Lessons From “Marriage Story” That Can Save Your Marriage

5 Lessons From “Marriage Story” That Can Save Your Marriage And Your Sanity

Lessons From “Marriage Story” That Can Save Your Marriage

 

Everybody is talking about the movie “Marriage Story.”

The media has been weighing in on the quality of the film, the performances, the awards, what is realistic and what is not. Is it a story about marriage or about divorce? Forums and social media exploded with discussions taking sides about who is right and who is wrong.

The most valuable lesson of this film, however, has remained unexplored: “Marriage Story” is a cautionary tale about a marriage that could have been saved and the unnecessary ugliness of divorce.

If you are contemplating divorce, take some cues from “Marriage Story” as a starting point to explore the state of your union and deepen the communication with your partner before heading to court.

While the brilliance of the film is getting most of the attention, perhaps the greatest value of “Marriage Story” is that it provides a framework for couples in trouble to witness the traps that lead to a toxic divorce, so they can avoid them.

Even though Charlie and Nicole’s marriage didn’t have a happy ending, you can learn from their mistakes.

Here are five takeaways from “Marriage Story” that can spare you from a painful divorce:

Lessons From “Marriage Story” That Can Save Your Marriage

Before calling it quits, evaluate whether your marriage can be saved

Charlie and Nicole’s marriage could have been saved.  Maybe yours can be saved, too.

While the movie begins with the couple already in divorce mediation, as we glimpse into their relationship, we realize that Charlie and Nicole had enough going for them to make their marriage worth fighting for. They deeply loved each other, enjoyed parenting together and shared a passion for the performing arts.

If you still love your spouse, do not rush to a lawyer’s office. Do emotional inventory first and determine if you and your partner should give your marriage one last chance.

Tackle marital problems early on

Once you get to the point of no return, there is no way back! Do not let your marital problems fester until you can’t take it anymore. Nicole’s grievances could have been resolved if she had spoken up sooner and made clear to her husband that these problems endangered their marriage. Talk to your partner about the issues that trouble you and give him or her a chance to do the same.

Support your partner but not at the expense of your identity

Supporting your spouse is key to any marriage, but it should never be done at the expense of your fondest dreams. A promising actress, Nicole sacrificed her aspirations to become the supportive wife of an up-and-coming theater director. Over time, this “lesser” role led to resentment until she felt too stifled to go on.

We all deserve self-fulfillment. Strive for balance in your relationship and rebalance when things are becoming one-sided. Continue to pursue your passions and make it clear to your partner that they are necessary for your happiness.

Control your divorce process: do not let the divorce process control you

Even if your marriage can’t be saved, you still have control over the divorce process. Do not allow reactivity and clinging to unreasonable positions to blind you from reaching a fair result. In “Marriage Story,” Charlie’s insistence on being a “New York family” unleashed a series of events that fueled reactivity from both partners until what begun as an amicable divorce turned toxic.

Divorce is an emotional rollercoaster and there will be times when you lose your cool. In volatile situations, step back instead of firing back. Do not be afraid to walk away when things are getting out of control to avoid saying and doing things you will regret later. When negotiating a settlement, seek solutions that make sense and lead to the highest good instead of stubbornly insisting on having your way.

Choose your lawyers with care

Contrary to popular belief, there are no winners in a divorce. Charlie and Nicole may have saved themselves money and grief if they had worked with different lawyers. Before you file for divorce, investigate the reputation of your local lawyers and select one whose values align with yours and your priorities.

Even with the best of intentions, not all marriages can be repaired. But practicing the above tips will increase the odds of living happily ever after—with your current spouse, in a new relationship or alone.

 

This article was originally published on www.soniafrontera.com and reprinted with permission from the author.

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9 Marital Problems Only Women Face

9 Marital Problems Only Women Face

Frustrated Woman.jpg

 

There is one thing every married couple will tell you…marriage is hard. Whether it’s the first few months or year twenty-five, men and woman who are invested in their marriage all know the big and small things that push their buttons and make marriage downright tough at times.

While researching marital problems I was caught off guard by all the articles I found that pointed out the things women could/should do to make their marriage better. Hmmm, I thought, what about men, do they not have a responsibility to work on the marriage also?

Then my mind wondered to how often problems in a marriage are caused by men alone. Out of curiosity I emailed ten married women friends and asked, “What does your husband do that drives you crazy?” And, the responses I received were all things I’ve heard in the past when counseling married couples.

Based on that, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, there are things that are common to men that negatively impact a wife and, as a result, damage the marriage. Maybe men should put some thought into changing these behaviors? What do you think?

Below are 9 Marital Problems That Only Women Face

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

1. He never attends the kid’s school activities.

Four out of the ten woman I emailed listed this as one of the things their husband never does. My friend Julie said, “On top of that, he couldn’t tell you the names of the children’s teachers and would probably have a hard time telling you the names of their schools.”

This made me wonder if some fathers out there aren’t understanding the value of fatherhood. Especially in this day and age when fathers are more hands on with their children. Are men who don’t make their children’s school activities a priority devaluing their role in their children’s lives or, are they devaluing the importance of those activities?

Whatever the reason, some of these men need a talking to. They need to get their ass in gear and become involved in their child’s school activities. Why? Because they are fathers and that is what fathers should be doing.

2. He is still attached to his mother’s apron strings.

Two friends had this on their list. Amanda said, “I swear, we’ve never taken a family vacation without his mother. If we go out antiquing on a Saturday afternoon we swing by and pick up his mother!”

Jennie shared this story, “We decided to buy our first home. He HAD to have his mother’s input on our buying budget, what neighborhood would be best to buy in and how many bedrooms we should look for. I finally stood back and let him and his mother go house hunting together.”

These guys aren’t still attached to their mother by their apron strings. They’re still attached by the umbilical cord! Can you say, “Mama’s boy?”

These guys are either driven by guilt or had domineering mothers and are afraid of the backlash if they don’t include their mother.

There are men who love their mother and, out of guilt will include their mother where she shouldn’t be included. A good mother will recognize this tendency in her son and not allow it to carry on for a prolonged period of time. Then there are the domineering mothers who feel they should be number one in their son’s lives.

If you are dealing with a domineering mother-in-law and a fearful husband, get thee to a marital therapist!

3. He expects too much of her.

My friend Rose wrote, “He expects me to take time out of my job to take the kids to the doctor, to their school activities, to take care of EVERYTHING concerning the home, the automobile and whatever else may come up in our daily lives. His excuse is, “I make more money than you so you should be the one to lose time from work.”

Ouch! I know how important Rose’s career is to her. She may make less money but that is no reason for her husband to dismiss what is important to her. And, it is certainly no reason to dump more responsibility on Rose!

Rose needs to set boundaries, have an intensive discussion with her husband about who is responsible for what and stop doing it all just because he makes more money.

4. He reneged on how many children they would have.

This one is sad in many ways. Emily and her husband had discussed how many children they would have before marrying. When the time came to talk about child number three her husband shut down the conversation and informed her he was done fathering children.

You can’t force someone to have another child if they don’t want more. Not if you love them anyway. And, it is possible, after becoming a parent to change one’s mind about how many children they want.

Life can look vastly different after marriage and parenthood than it did during the planning stages. This is a situation where Emily is probably going to need to validate his feelings about another child and sacrifice her desire for one more.

I suggest Emily wait and see what happens as time goes by. As the two children, they have now grow, her husband may begin to long for another child also. If not, this is a situation in which Emily is going to have to respect her husband’s desire to have no more children.

5. She wants more sex, he doesn’t.

Connie wrote, “We have sex, on average, twelve times a year. I long for sex at least once a week. Any discussion with him about the difference in our levels of desire turns into him shutting down and telling me “it’s not about me, it’s about him.”

I wouldn’t classify Connie’s marriage as sexless but, it is definitely sex starved…for Connie anyway. I don’t think Connie asking for sex once a week is asking for too much. I also don’t think that Connie’s husband is investing enough concern over the fact that his wife is feeling rejected sexually.

These two need to be in therapy and, Connie’s husband needs to see a Urologist to find out if there is a physical reason for his lack of desire for sex. This is a husband who either has a physical problem or a psychological problem that is interfering with his ability to engage in a normal sex life with his wife. The underlying issue needs to be addressed!

6. He is a slob.

I have very little to say about this. If he is a slob, it’s because he has been allowed to get away with being a slob. If you’re picking up after him, he has no reason to pick up after himself.

I know for many of you neat-freak types, this is a hard one. But how is he supposed to become self-sufficient if you keep doing everything for him? Don’t worry; I have a solution for you! When your husband drops his dirty clothes next to the hamper instead of in the hamper, or at the side of the bed, or on the living room floor, wad them up, stuff them on his side of the closet, and close the closet door. There!

Now you don’t have to look at them anymore! Of course, he won’t notice the giant pile of clothes on the closet floor, but he will notice when he finally runs out of clean stuff to wear. When he asks you where his clothes are, say: “Oh, I only wash clothes that make it into the hamper. Anything that wasn’t in the hamper I figured wasn’t dirty, so I put it back in the closet. On the floor.” This works. I know from experience.

7. He thinks housework is women’s work.

According to my friend, Andre, her husband watches games on the weekend while she cleans house. He plays golf while she uses her Saturdays off work to take the kids for haircuts or to buy new shoes. Refer to #6 for a cure for this problem.

Although it won’t be easy, if the house becomes dirty enough and the kid’s hair becomes too long, when he mentions you slacking on your “women’s work,” tell him, in no uncertain terms, that you’re on strike until he moves his ass and beliefs into the 21st century and starts pulling his weight.

8. He doesn’t share his feelings and thoughts.

I suggested my friend Bromliegh get herself and her husband into therapy. There are many reasons men clam up and refuse to share their feelings and thoughts. Some of which are marriage and relationship killers. That problem is an entirely other article. So, if you’re having this problem, therapy is where you need to be.

9. He is obsessed with sports.

My friend Leah is a true, football, baseball and basketball widow. It’s so bad at her house the only time they take a family vacation is to travel to a sporting event.

Leah’s husband’s involvement in sports is excessive by any measure, and his indifference to her emotional needs is selfish. He needs to understand that his sports fixation makes Leah question his loyalty, and that to rebuild their relationship he needs to limit his involvement. He entitled to watch and play sports, but he can’t let them dominate his life to the extent that his wife feels neglected.

They need to come together and honestly express to each other how sports became more important than the relationship and work out a schedule where they are both getting what they need. Leah is going to need to give him time with his sports and television, he is going to have to push back from the television and spend quality time with his wife and children.

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My Bad Marriage: Why I’m Not Leaving…Yet

my bad marriage

 

Why I’ll “wait and see” about my marriage (even though we don’t have sex!).

Marriage is not going so well for my husband Tod and me. Our fifth anniversary approaches, and we haven’t had sex in more than a year. We’ve buried our feelings about that deep. We also avoid talking about finances and children, and anything else you could file under the category “future hopes.”

Outside of an hour of couple’s therapy every week, we go about our lives as if nothing were amiss—running our household, dining out with friends, and catching new movie releases on Friday nights. We’re good pals. (Yawn!)

When marriage promises so much more—stability, growth, intimacy—why am I content to stay put? In short, there’s work to do, and I’m not talking about forever anyway. For the near future—six months, a year, maybe two—here are the ties that bind.

My Bad Marriage: Why I’m Staying, For Now


1. I’m giving myself a break. 

I wasn’t always content to wait and see. In fact, I was nearly out the door earlier this year. Frustrated with our deteriorating rapport and needing space where I could think straight about the future I wanted for myself, I set out looking for an apartment of my own, crunching and re-crunching numbers to see what I could afford and worrying about breaking the news of separation to family and friends.

The worst two months of my life ensued. Stress, broken-record thinking, and fear of loneliness—and about what others might think—had me crying every night. I couldn’t get out of bed to face each new day. Figuring out how to rip apart a union, even an imperfect one, is agony. Needing a rest, I decided to focus instead on the silver lining of our relationship and to gather my reserves for another go at serious contemplation later.

2. He makes life easier and even sometimes more fun. 

Tod may not be my ideal life partner, but he’s a sweet guy who would give you the shirt off his back… or clean the bathroom even if he thinks it’s clean enough but you’re hell-bent on sparkling tiles in time for your visitors yet have no energy left to scrub them yourself. He’s also enthusiastic about checking out new restaurants with me, or just catching the ball game on TV from the couch, cold beer in hand.

While for better or worse we ignore our deep-seated issues around sex and money, we enjoy laughs together and keep each other amused. Life without him would require me to find new fun. If that sounds lazy, and you wonder just how much the bigger issues matter to me, remember, I’m giving myself a break at the moment. (See #1.)

3. It would be arrogant to think there’s no hope. 

The work Tod has done to improve himself in the last year is amazing. He went from avoiding any sort of therapeutic situation to undertaking both individual and couples therapy. And while I say I’m sitting back and relaxing at the moment, that’s relative. I always strive to make each day happier for us than the last. And in couples therapy we’re learning to communicate better. There’s potential, and to refuse it some time to reveal itself fully would not be fair.

4. I need to save some money of my own. 

Due to my admittedly insane and overblown need to “pay my own way” and not depend on a man, we’ve always kept our money separate. The thing is, Tod, earns three times as much as I do, and so after paying our bills, his disposable income is considerably higher. He is a generous guy, and he supports me in ways that remain well enough below the radar to avoid offending my independent sensibilities—he unassumingly picks up the check at dinner and forgets to ask for my share of the grocery bill.

If I leave, however, that’s the end of his help, and with no family to count on, it’s also the end of my safety net. It will be some months before I can save up for an apartment of my own. I’m not in any danger at home with Tod, so I have the luxury of being practical about this and can wait until I have more funds available.

5. Life is hard. 

Let’s face it: Life isn’t easy. Separating would be hard, but so would staying together forever. To think we can make it through life and without effort is naïve. So which challenge is the right one for me—rework this partnership into something more fulfilling, or separate and start anew?

If I’m at all uncertain (which I am), a bold move would be foolish indeed. With all the challenges life throws at us—for me, an alcoholic brother and father with rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s Disease come to mind—perhaps a supportive friend is more important than an intimate partner. Not sure I’d take that in the long term, but it’s something to think about.

So I’m biding my time, and meanwhile being kind to myself and gentle with Tod. After I’ve put in a good-faith effort in couples therapy and saved a bit more of my own money, I’ll reassess. If there’s a chance at all that in the next year or so I’ll be starting the long, painful process of extricating myself from a life lived together with Tod, I’d like to enjoy the calm before the storm.

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build emotional intimacy

8 Questions That Help Build Emotional Intimacy In Relationships

build emotional intimacy

 

Part of being human means having emotional needs.

We want to be loved and to give love.

We want to feel we belong and have a sense of purpose. We want to feel self-esteem and respect from others.

These are some of the most common needs, but individuals have emotional needs unique to them. In a healthy relationship, both of you understand the other’s primary emotional needs, and you both work to respond to them because you love and respect your partner.

In order to get your emotional needs met in a relationship, you should discuss those needs with your relationship partner. It’s imperative that you each know the other’s emotional needs in order to meet those needs.

Below are questions that you and your partner can use to open up a line of communication about emotional needs. What they are, whether they are being met and, if not, what needs to change.

Questions That Help Build Emotional Intimacy In Relationships

1. Am I responsive enough to your emotional needs?

We can’t expect anyone person to meet all our emotional needs, even our love partners. Sometimes we have needs that are beyond the scope of any one person to handle.

But we can ask our partners to be responsive to our needs and to honor them. There are some emotional needs your partner might be happy and willing to meet, but he or she is simply not aware of them. It’s your job to enlighten your partner.

There might be needs that they aren’t able to meet. Discuss the emotional needs you have where you’d like more from your partner. Speak honestly and specifically about what you are each willing to offer the other, and discuss alternatives for getting your needs met without your partner if necessary.

2. What should I say to you when I need more from you emotionally?

It’s hard to hear the words, “I need more from you. I need more love, more affection, more respect, and more intimacy.” We all want to feel like we’re enough, that we are appreciated and accepted for all that we do and give to our partners.

But you can’t intuit all your partner’s needs, and you might not be able to understand or relate to some of them. Even so, your partner should feel comfortable expressing those needs and asking you to respond to them. How can you make that request safe and easy for your partner?

3. Do I give you enough emotional space?

One of your emotional needs might be autonomy and freedom. Perhaps you need less emotionally than your spouse does. Needing emotional space doesn’t mean you don’t want to be intimate or close with your partner.

You can balance the need for closeness with the desire for space. Ask each other if you have enough emotional space. If not, exactly what kind of space do you need, and how can your partner support you in this need?

4. What could I do to make you feel more understood?

Even if we can’t meet all of our partner’s emotional needs, we can strive to empathize with him or her. We can listen and show we care. We can acknowledge the efforts at meeting his or her own needs (for self-esteem or independence, for example) or in reaching out to another support person to help.

We can let our partners know they aren’t in this alone, and that we acknowledge and understand their feelings and desires.

5. Do you feel free to express your emotions with me?

Some of us are more expressive with our feelings than others. We laugh and cry easily and have little difficulty saying what we feel. Others don’t feel so free to express emotion, especially painful emotions.

Or we might express our feelings in unhealthy ways, such as anger or withdrawal. In a love relationship, we need to feel safe expressing our deepest emotions, especially those that are painful or shameful.

We need to know that our loved one will treat our feelings tenderly, without judgment or criticism. Find out from your partner whether or not he or she is completely at ease with you in expressing emotions. If not, what is holding him or her back?

6. Do you have any negative emotions about our relationship you need to express?

We might hold back when expressing our emotions because we fear the reaction of our partners. Maybe they will be hurt or angry. Maybe they won’t understand. Maybe they’ll diminish how we feel.

If either of you are harboring negative emotions about the relationship, you need to discuss these and get to the root cause. When communicating negative emotions, speak kindly and constructively. When listening, set aside defensiveness. If negativity exists for one of you, it is an issue you both need to resolve.

7. What from your past has shaped your emotional needs and reactions?

So many of our emotional reactions and triggers are shaped by our childhood experiences. How you were parented and the environment in which you grew up can have a profound effect on your emotional well-being as an adult.

Your significant other can’t fully understand you and your needs until he or she knows something about how the past has shaped your outlook and behaviors. Share with each other the positive and negative events that have contributed to your particular emotional needs.

Would you consider yourself a highly sensitive person, and if so, how can I support you?

A highly sensitive person (HSP) is one who feels things more keenly than the average person. You notice more subtleties in the environment, feel overwhelmed by too much sensory input, and are easily affected by other people’s moods.

You have a rich inner life and enjoy creative pursuits. You also need time alone to recharge and get relief from too much stimulation. Highly sensitive people are extremely conscientious and try hard to please others.

If one or both of you are highly sensitive, you will need to have a special understanding of the traits of HSPs and what they need in order to feel comfortable and thrive. This is particularly true for the non-sensitive, as many of the HSP traits might seem overly sensitive or needy. However, this trait is perfectly normal and has many positive qualities. Find out how your highly sensitive partner needs your understanding and support.

8. What other ways do you have for dealing with your emotions if I feel overwhelmed by them?

When emotions run high during conflict or during times of difficulty or pain, both partners might be flooded with emotion and have little reserve to offer each other. If you are accustomed to turning to your spouse or partner for emotional support, then you need an alternative plan when you are both feeling overwhelmed.

If one of you loses a job, there’s a death in the family, or you have financial difficulties, you both might need outside support to see you through. What is your emotional back-up plan if your partner can’t handle your emotions in a particular situation?

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settling for less than you deserve

5 Signs You’re Settling For Less Than You Deserve in Your Relationship

settling for less than you deserve

 

Are you in a romantic relationship or marriage that’s just not right but you’re not willing to risk ending it? Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that things will change or you’ve done something wrong to deserve less than optional treatment. Or your fear of being alone and feeling unlovable is unbearable.

Maybe he or she is gorgeous and treats you well but something is missing. Perhaps your family or friends have convinced you to hang in there or try harder.

You may even know intellectually that nobody should have to settle for less than they deserve but your emotions are conflicted.  This may leave you unwilling to take the chance of breaking things off because you fear you won’t meet someone else and will be alone for a long time.

Perhaps some of your friends have been single for a while and they complain about how hard it is to meet a nice man or woman. Underneath all of these rationalizations is a deep-seated fear of being alone.

Fear of Being Single:

New research conducted by Stephanie S. Spielman demonstrates that fear of being single is a meaningful predictor of settling for less in relationships.  In her groundbreaking study, Spielman discovered that the fear of being single predicts settling for less in romantic relationships. She found that fear of being single is a strong predictor of staying with a partner who is wrong for you.

Further, Spielman’s results showed that individuals who report being fearful of being alone will stay with unresponsive, less attractive partners rather than face that dreaded fate. Being fearful of being alone was also associated with being less selective of a potential partner at speed-dating events in her landmark study.

Let’s face it, nobody should have to settle for less than they deserve just for the sake of being part of a couple. But what is the source of your fear of being single? Although the answer varies from person to person, one factor that causes someone to settle is past experiences of romantic rejection and another is fear of prolonged singlehood.

Of all the difficult experiences that individuals face in life, being alone can be among the hardest. Growing up, you probably weren’t given good examples of how to be alone. It seems like everything you see in movies and TV and on the internet is about how to find the right partner, and make it work.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking love because it’s beautiful and can bring about some of the most treasured moments in our lives. But very few people know how to be alone and do it well. They aren’t happy to be alone. They fear it and seek love wherever they go. Too often the pleasure they find with falling in love is the sweet release of no longer being by themselves in the world.

Single women may be reluctant to acknowledge the challenges of being alone for fear of being seen as desperate or needy. According to author Sara Eckel, many of the stereotypes we have about single women are misleading. She writes, “The single life isn’t a prison sentence nor is it a cocktail party. It is simply a life – a life with responsibilities and rewards, good days and bad ones, successes, and failures.

In her article “Stop Telling Women They Are Fabulous,” she reminds us that we don’t really know how to discuss single women in our culture because in times past they were seen as lonely spinsters, quietly languishing in their studio apartments.

Too often I hear women (and some men) who are coupled up rationalize why they are still in a relationship when maybe they shouldn’t be. They say things like, “I know my relationship isn’t perfect, but at least . . . he doesn’t yell at me.” Or “he really is a good dad.” Or “he will always be faithful to me.” When I hear things like that I am reminded that breaking up with someone is an act of courage. To be honest with someone about why the relationship isn’t working is an act of love.

When you can accept that your relationship doesn’t make you the best person you can be, and you correct course by breaking up, you become immeasurably stronger.

Whatever the reason, if you assess that you are staying in a relationship that’s all wrong for you, it’s important to take a few steps to determine if you need to end it. This can take time and a commitment to loving and respecting yourself. However simplistic this may seem, self-love and self-respect are the basis of loving another person.

Here are 5 signs that you are settling for less than you deserve in your relationship:

  • The relationship brings you down and your significant other doesn’t inspire you to do your best. Perhaps he/she is overly critical or too focused on his/her needs to be supportive of you.
  • You feel you have to change yourself – your values, goals, or dreams for your partner to accept you.
  • You are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship. You may have hidden this from family or friends due to shame or codependency issues – putting your partner’s needs before your own.
  • You’ve been cheated on repeatedly and keep giving him or her more chances in spite of the fact that he or she has proven to be untrustworthy.
  • You sacrifice too much. Since your partner is unable to compromise – you morph into someone else to accommodate his or her expectations, needs, or desires.

In closing, you may not be able to determine what’s wrong or missing in your intimate relationship at this moment. It could take time and perhaps the help of a skilled therapist or relationship coach to figure things out. In the meantime, remind yourself that you are worth the effort and deserve to be loved.

Often, the courage needed to end a relationship that is no longer meeting one or both partners’ needs shows the greatest strength. However, if you decide to stay in your relationship because you feel it’s worth trying to save, consider couples counseling if your partner is willing and motivated – before you walk away.

Let’s end with this quote from Sara Eckel: “Mostly, you gain strength when you learn to listen to your own voice and live life on your own terms.”

More from Terry:

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com

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marital compatibility

Marital Compatibility: It’s About More Than Being “In Love”

marital compatibility

 

Emily Cowen, a musical artist I enjoy sings, “Even though we just met, these feelings are so beautiful, you and me were meant to be together.” And that is where “love” songs get love wrong. You’ve just met, the feelings are beautiful so, goodness gracious, you must be meant to be together.

Wrong!

Long-lasting marriages and relationships aren’t based on beautiful feelings. They thrive because of compatibility and the unique differences both genders bring to the relationship and how well each can resolve conflict.

Let’s look at the role compatibility plays in lasting marriages.

Initial compatibility, the butterflies and raging hormonal attraction is not a good indicator of how successful a marriage will be. That immediate chemical attraction felt with someone new isn’t concerned with the other person’s value system, personality characteristics or those other beliefs and personality traits that bond a couple together for the long-term.

Attraction and butterflies are important if a marriage is going to stand the test of time, but what is more important is a couple’s common plan for what direction the marriage will take and what role each will play in the marriage.

What does marital compatibility look like?

Friendship: Are you friends with your spouse?  Is there a sincere likeness and level of comfort? Successful couples enjoy spending time with each other. It is this friendship that can be the foundation for solving problems as they arise in the marriage.

Role expectations in the marriage: This isn’t only about how household responsibilities will be handled. It’s also about who spouses treat each other. Very few conversations about role expectations come up when in the throws a brand new relationship. Roles will form naturally as time goes on or the couple will define what role they will play in the relationship. If you aren’t happy with the role you play, there isn’t much hope for the marriage.

My son’s wife isn’t a domestic goddess. She has a high pressure job and a Master’s in Nursing. She is more interested in cerebral pursuits than what art is hung on the walls or, cleaning the kitchen. My son, on the other hand, loves his career but also loves to cook and keep the house tidy. I tease my new daughter-in-law and tell her she has a “fine wife.”

Before marrying they discussed who would do what and they now not only enjoy each other intimately, they are both quite comfortable with how to household is run and the role each plays in the decision making process. It’s an equation for success!

Emotional honesty: Successful spouses trust each other, they feel safe being vulnerable and when discussing their feelings. There is an emotional give and take. When one spouse is in need, the other is there for them and vice versa.

Sexual expectations: Setting these expectations is not only about how frequently a couple will be intimate. It is important, very important that they both be on the same page about sexual frequency but there are other aspects of a sexual relationship that need to be defined. Not everyone is on board with experiencing every sexual act known to man.

Defining what you are and aren’t comfortable with sexually is imperative, right out of the gate. Couples who have similar sexual expectations experience more bonding with each other which sets them up for long-term success as a couple.

Shared goals: Mutually committing to and following a path you both agree on is something successful couples do. Do you want children, how will they be raised if you do? What is more important, spending money on furthering education or saving money for a down-payment on a house? Common shared goals and values are things that are the foundation for a strong marriage.

Most successful marriages come about because both partners came into the relationship with similar belief systems and values that match. This makes it easier for two people to reach agreements on issues such as sexual intimacy, gender roles and to be easily emotionally open with each other.

This isn’t to say that a solid marriage is made up of only couples with good qualities. Two people who avoid conflict, have hot-blooded temperaments and prefer to go with the flow can also make marriage work, as long as they are both on the same page.

The post Marital Compatibility: It’s About More Than Being “In Love” appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Is Non-Physical ‘Cheating’ a Reason to Break up Your Marriage?

non-physical cheating

 

The question “is cheating a reason for divorce” is highly personal. The answer depends on the state your marriage was in before the alleged ‘cheating’ occurred. An unstable marriage is more likely to reach a breaking point if infidelity is suspected.

Ultimately, the question can only be answered after you first take a closer look at what YOU define as ‘cheating’ and what YOU feel is acceptable or unacceptable in your marriage.

Is Non-Physical ‘Cheating’ a Reason to Break up Your Marriage?

For some women, cheating is having a physical relationship with someone outside the marriage (i.e. kissing, fondling, oral sex and/or intercourse). Other women have more liberated ideas about fidelity when they allow a third person to join them in the bedroom for a threesome.

They don’t consider this ‘cheating’. For others, having an emotional relationship with another woman counts as cheating. Some men still talk openly to ex-girlfriends and this is accepted in the marriage. In other marriages this is an absolute no-no, especially if this is happening secretly.

Then there are gray areas where no specific third person or emotional involvement is involved.

Would you consider going to a strip club as cheating?

Does watching porn in magazines or on the web qualify as cheating? In this case, it seems to be only the fantasy of another body that the husband is looking for.

What about more indirect contact like ‘friending’ an ex on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? Would it make a difference if communication is open or hidden?

How you define cheating depends on your personality, your threshold, your level of self-confidence, how strict you set the rules at the beginning of your relationship and your level of trust.

Over time, relationships change. If you were comfortable with allowing other women close to your man and felt secure in your relationship at the beginning, your level of comfort and security may change as life and the relationship changes. In long term relationships, the focus gradually shifts from physical attraction to love and intimacy.

That initial spark may wear off as you get caught up in daily routines. If you have kids and your daily life gets busier and more focused on the children, the relationship needs to be nurtured to keep the connection alive. Regular date night and effective communication can be the key.

Before you make the decision to file for divorce when you feel hurt and betrayed… pause…Decisions made in a highly emotional state of mind are not always the wisest.

Consider the consequences of divorce for everyone (especially the kids) and weigh the pros and cons of your relationship. If infidelity is your reason to consider divorce, make sure your definition of what is ‘cheating’ is clear to you and your spouse.

Bottom line is that every relationship has ‘rules’ that need to be clear to both partners. If boundaries are vague, they can easily be crossed. Open communication is key. If one of the partners is hiding something, it is time to have a serious talk together. If you feel that talking doesn’t get you the results you want, couples counseling could be an option.

A therapist can help both of you clarify your needs, set healthy boundaries and help resolve trust issues you may have.

For suggestions on how to weigh the pros and cons in your marriage, improve your communication and spend quality time together, I highly recommend reading self-help workbook To Stay Or Not To Stay.

For an insight into what challenges children face when they do end up living in two houses, I suggest to read children’s book Nina Has Two Houses. The book also contains helpful tips for parents.

The post Is Non-Physical ‘Cheating’ a Reason to Break up Your Marriage? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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How To Resolve Conflict And Improve Communication In a Relationship

improve communication in a relationship

 

It may seem obvious to some, but not all, that the best relationships are ones born out of trust and vulnerability.  Each partner approaches one another as an equal. The relationship does not drain its participants: instead, it nourishes. Differences between partners are complementary. These differences are advantageous and desirable and do not create a hindrance to the relationship; instead, they contribute to its growth.

In a healthy relationship, partners draw out untapped possibilities in one another.  So why does it seem so hard to maintain a blissful state of love with a partner over time?

Improve Communication In a Relationship

First of all, every relationship has its ups and downs, and conflict comes with the territory. Yet if you are a daughter of divorce, you may avoid conflict because it may have signified the end of your parents’ marriage. Marriage counselor, Michele Weiner Davis, explains that avoiding conflict backfires in intimate relationships. She posits that bottling up negative thoughts and feelings doesn’t give your partner a chance to change their behavior. On the other hand, she cautions that one of the secrets of a good marriage or romantic relationship is learning to choose battles wisely and to distinguish between petty issues and important ones.

Elizabeth’s Mother’s Day story provides a good example of a hot-button issue that needed to be resolved. Newlyweds Elizabeth and Zane have three children and have been in a committed relationship for many years.  One year, Zane picked up a quick Mother’s Day gift for her at a gas station, and Elizabeth’s feelings were deeply hurt. Because she placed great value on Mother’s Day, Elizabeth decided to take a risk and show her vulnerability to Zane by expressing her disappointment.  Since then, Zane has faithfully purchased a special Mother’s Day gift every year, and Elizabeth feels valued and loved by him.

Secondly, it’s important to stop keeping score and to try not to win every argument, even when you’re in the right. Instead, author Pat Love says, “think of winning an unofficial contest I like to call Who’s the Bigger Person? Resolving conflicts is about who wants to grow the most and what’s best for your relationship.” At the beginning of a relationship, couples tend to focus more on their similarities. Yet after a while, negative projections tend to surface and your partner may remind you of someone from your past. This may explain why some couples who seemed so compatible when they first get together, have more conflicts as time goes by.

Lauren, age 32, explains how identifying her part in communication breakdowns with her husband, Paul, helped save her marriage. “In the past, I used to focus on what Paul was doing wrong until a good friend reminded me that I may want to try harder to communicate my feelings to him without blaming him.”  Lauren realized that she hadn’t learned healthy ways of resolving conflicts from her parents who divorced when she was twelve, a pivotal age for adolescent development and observing your parents’ relationship patterns.

Like all smart women, Lauren realized that all relationships go through rough patches and that it takes two people to contribute to the difficulties. Since she liked being married overall, Lauren decided to focus more on Paul’s positive qualities – such as being a great father – rather than negative ones. “That’s when I noticed that I had a problem communicating. I expected Paul to know what I wanted without me telling him what I needed. When he failed, I’d punish him with the silent treatment, or blow up. When I let go of my efforts to fix him and started working on fixing myself, things began to get better,” she says.

The following steps to resolving conflicts and improving communication may be a starting point to building a fulfilling intimate partnership:

  • Take a risk and deal with hurt feelings – especially if it’s an important issue.
  • Approach conflict with a problem-solving attitude. Avoid trying to prove a point and examine your part in a disagreement.
  • Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements that tend to come across as blameful- such as “I felt hurt when you bought that gift.”
  • Don’t make threats or ultimatums. Avoid saying things you’ll regret the next day.
  • Take a short break if you feel overwhelmed or flooded. This will give you time to calm down and collect your thoughts.

Love also means risking occasionally getting your feelings hurt because it’s the price you pay for intimacy. In all intimate relationships there exist conflicting needs for closeness and space. When issues come up with either of those needs, it’s essential that you talk with your partner and find creative ways to make sure you both feel valued and listened to. Taking the time to work on resolving conflicts in a healthy way is hard work but the payoff is tremendous.

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

Terry’s new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020.

More from Terry

This blog originally appeared on movingpastdivorce.com

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How To Tell If Your Spouse is Lying

how to tell if your spouse is lying

 

No one likes to think their spouse isn’t telling the truth but if you’re getting divorced or your marriage is in trouble, then the chances that your spouse isn’t being totally honest increase and you need to know how to tell your spouse is lying to you.

If you’ve always believed your spouse, how to do start to detect the lies?

On the other hand, if you’re convinced now that everything out of your spouse’s mouth is a lie, how do you know what’s true?

How to Tell If Your Spouse is Lying

What are the telltale signs the experts watch for?

Accept The Possibility Of Lies

The first step to detecting untruths is to be open to the possibility that your spouse may not be telling you the truth and that is not easy.

“Everyone wants to believe that they’re hearing the truth and when you’re so in love with the person who may be lying, it gets even harder,” said body language expert, Traci Brown.

The key is to take the emotion out of the situation and ask yourself if you’re wanting to hear a particular answer. That wanting tricks you into discounting the red flags and signs that you’re being deceived. It’s self-preservation at work because deep inside you know how crushing it will be to realize your soulmate is lying to you now and may have been lying to you for a long time.

It’s Easier To Detect Lies Face To Face

Email is hard for any communication and it’s easy to misinterpret written words because what’s missing is everything that comes with in-person communication – the intonation, the pitch, the pace, the visual clues … Phone conversations are better for this purpose than emails but when you really want to know if someone is lying, you need to do it in person.

You Are Not Crazy

Once you open up to the possibility of lies, you might start to see them in many situations. You may even start to think that this can’t be, that this doesn’t make sense and maybe you’re the one who is crazy, imagining things. The possibility here is that you are a victim of gaslighting: “a malicious and hidden form of mental and emotional abuse, designed to plant seeds of self-doubt and alter your perception of reality.” (Psychology Today)

Brown says that lies happen in every relationship and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some lies are told to make you feel better. You know those. They’re the ones about your choice of what to wear or what to have for dinner. They’re harmless and perhaps well-intentioned.

According to Brown, about 15 percent of the population is between sociopaths and psychopaths. Many of them end up in the criminal justice system but a lot of them are really high functioning and totally put together. They may not show the signs and it might be really difficult for you to tell if they’re lying.

“They have no guilt, no compunction, no remorse, no regret,” said Brown. “They’re just extremely skilled at it. They’re not trying. It’s just the way they are wired.”

The lies these people tell are not the harmless ‘white lies.’ They are the most dangerous lies. To spot these you need to pay attention and you need to start trusting your gut.

A Lie Is A Lie

Brown identifies five different types of lies: exaggeration, fabrication, minimization, omission, and denial. While it doesn’t really matter what type of lie it is, some are more common than others.

“People will conceal before they will fabricate,” said Brown. “It takes less effort to conceal than to make up something new.”

That reminded me of a client situation where my client suspected that her spouse had bank accounts overseas. When asked about that he denied the existence of an account in the specific country she had asked about. Long story short, spouse was eventually required to turn over all sorts of records and it came out that he had bought a business in that country and that the business did have a couple of accounts there.

Technically, he had answered her question correctly – they did not have any personal accounts but it was not the whole truth. Brown says in this situation, an investigator would word the question differently, perhaps, “Do you have any financial interests overseas?”

Get A Baseline

A baseline is how someone normally responds and when there’s a shift from the normal response, it’s a “hotspot.”

“Husbands and wives can often tell when each other are lying because they know each other so well,” said Brown. “What you want to do is to look for the differences in their response from their typical response to a very pointed question such as ‘Hey, what’s out address?’”

The way they respond to a straightforward question is their baseline. Just to make things a little harder, Brown says everybody is going to be little bit different and that’s why you need a baseline for the person you suspect of lying.

A single hotspot is not sufficient to be sure someone is lying so Brown looks for three hotspots and she has a number of signs she watches out for.

The Body Language Doesn’t Match The Words

A very common hotspot is when someone responds to a question with ‘no’ but is nodding their head or responds with ‘yes’ and is shaking their head. You can find video clips of celebrity cases like OJ Simpson, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at Brown’s blog for plenty of examples of this.

What gets these people into trouble is that you can rehearse a script and control the words but it’s extremely difficult to control the subconscious, involuntary body actions. There is an art to detecting these inconsistencies and it’s harder at home since it’s a bit challenging to suddenly start videotaping your spouse for analysis later.

“Other things that people do is when their lips disappear, their lips fall down over their teeth or they’ll cover their mouth,” said Brown. “Maybe they’ll cover some of the throat area with a hand. The next thing out of their mouth is somewhere between a half-truth and a lie, many, many times.

Look For Shifts

You can also detect when someone is being deceptive by shifts in their behavior. Do they go from still to speedy or speedy to still? Does their eye blink rate change all of a sudden? Do they scoot away from you? Does the volume of their voice change?

“This is why you get a baseline and then look for shifts,” said Brown.

Dupa’s Delight

This is one of my favorite signs.

“Sometimes, you ask people a very incriminating question and they’ll smile really big and they’ll shake their head,” said Brown. “There’s no reason to smile on a very incriminating question and it happens because they think they’re getting away with it, having a little bit of fun. It’s deeply subconscious, not anything they would pick to do but it’s a dead giveaway.”

See Brown’s blog for her analysis of Tom Brady and Tonya Harding for great examples of this.

Getting To The Truth

Once you feel fairly certain your spouse is lying to you, your next step might be trying to get to the truth. I say “trying” because frankly, with a pathological liar you may never know the truth.

Brown suggests one strategy is to get a copy of her book, How To Detect Lies, Fraud and Identity Theft and leave it on the kitchen counter. “A lot of times just people knowing that you have a leg up in finding the truth will cause them to admit a lot of things,” said Brown. “That’s more than half the reason that polygraph tests work.”

Police interrogations can last six to twelve hours and over time people start to break down. We’re not suggesting you should adopt that approach with your spouse but what you can do is to ask the same question several times and then notice how the answer shifts.

You can also say something like, “Seems like you’ve got more to say about that. Why don’t you let me know?”

Lies are not connected to emotion and they’re not connected to time. These details have to be fabricated. So another strategy that Brown uses is to ask the person to tell the story backwards by asking, “What happened before that?”

You’ll find that there are gaps in time and that’s where you may detect more deception because “filling in the gaps, we get into cognitive overload,” said Brown. “It’s more than the brain can handle to answer all these questions so the body language again breaks down.”

It’s also important to break your questions down in small chunks, asking one thing at a time. So rather than asking if they went to the liquor store and a friend’s house, it is better to ask two separate questions.

With the technology that is readily available, even just being friends with your spouse on an app, you may discover more than you thought possible and it may be best to not let on how much you know. “You can get them in a really deep lie and use that information when you need it, just by not telling them that you know they are lying,” said Brown.

Traci Brown is often seen on TV analyzing the likes of Lance Armstrong, Hillary Clinton, Tom Brady, and Tonya Harding. She is the author of How To Detect Lies, Fraud and Identity Theft.

This article was originally published on SinceMyDivorce.com

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Discernment Counseling: When You Aren’t Completely Sure You Want a Divorce

you want a divorce

Have you heard of Discernment Counseling?

Do you want to divorce? Be sure you’re sure!

If you have landed here you are likely divorced. Or perhaps considering it and you are here to explore what life might look like should you take that crucial step. In the case that you are teetering, here is some information you might find useful.

Not every individual who lands in the office of a family lawyer is ready to dissolve their marital union. Of course, that notion is irrelevant if, in fact, the other spouse is. A healthy relationship or the like can only exist when both parties are committed to the dance.

The decision to divorce is one that is on the table in households daily. Numbers of unsatisfied married people make a decision to dissolve their relationship on a regular basis. According to research, however, divorce does not necessarily make unhappy adults happier. Survey data reveals that approximately 50% of both men and women expressed regret over having divorced.

Unhappily divorced men and women were no happier five years post-divorce than those who remain married; two-thirds of those who remained married reported being happy five years later. It seems then marriage may indeed be good for some, but, pausing and bettering yourself may be advisable more often than not.

When You Aren’t Completely Sure You Want a Divorce

When you and/or your partner are actively considering what life brings on the other side yet share ambivalence, fear and/or trepidation, Discernment Counseling might be for you. It is the therapeutic equivalent of a “pause”.

Discernment, according to the dictionary, refers to the ability to judge well and to be astute about topics often ignored or overlooked by others.

In the area of marital therapy, with its widespread theoretical variations, there may be a lot of wisdom to impart on the couples who walk in our doors but they themselves often have little discernment.

Discernment Counseling was developed by psychologist William Doherty of Minnesota (see the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project) to help “mixed-agenda” couples herd some momentum and draw a conclusion with ‘clarity and confidence’.

An estimated 30% of couples enter couple’s therapy with a “mixed agenda”, that is, where one is leaning-out and one is leaning-in. Traditional couples’ therapy is unsuccessful for these couples; effective therapy is impossible unless both partners are in the game, albeit with some hesitation.

With Discernment Counseling, couples leave having made one of three decisions—

  1. Keep the status-quo
  2. Pursue divorce
  3. Commit to a six-month period of couple’s therapy

As you are aware, having heard countless narratives on how and when the decision to divorce occurred, there is no best time to make that final decision.

That decision becomes even that much more complicated when there are others in the picture who are being affected, most typically children, young or old, and sometimes aging parents.

This process is intended to move things along, for better, regardless of the choice.

Approximately 48% commit to therapy, 42% divorce and 12% render a non-decision to stay the same.

Some couples who are terminal and at death’s door rebound and with couples therapy reconcile and get back their mojo. And, with those who engage in the process of DC (vs those who do not), they navigate the divorce process in a healthier manner, should that be their end game.

Discernment Counseling is not therapy. It is not couples counseling nor is it divorce therapy. Couples will not see a change in the dynamics of the relationships, although there may be revelations and observations both they and their therapist may have that can help. Couples will be able to determine if, in fact, their problems are solvable.

Since we tend to show up again in our next relationship, it is important to know how you got here prior to making a decision, with that process more critical when it involves more than just the couple.

With Discernment Counseling couples will gain:

  1. the clarity and confidence to make a decision
  2. awareness and understanding of each person’s contributions and dynamics in the relationship and
  3. a deeper knowledge of how the marriage has progressed through its stages and how they came to the brink of divorce

There are times when neither Discernment Counseling nor couple’s therapy is the most relevant choice for a couple on the brink and other options are preferred. It is not appropriate when:

  1. There is the presence or danger of domestic violence or sexual abuse
  2. When one spouse is coercing the other to participate
  3. When at least one partner has made the decision to divorce

At the end of the day, many relationships can be saved. If we fail to pause, we invariably take ourselves into our next relationship often with a repetition of the pattern that we have in our current relationship.  Discernment Counseling is an available option for these couples that are uncertain and on the brink and they typically leave better, regardless of their decision.

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