If you are getting a divorce…how do you tell the kids?

Child looks at the swearing parentsWe work really hard with our couples at PO2 and Engage With Love to avoid divorce, but sometimes it still happens.  Once that decision is made, the next step couples face is how and when to tell the kids.  This isn’t a pleasant task and it is often handled badly. Especially when a couple is hostile toward each other.  It’s easy to let emotions take over common sense and things are blurted out in front of the kids that can cause serious psychological distress to them.

It grieves me when I see parents use their kids in power plays to manipulate their spouse or hurt them further. It downright angers me when I know parents are trying to turn their children against the other spouse by being critical or blaming the other parent for the marriage ending.  But the situation that always leaves me shaking my head is when a parent gives their child too much detail or shares things the child cannot process.  I had a parent once who told his daughter her mother was having an affair and was texting her lover thousands of times a month.  Then he showed her the phone bill as proof.  This child was 12 years old!  Your children do not have a mental or emotional file for this kind of information.  Avoid the temptation to share details with your child.

Even if you cannot stand the sight of your spouse, now is the time to put on the big girl and big boy pants and play nice.  Not to make life easier for your spouse but to help your children deal with one of the most painful events they will ever experience.   Here are some things to consider if this is ever a conversation that needs to happen in your family.

  1. Talk to the kids with both adults present.  It is critical that you and your spouse handle this conversation together.  Come up with a game plan ahead of time and determine when the talk will take place, what will be said, and who will say what.  Kids need to see that even though their parents may be thinking about splitting up, they can still be a team and work well together when needed.  It gives them stability when everything else seems to be falling apart.
  2. Be honest.  Kids are very perceptive.  In fact, if your marriage is rocky, they have probably already picked up on this.  Make sure what you tell your kids and the length of the conversation is age appropriate.  By no means do kids need to know all the details of their parents’ relationship but they do need some information so they know how to adjust to the new family dynamics.  Here’s an example of how you can start this conversation: “Kids, your mom/dad and I would like to talk to you about something.  You’ve probably noticed that we’ve had a hard time getting along lately.  That can happen for adults too…just like how you guys sometimes have a hard time getting along.  We’ve tried to find ways to get along better but we’ve decided that the best thing for us is to live in separate homes.  Even though things will change in how our family looks, your mom/dad and I will still always be here for you guys to help with homework and everything else you need. “
  3. Reinforce the fact that the issues in the marriage are not the kids’ fault.  Often kids will internalize what is happening with their parents and assume they have done something wrong.  They’ll think if maybe they had been a better kid or listened more, their parents would stay together.  Make sure you reiterate this is not true.
  4. Try to keep things as consistent as possible.  The news of a separation/divorce is devastating enough for kids.  During this time, it’s best to try to minimize any other changes in their lives if possible.  Try to keep their routine as similar as possible to what it was before the news of the separation.  This allows your kids some comfort of knowing that even though their family unit is changing, there is still some consistency in their lives.
  5. Keep the peace in front of the kids.  Don’t argue with your spouse in front of the kids – not even on the phone.  And don’t bad mouth the other parent in front of the kids either.  When this occurs, it makes kids feel they have to choose sides.  Keep the issues you have with your spouse between you and your partner.
  6. Be mindful of the ways your kids may respond to this news.  It’s normal for kids to be angry, cry, withdraw, or get depressed when they hear their parents are separating/divorcing.  If these behaviors go on for more than a few months, they may need some additional help processing how they are feeling about the situation.  Contact a local therapist and make an appointment to discuss any concerns you may have.  Also keep in mind this can be a time when kids start acting out.  They may realize the only time their parents get along is when they are discussing the discipline/behavior issues of the child.  Often children are willing to make themselves the scapegoat in order to see their parents get along about something.

You may have already grieved the ending of your marriage but remember, it’s a major loss for your kids too.  For more tips on how to handle these types of delicate conversations with your kids, give us a call at Power of Two Counseling in Richardson, Texas.  We can work with the entire family as a unit or see the kids separately and help them come to terms with the changes in their family.  Remember!  You can choose not to stay married but you will always be co-parenting and co-grandparenting.  Ending your marriage with dignity and respect is what will help your kids adjust to their new lives.

Kim Signature

5 Reasons You Should Fight For Your Marriage

It is easy to lose hope when you are fighting for your marriage.

Your spouse is telling you he/she isn’t in love with you.  They are clear in stating their desire for divorce or separation.  Your emotions are on a roller coaster and you have not seen any signs of softening in your spouse.  It is completely normal to lose focus and momentum.  You may even have family and friends who think you should walk away.  But there are a few things you should know before you make that permanent decision.

  1. Your spouse is also feeling hopeless.  He/she is viewing everything from a very negative lens.  But your spouse is most likely making a major decision based on emotions and feelings.  The problem with this is that feelings and emotions change…and they can change quickly. When you married, you both had hope and positive feelings.  Over time, hope was lost and feelings changed.  What your spouse doesn’t realize or believe is that their feelings can change again.  But it’s true!  I know because I lived it.  I was once in a place where I thought I would never again feel love and passion for my husband.  Feelings change depending on our environment and that is good news for you because you do many things to change the environment.
  2. Your spouse is trying to convince you to quit because he/she is tired of the struggling.  They want you to make this easy and you may be tempted to quit just so you too can get some relief.  But you need to know that you are going to have a really difficult year whether you divorce or whether you end up working it out.  If you divorce, you have to grieve all that was lost.  You have to start over and make financial adjustments.  You may have to share custody and help your children grieve the loss of their family unit.  You have to learn to be alone again.  On the other hand, if you stay, you have to continue this battle and stay focused on your goal.  You have to live in a situation that feels awkward and uncomfortable as you try and get your spouse re-engaged.  You have to manage your anxiety and deal with hurtful things your spouse is doing. There is no immediate relief.  Divorce seems the easy way out, but it isn’t.  It’s the beginning of a long period of grief, loneliness, fear and doubt.
  3. Don’t let anyone fool you…divorce is devastating with much collateral damage.  It affects everyone including your kids, your future grandchildren, your parents, your in-laws and friends.  There are lots of articles and books trying to convince you that divorce isn’t as bad as you fear it will be.  There are even therapists who will minimize the damage but more often than not…this is more about their personal situation than about yours.  Divorce is the death of a family unit and it is traumatic even to adult children.  It takes a psychological toll on you as well.
  4. The statistics can’t be ignored.  Your first marriage has a 50% survival rate.  Second marriages only have a 25% chance of making it.  Third marriages even less.  It seems logical to believe we would learn something from the first mistake and have higher chances of success with each attempt.  But marriage is an emotional choice for most people and our emotions and feelings change.  You increase your odds for happiness by learning and growing in THIS marriage.  A loving relationship is often more about learning how to love the one we are with than finding someone we can love.  People who stay married rely more on their commitment than their feelings.
  5. You may be trying to convince yourself you would be happier alone but that usually isn’t true.  I have no doubt you would be happier in a relationship where there was less stress and conflict but you were made to crave connection.  That’s why you married in the first place.  You want someone to grow old with and feel close to.  You want someone who knows your flaws yet loves you anyway.  You feel safe with that kind of intimacy.  When you feel safe and secure in your relationship, you are physically and emotionally healthier than when you are alone. Two really is better than one.

Marriage is hard because it requires us to think and act differently than we have done in any prior relationship. You absolutely must put more into your marriage than you put into anything else or your marriage will suffer.  You may have jobs, kids, friends and all of those require a vast amount of energy and time.  But to have the relationship you crave and that will last for a lifetime, you have to put your spouse above everything else. Now may be a good time to figure out what adjustments you need to make so that your marriage takes priority.

Use this time to work on your own issues so you bring your best self to the marriage. Even more important than time and energy is vulnerability.  Your spouse won’t feel loved if you aren’t able to express yourself in a way that allows your spouse to feel connected to you.  Our counselors are trained to help you do that.  It may be the most important investment you make.  Even if your marriage doesn’t survive, you need to make sure you don’t find yourself in this same situation again.  Let us show you how a better YOU means a better marriage.  Call us at 972-441-4432.

Has Your Spouse Said They Never Really Loved You?

Has your spouse told you he/she never really loved you?  Have you heard him/her tell you they feel they settled for something less when they got married or they felt pressure to marry when they shouldn’t have?

These are certainly harsh and scary words to hear from the person with whom you expected to be married to forever.  You are probably confused and hurt.  But it doesn’t necessarily mean the marriage is over.  It doesn’t even mean your spouse doesn’t love you and it certainly doesn’t mean they never did.  Let me explain.

When someone has been unhappy for months or years in a relationship, the lens in which they view the relationship and their partner gets distorted.  Research shows that even our memories change.  When your spouse tells you they never loved you, they believe it.  But it doesn’t mean it is true. It is rare for someone to marry without feeling love for the other person.  They may have had doubts or fears (which is normal) but they did feel love in the beginning.  Dr. John Gottman calls this phenomenon, Negative Sentiment Override.  Eventually, the unhappy person can’t see or acknowledge anything positive about the relationship.  Eventually they are convinced they never loved enough or in the correct way.

I experienced this with my house.  My husband and I bought what we thought was our dream house.  From the very first day we moved in, our dream house proved to be a nightmare.  Four years later I hated the house and I couldn’t remember what I thought was so special or charming about it. Friends would tell me what a great house it was but all I could see were the problems.  I actually still live in the house and I still struggle with a love/hate relationship.  It’s getting better every day but at least now I can remember what first attracted me to the house.  I’m in the process of moving away from Negative Sentiment Override.

When your spouse says they never loved you or they settled for less when they married you, they are expressing months or years of unhappiness and feelings of hopelessness.  It is a protection mechanism that allows them to begin to disengage without feeling too much guilt.  Disengaging gives them hope they will be happy again.

Part of what we do at Power of Two Counseling and Engage With Love is help you begin to make yourself emotionally attractive to your spouse again.  Until this happens, your spouse will not see hope the relationship can be healed or believe they can be happy with you.  Hope is the key here!  It is likely you have made promises to change things in the past and have not been able to sustain those changes.  Each time you reverted back to old behaviors, your spouse lost hope and incentive to stay in the marriage.  Your actions now are way more important than your words.  That’s why it is so important to start changing your behavior now!

I know you must be worried that you have waited too long and it is too late to save your marriage.  But I promise you it doesn’t have to be too late.  Your spouse may be telling you it is hopeless but that’s because they have lost sight of what the relationship used to be and what it can be again.  Let us help you figure out what your next step needs to be.  We specialize in these situations and we know how to help you get your spouse re-engaged.   Give us a call at 972-441-4432 and let us schedule a free 15 minute consultation.  What you have been doing hasn’t been working.  Unless you do something differently, you are going to lose your marriage.  It is time to try something new.

Play This Game and Design Your Ideal Mate – Now This Is Cool!

Do you have a partner with a habit or flaw you’d like to eliminate, tweak or fix? Let’s play a game about that.

Part One

You can now design your ideal mate. Pick from any of the traits described below and even add a lot more. Go wild. Create a list of all the positive traits you wish for in your mate.

Your dream partner can now be assembled like ordering a new car.

It might be easiest to print this list so you can circle your favorites and add others.

  • Intelligent
  • Sensitive
  • Interesting
  • Fun loving
  • Wants as many kids as I do
  • Great parent
  • Has many exciting interests
  • Attractive
  • Values good health
  • Enjoys their work
  • Likes animals
  • Honest
  • Loves me for who I am
  • Great sense of humor
  • Enjoys sex about as often as I do
  • Loves taking care of others
  • Gives me all the space I want when I want it
  • Sparkling conversationalist
  • Loves cooking for me
  • Enjoys the same foods, movies, music and sports
  • Manages money well and is a great investor
  • Extroverted and fun in social situations
  • Introverted and likes quiet, serene romantic settings
  • Likes to exercise
  • Great travel companion
  • Has the same sense of adventure
  • Loves what they do professionally and the sky is the limit
  • Knows just how much to tease me
  • Trustworthy
  • Wants to talk when I do
  • Is interested in my day if I want to talk about it
  • Is willing to go to therapy (just in case)

Wow, what an ideal partner. And he or she is all yours. Just keep reading.

Part Two

Now that you have described your dream partner, let’s do part two. For every four positive traits, you now need to include one irritant. Because we are all flawed creatures, we have to balance the picture.

Look at the list below and choose one characteristic for every four on your original list. What are you willing to live with in order to have all those juicy positives? In this scenario, the negatives are fixed and pretty permanent.
Remember the ratio is 4:1. Count your list of positive traits and divide by 4 to see how many traits you need to select from the list below.

  • Insecure
  • Bi-polar
  • Narcissistic
  • Passive aggressive
  • Conflict avoidant
  • Hairy back
  • Lazy
  • Not interested in sex when I am
  • Addicted to TV or video games
  • Doesn’t want the same number of kids I do
  • Poor kisser
  • Loves eating junk foods
  • Messy
  • Forgets birthdays and anniversaries
  • Unmotivated
  • Stingy
  • Jealous
  • Insecure
  • Really embarrassing fashion style
  • Nags
  • Chews with mouth open
  • Snores loud enough to scare small animals
  • No sense of humor
  • Watches way too much T.V
  • Rarely expresses emotions
  • Trapped in go nowhere job and doesn’t mind it
  • Spends way over the budget
  • Interrupts and doesn’t listen well
  • Swears a lot
  • Tendency toward chronic depression
  • Too much overweight or underweight
  • No common activities
  • Has unpleasant friends
  • Bad health

There you have it – a real live human being who is complex, annoying, loving, and full of contradictions.

Make a Valentine’s Day Commitment. For the day before, the day of and the day after, experiment with accepting your partner’s irritating traits. Increase your positive recognition of your partner’s pluses and overlook their negatives.

Valentine’s Day has become way too commercial. Isn’t this better than any box of candy?

Also, do your best to evaluate yourself against these lists and look at the ratio you bring to your relationship. Do you see the same plusses and minuses as your partner sees in you?

If you do part three, congratulations. Please share any discoveries or how hard it is to resist blaming and criticizing for those 3 days.

We look forward to reading your results on the blog!

And Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

*This game was reproduced from a blog post for The Couples Institute at http://www.couplesinstitute.com

Check Out Our New International Coaching Center!

Power of Two has been working hard to save marriages in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  Now, with Engage With Love, we are working with couples all over the world.  We are now helping couples in the US, England, Canada, Ireland and Africa to name a few.

Check out our new website at EngageWithLove.com.  You will find many great resources that are FREE!  Next week we will launch our first product for sale to the public.

We are so excited to be working with clients who want their marriages to work…even if their spouses aren’t working for the same goal….yet!  It’s our specialty.

We want to change the way the world views love and marriage!

Valentine’s Day: We Got You Covered!

Valentine’s Day is four days away.  Are you ready?  Have you ordered flowers or chocolate?  Made dinner reservations?  Bought a card?  There can be a lot of pressure to make the day special.  Some years I have gone all out and some years have passed with barely a whisper of notice.  Life gets busy and I admit it, some years it has seemed more of a burden than a blessing.  If you are short of ideas for showing your valentine you have put an effort into expressing your love, check out www.debrands.com.  Order the truffles and you will thank me later.  I promise!  These chocolates are nothing short of amazing.  Go ahead…order your chocolate and put in a rush delivery if necessary. They are soooo worth it.  Then come back and lets talk about love languages.  Because they are important.  Really, really important…in a save  your marriage kind of way important.  But you have to order your chocolate first…so go!

Ok…so now that we have Valentine’s Day taken care of….how wonderful would it be if you and your spouse felt loved and appreciated every day?  Is that even possible?  It is if you know each other’s love language.

Just like written languages, there are different types of love languages. The idea of love languages was pioneered by Dr. Gary Chapman.  Through his extensive research, he discovered there are 5 main love languages and everyone may resonate with most of them but we usually have one or two he considers primary…meaning we feel most connected or loved by someone when they speak to us in that language.  This is such a powerful resource, I usually request all of my clients to figure out which is their primary language and which is their partner’s.

Here are the 5 love languages:

1)     Quality Time – Watching the Super Bowl doesn’t count unless you are more interested in your spouse than who is playing.  This is not just time, but quality time.  This includes meaningful conversation and emotional connection.

2)     Acts of Service – Ever heard foreplay begins in the kitchen?  Or anywhere else you show your spouse you want to make their life easier…like washing the dishes, putting away the clothes, or taking out the trash.

3)     Physical Touch – Don’t get too excited!  This can be non-sexual touch as well.  In fact, for women, you can bet the non-sexual touch is way more impactful than sexual touch.  Trust me.  I know these things.

4)     Words of Affirmation –Positive words of encouragement and validation.  Who doesn’t like to hear how wonderful they are?

5)     Gifts – Presents that can be as large as a new car or as small as a cup of Starbucks. How much you spend isn’t as important as the time and effort you spend in choosing the right gift. Knowing your spouse is thinking of you and going out of their way to show you is nothing short of sexy.  Make sure the gift is for your spouse…not for you.  In case I have to spell it out….men, don’t buy your wife lingerie unless you know she wants it. Women, buying yourself sexy lingerie almost always counts as a thoughtful gift for your husband.

So why does it matter if you know your spouse’s love language?  We have a tendency to give love in the same we want to receive it.  Which is why men buy their wives sexy lingerie!  But oftentimes, our best intentions miss the mark and this can cause hurt feelings or worse, emotional disconnect.

My husband’s love language is acts of service.  Mine happens to be gifts.  For years, my husband would cook dinner for me and then clean up the kitchen without being asked.  He did this to show me he loved me, but I would often tell him he wasn’t romantic because he never sent me flowers or bought me cards. On the other hand, I would be out shopping and find things I thought he would love.  One day I came home with a couple of shirts and he didn’t seem very excited about having new clothes.  I didn’t understand this because I have impeccable taste in men’s clothes.  Really.  I do.  Just like chocolate!  My husband finally told me one day he preferred to do his own shopping.  I remember the comment hurt my feelings.  In fact, I kind of wanted to return everything I ever bought him so he would have to go to work in his underwear.  But thankfully, I was more mature than that.  I just returned the shirts and bought paper plates instead.  I hate doing the dishes! My husband and I were both showing our love for the other but not in the language we understood best. It can cause frustration and hurt feelings if you put yourself out there and your partner doesn’t recognize your bid for their attention.

Do you know what your love language is?  If not, take this simple test to find out and have your partner take it as well. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

Now you have a road map for showing your spouse how you feel about them in a language they understand.  Once you have this figured out, your spouse will feel loved and appreciated – every day of the year – not just on Valentine’s Day!

BTW…If you find out your spouse doesn’t appreciate gifts…send me your truffles!  I will surely love you forever!

If you want to know more about how to make your partner feel loved, call us at 972-441-4432.  At Engage With Love and Power of Two, we have more ideas that will keep your love strong.

I Love You But…Getting Friend Zoned In Your Marriage

I love you but I’m not IN love with you.  I doubt there is a marriage counselor anywhere who hasn’t heard the “I love you but…” statement more times than they could count.  Some days I think it is epidemic.  In my practice, I find more women come in with this complaint than men, but there have been several men as well.  It saddens me because I can tell from their body language they care for each other.  They are sitting close or facing each other.  The one who says it doesn’t want to hurt his/her spouse so this person is reluctant to explain why.  The spouse is often devastated and can’t seem to get any answers to the questions of why or how or when.  It is really important to see each spouse alone so I can actually find out what is going on.  The “I love you but…” spouse usually isn’t going to be openly honest until I do.

I’d like to tell you there is a quick and easy fix for this situation but it is a tough one to deal with…for both partners and often for the counselor as well. I will tell you that I have found in my experience it usually boils down to one thing…passion.

Now that sounds simple enough.  But there are many factors that influence desire and most people aren’t aware of them.  Some of you are very practical in your approach to love and marriage.  You made a commitment and as long as there isn’t a lot of pain or abuse, you will see that commitment to the end.  You may not have even considered asking yourself whether you are happy or fulfilled.  But some of you are deep feelers.  You need to feel emotionally connected in a very intimate way and when that is lacking, you question whether or not the marriage is working.  Practical people often find themselves linked with feelers and that is the perfect mix for trouble in the bedroom.

If you or your spouse is feeling the “I love you but…” phenomenon, you need to figure out the root of the problem.  Here are just a few possible scenarios for you to consider as a place to start.

  1. The most common reason I’ve found for this situation is lack of emotional intimacy.  That is why we preach so heavily at PO2 for couples to get in the habit of spending time together talking and connecting.  I simply cannot emphasize the importance enough.  The problem with this one is that the partner who is inattentive, unobservant or unavailable is usually not aware they are leaving their spouse feeling rejected and alone.  It’s hard to explain to your spouse when you feel you are a low priority.  You may say you feel lonely or unappreciated.  You may express your feelings as complaints for more quality time.  This may change your spouse’s behavior for a short period of time, but it likely won’t bring about permanent results.  This can leave you feeling hopeless.  The friendship dies.  Eventually, you will stop having romantic feelings for your spouse.  Too much of this and desire for your mate will be gone completely.  By the time some of these couples come to counseling, passion has been missing for so long they are convinced they will never be able to find that desire again or they aren’t sure they want to try.  Check out this article for a more detailed explanation of just how this can happen in a marriage.
  2. Another reason for passion to die in a marriage is a simple fix but one no one wants to talk about.  When one of partners is not a good lover.  I love working with these couples because it is usually a fairly easy fix…all things considered.  There are some wonderful books and resources available to help you become an expert in the art of lovemaking.  Too many people remain silent because they are embarrassed or afraid to hurt their partner’s ego.  Face it!  Most of us aren’t taught how to be good lovers.  But trust me, it is worth the effort to learn!  A few sessions with the right therapist can completely rock your world in this regard.
  3. Pornography is another romance killer.  Viewing porn is not harmless and it is never healthy.  Some couples have been encouraged to view porn together to spice things up.  It may give the desired results for a brief period of time, but I’ve never seen it be a healthy activity for any marriage.  I’ve only seen it damage relationships.  Porn can kill a man’s desire for his wife.  Some women are so devastated when they find their husbands have viewed porn, they actually consider divorce.  It is addictive and like any addiction, it will require more exposure to more graphic images to get the desired results.  This isn’t only a warning for men.  Women view porn as well.  Romance novels (what I call female porn) can create a delusional desire for something that cannot exist in the real world.  My advice…stay away from either one.
  4. Losing respect for your spouse can kill your sex drive quite efficiently.  Women lose respect for men who are conflict-avoidant.  Some men are not cut out for confrontation.  They would rather remain silent than cause a problem.  But if these men are married to strong, independent women, it can be a problem that affects bedroom activity.  A woman may view a conflict-avoidant husband as weak and this is so “not sexy”.  If this your situation, don’t feel hopeless!  There are many ways to change this dynamic.
  5. Confusing limerence with lasting love.  Limerence is the thrill of a new relationship.  Passion peaks to an all time high.  You are obsessed with spending time together and you daydream or fantasize when you are apart.  Limerence is better than any drug and it feels really good.  But when it is confused with love…look out.  You cannot sustain limerence with anyone.  The expiration date on those intense passions is anywhere from 6 months to 3 years with the average being 18 months.  It is Fool’s Gold.

The troublesome thing about the “I love you but…” is that passion isn’t sustainable without ceasing in any relationship.  Over time, we all go through peaks and valleys with respect to our desire.  A marriage consists of “I love you” and “I’m in love with you” but often not together.  Honestly, if I had to choose between a passionate relationship and living with my best friend…I’d choose my best friend every time.  After being married almost 25 years, I can tell I have weathered many threats to passion in my own marriage.  The key to surviving is staying put, evaluating the threat and working to remove it.  Over and over again.

At Power of Two, we believe marriage is a sacred covenant.  We are saving marriages!  If you feel your marriage could use a new perspective, call us.  We would love to work with you.

Merry Christmas!

christmas All of you have heard how commercialized Christmas has become. You’ve read how to de-stress during the holidays. You have been encouraged to spend more by the retailers and spend less by those with common sense.  You’ve been told to keep “Christ” in Christmas. Whatever the merriest Christmas looks like for you…that is what I wish you now.

But I also wish you JOY this season.  I’ve had my best moments getting ready for the big moments. You can’t plan for joy. You have to take advantage of the joy where and when you find it. It usually happens when I least expect it but have the good fortune to recognize it and the good sense to savor it.

So this year, I wish all of you a Christmas filled with JOY.   I hope you can worry less, love more and slow down so you won’t miss the moments that could one day define your best life.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

Is Your Relationship In Trouble? Take The Quiz To Find Out!

New Years!  It’s almost that time of year again when we reflect back on the past year and resolve to make changes for the coming new year. Many of us will commit (again) to losing weight.  There is something about a new year that makes us feel hopeful we can change bad habits and begin new patterns of behavior.  The diet and fitness industry love the month of January.  Their enrollments skyrocket as people aspire to make positive changes in their lives.   New Year’s resolutions are almost cliche….but only almost.  It is difficult to fight the allure of improving ourselves.  Who doesn’t want to wear their skinny clothes?  Who wouldn’t love to be debt free once and for all?  These are all good goals worthy of our time and attention.  But this year, I want to ask you to dive a little deeper.  I want you to evaluate what should be the most important relationship in your life…your marriage. Is your marriage healthy?  Is it strong enough to endure the ups and downs it will face this year?  Have you and your spouse put time into affair-proofing your marriage so it isn’t vulnerable to an outsider’s attention?

Relationships take continual effort to sustain.  Two people who commit to a lifetime of love and fidelity at one point in time, must be very proactive to protect the relationship they have invested so much in.  It’s a lot like your physical fitness.  Getting fit and healthy isn’t a one time event.  It has to be maintained daily and reinforced with healthy habits.  Otherwise, you lose whatever progress you made.   You must make conscious decisions to do what is best for your marriage, just like you have to decide what food is best to put in your bodies.

At PO2, we have become experts in helping couples when one wants a divorce and the other does not.  It is often difficult work that can take months before the partner who wants out gets re-invested in the marriage.  Each time I work with a couple like this, I can’t help but think how much easier this would be if they only came to see me earlier…before things got so bad that one spouse declared they wanted a divorce.  In every single case, the partner who wants to save the marriage tells me they wish they had taken the signs the marriage was in trouble more seriously.  They are now desperate for my help and tell me they don’t want to lose the most important person in their life.  But their spouse is so angry at this point, because they have tried for months or years to get their partner’s attention they fight against even the idea of saving the marriage.  For them….it’s over and they say “too little too late”.  We have a lot of success with couples like this, but our success rate, unfortunately isn’t 100%.  Sometimes it just isn’t possible to save a marriage when they’ve waited so long to reach out to us for help that one of them completely disconnects. It breaks my heart when that happens.  So part of my mission is to get couples in counseling much much sooner.  Before there is too much damage to repair.

So how do you know if your marriage really is in trouble or if it’s something you can ignore?  I’ve put together a brief quiz that will let you know if it is time to move your marriage to the top of your New Year’s Resolution list this January.

TRUE OR FALSE

1.  You or your spouse is often irritable with no explanation.

2.  You are fighting more frequently and making fewer repairs afterwards.

3.  You are going weeks or months without sex.

4.  You notice there is more distance.  Your spouse seems less approachable and less available to you.

5.  Your home is no longer a refuge.

6.  There seems to be a building resentment between the two of you but neither of you are able to effectively address the issue.

7.  There is less non-sexual physical touch such as holding hands, cuddling, back rubs, etc.

8.  There are topics or issues you cannot discuss without an argument.

9.  Your spouse has told you he/she is unhappy in the relationship.

10.  Your spouse has a relationship with a friend or co-worker that makes you feel uneasy and he/she disregards your concern.

If you answered true to two of these questions, it’s time to come in and explore what’s going on in the relationship.  You might only need a handful of sessions to help you get things back on track quickly.

If you answered true to three or more questions, your relationship is seriously stressed and it is time to pay attention!  Don’t wait for things to improve or get better on their own. Chances are they won’t get better without some kind of intervention.  Why chance it?

Did you know…the average attorney costs $300-$400 to end a marriage.  The average counselor costs $100-$175 to save a marriage.  The average divorce in this country costs $18,000.  The average couple spends $1,800 at PO2 to strengthen their marriage.  Where do you want to invest your money?

At PO2 we are the relationship experts!  We specialize in helping couples.  It is what we do best.  If you think it may be time to call in the calvary, give us a call at 972-441-4432.  We want to help.

How To Have A Difficult Conversation Without Fighting

Do you feel like every time you bring something up with your spouse it turns into an argument?  It may even be something simple but before you know it, you are both feeling defensive and one or both of you is storming out of the room.  You are both feeling angry and wounded by all the past issues that just got thrown into the conversation and once again you commit to saying nothing at all as opposed to dealing with the fights anymore.  This is a very typical pattern in marriages and often, we have seen this pattern of communicating modeled for us in other relationships.  Perhaps this is how your parents discussed issues or maybe this is even how you talked to your siblings growing up.  Regardless of where this habit comes from, it’s critical to learn a new way of communicating with your partner.

One of the most helpful things to do is called “soft start-up” which is a method of bringing up issues designed by Dr. John Gottman.  Dr. Gottman points out that the first three minutes of any conversation determines how the rest of the interaction goes.  Once a conversation goes off rails, it is nearly impossible to right it again.  That’s why it is imperative you begin difficult conversations gently. For example, let’s assume your mother-in-law is coming to visit for the holidays.  You have never been able to get along and you are really dreading her visit.  She has asked to stay two weeks and you know you will never endure her for that long without screaming.  You want to discuss this with your spouse but every time you’ve tried in the past it has led to a knockdown, drag out fight.  Below are two ways you can talk to your spouse about this problem. Which is more likely to lead to a productive conversation?

a)     “You know your mother absolutely hates me.  She is the most annoying, self-centered person I have ever met.  She is a lousy excuse for a mother and if she is staying for two weeks then you better believe I won’t be – I’ll go out of town for work or something but no way am I staying in the same house with that witch for so long.”

b)     “Honey, you know your mother and I sometimes have a hard time getting along.  I know you are really looking forward to her visit and I think I would have a better chance at enjoying her time with us if she wasn’t staying quite that long.  Do you think a week-long visit would be good enough?  I’m afraid if the visit is much longer she and I may have a hard time enjoying each other’s company.  What do you think?”

In both scenarios you are able to get the same point across which is: you would prefer your mother-in-law come for a shorter visit.  In the first example, no filters are used and more than likely your spouse is going to feel incredibly defensive and protective of his/her mother.   Instead of your spouse being able to understand your feelings, you will become the bad guy and the conversation will likely spiral downward into an argument.  The second example utilizes “soft start-up”.  You convey your point in a calm and gentle manner.  It is much more likely that the second statement will be met with understanding by your spouse because he/she will not feel the need to jump to their mother’s defense.

Soft start-up gets much easier if you remember some basic rules.

  1. Keep it simple. State the issue calmly and briefly.  Going on and on about it will annoy your partner.
  2. Don’t be critical.  You can state the situation and how you feel about it without attacking someone’s personality or character.
  3. Keep it positive.  Instead of saying you don’t want your mother-in-law to come at all, you are offering a compromise that focuses on something positive…that you want to enjoy the visit more as well.
  4. Describe, don’t judge. Instead of accusing or blaming, simply describe what you see happening. Your observation is that you and your mother-in-law don’t always get along.  You aren’t blaming anyone.  You are stating the problem without judgment.
  5. Talk clearly about what you need. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. Be direct and say what you need. Compromise is your friend!
  6. Be polite. Politeness goes a long way in a relationship. And, it’s catching. Please and thank you are powerful words.

    Go ahead…give it a shot.  Try utilizing “soft start-up” this week with your spouse and see if this changes the tone of your conversations.  If you and your partner are stuck and fighting over the same issues, call us at Power of Two Counseling.  We can help you navigate through the conflict so everyone wins!

By Lauren Guenther