; I am going to try to straighten out some of the misinformation on what it is, how it works, and most importantly, how it can help you.

First, let’s say we get out of this pattern of following the crowd. Relationship gurus and marriage counselors and many others like to just throw around these phrases, sometimes, quite frankly, seeking to rope you in so you will buy their product. Always be careful with what you read and choose to implement, particularly when it comes to something as important as the No Contact Rule. Despite what they may say, no marriage expert knows exactly what is in your best interest. Nor do I. But I will admit it and then I will give you a big picture view of the benefits and potential disadvantages. With this information, you are smart enough to sort through the best potential choices.

So, in keeping with my lack of interest in following the crowd of copycats, let’s do this. We are going to rename the No Contact Rule principle. First of all, the phrase starts with a negative…..the word “No”. As you have probably realized by now, I don’t like to lead first with negatives. Indeed, the most successful of marriages revolve around the Principle of “Positivity” which I discuss in great detail on my home page. Why not highlight the positive? The idea behind this strategy is that you are to stop all communications with your your Ex, so that is why it took on the name of “no contact”. But one of the greater benefits derived from implementing such as strategy is to allow YOU to get in contact with yourself. It allows you to get in touch with your own feelings and begin the self healing process. And bear in mind, the self healing process can take weeks to take root.

So we will change the name of the concept to the “YES CONTACT RULE”. I want you to say “yes” to getting back in touch with yourself. I want you to say “yes” to healing yourself and potentially your marriage. If you are ever in a position where you need to invoke this (Yes) Contact Rule, then you are going to be experiencing one of the roughest period of time in your life. Your emotions will be all over the place. You will have this unbearable pain in the very core of your body, mind, and spirit. Yes, you will be needing a huge dose of a recovery and that path is found in becoming “one” with yourself. You will need to get yourself together, before you have a chance of pulling your marriage back together.

But, let’s not stop there. I don’t really like the word “rule”. It is much too confining. When it comes to relationship advice, one should be very careful about proposing strict “rules”, particularly when we are dealing with the degree of communication you will or will not have with your husband or wife. Human beings and their relationships are incredibly complicated. When we ask ourselves whether we should stop communicating, in all forms, with our spouse we are dealing with a very critical aspect of the marriage.

After all, that is what this “Contact” business is about. It is mostly about whether you should communicate with with your spouse under certain special situations that might unfold in your marriage. We will get into this with greater detail later. But let’s first get our vocabulary in order!

What I propose is that instead of calling this principle the “No Contact Rule”, let’s think of it as the “YES CONTACT PRINCIPLE”. That sounds a lot more pleasant and is actually quite descriptive of one of its key outcomes…specifically “becoming the best version of yourself”.

Are You Breaking Up or Separating?

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When break ups occur, many relationship experts advise their clients to institute a period of time where they do not communicate with their husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend for a specific period of time. We will talk about the time period later because there is a lot of disagreement about how long or short it should be. This period of time where you are to avoid communicating with your significant other in any way…..and that includes all forms of communication such as verbal, written, text, email, person to person, and phone calls….is not intended as a game or designed to punish or “stick it to” your spouse.

The two of you are married because you fell in love and loving somebody is not about teaching them a cruel lesson. The intent behind this strategy is to create a meaningful change. Sometimes, something profound needs to happen to break the old, negative habits that have broken the bond.

Getting Away From Problem Routines

I do not recommend you utilize this strategy of shutting down communications with your husband or wife (boyfriend or girlfriend), unless the relationship has deteriorated to the point where the two of your have separated. What does that mean, exactly?

Well first of all, when it comes to relationships, hardly anything is exact or can be described with precise meaning. Such are the vagaries of communication. But I will give you my take on what separation might look like for you and your lover. It is usually a situation that has evolved over many months or even years. The two of you have been pulling further away. The bond of love, which always had been a most wonderful attractive force that pulled the two of you together, is now fractured. You and your spouse are fighting more. Perhaps there has been an affair. Perhaps you have gone to marriage counseling, but it has not helped. Or maybe instead of couples therapy, you and your wife or husband have had long discussions about your future together and the outcome looks bleak. Eventually one or both you decide that it’s time to break up and someone moves out either temporarily or semi­permanently. It could a trial separation where one or both of you conclude that you need to sever the relationship or it could be a legal separation in which the attorneys draw up an agreement of understanding.

The period of separation can be days, weeks or months. In effect, a form of no or limited contact is already in place.

For a couple that is married, this type of arrangement is usually the last resort, short of outright divorce. It is only under these circumstances that it makes sense to adopt a Yes Contact Principle (i.e. No Contact Rule). If you were to totally shut down all communications with your spouse, while the two of your are actively working on your relationship and living under the same roof, you most likely will cause more harm than good.

Now, there are some situations where limited contact and communications can awaken the husband or wife to realizing something is terribly wrong with the relationship. We will touch on that later. But to be clear, I would not advocate initiating a No Contact Rule while the marriage is still operating under the same roof.

The Dysfunctional Marriage

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The growing dysfunction of a marriage can eventually lead to the realization that something very significant needs to occur to allow for both parties to gain greater perspective and begin the healing process. Unfortunately, in most cases, couples do not take take any meaningful action, but rather just get caught up in the flow of time. One day runs into another as their level of satisfaction and fulfillment in their marriage decreases over time.

You have heard of the saying, “We are growing apart” or “I love him (her), but am not in love anymore”. It can be really tough to explain in words what we are feeling and even more difficult to understand exactly why we are feeling the things we do. We need to remember that words are just “constructs” of the mind. They are not even real. We conjure up certain feelings and thoughts in our brain and then we try to explain using words. But most of the time, the words we chose are woefully inadequate and can be confusing.

We may even ask ourselves, “how did it come to this”? Why don’t I feel the same way? What happened in our marriage such that we do not feel that intensity of love and connection any more? You may think, “before I could never find anything wrong with my husband (or wife).” Now, you may possibly find an assortment of things that you dislike….things that cause friction and agitation.. That magic the two of you had is gone. Resentments have grown to fill a larger part of how you think about your spouse.

As the many months and years go by, all these things can get worse. Then before you can make sense of it all, you are sitting there thinking, “What happened to us?” You might be able to piece together part of the puzzle of how your relationship came to be what it is now. But more often than not, you will be confused as to how things unraveled and what is to become of your marriage in the future. For many couples facing dysfunction in their married lives, they reach a point of where everything they try seems futile and a cycle of rinse and repeat becomes exhausting.

This is often why people break it off. Often, it is not that their love has disappeared. A bond once made, is very difficult to break entirely. It’s just happens that couples will sometimes arrive at a place where they are exceptionally unhappy and have little hope. So they separate. At that point, both will become engulfed with confusing feelings such as sadness, relief, anger, resentment, depression, and many others.

Understanding the Value of Your Relationship “Bank”

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It is important you understand the science behind the early stages of love. As mentioned above, I am sure you still remember with fondness those many early months of the relationship where both of you felt you were floating on a cloud of romantic delight. Neither of you could do wrong. Every moment with your lover was magical. Everything within and outside of your relationship was amazing. But those feelings powering your love for each other was getting a big assist from the chemical cocktail dancing in your minds.

When we are in those early stages of falling in love with someone, our brain chemistry changes as dopamine and a host of other chemicals are released. As time goes by, that natural love potion gives way to a steady state of brain chemistry, more or less. This is where marriages are made in my opinion. And like deposits you make into your bank, the welfare of your marriage will be largely dependent on all of the little and large deposits you make into your marriage.

What I am talking about here are the acts of kindness, praise and love you contribute to the “union” you have with your husband or wife. When your acts of love far outweigh the “withdrawals” (negative acts such as fighting, criticism, lack of support) then your relationship is healthy.

But when things take a turn for the sour and you and your spouse are spending far too much of your time withdrawing love from your relationship “bank”, you can go bankrupt and the pain of that process can be unbearably. You must “individually” learn to recover before you can rebuild and improve the marriage you once had.

You are going to need some perspective to gain insight into what is happening and to recover from the pain of your marriage struggles. This is one of the key benefits of the no contact period. It is to allow for both of you to recover and gain some perspective.

So, the “Yes Contact Principle” (i.e. No Contact Rule) is mostly about giving each person in the marriage an opportunity to get “right” in the mind and to begin their own healing process. Right now, both people are swimming in a sea of emotional turbulence and neither is in a position to make good decisions. It will certainly be very difficult for the two of you to “jointly” try to pick up all the pieces at this stage. There needs to be an intervention….a meaningful change.. If it’s not some form of marriage counseling or therapy, then going through a No Contact Period could be exceptionally helpful.

Getting in “Contact” With the Big Picture

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There was a movie that came out some time ago called, “Contact”. It starred Jodi Foster and was about a woman in search of extraterrestrial life. The movie has some very interesting themes running through it that actually is instructive for relationships.

The character in the movie experienced her own personal journey by traveling far away. But it is the way the movie started that I find to be useful in this discussion about “PERSPECTIVE”. It starts on earth, then the camera pans further away and outward. The earth becomes slightly smaller as the “eye” of the camera pan outward as we travel beyond the moon, the planets of our solar system, and even further out.

Now, if you are in the midst of a relationship that has gone terribly wrong and your problems and pain are so great, that you can barely function, then clearly you are in a very bad place emotionally. You lack the love you deserve and most assuredly, you will lack perspective. The adverse effects of this suffering will also likely have a very

negative impact on your physical health. If you have just broken up or you and your spouse have just separated, then you will be emotionally compromised and blind to what is probably in your best interest. You may find yourself obsessing over the state of the marriage and what you should do. Your behavior may become compulsive. You may feel desperate to repair that relationship connection that is now broken or severed. Most people in this emotional state are extremely vulnerable. They can become prisoners of their own emotions and say and do things that contribute to the relationship worsening. What is one to do?

I say, let’s take a journey to the stars. Remember that movie, “Contact” I was talking about just a bit earlier? Well let’s take a ride and see where it takes us. Now, if you are “game” and follow along really closely, you might just discover this little journey you are about to undertake will be somewhat hypnotic. So, you may be thinking, “Really, you believe you can hypnotize me right NOW, just by me reading this stuff you are writing on the page?”

It is really up to you and that is the truth!

Maybe I can, but in a way that separates myth from reality. After all, hypnosis is nothing more than a highly relaxed and focused state of mind. Can you really relax, and then focus?

If one provides certain stimuli (suggestions), these notions can get lodged into the mind of a person and can positively affect this person’s behavior. Watching a movie or reading a book are forms of a mild self hypnotic state of mind. You are relaxed in a dark movie theater, maybe wearing those funky 3D glasses. You are very focused and eventually become engulfed in the story that is unfolding on the movie screen. Before you know it, you are so caught up with what you see and hear on the screen, you suspend reality, and actually begin caring a great deal about the characters in the movie. You laugh and you cry and experience a wide range of emotions. And you can learn things….make important connections, only because the movie enabled you to do so. Right? Actually, not entirely. Those important connections you made when watching the movie occurred because YOU chose to relax and open up your mind and be receptive.

Should we call that a form of hypnosis? That is up to you. Call it what you will, be let’s take a little journey together and I want you to go some place really quiet and read the following passage very slowly. I want you to visualize the meaning of the words. Allow the words to form images in your mind. And remember, it not really me that allows you to enter this heightened state of relaxation….it is all YOU.

You are in the middle of a forest. As you look around, all you can see and think about are those things immediately affecting you. Just as the tree cannot see the forest, your view is confined. You are in the middle of a forest.

Now imagine you are on the moon. Your view of earth has expanded such that the entire globe is now in focus. You see continents and the grand scale of the oceans. You are amazed at the scope of that which you see. You are on the moon.

Now imagine you are on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy. The earth is now a tiny blue dot, far,far away in the distance. Suddenly you realize that all of your worries and concerns are very small in the scheme of things. The gravity of your problems start to shrink away. You look upon the universe in awe and are delighted to be part of it.

Ok! You are released from your self induced state of relaxation. With that kind of perspective, I hope you realize that problems that seem to mushroom into gigantic proportions in your mind, are occupying far too much space in your life.

A Time To Reap

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Now I want you to think about it another way. Think about the time you have remaining in life. We are all mere specks of dust in a universe that is 13.3 billion years old and more vast and expansive that words can describe. Our life span is measured in the smallest of fractions as compared to the age of the universe. With perspective, we should realize that our time is the most precious thing we have. What a shame it is for us allow ourselves to get muddled into a state of constant negativity, sadness, or depression. While we cannot always control what happens in our lives, we have considerable control over the attitude we elect to have in our life.

The power of the “Yes Contact Principle” (i.e. No Contact Rule) is to allow you to get in touch with your feelings, put things back into proper perspective, and begin healing from the wounds you have suffered within your relationship. Only then will you be best equipped to make sound decisions about whether reconciliation with your your wife or husband is something you want to strive for.

What is the Limited Contact Principle in a Marriage or Relationship

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We spent some time talking about the No Contact Rule which we went on to rename as the “Yes Contact Principle”. So now let’s turn our attention to the Limited Contact Principle. We will keep the name because it actually is descriptive of what you might choose to implement if the situation is appropriate.

In almost every situation in marriage, balanced and quality communications is something you want to strive to achieve each day. But what happens if the marriage is on the rocks and neither of you are making any progress getting it back on track? Should one utilize some form of the limited contact rule?

First, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. I would define the limited contact principle as a self imposed cooling off period. If your marital relationship has eroded to such a point where communications are often negative and triggering fights and conflict, then something needs to happen to break that trend. Limited contact with your spouse could accomplish that. Communications would be limited to just the most pertinent information you need to convey to your husband or wife. Otherwise, you will want to avoid initiating conversation. And when your spouse tries to raise a topic for discussion or ask a general question, your response is very brief, neutral in tone, but respectful. If necessary, you quietly, with measured control, remove yourself from the immediate environment so as to avoid further attempts at communication or any hostility.

With this approach, you are trying to accomplish two things. One, you want to break the negative, vicious cycle of the type of communications that has harmed your marriage.

It takes two to tango (in most cases), so why tango if it is hurting the relationship?

Have you ever head of the concept of “less is more”. Well, this is what you are trying to achieve. Less communications should lead to more perspective, serenity, and hopefully a greater appreciation from your spouse that something in their behavior is terribly wrong, otherwise you would not be shutting down. And that is the second thing you want to accomplish through this strategy. You want to create an awareness in your husband or wife so they understand something very important is broken.

It is like hitting the reset button on the computer when the operating system is all fouled up. Before it reboots, it goes through a period in which it audits all of the internal systems. When it finds a problem, it attempts to fix it, but not before it goes through a quiet reboot period.

With a relationship that is off the tracks, sometimes you need to go through a quiet period to properly assess things. Unlike a No Contact Period, where all communications come to an end, the limited contact principle allows you to co­exist with your spouse, while at the same time try to slow things down. Once implemented for a few hours or a few days, it will become abundantly clear to your lover that the relationship is off the tracks and something meaningful needs to happen to address the problems.

Consider it a wake up call for your spouse, except you are doing all of your talking through your actions. Less is more. So will it work? Sometimes it does. The husband or wife gets the message and takes advantage of an opportunity to re­evaluate his or her role in the conflict. You want to create an environment where the hostilities have ended and rational thinking has returned. In this environment, your lover will be more inclined to act in a more positive, pragmatic fashion; which lends itself to solutions.

Now, on the other hand, your efforts to limit conversation and interaction with your spouse could have the opposite effect of what you desire. A lot depends on the nature of the people involved and the strength of the marriage union. Some people react very well to the limited contact and seize the opportunity to make things right. After all, if you have a reasonably solid marriage, it is in both people’s interest to bring an end to the bickering.

But in some cases, I have seen this approach backfire. No matter how civil and respectful you are in carrying out the limited contact principle, some people will get very angry and resentful. Chances are that such individuals are very controlling, possibly very selfish, and your failure to engage in lengthy debate causes them to dig in their heels even more.

My thinking is that even when you encounter resistance as you apply the limited contact principle, give it time. It is very difficult for most everyone to have a one way arguement. If they persist for many hours with a poor reaction and the situation becomes even more volatile, it is likely that this person will never come around to having a peaceful and constructive dialogue. In such cases, you should consider leaving for several hours….possibly overnight; but convey you are willing to have a constructive and peaceful discussion when your spouse is ready.

How Long Should a Marriage Partner Utilize the No Contact Rule?

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When you find it necessary to implement a No Contact Period (or as you know I like to call it the “Yes Contact Principle”) you should realize there is no magic number of days that is guaranteed to be optimal. Remember, the primary reason you utilize the No Contact Principle is to allow you to focus on your own emotional needs and personal growth goals.

I have advocated that you utilize this principle only if you have broken up with your lover and it’s the “real deal”. Not a temporary fit of anger, where either of you stormed out. If you are married, that would include separation. Unlike divorce, with a separation, both parties usually are of the mind that they need to put distance between themselves so they can figure out what is best.

This period of “no contact” with your spouse can range anywhere from 14 days to 60 days. Let me give you a little advice based on the thousands of people I hear from on this topic. Forget about those relationship experts that tell you that you must set a specific period of time, like 60 days, and come hell or high water, you have to stick with it. I just don’t think it is a smart thing to be too specific on the time period and I certainly am not a fan of telling folks that they should never make an exception. That is not how the real world of relationships operate. There are many variables, occurrences, and complexities associated with relationships…and so “breaking” the No Contact Period may be necessary. I will get into this more a bit later.

If you are entering into a No Contact Period for all of the “right” reasons, then I would recommend it range from 21 to 30 days immediately following the break­up or separation. Based on my experience with actual people who have utilized this principle, this period of time works more often than not. I would reinforce that there are different time periods for different couples, given their individual situations. Once you establish your time period, stick with it, unless certain situations unfold that call for an exception. As promised, I will touch on that topic later.

I would also recommend, particularly if your are married (i.e. separated), that you respectfully inform your spouse of your intentions. This helps on two levels. First, your marriage union, no matter what shape it is in, is something to be treated with the utmost respect. Shutting down all contact and communications with your husband or wife is a very significant event, even if you have previously given each other notice you wanted to pursue a “separation” of some kind. I emphasize “some kind” because couples can get pretty creative when they decide to break it off. It need not be a legal separation. It could actually start of as an informal understanding between the two of you to just “coolit” for awhile. It could have been left open ended. Even those relationship arrangements are clear signs of dysfunction.

But whatever the case, when you decide to institute the No Contact Period, convey to your spouse (or boyfriend or girlfriend) what your mindset is. It need not be complicated and avoid being too wordy. I recommend you convey your intentions verbally on the phone or by email. Meeting in person to discuss such a matter usually leads to complications. Here is an example of what you can say:

“I wanted to let you know that I really need time to think about things and start my process of healing. Please respect my privacy over this period as I will not be responsive to any efforts to contact me or meet with me. Thank you for your support”

As I described, use this time to heal. And if you are genuinely open to re­connecting with your spouse, you will have benefited from utilizing this approach. In a future post, I will discuss in greater detail what tactics you should use to reconnect. Remember, this process is not about punishing your spouse. Nor is it to cause him or her to come running back to you after a few days once they realize you are completely off the radar. It’s is for you to gain perspective and become the best version of yourself.

Elsewhere on this website and on my other websites, I will discuss in great detail how the No Contact Period can be a springboard to re­connecting with your husband or wife. Also, feel free to explore my other websites for more information if you wish to learn more about how to reunite with your Ex.

Why is Implementing the No Contact Rule So Hard?

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So why is it so hard to actually implement? I mean, after all, the whole idea is that this is suppose to be YOUR time. It is intended to be time for you get back in touch with your feelings. It is suppose to be an opportunity for you to be extremely honest with yourself and look at the things you can do differently to be a better relationship partner. It is intended to gain perspective and heal. So why do so many people report that going through the No Contact Period is one of the most agonizing things they have ever done?

Well, if you are presently experiencing significant difficulties in your marriage, you already have a good idea of the amount of emotional baggage that is accumulating.

You have an up close and personal experience with the hardships of trying to pick up the pieces of your relationship. And if you have entered into a No Contact Period, you know that hollow feeling you have as it begins. You feel empty and shell shocked. So from an emotional perspective, you come into the process already suffering.

Then we have the physical duress and stress you have suffered, possibly for months or years. The impact on your emotional and physical health can be profound. None of those things just simply go away once you start the no contact period. Our minds and body do not operate that way. The lingering effects can last days, weeks, even months. And now you are embarking on different experience. It is meant to allow you to heal, but still the process will be new and you will have uncertainties as to what to expect from yourself and your spouse. Your routines will be somewhat different and you will miss certain things, a lot. If you have children, then multiple the effects of what we have discussed by a factor of 2.

To complicate things further, irrespective of the problems you encountered with your spouse, you might miss him or her terribly. There is something happening deep in your brain. But clearly, most people feel there is some part of them that is missing.

When a break­up has occurred, it has an incalculable effect on you. Everyone responds and experiences things somewhat differently. But if you are one of those individuals who feel that your are “fractured”, suffering from the pain of missing your husband or wife…..just know that these feelings will in time subside. Experts tell us that withdrawing from the relationship, particularly if it is sudden, is akin to coming off of an addictive drug. Studies reveal that the withdrawal symptoms are uncanningly identical and this is because the brain’s chemicals are responding in a very similar way.

So what can you do about all of this pain and suffering? In a moment we are going to discuss that, but let’s first return to the question of what situations might unfold in which the No Contact Principle can be suspended or even ended.

What are the Situations Where the No Contact Rule Can be Broken?

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Once implemented, the “Yes Contact Principle” (i.e. No Contact Rule) can be a foundation for self healing and even an avenue to resurrect your marriage. The idea is to focus on your needs….your recovery….your healing. It also provides an opportunity for your spouse to do the same. This means you will end all communications and contact with your spouse. So once you commit, I want you to think very carefully about breaking it off. Stick to your plan.

But there are some situations where it may be beneficial to you and your relationship to momentarily break your commitment. These include:

●  Children: ­ There will be times when you will need to interface with your husband or wife regarding some matter related to your children. Keep your communications civil and respectful and short.

●  Financial:­ Same as above. Sometimes financial matters were one of the triggers of conflict. If that is the case, then communicating by email might help with avoiding uncomfortable and potentially negative conversations.

●  Work: ­ If you work together, you can employ “limited contact” at work and “no contact” outside of work. Again, keep conversations at work only about business. If your spouse tries to bring up personal matters, just state you are not ready to engage in those discussions.

●  House: ­ Invariably, there will be some household issue that will occur that may require your spouse’s input or intervention. If you are separated and your spouse needs to come to the home for some matter, arrange to have a friend present and keep the conversation with your spouse limited to just the issue at hand.

●  A Genuine Fig Leaf: ­ In some cases, your husband or wife may make genuine and sincere efforts to reconcile. They may have sent you several text messages or left phone messages or sent you emails….all with the same friendly, respectful tone. This usually does not happen in the first several days, but if you have had an adequate period of time to experience self healing and if you believe your wife or husband is really open to talking and repairing the relationship, then set up a meet up. I recommend it be some neutral, public place at first so you can explore your spouse’s intentions and level of commitment to working through the problems. This is a time to take small steps. Take things slow.

The Many Faces of the No Contact Period

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As we have already discussed, the “Yes Contact Principle” (i.e. No Contact Rule) affords you an opportunity to settle down your emotions, get in touch with confusing feelings and become the best version of yourself (i.e. discussed at length on the home page of this website). It is also an opportunity for you to protect your marriage from further harm. It also helps your spouse to benefit from the same “effect”. They too need to figure out what they want and what they are willing to do to accomplish that.

Ironically, another benefit of ceasing or limiting contact with your marriage partner is that it can in the longer run bring you closer together. Dysfunctional marriages do not repair themselves. There needs to be an intervention and that is what this process is about.

I want to touch on some things you can do to help with mastering your emotions. First of all, you should realize that “time” is a great healer in of itself. You already know the importance of having “Perspective”. But, as time progresses, it helps you with doing things that bring more “positive” into your life. Time can be your friend.

In my best selling books, “The Texting Bible” and the “Ex Recovery Pro Series”, I talk about the value of the “Holy Trinity” for individuals recovering from relationships. I talk about taking the time to find peace and serenity. Whether that involves activities such as Yoga, meditation, or reading a great book….what matters is you fall into the slip stream phenomenon we call time. I also discuss the importance of using the No Contact Period to focus on your health, wealth, and other relationships in your life. With time, these things can improve if you focus on them.

Getting Anchored With Your Feelings

But there are a few other things you can do from a psychological perspective that can help immensely. One technique is called, “anchoring”. They way it works is that we naturally make associations (i.e. anchors) between experiences we feel, hear, smell or see and we connect these experiences to our emotional state at that time.. For example, when I smell certain flavors of bubble gum, it takes me back to the days I played Little League baseball. When I see a hot air balloon, I immediately think of the amazing time my wife and I had on a hot air balloon ride.

Here is the cool part. You can call upon “anchors” to paint your mind’s “attitude”.

So “anchors” can be deliberately created or resurrected and that can help you achieve a more desirable emotional state. It is simple to do. The idea is you focus on the positive mental imagery you have stored within your mind and take a joy ride. Do it often enough, you can transform a negative and depressive state of mind to one that is positive. I would recommend immersing yourself with all your senses that are anchored in positive memories and emotions. “Choose your attitude” is what some people say. I would add to that….. “Practice your attitude” and it will become your reality. Check out the link I provide below to learn more about anchoring and other neuro­linguistic techniques you can use.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methods_of_neuro­linguistic_programming

Alternatives to Using the No Contact Rule if You are Married

alternative

The last thing you really want to do when you are married is to separate. And you really want to avoid using the No Contact Rule. Sometimes it is a necessary and useful. Sometimes your relationship just slowly erodes and now you find yourself separated emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It is not necessarily the end of your marriage. If you use the time you are separated in a healthy way, it can lead to many good things for you and your spouse. But not always. There is heightened risk that neither you or your marriage partner will get through your problems. So what are some stop gap measure you can employ to avoid the dreaded “Separation” event?

As you know, I am a fan of sports. And in all sporting events, teams can utilize what is called a “timeout”. It provides them an opportunity to rest, work through conflicts, draw out a game plan, and then get back into the game. Sound familiar!

I think the use of a timeout in a relationship can be beneficial. Sometimes it is as simple as agreeing to a “cooling off” period if a fight has been dragging on too long. We all know that no matter how strong your marriage, fights will happen. But that does not mean we can’t put some rules around them. And one of them should be calling a timeout if the fight has lasted more than, let’s say 10 minutes. My feeling about fighting is that as soon as you both engage in conflict, you both lose. So if you start fussing a bit too long, then just call a timeout and then try to resolve the problem. Look for a win ­ win.

So You “Want to Take a Break”?

Have you ever heard of someone taking a “break” from their marriage. It sorta sounds irresponsible to me. “Lets just take a break from each other” someone might say. Well, what I would say is throw out that language. No matter how you dress it up, this kind of vocabulary will get you in trouble. It has far too many negative connotations. What you think and what your intentions are, matters a great deal and in the long run wins out.

But what you say and how you say it can be easily misunderstood and ramp up the conflict. So get rid of the phrase, “let’s take a break from each other” as it sounds like somebody may want to break­up for good.

Married Couples Seeking Therapy

Marriage therapy or counseling can prove fruitful for some couples. There is some evidence that it can help. A great deal of the potential for success depends on the quality of the therapist, the therapeutic model they are using, and the readiness and commitment level of the couple. Don’t expect that everything will just get all worked out in a few sessions. It seldom does. Unfortunately, some couples will start in earnest, but one of the married partners will lose motivation or lack belief in the approach being utilized by the counselor. Sometimes one of the married individuals will have no interest in participating. Another downside is that the cost of therapy can be too expensive for many.

Another alternative is to do what you are doing now which educating yourself on how to improve your marriage. A well written Marriage Recovery and Fitness System can be both cost effective and beneficial, even if only one person of the marriage is utilizing the knowledge. I have seen considerable evidence of the other marriage partner being open to taking the key learnings and work with their spouse to improve their marriage.

What Would Yoda Say About Marriage?

The way I think about the union of marriage is that it is imperfect. It is something married couples should always be working on to improve. That is primarily why I came up with the 5 Synergistic Principles for a Successful Marriage. That is why I will be publishing a book to be called the, “Synergistic Marriage”. All of us have an opportunity to make deposits each day into our marriage bank. What would Yoda say? You know…. that little Star Wars fellow that has a penchant of reversing his sentences, but speaks eloquently.

yoda love

How To Stop Fighting & Arguing From Ruining Your Marriage

Are you in a world of emotional hurt, having to constantly deal with conflict in your marriage?

Do you and your spouse easily fall into the typical marriage fighting traps?

Well, I have some BAD news for you…

You and your spouse are headed down a dangerous road for your marriage if you find yourselves constantly arguing, bickering, fussing, and fighting.

This guide will be one of the most comprehensive discussions of fighting in marriage that you will come across. And the reason, is not just because I want to provide you with the highest quality of content as it applies to conflict management in your marriage; but more specifically, I believe this topic is hugely important to the stability of your relationship..

In this guide, I will be addressing the following themes as they apply to how you relate to your husband or wife:

  • The End State of Your Fight
  • Causes of Conflict in Your Marriage
  • The Negative and (Positive) Effects of Fighting
  • Practical Strategies you Should Adopt to Deal with Marital Conflict
  • What Does Fighting Fair Mean and How Do You Achieve It
  • After the Fight: Moving Forward

I would also encourage you to take a look at the post below if your husband is mistreating you as it will give you some insights into how you might want to go about handling the overall situation.

What is the End State of Fighting With Your Husband or Wife?

the end

So let’s start peeling back the layers of what married couples can do to straighten out some of the mess they can create for themselves and there is no better place to begin than the end.

Hold it, are you sure you read that right? Why would we want to start at the end? Why not start at the beginning?

Well, it is simple. When we think about the important things in our lives such as having a serene, relatively conflict free and joyful marriage, it serves us to “start with the end in mind”.

Learn Why Are Relationships So Hard?

So how do we do that? Well, let me ask you, what do you seek in the end immediately following a fight with your husband or wife?

Do you look for a place to go hide? Let’s hope not, because that can’t be good. Do you seek to just put some distance between you and your spouse to recover or have some time to cool down? Does the fight temporarily end, then quickly erupts again into another knock down drag out bitter contest of wills? Do you and your lover make up rather quickly offering each other your sincere and genuine regrets for your role in the fight?

You know, there are just so many ways fights end, such that we need to ask ourselves is there an optimal way for a fight to end such that it does not create any lasting damage to your marriage? Well, I certainly think so and it’s learning how you deal with EXPECTED conflict in your marriage that will define your path of resolution.

The reason why I emphasize that fights with your husband or spouse should be “expected” is because having conflict and flair ups in your marriage is normal. It is unavoidable. Unless you both live the life of monks, constantly meditating, there will be occasions when one or both of you will just “blow up” and a fight will ensue.

We are creatures of an imperfect union we call “marriage”. It is imperfect because we are uniquely different and not completely compatible in every respect. There is nothing wrong with this picture, because it reflects an underlying truth of relationships.

It is what we do in our efforts to form a more perfect “union” that defines the successes and failures of our marriage. So as a relationship consultant, I am also interested in the “end” of your fight because it serves as a benchmark as to how healthy your marriage is.

Let’s make sure we are on the same page here. When I say I am interested in the “end” of your fight, I am not talking about the two of you ending your fighting. Of course, you and me both would like to see you experience fewer fights with your loved one. What I mean by “end”, in the context I used above, is the immediate aftermath of your fight.

You see, how you and your lover end up the fight tells me something about your marriage and informs us of whether you and your spouse follow and obey the rules of a fair fight. What are these rules and why are they so important?

We will explore these questions and more soon, but let’s turn our attention to the causes of conflict in your relationship with your married partner.

Causes of Conflicts in Marriage

cause

When you think about it, we are probably the most stressed out species on the planet. When I look around the animal kingdom, I am hard pressed to find cases of other animals that experience the degree of stress and anxiety that we humans seem to experience daily, hourly….actually even more frequently.

Why is that, I wonder? You see, I like to ask questions about such things, particularly when it relates to relationships and more specifically when it touches on our tendency to engage in conflict.

My clients deserve to understand why marriages can be so difficult, but most importantly what they are seeking are relationship solutions.

Learn About If It Will Ever Get Easy For You?

I do have one working theory that is supported by science. Obviously, one of the major causes of conflict in marriage (though clearly not the only one) is the spiraling stress levels we all experience. There are a variety of triggers that cause the stress, literally thousands of things that can set off stress, which can lead to conflict in your relationship.

Powerful is the Present Moment

present

Let’s return to our discussion about the animal kingdom. I think one thing that animals do extremely well is their ability to live in the “present moment”. A pet dog comes to mind. They seem entirely wired to live in the present. Humans, on the other hand, struggle with this way of living.

To often, husband and wives borrow worries and anxieties from the past or the future and dwell on them to an extent that it causes undue conflict and hardship within the marriage.

A great thinker of the 18 century, Jonathan Goethe (born 1749), once said, “the present moment is a powerful goddess”. I think there is a lesson to be learned from Goethe and the rest of the animal Kingdom. I think if we were to ask Yoda, he would say, “Powerful is the Present Moment”.

You see, too often marital couples initiate fights because of high levels of stress introduced by the environment around them. Their fights can also easily emerge from anger and resentment held over from the past. This can intensify the feelings of stress. Or you and your lover can end up arguing about concerns and worries over the future.

I think conflicts between husband and wife can be minimized to a large degree if each individual can take a lesson from most of the animals in nature, and spend more of their time in “the present”. I mean really, can both Goethe and Yoda be wrong!

There is considerable evidence that some individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS) perform poorly when given various medications that is supposed to help them with stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. But what does seem to work well, according to the researchers, is meditation. It puts them in a place that is calm and naturally tranquilizing, while also giving them perspective.

Now, I am not a meditative kind of guy, though I think that will change. I don’t do Yoga (I almost said Yoda!) or perform quiet meditative exercises. But I am a “relationship” guy and I can be persuaded by solid, scientific evidence.

The fact is that “meditation” has helped many millions of people and particularly those engaged in stress, anger, and conflict. Meditation is essentially what Goethe was talking about when he encouraged us to live in the present moment. In these serene moments of relaxation, stress and conflict can be relieved substantially.

I definitely believe there are some practical ways you can incorporate this lesson we have taken from nature. I believe your relationship can be abundantly better if you understand the workings of the human mind. And I think there are some useful ways you can avoid as well as recover more quickly from a marital dispute through relaxation techniques. We will get into these things a bit later. Just know that a leading cause of marital strife is stress and you are not helpless. Why not do something constructive to address this problem. Now say after me….Ummmmmmmmmmmm.

So what are some of the other causes of fights between couples? Well, there are a lot. More than I have time to discuss, though we will cover some of the key ones. Which kind of gives you a hint that once we are through talking about the causes, the spotlight should be on how to effectively manage the conflict. Right! Remember, you are not going to head off at the pass every fight. What you will want to do though is develop some skills in dealing with a fight once it’s gotten started. And guess what? What you do right after fight matters a lot as well.

Old Relationship Baggage

ex meme

This is the grab bag of marital fights among men and women. As humans, we have this thing called, “memory”. It can serve us well and sometimes can tear us down, particularly if we start agonizing and obsessing over something that happened in the past. And this is how a lot of fights between couples get started. Someone dredges up some old issue and in many cases those feelings have not been resolved and quickly erupt into an emotional tirade.

You have heard it from me before….when emotions run high, logic runs low. It does not take much for the old baggage of prickly feelings to be resurrected.

Borrowing Anxiety From the Future

anxiety

Another common problem for married folks is one or both will start thinking far too much about the future, worrying about things for which they have little or no control. This is a sure recipe for stress. And we know what stress can do, right? If ever there was a catalyst for creeping marital fuss, it’s letting your mind completely off its leash so it can conjure up all kinds of unbelievable scenarios. I consider this a emotional wedge problem. It’s letting unrealistic notions of the future get between you and your spouse.

I think to varying degrees we all do this. It’s natural to think about the conseqences of things that have yet to happen. The problem is when one or both of the married partners dwell on the negative, borrowing anxiety from the future. I think this tendency to worry about things excessively is something a person needs to work on individually because unrealistic worries can act as hair triggers for marital conflict. This is due to the fact that the worrier naturally seeks to find an outlet for their anxiousness or insecurity.

Elsewhere here on this website, I have talked about “Becoming the Best Version of Yourself”. If you have a problem in this area of your life, add this to your list of things you want to improve because it can make a meaningful difference in your life.

Lack of Sufficient Intimacy in the Marriage

no sex

This potential conflict starter is a very common problem that can run the gambit as an occasional problem between the married partners to one that has consistently plagued the marriage for years.

When the husband or wife are citing they are not in the mood or are too tired….guess what? The person may be too tired and not in the mood. Getting on the same page with our sex drives is a bit of a biological balancing act.

In these moments, I turn to Yoda for advice (well, not really, but he can be instructive). Yoda tells us many things about your sex drives (the “Force”) such as:

“A Jedi strength flows from the Force. Beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the force are they. Easily the flow, quick to join you in the fight”

When you think about it, the sexual experience is indeed a powerful force within us all. So when there is a “disturbance” in this force, no wonder it can cause us to get a little crazy, disrupting the marital bliss.

Intimacy is not always about sex. You or your lover may be frustrated and/or resentful for the lack of simple gestures like kissing, hugging, brushing aside the hair with one’s hand, a light touch of the face, holding hands, and literally dozens of other small, but important little gestures and acts of intimacy.

All these things that make up intimacy signal to your partner that you love them. When they ebb away or are taken away suddenly, then conflict will be knocking on your door.

Money Fights Can Put Out the Marriage Lights

money

This should be no surprise to anyone. Fighting over money is not uncommon. It can be about how it’s used or whether you will have enough. I see money fights as symptoms of a larger problem which consists of a lack of planning, communication, and transparency. It is not unusual to have some anxiety about money matters. Just know that if this is the primary source of your fighting, then you are in luck as there are some specific actions you and your spouse can take to remedy this problem as a source of fights. And it starts and ends with Communication. Planning and transparency about your financial matters is the byproducts of communication. After that, “all you have to fear, is fear itself” as Winston Churchill told the world.

Fighting Over The Kids

sleep

There is no doubt that when you add children to the marriage mix, things can become even more stressful for all the obvious reasons. Your time now gets divided among more things and the lack of personal time is a stressor and the lack of time alone with your lover can also contribute to future conflicts.

Also, when you have children and as they enter the formative years and teen years, you and your marriage partner may find yourself at odds on parenting strategies and a host of other developments. But I like to look at the positives. You children can provide you with one of the most precious gifts on the blue planet…..a two way street to “love”.

Fussing Over House Chores

chores

Little to big fights can easily breakout if the couple has not worked out a plan on how they will go about sharing in the household duties. What often happens, is one person starts keeping score as to who has done what around the house, then resentment builds and eventually turmoil unfolds. Isn’t interesting how easy it is to avoid such fights by developing and agreeing to a household chore game plan. Yet, more often than not, this matter does not get addressed until a big fuss transpires.

Conflict over Work & Lack of Time Together

quality

When you are married and both of you are working, you can suffer from the big time crunch. If you have children, then the conflict over time together is magnified. I chose to combine these two causes because they often go together, hand in hand.

It is easy for any of us to become prisoners to our careers or hobbies, such that it pulls us too far away from our role as husband or wife. And that is usually how things progress….it happens very slowly and before you realize it, the routines of your marriage have changed and you are picking fights with each other.

Like I said earlier, there are a ton of things that couples fight over. Here are a few more. Note that they could stand out as exceptionally problematic for your relationship, but I list them in my honorable mention category simply because the solutions to many of the conflict starters we are discussing have a similar root foundation which we will get into later. The other catalysts to marriage fights include:

  • Conflict over Friends
  • Annoying and Irritating habits
  • Unrealized Expectations
  • A Controlling Spouse
  • Distrust/Marital Affairs
  • Conflicts Triggered by Close Family Members

So there you have it. Certainly this is not a complete list, but it does cover the brunt of how fights originate. Oh, before we get into the effects of fighting with your spouse, let me mention one more problem starter. It’s interesting. I elected to do some research to see what other relationship experts have to say about this topic on things that couples fight about. There is ONE BIG one they seldom list. Indeed, it is the big elephant in the room.

I have to say that much of the literature out there is woefully incomplete. I hate to even point it out, because it is not a pleasant thing to talk about. But truth needs to be served. Remember, this applies to just some couples, not the majority. But one huge factor in marital disputes is that one of the partners (sometimes even both partners) is just plain “mean spirited”

What do I mean by mean spirited. Well, if you are married to someone who is just mean, you know exactly what I am talking about. Unfortunately, some individuals are not always guided by the “better angels” in their heart. Indeed, such people are not very nice people, putting it mildly. Perhaps this just happens some of the time. When it happens frequently, then you have a very serious problem. For any number of different reasons, these individuals just suck up all of the positive energy and replace it with negativity. They are often described as mean, narcissistic, selfish, overly aggressive, cruel, overly possessive and controlling.

Whatever the cause of the conflict, couples will at times get it on and not in a nice way either. So what is the effect on marriages when you and your marital partner engage in a war of the words. Well, let’s take a look at that.

The Effect of Marriage Fights

fighting

When we typically think about the effects of fighting with one’s spouse, the normal reaction is to think of it is a destructive force. Just as Yoda pointed out, fear, anger, resentment and aggressive behavior is the byproduct and it just becomes quite easy to repeat the behavior over and over again.

Another negative outcome is broken trust. When you join a person in marriage, the idea is that the two of you are to become a union. When you are fighting, that union is broken. It becomes severed and damaged.

When one is engaged in aggressive behavior, the tendency is to say and do things that you later regret. But once you let the genie out of the bottle, it is nearly impossible to put it back where it belongs. The ugly things you say to strike back at your spouse in the midst of anger and frustration are catalysts for new fighting points. Before you know it, the topic that began the fight is now lost in the wake of new things you are doing battle over.

This whole phenomenon is like going nuclear. One conflict talking point tips over another and another, and soon you find yourselves arguing about things that range from the ridiculous to the absurd.

If you break it down to the damage done, it covers the gambit from emotional, spiritual, and physical. All of the trust and positive feelings you have invested into your marriage can in a blink of an eye be compromised. People can literally become physically ill from the emotional battering they experience when fighting with a loved one.

Often, the outcome of hostilities between you and your marital partner is the reinforcement of negative routines. Once you let the “cat out of the bag”, it is likely to run amok. Such is the downside of marital strife. As the couple makes withdrawals from the positive things you have built up in the “marriage bank”, you become more vulnerable to bankrupting the marriage.

But guess what? Fighting is not always a destructive force. Usually it is, but not always. As we discussed earlier, we humans have a way of building up stress from all sorts of things. As stress levels rise, the need to relieve them grows. And sometimes, a fight can help extinguish the fire burning inside you, provided that the fight follows the rules I outline below. The idea is to put out the fire that is causing conflict. If it is a stress induced fight, then you have every opportunity of turning the marital fight into a positive.

Or perhaps there is something that is just hanging over your heads. Perhaps it is something that needs to get discussed because the resentment has been building and it finally results in some angry exchanges. This too can be an opportunity to take a negative….squash it…..and move forward with a stronger bond.

You know, when you break a bone, some people think, “Oh my goodness, the person is damaged forever”. But sometimes, depending on the severity of the break and how its repaired, the individual can mend and become stronger than before. Important issues can get resolved once they are discussed. The problem could be something the couple has avoided and it might take a fight to get the problem on the table so you both can eventually address it, repair the damage, and strengthen the bond.

In some cases, things need to get broken, in order to get fixed. Now, this is not a “call” for you to go out and start a fight. But you should know that everyday, people turn a lemon into lemonade.

Practical Strategies for Avoiding Marital Conflict

strategy

So here is where the rubber meets the road. If fighting is more often than not, a negative thing, then what can we do prevent it from happening?

Remember, you will never be able to avoid all fights. Indeed, as we discussed, conflict within your marriage can be a healthy thing in the long run. But too many cases of hostility in the marriage can be debilitating.

I have talked about the importance of “Positivity” in one’s marriage. Being kind, generous, and offering praise is like a tonic to the soul of a marriage. If you and your spouse form a union, practicing the principle of “positivity” is like the glue that holds you together. And one of its many benefits is that it keeps conflict within the marriage at a bare minimum.

I encourage you to go visit the Home Page of this website to learn more about this principle and others if you wish to insulate yourself from unnecessary spats and other destructive forces that can damage your union.

My wife and I are fond of reminding each other that we are “one person”. We like to think of ourselves as a union because what happens to one, is felt by the other. We believe we are in this journey of life together and are joined at the hip. Now of course, we are two different people and we have our own hobbies and interests. Indeed, I encourage all individuals who are married to become the best version of themselves.

But, if you and your loving partner embrace an attitude that you are “one”…that your marriage is an entity in which you both hold an equal spiritual share, then marital conflict becomes very infrequent.

Soft Start Up

soft

This technique is extremely effective in helping diffuse potential problems in communication. Often, when we want to confront our spousal partner on a sticky, potentially prickly topic, we just go right into it. Perhaps it is something that has been on our mind and we just want to get it out and dealt with. I see this happen so frequently when coaching people about their relationship challenges. Instead of thinking, planning, and executing….they just jump to the execution part and the results can be very poor.

Behaviorists have done numerous studies and believe that one of the best things you can do to prevent conversations from ramping up into conflict is to employ a technique called, “Soft Start Up”.

It essentially works in the way that it sounds. If you have something you wish to explore and probe with your spouse, then do so with the softest tone and language you can muster. Avoid using accusational tones or blaming right out of the gate. All this does is put your loved one on the defensive. If you wish to have a constructive conversation and avoid the prospect of the discussion turning into an argument, then go slow. Taking slow, little steps is the name of the game. Even to the extent that you actually change the cadence (speed) of your voice and your movements.

Have you ever been around a horse. Well, if you start moving quickly, talking quickly, touching too quickly….guess what? You are going to spook the horse.

Drive Thru Communication

drive thru

Another argument avoidance technique you can employ is a process that works similar to when you use the drive thru at your nearest McDonald’s or other fast food joint. As you know, when you pull in you usually have a mindful of what it is you want to order. You tell the order taker what you want, then that person repeats it back to you to confirm they understood what it is your want.

Well, in relationships, sometimes your spouse really has something important to tell you. Or maybe, for whatever reason, the two of you are getting fussy with each other. The idea here is you need to slow down this situation that is unfolding to avoid the whole conversation from ratcheting up. To accomplish this, you use the drive thru technique.

This is how it works. One person initiates the communication and shares what is on their mind. The other person listens carefully, without interruption, no matter how long it takes. That is key. Just the process of listening can pay dividends and helps reduce the tension and anger lingering in the air. Then when the individual is through with expressing what’s on their mind, the other person summarizes or repeats essentially what this individual said to reinforce they were listening and understood the person’s perspective on the matter. Once that is accomplished, then the other person gets their turn to express their view. Likewise, the spouse of this individual will repeat back what they heard and respond further as may be needed.

When I think of anger, I think of thoughts on the rampage moving quickly and destroying everything in their path. It is as if the person is temporarily possessed. Quite literally, a different part of the brain has take over. What you want to do is slow things down. I will say it again, “when emotions run high”….guess what happens…logic runs low. You don’t want to be a willing participant to the chaos that can quickly engulf both marriage partners. Remember, take everything slow (voice, movements, soft tones, etc).

Timing is Everything in Relationships

timing force

There is this well known phenomenon that happens to us all when confronted with fear and anger…the dark side of our emotions. Essentially, people are evolved to respond with either a flight or fight response. Neither is a particularly healthy way of resolving conflict. So just know that when things get ramped up in your relationship and you are staring each other down, certain primitive emotions have a way of cancelling out your better side and before you know it, things are tumbling out of control.

One way to keep the ‘crazy” out of your relationship is to recognize that “timing” is a very valuable ally. You need to know that you are biologically conditioned to just get things off your chest as soon as you can. It like it’s part of your default emotional programming. Well, the software relationship engineers who designed you did not properly anticipate that you or your spouse sometimes will go off half cocked, at any moment. Remember, we are very complicated creatures.

Well guess what? I have a new “app” for you to use. I want you at this moment to recognize that there is an optimum time to raise certain issues. If there is a topic to discuss that has the potential for conflict, then choose the wisely the time to discuss this issue. Don’t do it when you or your spouse are hungry. That can be a fussy time. Appetites or other physical needs should be met. There is considerable science behind the release of positive endorphins when you drink and consume, tasty, delicious food.

Don’t get into the matter just when your partner has come home from work or when you have some kind of time crunch you are dealing with. It is better to wait when things are more relaxed and you and your spouse are rested. Also, don’t time the discussion in the middle of doing something fun, because now that makes you a “spoiler” and a person bearing potentially bad news.

Take a Break

vacation

Do you ever watch sports? Well, the coaches for sports teams are often quite clever about their use of timeouts. Sometimes when things are not going so well and to change the momentum, the coach will call a timeout giving his players a break to settle down and come up with a new strategy.

Well, that is what I want you to do if your discussion start quickly spiraling into a full fledged argument. There is no need to ride that wave of negative emotion. You are allotted as many timeouts or breaks as you think may be necessary. When you use this technique, be sure to communicate to each other clearly your intent to resolve the matter in the very near future.

Do you see the trend here? With these ideas we have been talking about, the underlying premise is to slow things down….to exercise patience….and to get things back on a more positive track.

Now, I don’t believe there is any magic number of minutes that works for all couples when they choose to take a break. It largely depends on the kind of people that make up the marriage, their history of conflict, and a host of other variables. My experience is that a break ranging from “15 to 60” minutes works for many. It is not too long such that people will worry that the issue will never to be resolved. And it does allow time for most, if not all, the angry feelings to subside. A like to call it the “Cooling Off Period”. When emotions run high….

Remember, fighting with your loved one is just part of the way in which your marriage will operate. So you need to learn some skills to become a better fighter. The object is not to train you to win because both of you lose when you fight. Rather, the object is to reduce the damage done. It is time to go into a training.

How To Fight Fair with Your Husband or Wife

fair

I like to think of conflict or fighting with your beloved spouse as a zero sum game. No one really wins. You both end up taking some punches to the emotional gut, creating opportunities for anger, distrust, and resentment to linger and creep back into your marriage.

You notice how when professional fighters prepare for a fight, they agree to a set of rules. There is no hitting below the belt. There is no heading behind the head. And when they are engaged in the fight, they take breaks. Then when the fight is all over, they meet in the middle of the ring, embrace and wish each other well.

So, since you know that someday you will be fighting with your partner, then you both need to get educated on the rules of a fair marital bout. I don’t say that lightly. Nor am I a pessimist. I think of myself as a pragmatist. As we discussed earlier, no matter how wonderful your marriage, you and your wife or husband will eventually fight. None of us are perfect….we are only human and are unable to live up to our own high standards.
So by knowing that, then learning to fight in a constructive way in accordance with some guidelines, then steering the dialogue in the right direction, you can avoid causing lasting damage to your marriage. And sometimes you can turn a negative into a positive. Not always, but some of the time.

So what are the fair marital fight rules? Let’s take a look at the high, hard ones!

  1. No personality statements – What this means is that you will not succumb to calling each other names or make inappropriate statements about each other’s personality, looks, weight, etc.
  2. No Profanity – Curse words in a fight are like little missiles that are launched in haste with no consideration of the harm it causes. All it does is serve to ramp up the anger and resentment.
  3. Utilize one or more of the practical strategies discussed above.
  4. No aggressive physical gestures or contact – Once you start in with abrupt and angry finger pointing and aggressive posture or worse, abusive physical contact, the fight needs to stop immediately because you are doing great harm.
  5. Avoid mean spirited, ugly tones or shouting – This kind of behavior will get you no where in a hurry. When these things happen, you are no longer fighting. You are bullying or have become a victim of a bully. Walk away from the fight and tell your partner that a long timeout is needed because you refuse to be bullied.
  6. Keep it Private – If you are going to have conflict, then make sure it is someplace private so your children or others do not have to witness the behavior.
  7. Observe a Time Limit – just like in any bout, there is a clock running. You and your partner should agree on principle that if you ever engage in a fight, then the conflict should not exceed a specific time period. If the fight just keeps boiling over, without resolution, then you are both losing big time. I recommend that you both agree to throw in the towel after 10 minutes or less. This includes all of the other little break out fights that happen after the main fight. If you can’t get your issue resolved after 10 minutes, then you should agree to take time out and pursue the problem later
  8. One Fight at a Time – what happens often in a marriage fight is the two combatants are going at it and one or both of them start dragging in other issues from the past. Before you know it, you have switched from one fighting issue to another and another, until you can’t even remember what started the battle. Just tackle one topic at a time.
  9. Be “Good” Losers – Just as I described, you are both losers when you fight. No one wins. Invariably, during the course of the fight, one or both of you will offer an “olive branch” in the form of a heartfelt apology or acceptance that your point is the stronger argument. Even if you are still reeling emotionally over the whole episode, always except the olive branch. I guarantee you, if you do not accept the olive branch with praise and good spirit, the fight will rage on at a much higher level. It’s like kicking someone when they are down.

So let’s say you buy in and accept that obeying all of these rules will help your marriage. By the way….they certainly will! How can you ensure that your spouse will obey the same rules?

Well the solution is remarkable simply. Just as fighters going into the ring have a contract, you too should have one with your spouse. Now, I am not talking about a formal contract, but what you can do is discuss pragmatically with you husband or wife that if you ever wage war of the words, you both will agree to a certain set of rules.

Make the discussion a fun experience. Post your rules on the fridge, to be reminded of the pack you both agree to. Consider it an insurance policy. And by the way, I would not call it “Fighting Fair” or “Fight Rules”, rather the two of you should come up with an endearing name like “Love Each Other Rules” or something along those lines.

After the Fight – Moving Forward

done

So when you and your spouse have finally come to your senses, ending the fight, it is time to apply that loving bonding agent. I think of it as a magical marital glue that if applied liberally, can help erase the conflict hangover.

Yep, you heard that right. When we fight, we all suffer from an emotional and physical hangover. The couple will feel spent and possibly, one or both may still harbor a few negative leftover thoughts. Most relationship experts ignore this period following the fight. You just don’t see a lot of advice out there on this topic. But I think it is a hugely important time The period after a fight is like a swinging door. The door will either swing close and the two of you are back to your normal life existence. Or the door can swing open and you can walk through and do something very special that will leave a positive lasting impression.

Einstein was a pretty smart guy. He was also very clever and insightful. He is quoted as saying:

“In the Middle of Difficulty, lies Opportunity”

So what I want you to do is pull an “Einstein” and take advantage of the conflict situation the two of you have just experienced. You need to PIVOT.

The Emotional Recovery Pivot

pivot

I think of it as emotional pivoting. And it needs to happen rather quickly. Don’t wait until the next day. Even waiting a few hours can take away from your effort to lay down a surprising, positive tone. This should take the form of a positive, surprise action that is both genuine and loving.

Once when I was foolish enough to fall down the slippery slope of fussing with my better half, I quickly recovered, resolved the dispute, apologized and then surprised her. What did I do? Well, I told her I would go out and get something for us to eat. Which I did. But I also knew there was a floral shop nearby and I went by and scooped up a dozen roses. While she was happy about me going out to pick up one of her favorite meals, she was delighted that I also brought home roses.

Another way you can pivot away from the fight hangover is to literally put it to bed. There is a reason why they call it “make up sex”. Studies show that lovemaking immediately following a conflict can be extremely fulfilling. The reason is what is characterized as “arousal transfer”.

When you are fighting, you are aroused. This state of arousal does not always subside and is transferred into your lovemaking. This is the same mechanism that is occurring in our brains when we are around something risky and scary. The fear that the person feels can be transferred to a higher sexual arousal state if an opportunity presents itself. This is why scary movie date nights for a lot teenagers is so popular. The excitement of the movie can transfer to a higher arousal state in the minds of the teenagers.

Some psychologists argue that make up sex following a couple’s fight is not a good thing because it reinforces that fighting leads to sex, so presumably people will fight more. Well, I am not buying that. I agree with those psychologists, relationship experts, and my own clients who report that make up sex is fulfilling and serves as an excellent way of re-bonding.

In closing, there are a lot of ideas here in this guide. Read it a few times to make sure it all sinks in. Be sure to check back as I will be writing a new marriage relationship guide very soon!

How To Save Your Troubled Marriage

Welcome to My Marriage Helper!  If you are looking for some common sense ideas on how to save your marriage and avoid troubling times, then you have arrived at the right place.

Before we get started, I want to make a pretty bold claim. If you feel your marriage is on the rocks and is in dire need of being saved….if you have arrived at a point in your life where you and your spouse are struggling to make things work…if you have come to the realization that your marriage is in trouble….then you will benefit from exploring some of the most successful principles that have proven to keep married couples together.

Throughout this website you will find helpful articles whose aim is to help you with improving your marriage.  For example, in the post below we talk about the things you can do to get your spouse to notice you.

What Makes A Marriage Special?

I enjoy reaching out and helping married couples and creating this website enables me to create some of the best content on the web around fixing broken marriages.

My aim is to provide you with an in-depth article designed at identifying the key principles you and your husband or wife should embrace in order to not only save your marriage, but also help you erect a strong foundation so you need not have to come back to the marital drawing board.

In fact, I challenge you to find another one that rivals this one in terms of scope and depth.

Chances are, you’ll be hard pressed to find one.

You see, most of the time when you go around the internet to search for advice on saving a marriage, you get the generic “list articles.”

You know what a list article is, right?

They are those generic articles that have titles like,

“10 ways to Save Your Marriage”

“The 5 Things You Need to Do to Fix Your Marriage”

Oh, and my personal favorite…. “15 Unconventional Ways to Save Your Marriage”.

Now, I don’t want to start any wars with any other webmasters out there, but oftentimes these generic articles do little to actually help you with saving your marriage. The title may be attention getting, but the content is often lacking.

Sure, maybe some of them have some great tips on helping your marriage, but the truth is that it’s rare for them to get into the details that you actually need to hear to succeed.

What Do Married Couples Really Need When They Encounter Trouble?

I have helped a lot of couples over the years and there is always one consistent “want” among the people seeking my help.  They are looking for details and ideas that can help them turn things  around.  Here is another article I wrote that you should take a look at on the question of what makes for a great marriage.

Whoever  you are, I know you are looking for clarification.  You probably have a lot of questions if you and your lover are in a struggling situation.

You may be wondering….

What should I focus on?

How does this work?

How does that work?

What does this mean?

What do I say here?

What do I do?

Well, you won’t have to worry about that with this article.

In fact, I am not even sure “article” is an accurate way of describing what this is.

Hmm…

Perhaps a more accurate way of describing this page is to refer to it as a comprehensive workshop and it’s sole purpose is helping you save your marriage.

But before we get into that, I think it is probably a good idea to introduce myself.

Who I Am

Jennifer Chris W-009 copy

My name is Chris Seiter and I am a professional relationship consultant.

I currently own and operate three world class websites in the relationship industry, “Ex Boyfriend Recovery”, “Ex Girlfriend Recovery” and “My Marriage Helper”.

To date, these three websites have reached over 7.5 million men and women. I have also authored 6 comprehensive books on the topic of relationships. I will discuss this a bit more toward the end of this article.

So I guess you could say that I have seen a lot. I have been around the block more than just a few times. I have corresponded with, coached, counseled, advised and motivated many millions of individuals seeking help with their relationship woes.

On any given day, over 25,000 visitors will seek my advice on all matters of love and relationships and about half of my audience will return seeking more answers to the challenges they face.

In developing these three websites, I have sought to provide more than a simple template to follow. After all, when it comes to relationships, nothing is simple.

I strive to look at relationships in a holistic manner.

Learn About Connecting All The Pieces!

My academic background is in the Humanities.

In other words, I like humans! I love the fact that we are such complex creatures and am fascinated with the intricacies of human behavior and how it relates to our relationships.

I received my Associate’s Degree from San Jacinto College and University of Houston is where I set up camp for my Bachelor’s of Arts Degree.

For years I have been fascinated by relationships and all of the disciplines that affect relationships including biology, sociology, psychology, and social media.

In other words, I help people with their relationships and I enjoy it immensely.

I guess it’s coded into my DNA!

But you probably don’t care about any of that do you? Well, hopefully you do! I think it does matter what a person’s preparation, motivation, and practical experience is when it comes to their field.

What you probably care about a lot is HOW I can help you today.

As you read on, I am sure you will notice one of the biggest differences between My Marriage Helper and other “save my marriage” websites is the fact that my writing is influenced by my multi faceted approach.

It is grounded in my real world experience with marriage and relationship coaching, extensive research into revolutionary findings from science, neuroscience, sociology and psychology on why marriages succeed and fail, the dynamic learnings derived from owning and operating large relationship websites and interacting with many thousands of visitors and clients.

Oh, and I suppose right about now is a good time to mention that I myself am a married man. Indeed, my entire life has been influenced and shaped by marriage success in that my parents and grandparents, along with my wife’s parents, have provided long term (35+ years on average) relationship models of success.

That’s me and my wife, Jennifer, on our wedding day,

Jennifer Chris W-269 copy

I think it is vital that a person practices what they preach, otherwise one is poorly equipped to advise others.

I have seen cases of relationship consultants offering marriage advice to couples and the person offering the advice wasn’t even married or had little real, practical experience with visitors and clients.. I don’t think that disqualifies the person from possibly helping others, but it sure can make it difficult for the person to fully understand, empathize and identify with some of the marital challenges we all face.

You know, the way I look at it is that we are all on a journey and should be willing to learn more about finding ways to experience a fulfilling marriage. I count myself as part of that journey. I am eager to learn new things and sharpen my own competencies. And I consider it an honor to help you as we journey together.

Anyway, I want you to know that I know firsthand what it’s like to be married. I can genuinely empathize with your pain and misfortunes as I am uniquely tuned into your suffering as thousands of people reach out to me weekly.

More importantly, I know what it’s like to have a good marriage (which is something that you are seeking help with right now). It is my mission to help those in need.

My Readers Love to Weigh In!

One last thing before we get this party started.

Everything that you read on this page is 100% free and is completely original. The content is from me. I don’t cut and paste or peddle someone else’s content. What I do is bring my own unique set of personal and professional experiences to bear on what I believe are the salient issues. And I love it when you comment and share your view or unique situation. If you visit my other relationship websites (i.e. see bottom of this post for website urls), you can see for yourself the unique relationship I have with my readers.

I am also skilled in synthesizing information and boiling it down to the things that matter. So what the devil does that mean? Essentially, I read a lot. I stay abreast of relationship research which is a very wide and extensive field including multiple academic and scientific disciplines. I take this information and match it up with my own set of extensive practical experiences. I look for relevant commonalities….greater truths….so as to shed light on the marriage and relationship puzzle.

Relationship Layer Cake

cake

So I guess it would be fair to say that I offer a unique brand of expertise. I think of it as offering up a relationship layer cake. Everyone in the business of relationship coaching in a way offers a “layered” perspective. They owe many of their insights to others in the field that preceded them.

And if they are creative and have relationship insights that they have gained from years of practical experience and if so motivated, certain people can develop their own unique layer cake. Possibly adding another layer or two or changing the filling or frosting to address certain specific tastes and situations..

Ok, enough with the metaphors! I think you get the picture. I will be serving you up my own specially branded and well informed relationship layer cake.

So should this most delicious layer cake be offered to you for free?

Probably not.

But my motto is,

“Give and you shall receive.”

My main goal here is just to help you and I think when money gets in the way of that, then you end up as the loser because the content certain people may put out there for free is limited. There is a tendency to hold back and not deliver the most critical information you can benefit from.

I am NOT wired that way. I have found that if you go above and beyond, people really appreciate and they will return for more. And I will offer more. If the content is engaging and dynamic, then I can help people. When you help people, they remember.

This field of marriage and relationships is huge. So there is plenty to talk about. 50% of my visitors to my websites are returning visitors. Do you remember that movie with Kevin Costner, “Field of Dreams”? “Build it and they will come” was what the voice told him. I guess it spoke to me as well.

As you read on, be aware that you are participating in a very special relationship workshop. When you are through reading, you will have weighed through over 20,000 words and will have completed to one of the most novel, original Marriage Building workshops available (for free).

Will I write an E-Book one day and sell it?

Definitely. There is so much to talk about and people motivated to improve their marriage want details and examples….they want to learn the “right” things. So a special book is in the works. But my process is slow. I could write it now, but I will wait to incorporate the thousands of inputs I will be receiving from the followers of this website.

But for now, I am very excited to be focusing on YOU and your needs.

So let’s do that now.

How The “Synergistic Marriage Workshop” Will Work

synergy

You know what synergy is, right?

Well, for those of you who don’t, synergy is defined as:

Synergy: The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

In other words, with synergy if you take three things and have them all join and work together, then that means that the sum of those three things will end up creating something more powerful than if the three things were all working separately.

Having a successful marriage works in the same way. It is at its heart, a synergistic union.

I can’t tell you how many times I get approached by a man or woman who asks me:

“Chris, what can I do to save my marriage? Just give me one thing to work on.”

Well, unfortunately the smartest way to save your marriage isn’t just to work on one thing, but to work on multiple things. But you need to seek balance. You cannot try and work on everything, otherwise you may (if you are lucky) only do a little good with a lot of things. Your efforts will be diluted with very little to show. I call that the “shotgun” approach. I see that tactic with some relationship consultants and it makes me cringe. You need to draw the focus down to those things that matter…..those things for which you will get the most bang for your buck.

Hmm…

How can I put this in a way so that it’s easy for you to understand?

Ok, I got it!

As you will learn in a moment, I have identified five things that every marriage should have to optimize success.

Let’s just call those five things, “The 5 Synergistic Principles Of A Successful Marriage.”

(You will soon notice I have written a HUGE section on these Principles below.)

I bet you are wondering what the 5 principles are, right?

  1. Spending Time Together ALONE
  2. Positivity/Kindness
  3. Balanced & Transformative Communication
  4. Revitalize Your Relationship
  5. Become The Best Version Of Yourself

Let’s pretend that you start working on Principle One in tandem with Principle Two. In other words, you start spending more alone time with your spouse and work on being more positive around them.

Well, as a result of your work with Principle One and Two, you start to notice that your communication gets better. As your communication gets better, your relationship starts becoming more and more revitalized. Oh, and as your relationship gets more revitalized, you feel more happy and ultimately take steps towards becoming the best version of yourself which you will learn is actually HUGE, but more on that later.

This kind of “domino effect” is what we are shooting for here with the five synergistic principles.

Did you notice how one Principle bled into the another and affected it positively?

That is what part of this workshop is all about. It is to help you zero in on the important things you should focus on and see how they correlate to each other.

Basically, I am going to be compiling the ultimate step by step guide to make your marriage as fit as possible.

Speaking of a fit marriage…

Importance of a Fit Marriage

love

I would like to take a moment to introduce you to this idea of a “fit marriage.”

Let’s pretend that a marriage could take a physical form. And by the way, when I think of “marriage” I really do think of it as being a spiritual entity. We will give it a first name. Let’s call it “One”. Ok, it needs a last name too. Let’s call it “Union”

What’s the physical form?

Well, my wife and I always say that we are “One Person”, so let’s go with that.
Basically in this little fantasy world that I am creating, your marriage can take the form of a human being with spirit and aspirations to improve.

So, here is my question to you.

What would your marriage look like if it were a person?

Would it have a fit body?

Would it have a fat body?

Would it be morbidly obese?

Hmm…

Perhaps I should define the parameters a bit more.

Fit Body = SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE

Fat Body = Troubled Marriage

Morbidly Obese = On The Verge Of Divorce

Ok, let me ask you again.

What kind of body would your marriage have?

Its probably not as fit as you want, right? Maybe your marriage is close to fitness. Maybe it is far from fit. This is what we have to fix!

I mean, if your marriage had an exceptionally fit body, then you probably wouldn’t even be on My Marriage Helper trying to improve it or prevent a separation or divorce.

Heck, you wouldn’t even need my help. I would be studying your marriage.

My guess is that your marriage either has a somewhat unfit body or fat body. It may have taken on far too much weight in the form of anger, distrust, boredom, resentment, frustration, and conflict. Possibly, these negative behaviors and outcomes have occurred with such frequency that your marriage is evolving to be morbidly obese.

So, I have some good news and I have some bad news.

What do you want first?

The good news?

It is very possible for your marriage to lose the weight of these negative behaviors and relationship outcomes. You can have a more fit “Union”. You and your spouse can be “One Person”.

In other words, it is very possible for your marriage to move from its poor fitness level to one that can run the marathon with vigor because you don’t have all of the negative things pulling and weighing you down.

Of course, I haven’t told you the bad news.

The bad news is that it’s not going to be easy. But it is very doable for many couples.

I am getting flashbacks of that TV show, “The Biggest Loser”, in which they take people who actually are morbidly obese and put them through a workout regimen so that they can lose weight.

Guess what…

That workout regimen is very tough and the entire process is a little grueling.

Now, I don’t want to scare you, but getting a fit marriage is a little like that.

It’s not going to be easy and I am going to be giving you some pretty challenging things to work on, but just know that if you accomplish most of these things that I tell you to do today, then you will assuredly have a better chance of not only saving your marriage but having a better one.

Now, since we are staying with this theme of marriage fitness, I would like to introduce you to the perfect analogy that sums up everything I am trying to teach you.

I like to call this the “Marriage Tennis Analogy.”

Marriage Tennis Analogy

marriage tennis

I am a huge fan of tennis and it just so happens a fit marriage ties directly into tennis in so many different ways, that I couldn’t help myself and had to include it.

So, what I have done here is created an analogy for you.

Basically this section is the blueprint to marriage fitness and like I said, it ties directly into tennis.

Here we go!

Though tennis may look like a simple game, if you have ever played it (and tried to get good at it), you will find that it is actually one of the most complicated games in sports.

Let me give you an example.

In order to be successful at tennis, you have to have a complete game.

Are you aware of what a complete game is?

It basically means that you are competent at every area.

Serving…

Returning…

Groundstrokes…

Overheads…

Volleys…

Angles…

Spins….

Lobs…

Drop shots…

The list goes on and on.

So, how do you even train for tennis?

Realistically, you only have a finite amount of time that you can dedicate to training, so what do you spend your time on?

The answer is everything! But some shots are more important than others and those are the ones you devote more of your time.

Like I said, in order to succeed in tennis, you need to have a complete game and that means that every area of your game needs constant work. Though there are some shots that you need to improve that will really shape and round out your game. Just as there are key Principles that can positively impact your marriage, in the game of tennis there are 4-5 shots you just really need to get down.

Oh, and if you think you can get away with just practicing all of the important shots except one are two, like overheads or drop shots, guess what?

When you play in match (i.e. marriage) where things count, the shots you didn’t practice and improve, can set you back.

In other words, over the course of a match, your weaknesses will eventually be revealed.

I have found that marriage works in the same way. Let’s compare it to a doubles match. We have two players coming into this “union” looking to do their best and win. If either of you have not prepared well, you could struggle with your shot making.

Just as in a marriage, your weaknesses will be revealed and exploited and if you don’t work to shore up those weaknesses as a couple, you can find yourself in trouble.

So, what I have done for you below is compile my marriage fitness tennis checklist that you are going to have to work on (using this workshop.)

Think of it like the ultimate preview for what’s to come.

Let’s get started!

Doubles

A strong doubles team is like a strong marriage.

Take “The Bryan Brothers” for example.

bryan brothers

Together, they make up one of the greatest doubles teams in tennis history and they are perfect compliments to each other.

One is left handed and one is right handed.

One is a great server and one is a great returner.

Oh, and did I mention that they are twins?

Yup, they dress alike…

Move alike…

Heck, they even walk alike.

The are constantly practicing together, honing their skills.

If you watch their match play, they are constantly communicating.

And, this union of players are constantly encouraging, praising, and uplifting each other.

It is remarkable. I am not kidding. Pull them up on Youtube and just watch them.

In marriage, you have your doubles partner for life and in order to make it through, you are going to have to do multiple things together.

You are going to have to communicate well, practice together, “invent some new shots” and most important you will need to be remarkably positive towards one another. Ok, I admit. I shoot high! I am trying to push you! Even if you and your partner are “solidly positive” to each other, that works.

Look, right now I know that you and your partner are probably not a very good doubles team and that’s ok.

That’s what marriage fitness is all about.

With practice you are going to get there.

Singles

come at me

It’s funny, out of all the online relationship gurus out there,you don’t hear them talking about being the best version of yourself very often.

In fact, most of their advice revolves around “partner activities” which is all good and fine, but if you really think about it, you can actually hone your skills for doubles by playing singles.

Hmm…

Perhaps a better way to say this is that sometimes in order to give your marriage the best chance to succeed, you need to have some time alone to work on your own shots so that you can bring more to the table down the road.

In fact, as you’ll learn later, this is one of the BIGGEST things that you can do for your marriage.

It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

I mean, the average married person would think that in order to make sure their marriage survives, they would need to go on more dates or give their wife or husband more attention.

But I want you to think about what I said earlier when I was talking about synergy.

Do you remember how I talked about this awesome snowball effect that can happen when things work in synergistic fashion?

How one thing can positively impact another important marriage fitness component?

Well, that happens when you work on yourself.

Later on I will talk a great deal about how the Principle of Positivity & Kindness can have a huge impact on your marriage.

Keep that in mind and listen to this example.

Let’s pretend that you just had the worst day of your life. You are feeling really bad about your appearance, since your best friend made fun of your looks. You got into a fight with your boss at work and got fired. Oh, and to make matters worse, you can’t make rent for the month.

…..

That’s a pretty horrible day, right?

Now, when you come home to your significant other at the end of the day, do you think you are going to bring a lot of positivity and kindness to your relationship?

Chances are quite high that you won’t.

Now, lets turn this over and look at the other side of the coin.

Instead of experiencing the worst day of your life, you just experienced the best day of your life.

You stepped on the scale this morning and lost 5lbs (your monthly goal). Instead of being fired, you got a promotion and as a result you got a massive bonus of 100,000 dollars.

Coming home that night to your significant other, do you think you will bring a lot of positivity to your relationship?

I am willing to bet you would.

Do you see how self improvement can lead to a positive things happening in your life and do you see how those positive things can lead to a positive attitude?

Just as every tennis player benefits from singles play and practicing on unique shots, improved conditioning, and improved confidence…..you too can benefit by becoming the vest version of yourself and bring that back to your marriage.

Building Blocks of a Great Tennis Union

racquet

Remember when I talked about your need to focus on certain critical shots and other elements? Let’s walk you through those that matter most. In tennis they consist of the following things:

  • Core Groundstrokes
  • Volley
  • Serve
  • Return of serve
  • Conditioning

Interestingly, there are 5 key components. Just as there are 5 essential synergistic Principles you need to learn about and work on to have the fittest marriage. I won’t spend much time telling you about the elements of each of these shots, because after all, we are not really here to talk about tennis. But it suffices to know that all these building blocks of a great tennis player or doubles team, work together in a synergistic fashion.

If you are in great shape (i.e. conditioning), then it can positively impact all of the shots described above. If you work hard on improving the speed and variety of your serve, it can really make your volley a lot easier to execute. And if you have solid groundstrokes, it lifts up all the other parts of your game as you build rhythm and confidence. You get the picture, right!

Well, the strength of your marriage is also built upon a foundation. Certain aspects of your marriage need a good deal of attention. I want you to be good in all aspects that lead to a fit marriage. But I really want you to excel in 5 key areas. More about that later, as promised!

Special Situations on the Court

take it

I am sure you have watched a few tennis matches, right? Well, during the course of the match there will be times when the players will get into arguments. They might start fighting with the chair umpire who oversees the match They might get angry with the lines person who calls shots in or out. A player can even get fussy with the opposing player to the point where there is a physical altercation.

Well, fighting usually brings out the worse in us. Now, imagine playing a tennis match with someone when you have no lines persons or chair umpire. In fact, every non professional tennis player must call their own lines. More specifically, they have to decide if each of their opponent’s shots are in or out. Imagine the fireworks that can ensue.

In your married life, you also have to call your own lines and resolve your disputes. There is no marital umpire sitting up high on a chair looking overlooking everything. You and your spouse are on your own so you best learn how to deal with conflict and keep the marriage lines of communication wide open.

Later, we will be discussing a fabulous technique that is proven to work that you really need to wrap your mind around. It does a wonderful job of keeping the lid on fights and softening your approach in settling disputes.

Serving Love & Sex

tennis sexy

So long as we are talking about how marriage is analogous to the game of tennis, then we can’t ignore the importance of serving up a steady dose of sex in your relationship.

But I need to point out that while having a healthy and imaginative sex life in your relationship is very important, it not the primary focus of marriage. Without it, you are hard pressed to keep the marriage alive. Though there are exceptions.

The game of tennis is once again instructive in helping you understand how sex plays an important role. The flashiest and most thrilling of shots in tennis is the ace. Not every service shot you attempt will be an ace, but when you do execute an ace, it can be the high point of your service game.

When I think of the importance of intimate relations within a marriage, I am reminded of the server. An excellent server (or marriage partner) is one who understands the importance of mixing in a lot of different “looks”, “spins”, “angles”, and “speeds”. It is variety that makes for a great server, just as in a great lover. Keeping things fresh and exciting are all part of maximizing the effect of a good server (i.e. lover).

Now, this section of the workshop is not designed to go into details about improving your sex life. We will cover that in a future post. But I must point out that you CAN’T “win” in tennis or in your marriage with just a big serve or a great sex life. While it helps a lot, you need to have a complete game to achieve your potential and this is what I seek to teach you.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

tennis eye

Finally, to conclude our tennis analogy, there is one other very important learning you need to appreciate. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the results will be short of what you aimed for. You may encounter unforced errors, faults, and defeats when competing in tennis, just like you and your spouse may have setbacks and disappointments, ultimately reverting back to old, destructive habits.

Remember, this is not unusual. If you play any sport or are married for any appreciable period of time, mistakes or other more serious problems will likely occur. Expect it and come to understand the underlying causes of what has your marriage in a funk.

The key thing to realize is that for every problem you encounter in your relationship, there is usually a solution. So, perseverance is really important. You cannot just throw up your hands and give up at the first, second, third, or more signs of trouble. Marriages are not short sprints, but rather they are long marathons where you adapt to the changing conditions.

What your focus should be on is understanding how you (and your partner) can take specific actions in certain areas of your life that can heal the wounds and put the focus back on the positive.

Remember, you need to have a complete game to excel. You can’t just throw in the towel when the going gets tough. And i know you are not that kind of person, otherwise you would not be here at my website looking to improve.

The Truth About Saving Your Marriage

truth

Before we start getting to the meat of this article, I feel there are a few more things I would like to cover with you.

Having a successful marriage is not easy.

If it was then this website wouldn’t even be needed. Heck, thousands of therapists would be out of a job.

The truth is that the art of marriage consists of numerous variables operating within the complexity of human behavior.

There are literally hundreds of skills that you can acquire to safeguard your marriage and just when you think you have mastered every skill, you will find that there are many more that you didn’t think of before.

Truthfully, it’s not all that surprising given how complicated human beings are in this world.

But that’s the beauty of the synergistic marriage system that I am going to teach you about in this workshop.

You see, the synergistic marriage system takes into account the multitude of factors that relate to a strong and fit marriage and distills them into the most important and essential elements.

5 factors to be exact.

Think of it like this.

I basically “filtered” the hundreds of factors that relate to a strong marriage into five workable principles.

Now, you may be sitting there thinking,

“Why five?”

Easy, if I told you that in order to get your marriage back on track you were going to have to master one hundred things, you would probably start having a panic attack and pace around your house wondering if this was even worth it.

So, to prevent anything like that from happening, I concluded that it was necessary to identify the most important, impactful things you need to accomplish to better your married life. If it was more workable, it would be more effective for you. It turns out there are 5 incredibly important elements.

Now, I know what you are thinking.

“There are only five principles. Mastering them should be easy…”

Well, don’t get up on your high horse yet.

Becoming a superb practitioner of all five principles is going to take a lot of work and commitment on you part.

Is it achievable?

Yes!

Is it going to be easy?

Absolutely not.

However, I have found that it’s the most challenging things in life that often bring us the most pleasure when it’s all said and done.

So, without further ado I would like to introduce you to the five synergistic principles for a successful marriage.

The 5 Synergistic Principles for a Successful Marriage

principles

There are so many things we can talk about when it come to helping couples with improving their marriages or relationships. What I have learned from talking with thousands of motivated individuals looking for marital advice is they want something that they feel they can understand.

What they are looking for is something to fill in the gaps in their marriage. I love that Rocky Balboa quote on marriage. He says to Adrian…

“I got gaps; you got gaps; we fill each other’s gaps”.

Sometimes we just need to focus on our key “gaps” to better our married life.

If you look at a lot of the marriage advice literature out there, one of the common themes I see is what I called the “shotgun effect”. Literally, these love gurus have 30, 40, or 50+ things you can work on. I don’t know about you, but if you give me a recipe for marriage success that requires I have to sort through many dozens of things to figure out how to make my relationship better….well I am going to get bogged down…confused…and most certainly frustrated.

Well, I don’t want to do that to you. What I think is a much better plan is using common sense, coupled with verifiable research findings that point me to the “few” things I really need to master.
Ok, so maybe you won’t be a master in every critical aspect of marriage, but certainly you will be able to make progress over time. But tell me I have to juggle 47 things to make my marriage successful, well, I will probably go nuts. You might as well check me into the insane asylum for failed marriage partners.

So what are these critical few things that every successful marriage must have? Why are they important? Who says they are important? And how do they work together? Well, part of the answer lies in Nature.

The Long Pole in the Relationship Tent

long pole

I love going camping. Have you and your significant other recently gone out into nature to experience what living away from all the clutter and noise is really like? I am telling you, it can really be a bonding experience!

But I bring up my love of nature to make a point. When you are out in the wilderness, there comes a time to set up camp and make a tent. I come from a family where my parents have been married over 35 years. And my parent’s parents also had very long marriages. Same on my wife’s side of the family.

Anyway, my family loves to venture out into the wild. One of the most important lessons I learned was about setting up the tent. I have done so many times. And if you do it correctly, a tent (like a marriage) can withstand just about any force of nature. Whether it be rain, hail, or wind….a strongly constructed tent will see you through your trip.

So what makes a tent strong? How can a married couple benefit from the lessons of tent construction? I will let you in on the secret. It is basic to tent making, just as there are critical elements you marriage requires to be strong. Every tent has poles. Some have a few more than others. But every strong and effective tent I have come across has one “long pole” from which the other poles connect. Together the poles of the tent, along with the longest pole, as well as the canvas (i.e. covering) of the tent make this place of shelter strong and reliable. But is the “long pole” in the tent that keeps the tent from collapsing all around you. Just like a highly effective relationship requires at least one essential element to keep it afloat, a tent stands on the strength of its main pole. And like any good marriage system, all of the poles of the tent have a synergistic connection with each other.

Well, I suppose now, you are dying to know what is the “long pole of the tent” when it comes to your marriage and all other marriages! I am about to tell you and if you truly want to build something special within your marriage, then you must come to know and understand these 5 essential Principles (i.e. like the sturdy poles of your tent).

I will walk you through each, telling you what I firmly believe is the “long pole” in your marriage. But here is the deal! To master these 5 principles, you have to make a concerted effort to put them in practice. Knowing and doing are two completely different things.

Of course, it takes two to tango. You can make inroads and progress by just working on each of these principles yourself. But to optimize marriage success, you should talk to your partner and gain their commitment. There are many ways to do this with varying degrees of involvement from your spouse. Even if you just bite off one of these principles and gain your partner’s commitment to improve, that is progress. I often find that it is one partner that “leads”. When the other spouse notices, they eventually follow.

So ready yourself, fellow campers, as we are about to enter into the construction phase of a greater marriage. I would like to talk to you first about one of the essential Principles that often gets overlooked.

It is mind boggling to me, but it is true. One of the most critical components of a happy and sturdy marriage is the one that researchers have discovered is lacking in many marriages. I think of it as the blood that courses through each of the other 4 essential relationship Principles. While a lot of couples are suffering from this anemic condition, guess what? It may be the easiest of all the 5 Principles to improve.

PRINCIPLE ONE: Spending Time TOGETHER Alone

quality time

In today’s workshop, the first Principle we will cover is “Spending Time Together Alone.” Without “alone” time together as a couple, it is nearly impossible to have a healthy marriage. If the two of you are not committed to making time together to be alone…..well it is can to be a tough row to hoe.

Now, you might be thinking, “ah ha, so this Principle is the “long pole” in the marriage tent.” Nope, sorry. Close, but no cigar! Why do people say that? (“but no cigar”). It probably has something to do with when a baby is born and the cigars get handed out. Ok…I digressed. It happens!

The synergistic nature of the 5 principles for a successful marriage becomes very clear when we take a deeper look at why spending time together as a couple is so important. Without that quality time together as partners in marriage, it becomes most difficult to address any issues that may be plaguing the marriage.

Nor can a couple build on the progress they worked so hard to achieve. Without quality time together “alone” as husband and wife, your marriage will likely take one step forward and two steps back.

I see this happen frequently as couples drift apart. It is as if the inertia of just their ordinary routines takes hold and before the partners realize, the marriage begins to show signs of weakness. It can become brittle and fractured or old and stale. This is why I refer to this Principle as the “lifeblood” of any marriage.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t? “Let’s just spend time together”, one of the partners of the marriage may think. Certainly, if we do that, things will have to get better, right? My experiences with relationship coaching has informed that, no, it is not easy. Obtaining commitment from each partner to increase the time they spend together is not a surefire thing to pull off. And if both partners do agree to diligently spend quality time with each other, it begs the question of just how will they spend that time together?

More time with your husband or wife, does not automatically translate to a healthy bond. And even if you and your spouse do work through all of those time challenges, a marriage or relationship between two people is usually not high functioning unless the other essential synergistic Principles of an effective marriage are being successfully practiced.

Easy as pie, right? Well, no, not quite. This is what makes us humans the most complex creatures on earth. There is no one “sure fire” factor that you can put into practice that will solve all of your marriage woes. I don’t say this to discourage you. Not at all. I just want you to understand that this relationship Workshop I am presenting to you is designed to help you understand the key things you need to put into practice.
Spending time together is one. And like our circulatory system that runs throughout our body, experiencing quality time with your spouse starts with understanding what that might look like in the healthiest of marriages.

The Marriage Time Bandit

bandit meme

With that understood, let’s peel back a few layers to become more acquainted with what we are talking about here. For some of you, very little in “lessons learned” is required. You instinctively know what you should do with this quality time. It may be that your marriage is already on solid ground, but is suffering somewhat from an anemic condition that I call, the “time bandit”.

The time bandit is that force that invades marriages and take away, little by little, the quality time that husbands and wives really need to spend with each other. There is a host of reasons why this happens. Careers can get in the way, causing one or both of you to shortchange your marriage. It is like you take a deposit of time out of the marriage and invest it into your job or hobby, or other interests.

As months and years pass, the withdrawals of time out of your marriage grow. Before your even realize it, you and your spouse are operating under a different paradigm of how our marriage operates.

The Time Bandit makes its appearance in many forms. When you have children, the marriage becomes most fulfilling as now there is a new and strong bond that fuses the marriage couple together. It is a beautiful thing to see these little human beings you and your spouse created, come into the world and give you joy and pride. But as with most things, there are two sides of the coin. These wonderful children require a lot from both of you.

Time…

Patience….

Resources….

Commitment…..

Fortitude.

So you can see how it is tempting to shortchange the “alone time” each of you spend together. Certainly, in the beginning stages of child rearing, you will be challenged to balance your time between all of the important things in your life. This is perfectly normal and expected..

Just don’t lose sight of the importance of this Principle. Just know that the time you spend alone with your spouse is one of those factors in your marriage that has an outsized impact on the success of your marriage when compared to almost every factor influencing your relationship.

So, how do you defeat the marriage time bandit? Well, you cannot entirely eliminate this relationship gremlin. It is just a fact of our lives that the arrow of time moves in one direction at the same speed. Well, I suppose you could travel at the speed of light and slow down time. But I suppose we all have to wait awhile before that come along!

You can set the time bandit back on its heels. It starts off as recognizing that your marriage has a problem in this department. Acceptance is a key step to recovery. Denial is the time bandit’s friend.

Once you and your partner in life have accepted you need to increase the time you spend together, then you need to take specific action to do just that. Commit to it and build it into your schedules.

So what are you to do with this special time alone with your spouse? Well, I think of it as the premium opportunity for you to make long lasting “deposits” in your marriage. Just like you do when you put money in the bank, you need to build a foundation in the “marriage account”. As more deposits are made, the balance grows. The “interest” in your marriage account accumulates. The relationships feels protected and secure.

The key here is to use this time together alone with each other wisely. And just to be sure we are all on the same page here, when I talk about time spent together alone, that does not mean time alone with yourself. Nor does it mean time you spend with your spouse in the company of friends or family. It means both you and your spouse are together, ALONE. You may be in a private place. You may be in public. But you are together doing things with each other or talking with each other or just physically with each other…..and your friends or family or children are not with you.

Deposits of Love

love you

All of the marital deposits you make need to be positive and genuine. I think of them as love deposits. These deposits can come in the form of opportunities to work on your communication skills, which we will get more into a bit later. The love deposit can also be things as simply as asking each other questions and getting to know what the other person thinks. When alone with your spouse, you should make every opportunity to understand what they may be feeling….what they may need support with.. Even if you cannot solve their concerns or completely share in their joys, a deposit of listening is a most wonderful gift. Making love or just holding each other are also wonderful deposits you make into your marriage bank.

Eli Finkel (Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University) talks about the problem of a suffocating marriage where the time the couple spends together is diminished to such a point that it takes all of the oxygen out of the relationship.

I like to think of time together alone as the lifeblood of a marriage. Another wonderful way you can make long lasting deposits in the marriage account is to use this special time together to try something NEW with your spouse. Forge new experiences. It is these types of new experiences that cause the relationship to bond tighter, reinvigorating the marriage.

When a couple is not committed to investing alone time into each other to allow for expressions of love, then the prospect of strengthening the marriage becomes more difficult. So do me a favor! Talk to your partner about making some deposits into your emotional marriage account. Here are 5 actionable suggestions on things you and your relationship partner can do to beat back the Time Bandit and increase your marriage wealth.

  1. Create a special code word that either one of you can invoke. Once spoken, both spouses agree to immediately spend at least 1 hour of special alone time together. Each partner can use the code word once every week.
  2. Play Tennis together. Set up a fair competition contest. Whoever wins, gets a sensual back rub.
  3. See a movie every week. Then do dinner alone with each other
  4. Once a month, arrange for a fling in a nearby hotel. Pretend you are new lovers.
  5. Jog or walk together. Listen to the same music as you do so.

PRINCIPLE TWO: Embrace Each Other With Positivity & Kindness

kindness

Well, in case you guessed it right, congratulations! You have arrived at the “mother of all Principles”. If you and your partner can each practice faithfully just this one Principle of highly effective marriages, well guess what…you have an outstanding chance at having a solid marriage. Now just to be sure you understand, there are a total of 5 synergistic principles I encourage you to learn about and put into practice as they will insulate your marriage from just about anything that could harm it. But if you are so inclined to start first with the Principle of Positivity, well you are definitely knocking on the right door.

Positivity is a State of Mind

state of mind

When I think of positive communication and behavior in a marriage, I always start first with a very easy to understand behavior. Now, that does not make it easy to consistently implement and we will get into that later as there are a horde of reasons why we can descend from positivity to less attractive behaviors. But let’s talk first about the positive!

Positivity is a state of mind. When we drill down to more specifics, I think of words like “kindness”, “nice”, “generous”, and “upbeat”. A positive and kind person’s demeanor is one that infuses the marriage with a gift that just keep on giving. Kind of like that old commercial with the “Eveready battery” that just keep powering on. Kindness is like a cool breeze in your face on a hot summer day. Kindness is like our friend and we want to be in its presence….all of the time.

The Kindness Study

mark twain

One of the most amazing and well known studies by researchers (i.e. Dr. John Gottman, “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail”) revealed, after studying married couples for decades, that the most important thing a married couple can embrace is kindness. Kindness is the most common thread that shows up in successful, highly functioning marriages. So even if your marriage is lacking in some areas, if you and your spouse have this positive and revered way of treating each other…offering praise and bestowing kindness much more often than not, then your marriage is on very solid ground.

Ty Tashiro, psychologist, also talks about this phenomenon in his work (i.e. The Science of Happily Ever After). He talks about “kindness” as being like a muscle that you can exercise. While some people may bring into the marriage a high level of innate positivity and kindness, it is still a behavior than can be learned, practiced, and become more of the norm.

And therein lies the science behind this interesting phenomenon. When people become committed to practicing positive behaviors, such as exhibiting kindness in small acts, generosity in spirit, friendliness in behavior, these acts and behaviors can take form and shape in your brain from a neurological perspective and influence other aspects of our relationship.

Scientists and behaviorists have learned that to form new habits, it typically takes on average about 66 days. It can be many days less or many days more, but that is the statistical average. The firing of neurons in the brain when practicing the new habit will take shape and become more dominant with repetitions of the desired behavior. Some habits form sooner. Some take longer. But the idea here is that we are not doomed to behave or act a certain way, all of the time. The way people behave can literally change as a result of our evolving brain chemistry.

One interesting finding is that couples who practice kindness in relation to how they interact with each other and do so at the ratio of 5 to 1 (kind acts vs. negative encounters) have a remarkable 87% success record in marriage. That is how powerful the act of being positive truly is in our marriages and in our lives.

Exercise that behavior through repeated acts of kindness toward your spouse. Even if your partner is reluctant to change at first, you may be quite surprised at how highly suggestible your behavior turns out to be.

Couples are well know for mirroring each other, which means that what one does, the other often does. Something about a biblical verse comes to mind. Irrespective of what you think about religion, it is wise to adopt the lesson of “doing on to others, what you would have them do on to you”.

So since we are on sort of a religious theme, when was the last time you listened or watched this guy named, Joel Osteen? Now, I am not one of his followers so to speak, but wow, take a listen to what this individual has to say both about marriage and particularly everything else in life. If there was ever a man that manifested positivity, well, his name is Joel. His presentations are “positively” hypnotic!

The Pied Piper of Positivity

piper

Let me give you a few examples. And by the way, do you think he is just lucky to have many millions of followers. No, I think not. Positive thinkers and doers are like the Pied Pipers of spreading the message of kindness and praise and generosity. My point is that even if your can’t bring your husband or wife to truly believe in the Principle of Positivity, then you become the Pied Piper of positivity and drag him or her along with you.

Ok, so here are some gems from Joel Osteen, who by the way also appears to be a huge believer in the significance of kindness and generosity in marital relationships. He wisely goes on to point out that “no two people are completely compatible” and therefore the knot that keeps couples tied together are their willingness to practice “sacrifice and praise” within their marriage.

The criticality of adopting this mode of thinking cannot be emphasized enough. The belief is that if the married partners nurture their admiration and fondness for each other through both small and large acts of kindness, they influence the most valuable of all marital deposits.

I like it when Joel says “turn toward each other instead of away”. Now trust that I am not trying to round you up and send you off packing to the next Joel Osteen speaking engagement. But if you need a few positive thoughts to carry you through your day, then enjoy these pearls of wisdom:

  • “Marriage is a Commitment, not a feeling”
  • “We have to learn to become One. That means we may have to make some sacrifices….overlooking things”
  • “You have to make a switch, start to appreciate your spouse’s strengths… downplay their weaknesses”
  • “Listen carefully to the words and tone of voice you use with your spouse…are you doing like Solomon: blessing, encouraging, uplifting.
  • “At times you will get angry….but we don’t have to blow up and say hurtful things… learn to step back and collect your thoughts…”

Contempt is the # 1 reason for the tearing apart of marriages. If there is a glue or bond that holds relationships together, it is the positive frame we place our marriages in. How easy it is to understand how kindness can uplift your relationship and strengthen your marriage. But, how hard it is at times to practice that which you know in your heart is true.

The answer to our marriage difficulties and problems are almost always right in front of us. As you are read about these concepts I have laid out before you and you may be thinking, “yes, I agree…my spouse and I need to interact in these ways”.

But as clearly as we think we can see the solution, implementing the principles I have outlined can be cumbersome for many. So why is that? Why do we understand what we should do on a conscious level, but when it comes time to implement some of the ideas, we fall short. There is a simple, but powerful reason why this is so. It is the force of our old habits that dull us to changing. Once a behavioral habit takes root in our everyday actions, it becomes a routine in our lives. And when we have two people, such as in a marriage, they must learn to modify their behavior to make improvements with their relationship. Tearing down that wall of negative habits can be challenging.

But it can happen. It starts with a commitment to change. It starts with embracing that something as simple sounding as “kindness” can rock your marriage back into its healthy stride.

Your Marriage Summit

summit

If you believe the Principle of Kindness is the single most essential factor in your marriage being successful, then you have cleared a very big hurdle. Your journey has begun. There are more hurdles to clear. You need to tear down those old habits of how you interact with your husband or wife. I mentioned earlier that habits can take up to 66 days to take root. So patience and commitment are needed achieve the marital bliss you seek. You also need to understand the powerful force of synergy and how all 5 essential Principles to an effective marriage come together to help you and your marriage partner overcome the tidal wave of old, negative habits.

So how do you break the vicious cycle of old habits and behaviors pulling your marriage down? Well, in my honest opinion, once you and your spouse agree that you both want to change some of the ways in which you interact with each other, you then need to do something to shake the core of your routines. You need to get out of your regular environment and go someplace different.

Choose a place that you have not been before. Someplace beautiful, serene, quiet, and private. Call it your “Marriage Summit”. And it is there that you and your husband or wife can decide to make a vow of starting new habits.

If you genuinely agree that incorporating much more kindness in your relationship can be a pivot point for getting your marriage back on track, then write that down and provide examples of those behaviors you will do more of.

Write it all down and then exchange these written vows with your loved one. From here, it becomes a matter of practicing what you preach long enough so that it takes root as your new habit….your new, healthy routine. Then celebrate this exchange of vows at this place where you chose to have your own personal Marriage Summit so that the experience is cemented in your memory.

Ideally, you want to do all of this with your spouse. But you can achieve results even if you do it by yourself if you spouse is unwilling. Just be sure to tell them what you did as that can have a highly, positive and influential effect.

Angular Velocity in Relationships

There is a law of nature that deals with angular velocity. Think of the ice skater that starts spinning. They first start with their arms and free leg stretched far apart. Then as they start pulling in the their arms and their one free leg, their angular velocity increases. Magically, they start spinning faster and faster.

When I think of the Principle of Positivity & Kindness, I am reminded of the powerful effect of angular velocity. Just as in figure skating, the relationship truth of “positivity/kindness” will speed up the recovery of your marriage. It is that powerful and if implemented consistently, can amplify the positive momentum in your marriage.
This is why the Principle of Positivity & Kindness is the long pole in the tent. It is magical and powerful and stands as the core element of the 5 Principles of a synergistic marriage.

PRINCIPLE THREE: Practice Balanced and Transformative Communications

vader communication

A lot of people who profess to be experts or relationship coaches will tell you that you that you and your spouse need to improve your communication skills. So what does that usually look like? Does that mean you should talk to each other more? Or are we talking about better listening skills, coupled with honest questioning? Could it mean other things?

Well, the short answer to these questions is all of the above. To be in a highly functioning marriage, you need to be able to talk to each other freely, without a feeling of it being forced upon you. You need to practice “attending” communication skills which is essentially listening to what you wife or husband has to say without interruption. This skill is really important to the men out there. If you can consistently master the art of really “Listening” to your wife or significant other with minimal interruption, then the heavens will open up and rain upon you its gratitude.

And you also need to employ the use of positive non verbal skills. Sometimes, less is more. If you spend all your time talking, you can miss out on those times when you can achieve a close bond through non-verbal communications.

But here is where some of the relationship Gurus get it wrong in my opinion. They talk about communications, but they do not describe the synergistic nature of how communications should fit into our relationships.

So let’s peel back the layers and understand what effective communications is really about. You are probably beginning to see the synergistic connection between the Principles we have already discussed. For example, if you spend time together alone (i.e. Principle I) and employ a good deal of positivity in your relationship (i.e. Principle II), these behaviors connect with Principle III, Balanced and Transformative Communications.

Having an opportunity to spend quality time together alone (Principle I), enables you to experience quality and positive communication opportunities. The way I see it, every chance you have to talk to your spouse is a communication opportunity.

When you are alone with you spouse, that communication opportunity is enhanced. When there are no distractions and the two of your are together alone, then what you say and how you say it is very important in building trust. This is where you and your spouse can make a difference if your marriage has been suffering from the blahs or worse. Combining what you know about the importance of “positivity” (i.e. kindness, praise, generosity) and incorporating that type of communication behavior into your daily interactions, is a powerful marriage and relationship cocktail.

Bear in mind though that quality communications is more than just talking in a positive way with each other. It is also very much about finding balance. Ideally, you want to achieve a 50/50 split in talking and listening. This a general guideline and while there will be times when you or your wife or husband will tend to dominate the conversation for a score of good reasons, more often than not, having balance in your conversations will afford each person a chance to share what is on their mind.

So what do we mean by Transformative Communications? What is it about talking to each other in a positive and constructive manner that makes it transformative?

For starters, if you have been married for some time, it is very likely that you have fallen into some communication routines. It is very likely that some of these routines or habits are not altogether healthy. The communication routines I refer to can take many forms. It may be that very little is said to each other as each of you just fall into your established patterns of going about your own daily activities. An even more destructive behavior pattern is where one or both parties of the marriage give in to sarcasm, criticism, or even contempt.

If you recognize any of these unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship, then you may need a transformative experience to change these destructive routines.

Since you and your spouse are largely in control of your future in terms of how you communicate and respond to each other, this transformative experience need not be a negative…meaning that you do not have to have a knock down, drag out fight to awaken the better communication angels within yourself.

My experience in coaching couples is that when they build from a negative event, the path to the desired place you both want to reach is more difficult. Memories of the ugly and petty comments and gestures take root in your subconscious. Your efforts to reconcile and improve your communication routines become even more difficult. We are after all, very vulnerable creatures and when confronted with negativity, we often respond with negativity.

So what I want you to think about with regard to this Principle is breaking the unhealthy routines you and your spouse may have established. To make this transformative break from your normal communications, you first have to recognize the present state. So what the heck does that mean? Well, it’s pretty simple. Often what happens is a couple becomes caught up in routines and habits that are not conducive to a healthy marriage. After some time, this way of communicating with each becomes the norm. You may not even realize it, until you step away and evaluate how you talk to each other. So the first step is to recognize that you have a problem. Discussing the problem helps with eventually changing the pattern. But changing how you talk to each other will not happen overnight. It is road you both commit to taking, but the journey will cover many days. Why so long? Because the power of your current habits and routines have been shaped over many months and years. Defaulting back to your old patterns is a lot easier than it is to learn and practice new habits and routines.

Relationship Wisdom from Yoda

come yoda

So transformation is partly about recognition and acceptance of the problem. And it is also about commitment to change. Just as we discussed with Principle II (i.e. Positivity & Kindness), the way you can jump start a transformation to adopt new communication routines that are positive and balanced is to SEED this change by doing something that is big and meaningful…that gets your attention. Make it an event.. Just as that little fellow Yoda said, “you must unlearn, that which you have learned”.

Hence, your challenge is to break the pattern. Yoda also said, “Do or do not, there is no try”. This is where commitment come into play. So if the two of you are in serious need of improvement in your communications….if you find that you seldom talk…or when you do there is little in the way of balance or positivity….then you need to TRANSFORM your communications through a memorable event that neither of you will ever forget.

Message in the Bottle

message in a bottle

I like big symbolic gestures that underscore intentions. Let me tell you a story of a couple I know that was experiencing communications issues. Their names are Stacie and John.

They were both caught up in their own busy lives. Seldom would they take time to connect. Almost like drones in colony, they got caught caught up in routines where they went about their day, seldom scheduling quality time together and rarely saying anything that would equate to kindness and praise. So they came to me for some advice.

I could see from the get go that this couple was spiraling away from each other by just how they described their daily communications and interactions. Achieving balance in how they spoke to each other was the least of their problems. But they definitely got failing grades in the area of frequency of communications and the quality of content.

I firmly believed this couple had all the ingredients of a successful marriage. They just needed a little good ole fashioned coaching….a little push in the right direction. I decided they would benefit most from a healthy dose of revitalization in this department of their relationship. And what better way of accomplishing that then to tell them to go somewhere special (and affordable) where they could reconnect and revamp the way they talked to each other.

I love symbolic acts. I love moments that are unusual. It is these things that get lodged into our minds and stick. This is what you and your married partner should seek….really nice and sticky memories. They help you form good habits.

So I told John and Stacie that this one event will not by itself change their old patterns and routines of which they had slowly become prisoners to, but that it would kickstart and symbolize a new beginning in how they communicate. I explained that if they continued to practice the certain vows, then in time they would form new communication habits and routines which would enable them to draw even closer to each other.

I told them I wanted them to plan a weekend trip to Galveston island, located along the gulf coast of Texas. I wanted them to check into a hotel in the late afternoon. I gave them an empty wine bottle with a cork and told them to each write down 2 things they vowed they would do much, much better on the verbal communication side of their relationship; and 2 things they commit to doing on the non-verbal communication side of their relationship. I explained that these things they vowed to do going forward had to be focused on a new level of communication filled with kindness, praise, and generosity. Then I instructed them to take their paper writings and the bottle and stroll along the beach until sunset. At the moment the sun touched the horizon, I told them to take out their respective messages and read them to each other. Here is what they ultimately came up with:

Stacie:

“I will greet you each and every morning with a smile and praise you for caring for me.”
“If I get angry at you, I will remember first to tell you that you have been a most wonderful husband to me and only then will I express my concerns”
“I will hug you everyday”
“I will look into your eyes each day with appreciation”

John:

Stroking your hair and telling you I love you will become a way I show how I feel about you”
“I will surprise you each week with a small surprise”
“You will get hugs and kisses every day”
“I will hold your hand every opportunity we have”

I thought they did really well with their pledges of how they would communicate in the future verbally and non-verbally. Then after reading their vows, I told them to roll up these messages and place them in the bottle, then cork the bottle and cast it into the ocean.

This all happened several years ago. I am very happy to say that both Stacie and John are still happily married and that moment in time on Galveston beach is something they still talk to me about.

This is what I mean when I talk about transforming your communications. It takes an event…a happening…. or an unforgettable occurrence that can shake you loose from the old, tired out and negative communication patterns. It takes a sincere vow or commitment that is the fuse that seals the memory of this special thing you do together as a couple to improve your communications.

PRINCIPLE FOUR: REVITALIZE Your Relationship

It is essential within a marriage that the two people avoid getting stuck in old habits. There is nothing worse for a marriage than repeating the same, tired out routines and habits. Now don’t get me wrong. Some of your routines and habits are very healthy and necessary as they forge a bond of familiarity and security. But relationships change as they age. Both you and your marriage partner change over time. Sometimes these changes are hardly noticeable when examined in the short term. It’s like a tide rolling in from the sea. As you walk the shore line, you cannot even notice the tide rising. But after a great many hours, you will see the difference as you reflect back on earlier in the day. Well, relationships are similar in that they are fluid and change. The person you are and the things that you may be interested in, change with time. It is the norm and you should embrace such changes if they support a healthy lifestyle and relationship.

What you don’t want to do within a marriage is cling to always doing things the same way. You don’t want to just repeat the same activities or vacation to the same spots or eat at the same restaurants or etc, etc.

It is essential that you and your husband or wife experience new things. Not only will those experiences serve to revitalize your own set of personal experiences which you will find fulfilling, but they will immensely benefit your marriage. When you experience new things together, you also bond together without even realizing it. And bonding does not happen by itself. There needs to be a catalyst….a memorable experience of some kind….preferably new and exciting or interesting or thrilling or curious events or activities you both participate in.

Too often I see couples suffer from the slow pull of stagnation. Attachment to the past way of how to always do things is a blueprint for stagnation or worse. Stagnation leads to a couple tearing apart…growing apart.

This happens partly because one or both couples seek new experiences to fuel their passion in life. When they do this apart from each other, then this “tearing apart” manifests itself within the relationship. This usually happens slowly….but assuredly, a slow descent into stagnation can lead to emotional separation.

I think it is a central core element of our personality to experience new things. This is how we learn and grow. It is perfectly OK to do this by yourself for your own individual self fulfillment. But we need to strike a balance such that you and your spouse also experience new things, together. But to do this, you sometimes have to work at it. New things or new marital experiences do not necessarily come knocking on your door saying, “hey, try me out, I am a lot of fun and am fulfilling”.

Marriage Entropy Trap

entropy

In my view, it is critical that you do not fall into what I call the “emotional entropy trap”. So what do I mean by “Marriage Entropy Trap”? Well, it starts with understanding a fundamental law of nature.

Entropy is defined as “a gradual decline into disorder”. It is a wasting away…a deterioration….a breaking up. This is what science tell us about the universe we live in. Things eventually go to a disorderly state. Things wear out, rust, collapse, and degenerate. Yeah..I know, it’s kind of sad we live in such a universe, but I have good news for you!

Every day we buck the system. Nature allows for that. You can put “energy” into other places to fight these forces. You need not just give into these random, boring patterns that just ever so slowly, pull your marriage apart. Once you recognize that all relationships can get bogged down in mediocrity, you can actively do something about it. The problem is when married couples do not recognize the entropy marriage trap and just follow along with the same routines and patterns.

You know something? If you talk to some of these great minds of science…..and yes, if you understand just a bit about science, it can help you with your relationship. Science teach us that our very existence is a result of breaking the original pattern. Life evolves from breaking the pattern through adaptations and change over time.

We live in an ever changing universe. So why is your marriage different? Well, it’s not! To breathe renewed life and vigor into your marriage, you need to shift your paradigm. You need to get out of the box. And the sooner you start incorporating some new activities and adventures for the two of you to experience, the greater your bond of common experience will be.

Bonding with your wife or husband through new experiences create new memories that the two of you can cherish. But better, such bonding through these new sets of experiences cements the relationship.

A lot of very smart people, they call them neuroscientists, have learned that if you set out to experience positive new things with your spouse, new neural pathways (i.e. electrochemical pathways) are formed. Like with the growth of a healthy tree, the idea is you want to prune the problem causing neural pathways (i.e. those old, negative, and stagnant pathways) and grow new, positive pathways. Through these sets of positive, new experiences, your relationship continues to grow.

By now I am sure you are starting to see the way in which the essential Principles of Effective Marriages are intertwined with each other. We talked about having time alone with our spouse. We discussed the importance of positivity. We covered the topic of effective communications. And now we have touched on the significance of revitalization of your relationship by incorporating new, positive experiences and doing things together. This is the synergistic and holistic effect of the 5 Principles.
So far, we have covered 4 of them. Hang in there! We will soon be talking about the 5th. But before we do, I would like to provide you with some actionable things you and your relationship partner can do to stimulate and revitalize your marriage.

  1. Revitalizing your relationship is not just about going to places and doing new things. It can be something simple, yet powerful such as executing the 5 Principles of Highly Successful Marriages. Get started TODAY with the process and you will make great inroads into pruning the old, tired out habits and replacing them with new, fulfilling routines.
  2. Revitalize your relationship through improving the sexual intimacy in your marriage. There are many good books out there that can help you with changing up your patterns and routines when it comes to sex. Buy one and tell your spouse you are committed to both of you achieving more fulfillment.
  3. Do something you never would dream of doing. Perhaps it has a slightly elevated risk. For me, it was taking my wife on an incredible hot air balloon ride.
  4. Get your nervous system engaged. Studies show that excitement and thrill can form some powerful neural pathways, with the added benefit of leading to sexual arousal. So go to a rock concert and then check into a nearby hotel and rock each other’s world.
  5. Psychologists tell us that after some time, we get to know a great deal about each other and as we repeat familiar routines, the mystery and challenge is largely removed from our lives. So break the mold. Challenge yourselves to something you have never done and accomplish it. Behavioral Scientists say that the sense of positive accomplishment will transfer over to how you think of each other. You will feel closer together and more attracted to each other because you teamed up to do something difficult, and succeeded. Hike up the face of Pike’s peak. Its 13 miles. Enter a mini triathlon. You get the picture!

PRINCIPLE FIVE: BECOME the Best Version of Yourself

funny stinson

So now we have arrived at the 5th Synergistic Principle of Successful Marriages. Because I discuss it last does not mean it is less important than the others. Nor does it mean that it is the “best” of Principles which I saved for last!

What it does mean is that if you fail to take care of principle 5, then you will not optimize your marriage success.

So what is the mysterious X factor that if we practice, we can better both ourselves and our marriage? The mysterious relationship “x factor” in a successful marriage is founded in each partner’s willingness to develop themselves. This benefits you before, during, and after marriage (hopefully not an outcome). What I ask my clients to do, whether they are presently seeking to improve their marriage or getting over a break-up, is to seek to become the best version of themselves.

You may ask, “why would I want to do that? I want to have the best version possible of my marriage.” Well, I would want you to strive for both. By becoming the best version of yourself, you enable your marriage to be successful.

I think it is wise sometimes to take a step back and look at the big picture. Do you remember that quote I provided earlier from Joel Osteen? He said, “no two people are completely compatible”. The simple reason is that we are all unique. We all have different aspirations and goals. We all have areas in our life that we seek to improve.

When we get married, these things do not entirely change. Marriage is a union of two people who are not completely compatible. Your mission, if you should accept (Ok..this is really not a “mission impossible”!), is to strive to perfect that union. But to do so, you need to look within as well as outside of yourself. No marriage is healthy if all of your accomplishments are defined within the circle of the marriage union. Just as we discussed earlier, when we were talking “tennis”, to be a great doubles player (i.e. or marriage partner), you need to seek improvement within yourself.

The Holy Trinity

hwr

Your individual personal growth can take the form of psychological, spiritual, hobbies, or success in one’s chosen field. Researchers have discovered that those partners of marriage who are allowed to pursue their “intrinsic goals” (i.e. things such as personal growth) are happier than those who entirely focus on “extrinsic goals” (wealth, fame, popularity in social media).

As with most all things we talk about, a balance needs to be struck between one’s focus on their marriage and efforts to become the best version of themselves. These two goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the pursuit of a balanced set of goals associated with “marriage” and self is “synergistic”

Arthur Brooks (“Love People, Not Pleasure”) at University of Rochester speaks eloquently about why the focus should be on “loving” people and not on a sole pursuit of one’s own pleasure. I think we can all learn from this sentiment.

There is a term I coined as it relates to this Principle of becoming the best version of yourself. I call it seeking the Holy Trinity. In the relationship jungle and particularly those who have suffered through the trials and tribulations of a break-ups, I advise individuals to do a number of things, but embracing in the Holy Trinity is probably the most important.

So what is this Holy Trinity? Ok…first let me clarify I am not talking about taking up a new religion or anything like that. Whatever your faith is, keep it. I am sure it will help you in many ways. The Holy Trinity I refer to revolves around bettering yourself in 3 areas:

  1. Health
  2. Wealth
  3. Relationships

Before we take a closer look at each one, I want to point out that what makes the Holy Trinity somewhat magical is the synergistic way in which these 3 essential life components interact. Take away something from one, you can adversely impact the other two. Likewise, if you improve in one area, it often has a positive added force on the others.

Few of us can honestly say we have mastered each of these three life components. The idea is you should strive to make continuous improvements in each of these three areas.

I remember doing a podcast for one of my other websites a few months ago. A woman had called in to explain that her boyfriend had left her and she was devastated. After purchasing one of my ebooks, she was inspired to strive to be the best version of herself and part of that was embracing the Holy Trinity.

She took it upon herself to lose a good amount of weight and improved her general fitness and health which made her feel pretty darn good about herself. She started eating better and getting more sleep. Then she did something that even surprised herself. She took a business idea she had always had and put it into motion and over the months her small business began to really take off.

So not only did she make positive changes with her health and wealth, but she also began spending more quality time with her friends and family. These relationships were so important in helping her stay grounded. She even credited her visits to my website with lifting her up.

About one year later, she ran into her ex boyfriend and he could hardly recognize his former girlfriend. It was as if they had met for the very first time. It turned out that they eventually resumed the relationship. I was happy for her. But honestly, I was most happy that she embraced the Holy Trinity because her attitude in how she embraced these central life components will always carry her forward.

I do want to emphasize something that I think is important to understand. It has to do with the “wealth component. Most people think of wealth as increasing one’s net assets or growing their capital. But when you embrace the Holy Trinity, I want you to also think of wealth in terms of “spiritual” wealth.

I believe spiritual capital includes feeling really good about yourself. Spiritual wealth could be a sense of connection with an organized religion. Or it could be the feelings that are evoked when you attend your Yoga class. Spiritual wealth is many things to many people. If you create wealth of this kind in your life, your marriage will benefit in many ways.

Becoming the best version of yourself is all about finding balance between achieving self expression and development vs investing sufficient time and energy in the marriage. As we discussed, there is a synergistic relationship between these two endeavors. When the balance is lost, the marriage suffers and so does the individual sense of fulfillment. We are talking about two sides of the same coin. This is why I like to characterize marriage as a “Union”.

The History Of Marriage

history of marriage

But things were not always this way. Eli Finkel (Northwestern University) pointed out that in the late 1700s (American Revolution Period) the focus of marriage was to realize “food and shelter”. It may be hard to believe for us now, but times were tough in those days, particularly for women. Love and romance often took a back seat to the practicality of basic survival. Food and shelter are by definition, basic human needs. Marriage was more of a partnership, sometimes forced upon individuals. People seldom married for love.

In the 1800s the next shift in marriage occurred with more of a focus on love & companionship. The woman was often not considered equal to the measure of a man in many respects. But things were looking up in the love department! A lopsided union would be how I would characterize marital relationship in those days.

In the first half of the 1900s, the man as the breadwinner and the woman being the homemaker shaped the form of marriage. We still have a lopsided union and that lasted for decades.

Then in the 1960s, the next titanic shift occurred where personal growth and self discovery became increasingly important within marriages. Eli Finkel argues that a “a fulfilling marriage is strongly linked to a spouse’s support of the other spouse’s personal growth and self expression.

Obviously, the rest of the 20th century further shaped the institution of married life as the imperfect union was further refined. Today, I like to think that the vast majority of people would agree with my wife and I that being married is akin to being “One Person”, but within that context each individual should strive to be the best version of themselves.

So, if you are inclined to define yourself only in terms of your marriage, then I would argue that you are short changing your personal growth and natural need for self expression.

On the contrary, if you take a more holistic approach to your marriage, recognizing both you and your spouse’s needs to explore inner potential and self growth, then both relationship partners can improve and that brings many positive benefits to your marriage.

Recap Of The Five Principles

Now, before we wrap this massive section up I would like to take you back to recap what the five principles of a synergistic marriage are,

5 principles

You may notice that four principles are all pointing at one.

Did you happen to read what that principle in the middle of the graph is?

It’s positivity and kindness which is arguably the most important factor to a successful marriage.

In other words, what I am trying to tell you here is that, that little factor in the middle of the graph above may very well be the one you want to focus most of your energy on.

While the others are certain important the one in the middle is arguably the number one thing you can do to have a positive impact on your marriage right away.

If Your Are Not Married Yet, What Are The Predictors Of Success

prediction

I often get this question from my clients. Essentially, they want to know if they should get married to a boyfriend or girlfriend. Of course, this is a highly personal matter and given the massive complexities associated with human beings, it can be one of the most difficult questions to answer.

First, let me tell you what you should not do. Do not think that the answer is in the stars! So astrology won’t help you. And please…promise me…do not rely on one of those online assessments that presumably tells you if you and your significant other are compatible.

When it comes to matters of love and marriage, I tend to be more inclined to place more stock into verifiable, empirical research. So what does that mean? It means that the social scientist and psychologists that spend their life studying and researching such matters, probably have more value to offer when it comes to questions of compatibility.

Certainly having the ability to become a Jedi Knight in the ways of the 5 Synergistic Principles is very important! But no one I know has ever mastered that.

And it takes two to tango! Not every individual entering into a marital relationship may be motivated enough to firmly embrace these principles. You know what I mean? For example, some people are just not very nice or pleasant.. Kindness may be like a foreign virus that they come down with only now and then.

Some people have little internal motivation or ambition to become the best version of themselves. They may be poorly self motivated, almost slothful.

These 5 Principles I have laid out are not rocket science, but they are very important to embrace and you can use them as a measuring stick. So what I am saying is that if you are in a position to take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of a guy or girl in terms of their readiness and capital when it comes to marriage….well by all means do so.

I need not preach the statistics of failed marriages. You already know that around 50% of first marriages do not succeed. And 70% of second marriages also fail. Yikes. I know that sounds scary. But information and knowledge will serve you well.

What Does Science Say About Marriage Compatibility?

science

Research has a lot to say about this issue of how compatible you are with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Of course, it is a complicated issue. Human behavior can be pretty puzzling at times.

There is a highly respected study, referred to as the “Cornell Marriage Advice Project” that acknowledges that while their are many variables that influence whether we will be happy in our marriages, there are some factors much more important than others.

With all of the hit and miss outcomes of marriages, a lot of people think of marriage as a form of gambling or an art form that defies explanation. I tend to look at past results and science to help in making sense of things, particularly if the research looks at the big picture.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you look at the right thing long enough, certain patterns will emerge. That is what I like about the Cornell study. They studied 400 individuals who have been involved in marriage (or romantic relationship) for at least 30 years. When you look at success long enough, usually certain important findings will emerge and this what the people from Cornell University discovered. According to this study, if you had to boil it down to 3 things, it would probably revolve around:

(1) The strength of your current communication with your significant other

We have already established that balanced and transformative communications is really important. While you are getting to know your future husband or wife, you will have an opportunity to evaluate the strength of their communication skills. When it comes to verbal communications, does he or she open up and talk freely? Or does your potential marriage partner keep things closed off as tight as a clam?

Does your boyfriend or girlfriend dominate all of the verbal conversations, such that there is little balance? Do you have a hard time with getting them to listen effectively and respond to you when you are sharing?

On the written side of communications is your boyfriend or girlfriend balanced in how and when they respond to your texts and emails. Or is the individual a “me” person which I describe as an individual who thinks their time is much more important than yours?

Then there is the non-verbal side of communications. Is your guy or gal a hugger? Do they enjoy giving and receiving little subtle touches or make gestures that reinforce the positive energy you each seek? Do you feel serene and safe in their presence?

What about the quality of the communication?

Remember, we talked about how the Principle of Positivity was a very good predictor of marital success. If you had to measure your significant other’s “kindness in communications”, how would your rate it on a scale of 10 (i.e. with 10 being the highest quality).

If you have them coming in at a 3 or 4 or 5, you really need to ask yourself if this person has the generosity of spirit that will enable the marriage to succeed. When you fight, does it last a long time? Do you fight fair? Does your boyfriend or girlfriend genuinely apologize for the role they played in a fight?

The key take away is to keep talking to each other. If there is balance and a lot of words going back and forth with some degree of positivity, you are paving a great path that if followed consistently, will allow your marriage to be happy and successful.

(2) The demonstrated level of commitment

When you are in the dating stage of your relationship you have time to evaluate each other’s level of commitment. Now for the sake of this discussion, I am going to assume that you are committed to the relationship and idea of marriage and so my remarks will address the question of how committed your boyfriend or girlfriend might be. How does one know if a prospective marriage partner is committed? There are essentially two tactics you can employ. One is more aggressive, while the other is more passive.

Probably, the most effective way to to gauge one’s level of commitment is to specifically ask them. But you cannot just blurt it out. You have to do your due diligence. Like a good attorney, you should already know the answer to your question, even before asking. Why is that? Because you have already done your homework having spent a great deal of time with this person evaluating their behavior in all facets of the relationship, particularly when the conversations turns to issues and topics suggesting a future together.

So like a well versed and prepared attorney, when you ask “the question”, you will have a darn good idea of what they will say. Essentially, in this scenario, you are looking for confirmation of what you already believe. If you don’t get that confirmation…..if your significant other hedges….well it’s not the worst news. Just take things slow and allow “time” to sort things out.

The other tactic is never to ask the question, but direct the conversation in such a way that the other person feels compelled to explore commitment levels.

My experience with couples who cross the bridge of commitment is that they do so naturally over time and there is usually little doubt what each wants. If you are plagued with doubts or if the other individual does not seem very enthusiastic, then take a step back and re-evaluate. Remember, little steps can get you to your final destination.

(3) Your knowledge of each other

Before entering into marriage, a couple should have an opportunity to learn a great deal about the other. None of us are without fault and all of us have some wonderful qualities.

Knowing the “good” along with the “areas of opportunity” with regard to your prospective husband or wife, prepares you for whether you ultimately will be a good match. It is never wise to rush into things. As you learn about all of the qualities about your partner and what their life is currently about, you enable yourself to make an important decision.

I have seen the opposite happen far too many times when a person, filled with the raging hormones of love, jumps too soon into the decision of marriage. When emotions run high, logic runs low. Don’t be that person who is blind to the important things you should know about your future spouse.

The canvas of things you should look at in your potential partner for life is wide. Do you have a shared belief or faith? Have you met this person’s friends? What is this person’s experience with love? How is your sex life? Do you each share similar goals regarding family and children? What is this individual’s ideas around parenting? What is this person’s ambitions in life? What is their track record regarding financial matters?

Behavior psychologists and learning theorists are fond of saying that a person’s past history is “predictive” of their future. Meaning that what a person has done in the past, is often repeated in the future.

I place a great deal of credibility to this line of thinking as I have seen how an examination of a person’s history can be a very useful way of figuring out their future behavior. So please do not make the mistake of turning a blind eye to a person’s past or fall victim to only listening to the words they have to say. Actions do often speak “louder” than words.

Now, this is not to say that a person cannot learn from the mistakes of their past or lift themselves up from negative experiences in their life. You are looking for positive patterns of behaviors and decisions that makes you feel secure that this is a person you want to spend your life with.

So I think you are getting the picture here. It takes time to learn about all these things and it also takes discipline because you will be fighting against emotional urges to hook it up and get the marriage on its merry way.

But I would advocate you do something very, very, very important before getting married. Wait. Yes, I want you to wait and ensure you have had a lot of shared experiences with your prospective marriage partner. Get to know about these things we talk about. Don’t think of it has snooping or hesitation. Think of it as a relationship life insurance policy you are investing in.

The picture of the strengths and weaknesses of your significant other will come into clearer focus over time. And don’t be surprised if you marry someone with many of the same qualities that you have so says the experts. The road to happiness is often forged along a familiar trail.

3 Factors = Happy Marriage

If all 3 of these things are in place during the courtship, then a strong marriage is very likely according to the findings of these researchers. Marriage is difficult at times for all couples, so if you find that the two of you are highly correlated when it comes to commitment, knowledge of each other, and communications levels….then you position yourselves to succeed and weather the eventual storms couples typically have throughout their relationship.

The Habits of Highly Successful Married Couples

habits

By making use of the 5 Synergistic Principles for Successful Marriages, you will be able to hone skill sets that enable you to achieve relationship success. I consider these 5 principles that we have discussed to be the framework for any strong marriage. As I have discussed, you do not have to master all 5. Few marriage partners can honestly say that they perfectly exhibit all of the behaviors that underlie these principles. But like building a home, you start with a foundation. In my view, that is the Principle of Positivity. With a solid foundation, the other principles should naturally fall in place, most notably the Principle of Balanced & Transformative Communications.

The Marriage Tree of Life

tree of life

You can also think of a successful marriage as a healthy and growing tree. If being positive, kind, and generous is the seed and quality time alone with your lover is the nutrients, then the fruits of your labor will be revealed in the manner in which you talk to each other, seek to revitalize your relationship with new and fulfilling experiences, along with each of your efforts to become the best version of yourselves.

The study of Neuroscience has led to some fascinating findings in how to strengthen a marriage. As you know, every healthy tree requires commitment to care for its particular needs. Just as relationships can branch off into unhealthy routines and habits, a tree at times needs pruning of its unhealthy branches.

Scientists have learned a lot about how the mind works and why we behave in certain ways. You may have heard of the saying that, “you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks”. Well, I repudiate that kind of thinking as it applies to the behavior of marriage partners. It is completely wrong to think we are destined to act and behave the same way.

The science of the mind teaches us that new neural pathways can be created and with time, can become the norm. The key is forming the right neural pathways and repeating that behavior.

The idea is to “prune” problem causing neural pathways and create and strengthen the pathways of desirable behaviors/habits. This is a perfect place to talk about the 66 days it takes to form a habit….particularly the correct habit. Just to underscore what I covered earlier, habits it is believed take on average about 66 days to form. Earlier studies suggested it was closer to a month and in some cases, that is true. But more recent work suggests that if you want to change old, negative habits with new, positive habits, it will on average take a few months of repeating the new routine/habit.

There is some fascinating work that emerges from the research of Dr. Antonio Damasio on emotion and behavior as well as Dr. John Gottman (Why Marriages Succeed or Fail), that have led to a conclusion that if couples practice certain Skill Sets, these behaviors can lead to highly successful marriages. So what are these skill sets? How do you develop them?

First let me point out that that one way of looking at these skill sets is to think of us drilling deeper into the 5 Synergistic Principles we covered earlier. These skills sets, which I am about to describe, are borne from the essential Principles. But even more telling is that these skill sets are backed up by a great deal of academic research where actual married couples were studied for a very, very long time.

So let’s get back to defining what a skill set is. Consider a skill set as a behavior that you and your spouse exhibit frequently within the marriage. It could be also called a “practice” or a “belief system”.

Most telling, a skill set represents how couples interact and treat each other. To develop and hone such skills, the marriage partners need to first believe that their actions will make a difference. The couple must be committed to behaving and interacting with their spouse in this manner consistently. And as we outlined above, for this new way of behaving to take shape and form and become a habit within the marriage, the couple needs to consistently behave or support the behavior. Perhaps it could take a month or two before such skill sets take firm root within the marriage.

So what are these very special skill sets that researchers tell us make marriages very likely to succeed? Well, they are remarkably straightforward and easy to understand. If you find them completely missing from your relationship, well, you have some real work to do in my opinion, But typically all couples do some or all of these things to varying degrees. Your work on getting better in these areas can make a huge difference.

Sharpening Your Marriage Skill Sets

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“Soft Start Up” – One of the skills that marriage couples need to embrace falls under two of the Synergistic Principles (Balanced & Transformative Communications and Positivity/Kindness). Indeed, if you make progress in this area, then you and your partner will truly have a transformative experience. And guess what? It is not hard to do at all.

What happens all too frequently in marriage is things will happen which can easily lead to upset feelings. Communications can get prickly. An issue will arise that needs to be discussed. Something may need to change or a topic may need to be explored. Invariably one or both of the marriage partners will default to their normal way of tackling the topic, which more often than not is very direct and head on. Fireworks ensue and soon the issue or conversation topic has grown to an interpersonal firestorm.

Here is what you should do when you want to breach a potentially sensitive topic. I want you to do the best job you can to channel Joel Osteen. Yes, I know, this may sound a bit odd. But I think you know where I am coming from. Whatever you think of Joel Osteen and his religious views, I think we can all agree the guy is incredibly positive and supportive and kind and generous in spirit and given to praising people a lot….you get the drift.

So if you find yourself at the communication crossroads where you need to delve into something that could be a sensitive issue, then use what is described as a “soft start up” approach. Never lead with the criticism or harshness or short and terse tones. That is a pathway to ruin.

I like to talk about the sandwich technique in describing the soft start up. When you talk to your spouse about something that has the potential to be prickly, always start off with a positive (i.e. that is one of the pieces of bread that comprise a sandwich), then get into the meat of the conversation though always remember the importance of tact and gentle conversational tones; then complete the sandwich technique with another positive (i.e.the other piece of bread). People remember beginnings and endings, so make those positive and supportive.

“Embrace Your Partner’s Ideas”

Studies reveal that if both partners can consistently avoid becoming defensive and remain open to their spouse’s ideas, requests, critiques, and upset periods, they will experience 80% marital success.

Now that sounds like an unbelievably high percentage. But the way I think about it, if both you and your spouse are able to have such a close relationship that you are able to genuinely talk openly about each other’s ideas and consider their proposals and accept constructive criticism and show a generosity of supportive spirit when your spouse is upset…..if all of these things can be done consistently, then an 80% success factor does not sound so high after all.

We are all incredibly complex, somewhat unpredictable creatures. Heck, sometimes we have not a clue why we feel or act a certain way. Even if we choose to behave this way, it can be difficult to consistently maintain this standard. Fatigue, stress, and confusion are just a few emotions that can betray the better angels within us all.

Once again, you see how the Principles of Communication and Positivity have a synergistic impact on the success of marriages. But the point here is that you should strive to embrace your partner emotionally when they are vulnerable.

You want them to feel safe and encourage them to share their ideas. You do not want them to become defensive. This does not mean you will ultimately agree with their ideas or requests. What it does mean is that your spouse will feel safe to discuss whatever is on their mind, without fear that it will be struck down or they will feel belittled.

If your marriage partner is experiencing a difficult time at work or a personal situation, you want there to exist a marital environment where your spouse will be secure to discuss this problem with you. Lend them your ear. Give them that hug. Show them earnest interest in their concerns..

“Hit the Refresh Button”

Another essential skill that married couples need to do much more of is learning how to quickly fix or repair a conflict situation and avoid the upset feelings from spiking.

If you and your husband or wife practice this conflict management skill consistently, the end result is a highly functioning and effective couple. Fighting or fussing over some issue is normal. Unless you are a robot, fighting with your spouse cannot be avoided. Hopefully, your relationship is mature and sound enough where fights are not commonplace. But even if that is not the case or if the two of you are exceptionally passionate people and fights occur more frequently than with the average couple, you can still learn some basic skills that will enable your marriage to continue to grow and prosper.

When a couple tells me how they should fight fair, I usually ask them, “What can we learn from professional fighters?” Whether they be boxers, wrestlers, or UFC fighters, all combatants have certain behaviors (rules) they follow.

The first rule is to avoid hitting below the belt. That just plain hurts! Any comments that are personal (as in personality based), mean spirited, ugly, or crude are prohibited. Any comments that are negative about one’s appearance is prohibited. If the couple cannot control themselves and begin fighting unfairly, then you both better take a “time out” before you cause some damage you each will regret.

But as I said, fights will happen and have you noticed that more often than not, the things you end up fighting about is usually insignificant in the scheme of things? Sometimes the fight is over something entirely stupid. But that is just one of the complex qualities of our species…we say and do stupid things at times. Sometimes the fight is a subterfuge to really discuss something under the surface. Perhaps the individual is reluctant to bring up a point and it eventually gets revealed during the fight.

Fights are often triggered by fatigue and stress. So just know that fights will happen for a score of reasons. The key point here is not just how you fight “fair”, though that is an important skill. Rather, what I wish to underscore is the aftermath of the fight.

When professional fighters are finished with their fight, they embrace and show respect and wish each other well. Research tell us that couples that learn to hit the “refresh button” and avoid carrying the upset feelings with them, such that they linger for days and days and get pulled into the next fight…..couples that understand the importance of both physically and emotionally embracing after the fight….these are the couples destined for success.

The Holy Trinity of Marriage

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I think there is a Holy Trinity when it comes to the whole business of marriage. There is the man. There is the woman. And there is the marriage “Union”.

The man and woman will fight. But they must always revere and respect that special “union” they have created….specifically the marriage. Now, you do not need to be particularly religious to understand and follow this line of logic. Just simply agree with your partner that when you fight, the end result will always end on a positive note or otherwise the relationship suffers.

And remember my lesson of fighting. Once you are in the ring and find yourself in the midst of a fight, you are both responsible. Don’t get lost in who is right or wrong, if such a thing even exists. You are both at fault because as consenting adults, you agreed to climb into the ring and start fighting with each other. So you are both wrong. You have both caused injury to the Holy Trinity of Marriage. Two wrongs never makes things right. So get that straight!

Once you understand that, then commit yourself to not completing a 3rd wrong by failing to uphold the positive spirit of your marriage. Tell each other you are wrong. Tell each other you are sorry for your role in the fight. Tell each other that “we can do better” or “we can get through this”. Turn the fight from conflict to a solution based way of communicating.

If you do these things and do them all relatively quickly, then the fight you had ceases to become injurious to the Holy Trinity of Marriage. Rather, your fight can be instructive and helpful.

Learn from the fight what is on the mind of your loved one. Perhaps it is nothing particularly serious. Possibly it is fatigue and stress that shaped itself into a fighting spirit. Whatever it is, seek to learn from it. Then hit the refresh button and hold no lasting grudge or resentment for the negative things that happened or was said during the fight. Remember, when emotions run high, logic runs low and we all say and do some really stupid things when we are upset. If you learn the value of hitting the refresh button, your marriage will be well served.

“Be a Dreamcatcher”

Couples who respect, honor, and demonstrably support their spouse’s aspirations, dreams, and important goals are what I call “Dreamcatchers”. If you look up the definition of a dreamcatcher it is described as a small hoop construction made of yarn or wire and feather and beads. It is thought to originate with the American Indian and usually artfully decorated. Once made and given to an individual, it is suppose to confer good dreams to that person.

I don’t know about you, but I love this notion of a dreamcatcher. I seriously doubt that it really works on any physically level. But as a metaphor, a Dreamcatcher is exactly what I would want couples to be for each other.

To often, when I coach couples to better their marriage, I discover they get bogged down in just their “own” dreams and aspirations. Now, there is nothing wrong about being focused on your important goals. Indeed, that is one of the 5 Synergistic Principles (i.e. becoming the best version of yourself). But I will tell you, as I have told thousands of others, you gain more in the long run if you make a SPECIAL effort to be a “dreamcatcher” for your spouse.

Help them with their aspirations. Enable them to fulfill their dream. This is the generosity of spirit we talked about earlier. Good things come to people who help others. Helping your husband or wife achieve what is really important to them is like putting a huge deposit into the marriage bank. The dividends you will gain will be beyond what you could have imagined.

Let me tell you what I did for my wife when she wanted to change jobs. For her, this move carried some risk but there was considerable upside. Now, I find myself extremely busy these days in managing my relationship websites and growing my business. There are literally many hundreds of actions items for me to perform each day and they continue to mount.

Ok, enough of my sob story! But my point is that I am exceptional taxed with far too much to do. But when I learned my wife wanted to undertake a challenging job change into a completely different industry, I made it priority #1 to support her in every way I could think of. This involved long conversations about the prospects…conference calls with others who understood the practical tactics involved in a job change…preparation for interviews…and development of special personal profiles to suit the job.

There were many things I could do to help and I did those things. But by far, the most meaningful thing I could have done to help my spouse was to give her unconditional support. That meant the world to her.

Well, to make a long story, a lot shorter, she got the job on her very first interview and successfully made the transition. But let me tell you the great part to this story. Just as I helped my wife with her aspiration to secure a new position, she seemed to take an even greater interest in the things that I do with my business. Don’t get me wrong. My wife is awesome about such things. She has always been interested in helping and supporting me when she can with my business goals. But in the process of helping her, we discovered that some of the things I do came up as “analogues”, which essentially means that she got more exposed to my work and some of the unique challenges I face and those experiences were helpful in preparing her for a job change.

As a result, she has taken an even greater interest in my business of relationship coaching. Honestly, I think it is partly due to the fact that she is so intuitive and has had considerable experience in helping other couples and individuals with their relationships. Her degree and work experiences are also a good fit. But naturally, I think she felt compelled to help me even more as she was appreciative of my sincere desire to help her.

Well, this may sound incredible, but my wife is now my business partner. Our business aspirations are one and the same. We became Dreamcatchers for each other and our aspirations have merged to become one.

“Positive Beats Negative” 

Emerging from the Principle of Positivity is this fascinating discovery that if marriage partners observe a 5 to 1 ratio of positive encounters with their spouse versus negative encounters, then the chances of a successful and fulfilling marriage is highly probable.

So how do you accomplish this? For some people, it is a natural form of their behavior. They seem perpetually happy and positive, with a generosity of spirit we can only dream about.

For others, being positive takes work. Look, I understand. It is a tough world out there. And if you are dealing with the woes of a broken relationship, it can be even tougher to lift yourself to a place where you frequently exude positive qualities. But do so. You must. Unless you forgot, the Principle of Positivity as it pertains to a successful marriage is the “long pole in the tent”. Even if it’s just primarily just “you” striving for positivity, then be the lightening rod. If you lead, your spouse is likely to follow. After all, most couples subconsciously follow what is called “mirroring”. If you behave in a certain way, consistently, then your behavior can have an influential impact on your husband or wife’s demeanor.

Think of the attitude you adopt as a choice. You can strive to be consistently positive and pull people up with you or you can flood your zone of influence and pull people around you down. Negativity is a path to toxic thoughts and outcomes on all levels. Relationship research reveals that when people dwell on the negativity it can have adverse effects on both their physical and emotional health.

Marriage Positive Theory

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Negativity promotes chaos and ugliness. Chaos theory teaches us that everything we do and every negative act we set in motion affects everything else, most often in a negative way.

Well, I am asking you to embrace positivity. Be a role model for positive behavior. This type of attitude is highly contagious, even affecting your own outlook on life in the most wonderful way. Anger, fear, frustration, resentment, hate, depression, and the other negative feelings poisons your soul like a growing cancer. Worse, it spill into all areas of your life and the landscape around you.

I am not suggesting that the occasional rain clouds will not burst upon the scene and dampen your mood or negatively impact your relationship. But learning to weather these natural occurrences are all part of the seasons of your marriage. When the tide turns against your marriage, know that this is normal. Put it behind you quickly. Seek constructive solutions and get back on the positive track.

Grabbing the Marriage Tiger by its Tail

Imagine you are walking along a trail. I really love walking in nature and as you will see below, it is one of the behaviors you should practice frequently to train yourself to become the best version of “positivity” you possible can. Well anyway, I digressed! So you are walking along this trail and a tiger jumps out. Of course this won’t happen to you, but just pretend! People will almost always act in one or two ways. This is because a certain part of the brain takes over. Chemicals come flooding through you and the fight or flight syndrome will kick in. What happens is that your field of choices of how to act and how to process the information gets very narrow. You might not see the other choices available to you like picking up a stick or rock or climbing a nearby tree. This is just the way our brains work after millions of years of evolution. The brain is programmed to shut off the other potential solutions when confronted with this negative outcome.

Well, when your are fighting within your marriage, your field of choices also become narrow in that moment. You may feel temporarily paralyzed by the flood of negative thoughts. This is normal, though it is not optimal. What I mean is that when confronted with an adverse situation, people are conditioned to give in to the survival instinct. And often, they make the wrong decisions. I am sure you have heard the saying, “blinded by rage”. Well, it is partly true. So how do you train the tiger that resides within you?

Barbara Fredrickson, psychologists from the University of North Carolina, published a landmark research paper that discusses the role of being positive and how it impacts your mental and physical health. She discussed how a positive mindset can create real value in your life.

She performed an experiment putting various groups of people into situations where they viewed positive, neutral, and negative images When later asked to complete a task, guess what happened? The people dealing with negative images were blunted in how they saw they saw the world. They had considerable difficulty in completing the exercise. Whereas the individuals who were exposed to positive images, were highly functional, coming up with numerous solutions to the task.

Clearly, positive emotions opened up these people’s minds to many possibilities. Fredrickson coined the phrase “broaden and build theory”, which she described as the person’s capacity to take the positive experiences they engaged in and turn them into new positive experiences and accomplishments in other areas of life.

So what do these behaviors look like within a marriage? I think we all have a pretty good idea. But if I was to build a template of habits you should strive for it would look like this:

  • Frequently express appreciation
  • Smile and laugh a lot and when you are finished, do it some more (releases endorphins which are brain chemicals that lead to pleasurable feelings)
  • Praise your husband or wife
  • Plan fun outings so you can express appreciation, smile, laugh, and praise
  • Share affection
  • Flirt
  • Sing and dance
  • Hug, kiss, and touch gently
  • Surprise with delight
  • Walk with nature. Listen to the wind, the birds, and smell the freshness of the air
  • Meditation
  • Write about positive experiences
  • Play and go on adventures

The Legend of the Thorn Bird

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I am going to tell you something that few relationship experts will ever talk about. My jaw drops when I read about some of the claims that other relationship gurus make about their teachings and methods. I particularly find it bordering on the ridiculous when certain individuals claim these super high success ratios, such as 90% or higher.

Though, I suppose it depends on what you are measuring, right! I could say I have a 100% success ratio because if you just try out everything I recommend, it will certainly help you to some degree.

Of course, to get access to some of these relationship guru’s marvelous products, you have to pay $400, $500, or often much more. If you get individualized personal coaching or couples therapy, the costs can run even higher as the sessions mount. Often, you may eventually invest thousands of dollars trying to get your marriage back on track.

Forgive me for being skeptical. But I really get upset when I see these kind of claims. I have purchased some of these products and they vary from below average content to very solid advice in my humble opinion. And I do not offer my opinion blindly without practical experience in this field.

My experience is that individuals and couples who are seeking help are more often than not in a vulnerable place. Sometimes, they fall prey to these slickly written sales pages that promise them the moon.

Really, give me a break, does anyone really believe that there exists a marriage recovery system that is so highly effective (e.g. 90%+ success rate) that couples all over are dancing in the aisles ready to renew their vows. Frankly, I doubt it. Relationships are extremely complicated and ideally both parties need to be properly motivated just for starters. Then the marriage recovery system needs to be pragmatic, focused and grounded in sound practice.

So let me be one of the few relationship recovery experts to tell you that while I genuinely feel my advice has great potential to make a meaningful difference in your marriage, I would be delusional to suggest that it will always absolutely save your marriage.

It is hard enough for us human beings to understand and control every aspect of “love” and human behavior, so for anyone to say they have a near foolproof marriage recovery system…well as they say in the South..they are probably not the sharpest tool in the shed.

So let me tell you something else that most other relationship coaches will not. Some marriages are dysfunctional and will not work.

Now, if you are married, I want you to commit yourself to everything you can do to make your marriage successful. I believe you and your partner need to take extraordinary steps to improve the marriage. The words “can’t” or “won’t” should be stricken from your marriage vocabulary. And remember, your first, second, and third attempts to make things right…to make things better between the two of you may not succeed. But if everyone quit on their marriage after encountering rough waters, then failure rates would be even higher.

Nevertheless, once in awhile, despite extraordinary efforts to turn things around, a marriage may prove to be detrimental for both people.

There is a story that comes from a Celtic legend that helps us understanding how dysfunctional marriages can wound one or both of partners, pulling them down…way down into an abyss.

According to this story, there is a very special species of bird called the Thorn Bird. This bird is most beautiful and filled with love and song. The Thorn Bird is driven to find a thorn tree, upon which this lovely bird nestles into what it believes is a place of peace and sanctuary. Both the Thorn Bird and the Thorn Tree are magnificent examples of nature.

As times goes by, the Thorn Bird from its perch begins to slowly suffer from the nicks and pricks of the Tree’s thorns. As the Thorn Tree inflicts pain, the tree also suffers as it becomes scarred and broken in places. Neither the bird or tree meant to injure the other, but with the passage of time, it becomes evident that neither bird or tree are suited for each other.

Then the Thorn Bird sings the most beautiful song ever heard in the lands while it is suffering from the wounds of the thorns, finally realizing that if it was to achieve its own inner beauty as well as support the magnificence of the tree, it would need to fly away so to recover from its wounds and become renewed.

In the original Celtic version of the story, the bird chooses not to depart and dies singing while impaled by the thorns. Well….I don’t really like that ending. I always believe there are options for most everything in our lives.

The lesson of the Thorn Bird is that despite our best intentions, even after suffering great pain, we may need to lift ourselves up and away in order to heal and become the best version of ourselves.

Sometimes this happens in the form of a separation or formal Time Out. It is possible, that with time, even a prickly tree can lose its thorns. I will discuss this concept in much greater detail in future posts. And once in awhile, the marriage should end to the benefit of both partners. That is a painful process too, but sometimes it is necessary.

My hope is that by coming here to My Marriage Helper, you are seeking not to end a marriage, but to succeed with your Union. I am reminded by what Mark Twain said about being married:

“To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with”.