Category Archives for "Communication"

Oct 23

Put Your Cell Phone Away During Date Night!

By Dustin | Communication

Put Your Cell Phone AWAY During DATE NIGHT (1)Cell phones have changed the way we communicate with our friends and family.

While this technology can help us stay connected more than ever, it can also hurt our relationships if we spend too much time looking at a screen instead of our partner.

To keep your relationships going strong, keep these cell phone etiquette tips in mind when you’re conversing with your partner.

Put Your Cell Phone Away During Date Night

Whenever you’re out on a date with your partner you should put your cell phone away.

Not just sitting off to the side of the table, but completely away in your purse or pocket. A study completed by psychologists at the University of Essex showed that even having a cell phone in view but not in use disrupts important conversations and lowers relationship quality.

Researchers put a cell phone or a notebook on a table and asked study participants to discuss certain topics with each other.

The group that had the cell phone said they felt that trust and empathy with their partner was lower during their conversation.

While the phone never vibrated or rang, and most participants had to be prompted to remember that it was there, its presence still affected the conversation quality.

Having your cell phone out during a date basically signals that the conversation you’re having with your partner isn’t important enough for your full concentration.

Don’t Have Important Conversations Through Text

Even though it may seem easier to have important conversations through a text message, you shouldn’t use that screen as a shield.

It’s impossible to tell mood or tone through a text, which opens up the possibility of a misunderstanding.

And don’t carry on a text conversation with another person while you and your partner are talking.

Send a Romantic Message

Of course, cell phones aren’t something that will completely ruin every relationship. They’re still a great communication tool.

You can use your cell phone to be alluring while you’re away from your partner. Send him an exciting text or leave her a romantic voicemail.

Or, if someone is out of town, use FaceTime or Skype to still see each other.

There are many new smartphones that have video chat capabilities. But you don’t have to spend fortunes on a new smartphone, you can get a great deal on a phone with the same capabilities such as the Galaxy S5 from carriers like T-Mobile.

Join an Online Space for Partners

If you’re friends with your partner on your social media websites, it doesn’t really give you the chance to create stronger bonds online.

You don’t want to share your intimate details on the same account that your mom sees, and you don’t want to be the couple who annoys everyone with their constant declarations of love.

Instead, consider joining an online space that’s just for couples. Websites such as TwoCup and Between let you share private photos and messages between just the two of you.

Get the Cell Phone Out of the Bedroom

While 75 percent of people admit to falling asleep with their cell phones within reach, experts say that not only can this habit affect intimacy, it can affect your sleep as well.

Even though it’s very convenient to use your cell phone as an alarm, it also makes it very easy to check your email or social media accounts one last time before you go to sleep.

The blue light given off by the LED screens inhibits melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us sleep.

Cell phones are also a distraction that prevent us from falling asleep quickly and stop us from reaching a deep sleep.

If you have to leave your phone in the bedroom, plug it in far away from the bed so you’re not tempted to reach for it during the night. And for the same reasons you shouldn’t take your phone with you on a date, you shouldn’t take it to bed with you, either.

There’s a time and a place for using your cell phone. While it’s a great way to stay in touch with your partner, once you’re face to face it’s time to put your phone away and enjoy each other’s company.

Apr 07

5 Awesome (and Worthless) Ways to Improve Communication in Your Marriage

By Dustin | Communication

5 Awesome (and Worthless) Ways to Improve Communication in Your MarriageSo, what’s the #1 thing most couples say is the key to a happy marriage?

Communication. Duh.

And of course it’s become the cliche, go-to response from grandparents when the video camera comes around at every wedding reception for good reason.  It’s true!

Good communication skills impact every single aspect of your relationship – from how you handle money to how you raise your kids to how you make your kids 🙂 – there’s just no way around it.

So, I think we can all agree that communication is vital to a healthy and happy marriage.

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5 Awesome Communication Tips from Veteran Couples

That said, when’s the last time you’ve given your own approach to communication with your spouse any thought?

If you’re like me, it’s been a while – like most important things, it’s entirely too easy to lose sight of in the face of other more “urgent” matters.

Well, I was thinking about it recently, so I reached out to the smartest group of people I know for some advice.

Here are 5 fantastic tips they shared when asked what advice they’d give to newlyweds:

1. Under-communicate criticism.  Over-communicate praise.

2. Make your body language and your words match.

3. Always fight fair and remember you can’t take back hurtful words.

4. Use “I” statements, not “you” statements.

5. Don’t share your spouse’s faults with your family and friends.  You will soon forgive, but they may not.

How great is that?  These tips are 100% spot-on and I love them.

There’s just one problem.

Why Those Awesome Tips are Worthless

I love good marriage tips and posts with lists of Top 5 Ways to do stuff (like this one) as much as anyone.

They’re often inspirational and make us feel good when we read them.  Heck, we may even remember one or two quips to pass along to a young couple.

The problem is wonderful tips like these rarely impact your marriage in any real way.

You read them, nod and go back to doing the exact same thing in your life.

I’m not criticizing – I’m the king of the “nod and go.”

The truth is that it takes a little more effort to make a lasting and valuable improvement in your relationship.

Here’s a few reasons why reading top tips doesn’t help much and what you can do instead.

  • You Need to Invest

The reality is that you need to invest in training to make it stick.  This can be in the form of focused time or money, preferably both.

There’s free information on every topic under the sun available on the Internet, but quick and free advice rarely makes a meaningful impact.  It’s only when you’ve got some “skin in the game” that you take what you learn to heart and make it count.

  • You Need to Take Action

I’d say this is the biggest problem most of us face when we learn something valuable, and it’s tied directly to the lack of investment we have in the advice.  You can get the best marriage-boosting tips in the world, but it means nothing if you don’t act on it.

Those who take action on mediocre ideas will get infinitely more results than those that take no action on the best ideas.  If you want to improve your marriage, do something (real) about it.

  • You Need Some Real Support

This is the final area where people fail when it comes to learning and growing.  The reality is that sometimes we need some personal attention from a trusted expert to see results, and it’s always really beneficial to be part of a community.

With a sense of community, we get inspired to take action and there’s a sense of accountability.  Of course, the best accountability is a spouse who is walking alongside us in our journey to being the best husband or wife we can be.

Here’s What You Can Do Now to Make a Real Improvement In Your Marriage

I’m not going to go all Debbie Downer on you and leave you hanging here.  I’m going to tell you what you can do to make a lasting impact for the better – and it’s pretty darn easy.

Last year, I was trying to help a reader with an issue related to communication.  It was a pretty common question that I’ve seen many times.

I was starting to give her a similar answer that I’d given others in the past.  As I was typing my necessarily limited email response, it hit me – this is awesome advice that’s not going to be useful at all.

She needed more than my short “tip-type” response could offer.  She needed a full answer with practical action steps provided in a setting that required focus and investment on her part.

And frankly, she needed it from someone other than me.

Well, I should say my perspective was good, but adding in the perspective of a true communication expert was exponentially more helpful.

So, that’s where the idea of the Engaged Marriage How-To Workshop series was born.  I host a workshop accompanied by a guest expert on a very specific and highly important topic.

We present very practical, action-oriented info that benefits married couples.  Plus, we answer personal questions during the event and usually have bonus materials (like books) to maximize the help they receive.

We’ve completed five of these How-To Workshops on various topics so far, and the results and feedback have been tremendous!

Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage [SALE]

Our most popular How-To Workshop was one on communication called How To Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage (Talking Optional), and we’ve made it even better with new bonuses and more convenient ways to use the training (video, audio and full text transcript).

As we bring it out of the vault (you know, like a Disney movie), we decided to have a Kick-Off Sale this week – you will save 35%!

I was joined for this workshop by my go-to resource when it comes to healthy and helpful communication, Dr. Corey Allan.  Corey is a marriage and family therapist, and he’s also a father and a husband for over 20 years.  He’s awesome.

This communication workshop is practical, actionable and it will impact your marriage for the better.  We actually guarantee as much.

So, if you’re ready to invest in your marriage and take solid action to be a better communicator with your spouse (and everyone else), you should definitely check out this workshop. 

And there’s no better time than right now during our big sale.

Click Here for Instant Access to the Communication Workshop!Communication Workshop SALE

Mar 12

From Bitter Betrayal to Healing & Happiness

By Dustin | Communication

Recovering from Betrayal in MarriageYou’re married … committed.

Trust is high. Satisfaction is deep.

For some, however, unspeakable tests are given.

For some couples, the hideous fingers of Betrayal spread their bony fingers around your necks in an undisguised effort to destroy all that you have built – are building.

The impossible happened. One of you betrayed the other.

Betrayal Has Many Faces

A sexual affair. An emotional affair. Missing money.

Once conquered addictions reappear. Serious lies uncovered. The list is long.

The ripples of discovery mutate into angry, overwhelming waves of devastation.

Your initial reaction? Shock. How could this happen?

You descend into anger. Demand atonement. The piper must be paid. You designate yourself the piper.

You rage, pray, call a friend, withdraw, cry, escape into sleep, on and on.

There are as many ways to express anger as there are possibilities for expression.

Hope Begins to Return But It’s Only the Start

You both want to stay in the game.

You spend painful hours with a counselor … or your minister … alone … together … until almost imperceptibly hope returns.

You’re going to survive. You commit again.

But your work isn’t finished.

The final step — sometimes the hardest step – must be taken.

It’s Time to Forgive

It’s time to forgive – -unconditionally. Otherwise, it’s never over.

The whole experience must be buried in the deepest sea “as far as the east is from the west,” NEVER to be visited again. It’s not easy.

But the permanence of your reconciliation depends on it … literally.

Surviving and thriving after betrayal requires – demands – committing to forgive.

Betrayal is one of the most brutal experiences life can throw at us.

Betrayal is an emotional and spiritual sucker-punch. It hurts — badly.

Can you heal? Absolutely. You’re not the first couple to have survived it, and you won’t be the last.

Plus, there is a pay-off.

Forgiveness enables you to move on wiser, more forgiving, more loving, and closer to each other than you ever imagined.

How to Heal After Betrayal

Academic and religious literature alike teach the same essential healing steps for regaining emotional balance, spiritual equilibrium and, most importantly, the ability to move on.

• Be angry. It’s healthy.

• Grieve. It’s normal.

• Reflect. It’s healing.

• Get out of your shoes and slip into the shoes of the Betrayer. Try to understand the “whys.” Theologian Thomas a Kempis wisely challenges us: Be assured that if you knew all, you would pardon all.

• Remember your humanity. Draw courage from the times you were offered the grace of forgiveness.

• Then move on. Hold your head high. You and your spouse were incredibly brave. Not every couple is this strong. You survived a near-death experience

There is a pay-off. The day will come when you unexpectedly catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. Your reflection will shock you because in your reflection is someone at peace.

The bitter cup of betrayal transformed you in the best of ways. All of that relentless pain morphed you and your relationship into something more fulfilling and beautiful than you ever could have imagined.

Good marriages are sometimes messy with confusing and conflicting layers.

But when regularly given the antibiotic of forgiveness, they heal and grow into marriages that are stronger at the broken places.

And life is good again. I promise.

“The weak can never forgive, Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

Dr. Gloria Wall spent her career as an educator. Currently, she and her husband, the man who inspired this entire idea, live in Edwardsville, Illinois.

She writes a blog focusing on seniors who are committed to aging intentionally, gracefully, and with dignity, no matter their outer circumstances. Her writing is generalizable to all ages. Dr. Wall is currently working on a book entitled Aging with Intention. You may visit her website at www.suddenlyseptember.com

Sep 15

The 4 Building Blocks of Intimacy

By Debi Walter | Communication , Romance

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Tom and I have been married for 35 1/2 years, and we’re still building our marriage. It’s a process that should never stop. Just as I will never arrive to the place of perfection in this life, so too, my marriage will always be in need of growth and change. Not realizing this fact causes more marriages to crumble than anything else.

Does that surprise you?

Marriage is like a house. If left to itself it will deteriorate, but if careful attention is given to the needs that come up, the home will last a lifetime.

How do we continue to build our marriage house? It’s simple really, but it’s not easy.

It has been said that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Our marriage is no exception. We have determined four building blocks that when used throughout the years of your marriage, will make it strong and able to withstand any adverse weather conditions that come your way.

Building Block #1 – Spiritual Intimacy

We’ve all heard the saying, “The family that prays together stays together.”

Of course, it takes more than just prayer to build a strong marriage. Prayer is not an end in itself, but is a line of communication to the only One who can truly help our marriage be all it was meant to be.

Prayer is our acknowledgement of our need for God to help us in our weakness. It’s sharing with Him what’s troubling us. It’s humbling ourselves in His presence letting Him know that we realize that without Him we are helpless to change. And when you take the time to pray to God together, it allows your spouse to hear what’s on your heart in a way mere conversation never reveals.

Spiritual Intimacy is learning together more about who God is. It’s Bible reading. It’s growing your faith by being an active part of a local church.

By all means possible, make sure the building block of Spiritual Intimacy is strong in your marriage.

Building Block #2 – Intellectual Intimacy

We should never stop learning and growing. How do you work on this building block? Make it a practice to study current events and talk about what you’ve heard. Learn new things together. Take a class or visit local museums or galleries and read the signs explaining the exhibits. Stimulate your mind by exercising it. A great tool is Lumosity, an on-line daily quiz for your brain that will strengthen your brain in ways you may not realize you need.

By all means possible, make sure the building block of Intellectual Intimacy is strong in your marriage.

Building Block #3 – Emotional Intimacy

Usually one spouse is more emotional than the other and oftentimes it’s the wife, but this isn’t always the case. If you are the one who doesn’t cry much, it takes effort on your part to grow in your understanding of one who cries at the drop of a hat. It would be easy to disregard their emotions as unnecessary, but if you do, you’re missing an important aspect of intimacy.

I remember a time when Tom and I were talking with a friend about an emotionally charged topic. Our friend asked me a question and immediately my eyes began to fill with tears and I couldn’t talk. Tom, who knows and understands me well said, “Give her a minute and she’ll be able to tell you what she’s thinking.” In that moment I felt loved and cared for by Tom. He isn’t nearly as emotional as I am, but he doesn’t make light of the emotions I feel. He listens. He knows me, and most importantly he shows his care by letting me express myself emotionally.

It’s also equally important to not let your emotions rule your heart or the decisions you make. This is why it’s good when one spouse isn’t nearly as subjective in making decisions. It takes the feeling of one spouse and the wisdom of another to consider important decisions on all sides.

Just as the more objective spouse must learn to understand the more subjective spouse, it’s also important for the subjective spouse to listen and trust the more objective spouse. This creates a strong balance in your marriage that isn’t easily shaken.

By all means possible make sure the building block of Emotional Intimacy is strong in your marriage.

Building Block #4 – Sexual Intimacy

This is most likely the first block you thought of when you heard the word “intimacy.” 🙂 It is important, but I placed it last in the list for a reason.

You see if you’re working on the first three building blocks, this one will benefit and grow stronger.

However, it takes a willingness to communicate with your spouse honestly and without fear of being exposed. To be intimate physically with another requires a vulnerability many fear because of past abuse or disappointments. It may be you’re afraid of being rejected.

Before the fall recorded in Genesis, God made them male and female. They were naked and not ashamed. What a gift they had, but didn’t realize until it was gone.

Guilt and shame made them want to hide, and it is the same for us today. It takes patience, love, and care to help a spouse who is suffering under the weight of guilt and shame. It takes unselfish love that is willing to become a safe haven for the one with whom you’ve been joined as one flesh.

The physical intimacy God intends for a husband and wife to enjoy is unlike any other relationship you’ll have. No one else sees you in this way. No one else has access to the core of who you are. It is a privilege and a great responsibility to know only one person in this way.

There is much to learn in regards to sexual intimacy, and much information is available. However, I caution you to know your source, and make sure what you’re reading is Biblically sound.

I recommend the following blogs where I’m confident you’ll receive help and hope that you can trust. Hot, Holy and Humorous, The Marriage Bed, Marriage Missions International, and To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

By all means possible make sure the building block of Sexual Intimacy is strong in your marriage.

What building blocks are in need of attention in your marriage?

Plan a date night to discuss this article and what steps you can take to make your marriage stronger.

Aug 11

The Safety Net of Romance

By Debi Walter | Communication , Romance


Cultivating romance into your marriage on a regular basis helps you stay connected heart-to-heart when you don’t see eye-to-eye.

Every marriage goes through seasons of conflict, and it’s usually quite intense when it happens. Things can be going along really well and your spouse says something that doesn’t sit right in your mind.

So, you ask a question that leads to more tension because either the question isn’t heard clearly or it isn’t understood.

So, the answer isn’t at all what you wanted to hear, which leads to more tension and more conflict. It’s a downward spiral that’s hard to correct once it begins.

Smart couples choose to go to their separate corners when tensions mount in order to think and pray before continuing the conversation.

This is a good idea, especially if you’re prone to fits of anger. Giving yourself time and distance allows the Lord to help you think with wisdom, instead of reacting with foolishness.

What does this have to do with romance?

Everything!

A couple who never takes the time to romance each other when things are going well, are going to have a harder time believing the best about their spouse when things are hard.

Romance acts like a safety net when you’re balancing on the high wire of conflict.

You know it’s a dangerous place to be, but the romance you’ve enjoyed together insures that you’ll make it through safely and together.

Romance gives you a tangible reminder of why the relationship is worth fighting for. It helps you remember the good times when the bad times are screaming at you.

I remember a time when Tom and I were going through a really difficult conflict that had no quick resolve. It went on for months, but our commitment to each other never wavered. We knew we were in this relationship together–for better or worse–and just because this was a “worse” part of our marriage, we weren’t going to give up.

The best was yet to come. It might surprise you that our lives continued on as normal; I was homeschooling our three children, Tom was leading a small care group in our home on a weekly basis, Tom had work commitments that required us both to attend with smiles on our faces, and all the while our hearts were hurting.

We did what we knew to do, which even included some romance here and there, because this was our norm. Sort of like a default setting on a computer.

It was while we were doing a normal romantic thing–slow dancing together at a work dinner–that God broke through our conflict and helped us resolve the issue once and for all.

It started with tears that lead to repentance and then, total and complete forgiveness. Had we not taken the steps to do something romantic that we both enjoyed would we have ever found resolve to our conflict?

I’m sure we would have, but because we did, it may have happened sooner because we were willing to do what we knew to do, regardless of how we felt.

Was it easy? No. Would we wish this kind of conflict on anyone? Absolutely not!

But now this story is part of our testimony, and it has helped hundreds of couples understand that a good marriage isn’t without difficulty.

In fact, if you’re doing things right, it’s not to prevent trouble, but to prepare the ground so that your love is supported through it when it comes.

What trouble are you facing today that causes you to want to pull away?

How could doing something romantic and thoughtful for your spouse help you get through the worst part to a better tomorrow?

Pray and ask God to help you come up with a plan, and then watch what He does. If He can turn water into wine, then certainly He can turn our trouble into something good.

A testimony that will help us help others who may be struggling in the same way.

Now that’s a love worth celebrating!

 

(photo source)

Aug 07

Faithfully Fit: How Exercise Can Keep Your Marriage Healthy

By Dustin | Communication

Faithfully Fit: How exercise can keep your marriage healthyThe American Journal of Epidemiology monitored the health behaviors of nearly 8,900 adults over several years and found that both men and women who got married during that time tended to lose a significant amount of their cardiovascular fitness.

Most husbands and wives don’t need a study to tell them that being married might derail their fitness regime. As a seasoned personal trainer, I’ve listened to many men and women stress over balancing their career, marriage, family, and health.

Though it may be difficult, staying fit is a most worthwhile endeavor for married couples. Research suggests that couples who stay fit experience benefits that contribute to the success of their marriage.

Three years ago, during a premarital counseling session with our pastor, my husband-to-be and I made a commitment to one another. We promised to make our health a priority in our marriage – we jokingly call it our “fatty clause.”

I will never forget the look of surprise on our pastor’s face when we brought up the role of fitness in our marriage. She said we were the first couple to ever select health as a priority.

At the time, I thought our “fatty clause” was just a sensible measure to help us avoid lifestyle related disease and a spreading midsection, but our mutual commitment to health has become so much more.

As a young married couple, we’ve made lots of plans. Some have worked out and others didn’t.  As I am writing this we are living in Costa Rica – that was never part of our life plan, but here we are!

Even when the world around us feels like its upside-down (a common occurrence when living outside your home country), we’re able to ride the storms of life out together. Research would suggest that our commitment to physical fitness has contributed to our healthy marriage.

  • Regular exercise can help you and your spouse maintain a healthy self image. According to a University of Arkansas study men and women who are physically fit tend to feel more sexually desirable (Penhollow & Young 2004).
  • Couples that are physically fit are more likely to respond to stress better. The American Physiological Association suggests that exercise gives your body a chance to practice responding to stress. Thus when you encounter the emotional stress of day-to-day life, you’re physiologically better at handling those stressful experiences.
  • Exercise can enhance a couples sex life. Engaging in intense physical activity can stimulate blood flow and nervous system activity that can boost sex drive.
  • Couples who share new experiences together, stay together. A study published in 2000 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, demonstrated that sharing in new and exciting activities is consistently associated with better relationships (Aron 2000). Try mixing up your workout routine by going on a weekend hike or bike ride together.

Whether you use working out as alone time or as a time together, the benefits to your well-being will affect your marriage in surprising ways. I want to encourage every couple to use physical fitness as a way to keep their marriage in shape.

After 3 years of marriage, I’m more committed to my husband and my health with each passing day. Making room in our life together for regular workouts is the second best decision we have ever made.

What role does fitness play in your marriage?

Erika VolkErika Volk is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach who has a passion for helping people make their everyday lives just a little bit healthier. She specializes in TRX training, fitness travel, and online coaching.

Erika lives with her husband in a beautiful little beach town somewhere in Costa Rica. Visit her website at erikavolkfitness.com to learn more about how Erika can help you make the most out of your workout.

Dec 23

Tis the Season… For Blindsiding Your Spouse?

By E.J. Smith | Communication , Help

Wait, what? I thought this was going to be a holiday post?!  It is a holiday post, friends.  Just not the holiday post you were expecting.ID-10045265

If you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you may’ve heard of this “game” some kids thugs are “playing” in which they run up to an innocent stranger on the street and throw a punch with the goal of knocking the person out cold.  It’s termed, “The Knockout Game”.  Lovely.

If you’re like some of my friends, fans and readers of late, you may be able to empathize with these innocent victims on a much more personal and profound level.  See, the truth is that although we typically look towards the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s) as a time of great joy, love and warmth, there is a darker side to the season.   It’s the time of year when a lot of people decide to clean out their closets—namely of the secrets they’ve been stuffing in there.  Turns out, not all the skeletons are for Halloween.

Take my friend (we’ll call her “Kate”) who recently had her husband of less than a year reveal that when they were dating, he had a one night stand with a woman from “back home” while he was visiting family.  It wasn’t the fact that he’d “cheated” per se, since they were admittedly in that kinda-sorta-not-sure-if-we’re-exclusive phase when the event happened.  It was the idea that she now had to deal with the mess of this new information, and consider how its absence had influenced subsequent decisions—like, umm… getting married.

And of course there were questions.  Questions like:

Why did you do that?

Why didn’t you tell me?

Why on earth are you telling me NOW?!

And perhaps most importantly:

How do we fix this?

I can’t quite tell if the timing is a conscious one or not, but ask almost anyone in the mental health community and they’ll tell you the holidays are notorious for “stirring the pot”.  And just in case that wasn’t enough to run a chill through your hot cocoa, consider the fact that more divorces are filed in January than any other month!  If you’re a therapist, lawyer or crisis hotline worker, you probably know the holidays by another name: “busy season”.

Of course, not all instances of bad news are marriage-endingly horrific, or worthy of “bomb” status.  In fact, there are times your spouse might drop a piece of bad news on of you that’s not even their fault!  For the sake of thematic consistency, I’ll call these smaller events “grenades”.  They’re not on the same level of devastation like an affair, but they catch you off guard, and frankly—it sucks.

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Recently, my husband took our dog to the vet for his “Senior Checkup”. As you can tell from the picture—he’s still pretty spry for an old guy!  Anyway, when I got home from work, I asked about how everything went.  Our little wonder-mutt was in perfect health, however the vet bill was not.  It was $750.  Yes. You read that right… $750 to learn that our pooch was COMPLETELY FINE.

The next words out of my mouth were: “Why didn’t you call me?!”

My husband looked at me and calmly replied, “Because he’s fine and I took care of the bill right then.”

“Yes, but you didn’t call me.  It was over $300.  We have an agreement.”

Side note: We have an agreement that we always  usually discuss major purchases over a certain amount.

“Because you would’ve told me to pay it,” he replied sounding equally confused and slightly perturbed.

And really, he was right. I would’ve told him to pay it.  Of course I would’ve told him to pay it.  We had the money.  That wasn’t the issue.  He was right. I knew this.

But why could I not shake the feeling that someone had socked me in the gut?

After some careful thought, I realized it was because I would’ve called him.  To me, our agreement was sacrosanct.  Black and white.  Non-negotiable. And perhaps most importantly, it was an expression of equality.  I also realized it had stirred up some old hurts– not even remotely related to him—but rather in connection to the way I related to money.

In this case, he had dropped the “bomb,” but the mess was all mine.

So how do you survive a “bomb dropping” or even a “grenade”?

Here are a few things to consider—

1)   Give yourself time to react.

As I’m sure you know, when it comes to good communication—even in the face of some seriously disturbing, earth-shattering news, it’s good to curb your immediate response and take a few seconds to breathe.  This isn’t just some fluffy therapist-speak either.

Without getting too technical, when the brain processes an event that elicits a strong stress response, the limbic system (aka the “emotional brain”) takes over –overriding the logical part of the brain (aka the prefrontal cortex).  Giving yourself some time to process the news allows your brain to rebalance itself, and will hopefully prevent you from saying or doing anything you’ll likely regret later.

2)   Give yourself MORE time…

It seems to me that when things like this happen, the person who detonated the bad news often seems to want an immediate response and then later on, a clear-cut pathway to resolution one way or another.  Here’s why this makes sense:  Depending on the secret, your spouse may have been carrying it around for hours, days or even years! S/He has had plenty of time to mull it around, evaluate it from several– if not all– sides, and then drop it on you at his/her convenience.  Simply said, they want a resolution now, but they’ve also had a head start.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point this out to your spouse. I once listened to a professor relate an experience of working with a patient who had terminal cancer.  This patient had already come to terms with her death, and was having angry response to her family’s reaction to the news. My professor said that he had to point out to her that while it was “old news” for her, it was “new news” for them.

In my situation, my husband had already had time to process the sticker shock, make logical steps towards resolving the issue, and research pet insurance to avoid the situation in the future, well before I ever knew anything about the original bill! Of course I wasn’t going to be on the same page! He was on a different chapter!

3)   Consider the Power Differential

—it may actually be in your favor.  Yes, I just said that.

Assuming your spouse just dropped a bomb on you, like the one Kate experienced—after following the advice given in Steps 1 & 2, you’ll want to follow up with an evaluation of who’s who and what’s what.

Yes, s/he just dropped the bomb—but, if your spouse isn’t already halfway out the door towards divorce, and is interested in fixing the issue, then in many cases this puts you at an advantage for setting the terms of how, when and where the relationship will be remedied.  This is the exact advice I gave my friend Kate.

A week or so after the news, Kate’s husband thought she’d be over it.  Kate was far from feeling over it, and was struggling to appease his timeline.  In no uncertain terms, I validated her struggle.  He got to choose when to “start” the issue, and she most certainly had the right to work through it to a reasonable end.

Notice the word “reasonable”.  A reasonable end is not one where you stew and simmer for some undetermined length of time with absolutely no productivity whatsoever.  Holding grudges does not a happy marriage make.  However, processing and actively grieving the news so you can figure out where to go or what to do next is a very different story.

4)    Create a Proposal.

If you want to fix your marriage after an injury, you’ll eventually need a plan of action.  Now that the logical part of your brain is back up and running, and you’ve figured out how you fit into the equation moving forward, it’s time to make a plan.  To illustrate, let’s go back to my friend Kate:

For Kate, a day or two of feeling heard and validated by friends was enough to help her confront her husband with the painful truth that she wasn’t feeling “over it”. She calmly presented her terms:  marriage counseling, and co-reading a book I’d recommended (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work*), along with more quality time (one of her predominate love languages*) reconnecting and rekindling the trusting bond she’d come to adore and rely on as a wife and as a woman.  Her husband, being the wise man that he is, decided to accept Kate’s terms.

Have you suffered an emotional “knockout” or “bomb-dropping” by your spouse?  If so, I want to hear how you dealt with it!

Digital Image Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.com Artist: digitalart

*links to affiliate source

Nov 25

Do NOT Ask This Question in Your Marriage…

By E.J. Smith | Communication , General , Help

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If there’s a gene for being blunt, I promise you that my Jersey Italian family got it two-fold.

We’re not crass or mean-spirited per se, but as my mother would put it, we’re “efficient in our honesty.” (Well, that’s one way to put it!)  Anyway, growing up in this family—this loving, open, boisterous and brutally honest family– gasps of horror at the honest answers to questions like, “Does this dress make me look fat?” or “What do you think of my new hair cut?” often resulted in the aforementioned statement:  Don’t ask the question if you’re not ready to hear the answer.

So you’re probably wondering how this piece of familial “wisdom” relates to fixing troubled relationships.

Allow me to explain:  When one partner in a marriage expresses that a need of his or hers feels unmet, such as, “I don’t feel respected at home,” a question we hope the other partner will ask is:

“What can I do to help you feel respected?”

Why is this question so critical?

This question is critical for two reasons:

#1) Notice that the question makes an offer of assistance—not ownership. 

The partner does not respond by asking what he or she can do to make the other person feel respected.  Assuming you have the power to force a change on someone’s psyche is not only the exact opposite of respect, but also robs the individual of ownership of his or her emotional experiences.

 

Are you with me so far?

 

#2) Asking for guidance as to how one may assist is — in itself–  an act that conveys respect.  You show respect when you assume your spouse is the expert on his or her needs.

So there you go– easy enough, right?  WRONG!

You must NEVER ever ask your spouse, “What can I do to help you feel respected?”  (or something similar) unless you have already considered this:

How willing are you to give your partner what he or she requests? 

How much do you trust that your spouse’s request will be reasonable?

 

Trust and believe,  these are questions worth asking yourself.  If my own past experience and the many couples I’ve met over the years are any indicator, I’m guessing there are probably some needs or compromises to which you’re more willing to acquiesce than others.

And hey,  that’s okay.  You’re allowed to have boundaries too!

The point is to know what those boundaries are, and go into that conversation with honesty.

One of the worst things you could do in this situation is promise to do something and then not do it.

Let me say that again:  One of the worst things you can do in this situation is promise to do something, and then not do it.

Do you hear me?  Worst!

 

But E.J., what if my spouse requests something of me that I truly am unwilling to give?

Well that’s certainly possible.  Assuming your spouse hasn’t asked you to be an accomplice in some illegal activity, or put your family in physical, mental, emotional or spiritual danger (because I’m assuming you married a reasonable, generally decent person):  Ask yourself what about the request feels unreasonable to you.

 

This inner exploration is wise for two reasons:

1)    You’re much more likely to have a rational, respectful discussion (as opposed to an emotion-filled rant) if you’ve done your inner homework around the request.

2)    Since compromise is an important component of any marriage or relationship, understanding your stance on the issue will also help you reach a compromise that leaves both parties feeling heard and satisfied.

If all else fails, seek mediation from a neutral, safe, and mutually agreed upon third party together.  This might be a chaplain, pastor, or even a counselor.  In this scenario, the ideal would be for you to both be present.  However, if your partner is unavailable or unwilling to meet, I think its at least important that you go.  Get that perspective.  Feel heard and be willing to listen.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and questions.  Can you relate?

Image source: www.freedigitalphotos.net; photographer: stockimages

 

Nov 09

How to Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage (Talking Optional)

By Dustin | Communication

How to Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage!“We just don’t talk anymore.”

“He doesn’t listen to me.”  “She’s so defensive – I can put her in a bad mood without saying a word.”

“When we first got together, we could spend hours just hanging out and talking. How can we get that back?”

“I love her SO much, but I really struggle to make her feel it.”

“The kids require so much of my energy and attention, sometimes he gets what’s left over at the end of the day.  He deserves better.”

“On our wedding day, the advice we got over and over again was to make good communication a priority.  I never thought we’d actually need help, but I know things can get better than they are right now.”

Communication is the core of any good relationship.  And it’s especially vital to communicate well within your marriage.

Of course, effortlessly talking for hours on end like you did when you were dating is a great form of communication.  But as your relationship has matured, the need for healthy and effective communication in many forms has expanded (even if you or your spouse didn’t notice).

The way you interact in the morning, the way you argue, the decisions you make with your kids and the “feeling” you give off to the household when you get home from work are all important forms of communication.

Communicating well is not easy.  But the great news is that nothing can compare to the power of high-quality communication when it comes to serving your spouse and enjoying a fun, passionate and deeply connected marriage.

The line between great, good and bad communication can seem pretty fine sometimes, but that’s part of the fun and challenge of being married.  If you invest some effort in learning and practicing better communication, I promise you’ll enjoy a better marriage as a result.

I’m excited to share that help is on the way – real, practical help that I know is going to leave you excited and reengaged. We’re hosting a very special online event soon called “How to Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage (Talking Optional).

I’ll be joined by my go-to resource on this topic – Dr. Corey Allan – who will be our main presenter.  Corey has helped couples across the world interact better with practical, fun and powerful tools for more effective communication . Here’s a brief bio:

Dr. Corey AllanDr. Corey Allan is a husband, father, author, speaker, as well as a Marriage and Family Therapist with a Ph.D. in Family Therapy. Corey has been married for over 20 years, and he regularly counsels individuals and couples around the world on how to have better relationships. He is also the founder of Simple Marriage, a leading online resource for practical marriage advice.

Corey is a Christian who believes that love is not a feeling, it’s a process. And marriage is no different. Prepare yourself for a powerful workshop that will give you a fresh perspective and take the communication in your marriage to new levels!

Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ll be covering in this live workshop:

  • Hear what your spouse is saying without overreacting or jumping to conclusions (and be heard by them)
  • Be crystal clear in the messages you send (with or without talking)
  • Speak more from the Best in you – both to your spouse AND children
  • Live more authentically & better connected with others
  • Get empowered with a completely different way to view communication and use effective communication tools to stop constant fighting, avoid gridlock & break out of the routine in your relationship

We’ve decided to keep the cost of this workshop very reasonable, and in addition to some awesome “take action tonight” live training and lifetime access to the recordings of the event, you’ll also have the opportunity to ask any question you’d like of Dr. Allan and me. Plus, Corey is including copies of TWO of his popular e-books – “A Simple Marriage” and “Buck Naked Marriage” for everyone who joins in the fun.

The live event takes place on Thursday evening 11/21, but if you already have plans, no worries – everyone who registers gets a full recording (both video and audio versions) to enjoy at your convenience and you can submit questions in advance.

That said, we have to limit the number of “seats” to the event because our webinar service can only accommodate so many live attendees, and we want to be able to respond to every question that’s submitted personally and thoroughly. So grab your seat soon.

Dustin and Corey Workshop

Click here to reserve your seat to this special event

By the way, I’m all about delivering the goods and making sure you love your experience with this event. So, even though I’m sure you’ll love what Corey has to share, I’m covering all attendees with a 100% guarantee. If you’re not blown away by the workshop, I’ll refund your money – and you can keep both books to enjoy!

I’m so excited for this second Engaged Marriage “How-to” Workshop, and I hope you will join us for a marriage-enriching event!

Oct 28

Troubled Marriages & Technology (Part 2 of 2)

By E.J. Smith | Communication , General , Help

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So as you’ll recall, last month I wrote about two of the major ways technology can screw up marriages in Troubled Marriages and Technology (Part 1).  And to be completely honest, it was a heavy conversation.  This month, as promised, I want to talk about some of the ways that you and your spouse can use technology to further your connection, or even rekindle it!

Truth be told, there appear to be far more resources and experts out there talking about how technology, and specifically things like social media and the internet, are taking their toll on relationships.  Last month, I added my own voice to the chorus.  At the same time, I want to let you know that it doesn’t have to be that way.  The Internet, your iPhone and twitter account in and of themselves are not negative.

Believe me, as a military spouse who has endured deployments, the Internet has been a major blessing for my family.  A Facebook message from my husband could leave me grinning ear-to-ear for a week at a time.  And last year when we spent several months apart due to a training assignment, Skype/FaceTime chats allowed us to interact in a more dynamic manner.  Suffice it to say I’m a firm believer that when utilized in the right manner, technology can help couples maintain and even strengthen their marital bonds.

Marriage Affirming Uses of Technology

1)    Playful Flirtation

Remember when you were dating/engaged or first married, and there were those “little things” that each of you would do for the other?  Perhaps it was a little note left where the other person would find it, or flowers for no reason at all?  Not wanting to get off the phone (You hang up first… No, you hang up first!), or driving massively out of one’s way to visit?

Those things were great, weren’t they?

Well now you’re married, and if you’re like me, your life has gotten busier over the years.  Kid stressors, school stressors, work stressors have weaseled their way into your life, and taken up way more time than you ever intended.  Scheduled date nights and sexy time are great, but you miss the everyday romance.

Technology-Facilitated Fix: The Text Message   

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, you may be familiar with a little gadget known as a cellphone.  You more than likely have a feature on it called “text messaging”.  In addition to its practical uses, such as reminding your spouse to pick up milk on the way home, you can also use it as a tool to infuse little romantic gestures into every day life.

Picture this:  You’re having a really stressful day—whatever that looks like for you—and in the middle of that stress, all of a sudden your phone beeps indicating you have a message.  You check the message, “I love you, (pet name)!” Are you smiling at the thought?  I am. Some how in the middle of a hectic day, hearing from my husband seems to make everything a little more manageable.  The next time you’re apart from your spouse, and a loving thought about them crosses your mind—please let him/her know!  Romance doesn’t have to entail huge gestures!

Other options include snapping pictures of things that make you think of them, or even a picture of you and sending them along.

2)    A Wealth of Knowledge and Resources at Your Fingertips

This second tip is one that I think should be a “no-brainer” but at the same time, a staggering number of people email me, Facebook message me, text me asking how to go about creating a thoughtful or romantic experience for their partner.  I’m flattered they think to ask me, but the truth is—the answer is already at their fingertips, and it’s the source for probably 99% of the ideas I’m going to give them.  The answer?  “Google it!”

Technology Facilitated Fix:  Google. 

Yes, seriously.  I don’t mean to sound glib.  The answer really is that simple.  If you want an idea for creating romantic evening for your spouse, cooking a nice dinner, or topics of conversation to get you guys talking again—look no further than the Google search bar.  I’m guessing that’s how you stumbled onto EM.com to begin with—at least that’s how I first found Dustin’s page!

If you’re feeling fancy, you can also check out Pinterest.  Many people, including myself, have created specific boards full of romantic ideas, quotes and tips.  You can check out my Couples Therapy board by clicking on the link.

3) Status Symbol

You might recall that in Part I of this article series, I mentioned how Facebook posts taking vague (or not-so-vague) digs at your spouse were definitely NOT a good idea in terms of helping your marriage stay healthy.  Neither is implying that you’re getting divorced every time you have a fight by changing your status.  You’d think I was talking about teenagers, right?  But I assure you, I’ve seen full-grown adults with jobs, kids, careers and even graduate degrees behave in this manner.

Technology-Facilitated Fix:  E-go Fluffing!

Despite the fact that the older we get and the less our worlds seem to revolve around our Facebook statuses, social media provides a wonderful outlet for gushing about your spouse in a positive manner.  I call it “e-go fluffing.”  Something I hear over and over again from married folks is that they fear they’ve become dull or boring to their spouses.  Some even feel taken for granted.

While social media cannot begin to undo the totality of those thoughts or beliefs, sharing that you’re going out on a date night, or hanging at home with a cheesy movie can be a fantastic way of communicating your happiness.  Reveling in your partner’s accomplishments on a semi-public platform is also great for bolstering positive feelings.

“Out celebrating my brilliant wife and her new job!”

I particularly love when people gush about each other on their anniversaries—

“11 years ago today, I married my best friend.  What a road it has been!   I’d do it all over again, just to be with you.”

—Seriously, how cute was that?  (And yes, that was a real status I saw a few months back). Again, these are little gestures to compliment some of the more complex and time-consuming tasks of rekindling a marriage.  At the same time, I’ve yet to meet a person who didn’t enjoy seeing/hearing/reading that their partner was proud of them.

So there you have it—3 Ways to Utilize Technology to Rekindle Your Connection!

1) The Text Message

2) Google It!

3) E-go Fluffing

Now it’s your turn!  I want to hear from you in the comments!  Have you tried any of these tips?  Do you have any other uses for technology that really seem to help out your marriage?  The EM community wants to know!!!

 Image Source:  Courtesy of FreeDigitalphotos.net and anankkml (photographer)

 

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